Sunday, October 30, 2011

Comfort from Psalm 23, Verse 4

By Pastor Bruce Oyen

     The Book of Psalms is a source of comfort and guidance to the Lord's people in many ways. One of the most-loved Psalms is Psalm 23. Here it is from the  King James Version:  
    1: The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    2: He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
    3: He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
    4: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
    5: Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
    6: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. 
    Every one of this Psalm's 6 verses is rich with meaning. But verse 4 has special meaning to those who are facing their own death, or coping with the death of a loved one. Part of verse 4 says this: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me."
    In this posting, I want to draw words of comfort from the good thoughts of Albert Barnes on Psalm 23, verse 4, though his thoughts on the whole Psalm are good. But who was this man?
  Albert Barnes was a Bible-believing Presbyterian in the 1800's.  He was a very scholarly man, and wrote in-depth commentaries on much of the Bible. Though he was very scholarly, he was known for writing things in a way that the average person could easily understand  them. I have greatly profited for many years from the use of his many commentaries, though I disagree with him on some points.
     C. H. Spurgeon was the remarkably-gifted 5-point Calvinist and Baptist pastor-evangelist who died in 1892, before he was 60 years old. Spurgeon thought well of Barnes' commentaries on the Bible. Here is part of what he said about them: "His Old Testament volumes are to be greatly commended as learned and laborious, and the epistles are useful as a valuable collection of the various opinions of learned men. Placed by the side of the great masters, Barnes is a lesser light, but taking his work for what it is and professes to be, no minister can afford to be without it, and this is no small praise for works which were only intended for Sunday School teachers."
    Here is what C. H. Spurgeon wrote about Albert Barnes' commentary on the Book Of Psalms: "Thoroughly good. Using these notes constantly, we are more and more struck with their value. For the general run of preachers this is probably the best commentary extant."
     Since, as C. H. Spurgeon wrote, Albert Barnes' commentary on the Book Of Psalms is so good, consider what  he wrote on that one part of verse 4 referred to above. His words can bring comfort to us in our time of need. Barnes wrote:
    "The meaning of this in the connection in which it occurs is this: "God will lead and guide me in the path of righteousness, even though that path lies through the darkest and most gloomy vale --- through deep and distressing shades --- in regions where there is no light, as if death had cast his dark and baleful shadow there. It is still a right path; it is a path of safety; and it will conduct me to bright regions beyond. In that dark and gloomy valley, though I could not guide myself, I will not be alarmed; I will not be afraid of wandering or of being lost; I will not fear any enemies there, ---for my Shepherd is there to guide me still."
    Later on in his comments  about the same verse, Albert Barnes wrote this:
    "The psalmist felt assured that if God was with him he had nothing to dread there. God would be his companion, his comforter, his protector, his guide. How applicable is this to death! The dying man seems to go into the dark valley alone. His friends accompany him as far as they can, and then they must give him the parting hand. They cheer him with their voice until he becomes deaf to all sounds; they cheer him with their looks until his eyes become dim, and he can see no more; they cheer him with the fond embrace until  he becomes insensible to every expression of earthly affection, and then he seems to be alone. But the dying believer is not alone. His Savior God is with him in that valley, and will never leave him. On his arm he can lean, and by his presence he will be comforted, until he emerges from the gloom into the bright world beyond. All that is needful to dissipate the terrors of the valley of death is to be able to say, 'Thou art with me.' "
    It is my hope that the God of all comfort has blessed you by what Albert Barnes wrote about Psalm 23, verse 4.

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