Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff --
they comfort me. -- Ps. 23:4
Both of these verses seem to be saying similar things. "He is God of the living," as Jesus says after quoting this phrase from Exodus, according to the Gospel of Matthew (22:32)
When Abraham died, God became known as the God of Isaac; when Isaac died, God became known as the God of Jacob. Since after Jacob God was God of the twelve tribes of Israel, not just one patriarch, this three-generation tag line became a shorthand representation of the living God. God not only walked with Abraham, he walked with all the generations that followed after Abraham. As he walks with this one.
In this section of Exodus, God is walking with Moses. He is calling Moses, a middle-aged sheepherder who had been hiding in Midian for decades after having murdered an Egyptian, to not only to return to Egypt, but to defy the Pharaoh, and lead his people out of slavery. I doubt Moses would have done anything one-tenth as daring, if he had not known that God would stay with him throughout the whole ordeal.
I was thinking recently that without God's prodding and pushing, and support, I would be in a very different place mentally and spiritually than I am now. Only with God's help was I able to stand in front of my congregation and argue for Christian unity, as we began to divide ourselves over the issue of homosexual partnerships. Although our church divided anyway, I am still amazed that I found the courage to speak out so publicly. Also, only with God's help and prodding, was I able to confront my husband about his bad temper. This was very difficult for both of us, but my husband listened, and for that I am grateful. Now, only by trusting in God's guidance, am I able to share my personal reflections so publicly.
Dear Lord, I cannot live without your guiding presence in my life. My life would be a shadow of what it is now without you in my life. Love always, Pam
I just read Elie Wiesel's "Night." Wiesel was caught in "the darkest valley" as a fifteen-year-old Jewish boy living in Hungary in 1942. In love with studying his faith, yearning to know God more and more, he and every Jewish person he knew were sent to the German concentration camp of Auschwitz. The horror he describes is almost unbelievable. His faith was so shattered by the evil he witnessed, that he could not help but wonder, "Where was the God of mercy who could allow this to happen?"
I do not believe God simply allows evil to happen. God calls people to defy evil. But, two things have to happen in order for the weak to be rescued. First, the person whom God calls has to listen, has to follow God's will, even though he or she is afraid. And second, the people whom God wants to rescue must trust God's messenger; they too must listen, whether they understand it to be God's word or not.
Many people in Wiesel's village turned a blind eye to the evil around them. I wonder if any of them had felt God calling them to help their neighbor. Others tried to give warning, but these messengers weren't believed. Who could believe such evil was possible?
In 1986, when Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for this book, he said in his acceptance speech: "...I have faith. Faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and even in His creation. Without it no action would be possible. And action is the only remedy to indifference, the most insidious danger of all. ...Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately. ...while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs" (Hill and Wang, pg.120)
Dear God, you are with each one of us, this I know. May thy rod and thy staff, which are thy will and thy strength, lead us and comfort us as we walk in the darkest valleys and beside the still waters. Amen.