This past Sunday was Father’s Day, a day to celebrate dads, grandpas, stepdads and men who even symbolized the role of a dad. Yet during this celebration day my family was mourning the death of another brother. And then there were 9… For a good portion of my younger years, my brother Virgil was around, playing cards, giving us rides to ball games, athletic practice or wherever we needed a to go, he was our guy. Much to my disgust, he loved the twangy Country Western music and often I would see him keeping time with his hands just like Mitch Miller. Yes, you must look him up to truly understand what I mean. Virgil was a kind gentle soul who will be deeply missed by his family.
Did you know there is a for real “Valley of the Shadow of Death”? Our Holy Land tour group visited this place and most of us were very surprised not only because it was a real place but of its majestic landscape. The view was breathtaking and in all my attempts to photograph its beauty, I was unable to capture the sheer power and magnitude of the endless hills. The Psalmist wrote that when he walked through this valley he was comforted by God’s presence. Who doesn’t want the assurance that when we walk through death’s door, God is with us? However when you see the immense beauty of the mountains graced with sunlight and teeming with life you soon realize that the writer was not speaking of death at all. Deep in the crevasses, hidden from our view is a stream of water, trees, grass and bushes. The Psalmist, David, was a shepherd boy, who protected his sheep, sang and wrote poetry while they roamed the hills basking in confidence that God was always near.
This shepherd boy’s words reflected how in his surroundings and circumstances God was ever present. David writes that he is led by God to lie down in green pastures, and walk beside the waters so that his soul might be restored, (vs. 2-3). These words reflect God's care of his servant David. Do you see the connection to life in David’s words? When there is water, sun and grass there is life and for the shepherd boy, necessary protection from fear and loneliness. Looking at the expanse of hills, it is easy to imagine how a young boy might have felt alone in the vast darkness and was comforted by God’s presence in the sky, stars and moon. Not only does David feel God’s almighty presence, further into the text, David suggests that God pursues him. Listen to these words,” surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell all of my days in the House of the Lord forever,”(6). The Message Translation interprets the verse like this, “Your (God) beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.” God pursued David in this lush wilderness? If that is the case for this shepherd boy, might it be possible that God pursues us, you and me, to lead us through the valley of life, death, trouble, grief, darkness and give us rest in green pastures, restoration by still waters and unending grace and mercy all of the days of our lives? It is a promise that David believed and trusted… I believe that Virgil did as well. Rest easy in God’s presence my brother...