February 14, 2014
Today’s Text of Encouragement:
“He gives power to the faint and weary, and to him who has no might He increases strength, causing it to multiply and making it to abound.”
Isaiah 40: 29
Just One Step More!
“Just one step more! Although your footsteps falter.
Just one step more! It will not be in vain.
Press bravely on, God’s promise cannot alter,
Strength day by day – peace follows after pain.
Just one step more! Look up! The clouds are breaking,
Across the hilltop comes the radiant morn.
Just one step more, brave heart! New hope is waking,
New joy, new courage, each new day, are born.”
Today’s Study Text:
“Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for You are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.”
Psalm 23: 4
Good News Translation
Psalm 23 – Part 18
“God’s Comfort – In Losses and Crosses”
“It will greatly comfort you if you can see God’s hand in both your losses and your crosses.”
C. H. Spurgeon
In what ways and at what times have I found God’s comfort to sustain me during my life?
How have I been able to pass on to others the comfort God has bestowed upon me?
“In Christ the heart of the Father is revealed, and higher comfort there cannot be than to rest in the Father’s heart.”- Andrew Murray
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of sympathy (pity and mercy) and the God, Who is the Source of every comfort (consolation and encouragement). Who comforts (consoles and encourages) us in every trouble (calamity and affliction), so that we may also be able to comfort (console and encourage) those who are in any kind of trouble or distress, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
II Corinthians 1: 3,4
During the past few weeks, as has happened in much of the United States, the weather has brought a cold front that sent temperatures down to below freezing. For me, this is an immediate reason to pull out my down-filled “comforter,” and use it as the blanket on our bed. There’s no confusion in my mind as to why this fluffy, soft, cozy blanket is called a “comforter.” None at all! When you are cold – there’s nothing as soothing as the warm feeling that comes within a few minutes of being tucked underneath a lush bedcover.
However, if your thought process is anything like mine, you may find yourself wondering how a quilted down coverlet in any way compares to a “rod and staff” – all of which are designed to “comfort” us. The answer is found if we take time to do a little digging to uncover what the word “comfort” means.
I began our excavation by checking out what the word “comfort” means in Latin. It means “fortis” or strong. Here’s even more detailed information. “The Latin verb confortare and its descendants in the medieval Romance languages meant ‘to strengthen.’ The verb and the noun were borrowed into English from French in the 13th century. The senses ‘to strengthen’ for the verb and ‘strengthening’ and ‘solace’ for the noun both occur at that early date.
Any exploration of the word “comfort” would be totally incomplete if we didn’t take a look at the meaning of this word in both Hebrew and Greek. In the Hebrew, the word used in Psalm 23: 4 for comfort, “nâcham,” means in a positive sense to ease or to console. In Greek, “parakalêõ,” means to come near, to provide consolation or to be close beside. There is, however, one other form of the word comfort and it is the word “comforter” which means: “parakalêõs” or intercessor, advocate and consoler. Just to remind us, during His evening meal with His disciples, before the crucifixion, Jesus shared the fact that “the Comforter, your (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name (in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf), He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you” (John 14: 26, Amplified Bible).
It’s at this point that I want to return to the words penned by the Psalmist, “Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.” The implements carried by our Great Shepherd provide us with strength and confidence for the journey because we know with surety that we have a protective guide with us every step of the way. But this isn’t the only reason we can take comfort. Our Great Shepherd’s tools also let us know, as He guides us, that His presence is always with us. He is never far away. In fact, because of the gift of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, we always have heaven’s presence beside us. What’s more, during the dismal valley experiences which make us feel forgotten in the darkness, we are promised that we will not just find comfort, but consolation for the times when we feel we are all alone.
To better explain the comfort I believe David was talking about, we need to look at a heart breaking experience this shepherd/king had in his own life when his son Absalom rebelled against his father, King David, and tried to usurp the throne of Israel. In II Samuel 15: 14, we find that “David said unto all his servants that were with him at Jerusalem, ‘Arise, and let us flee; for we shall not escape from Absalom: make speed to depart.” And then just a few verses later, the Bible records that, “All the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed over: the king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, and all the people passed over, toward the way of the wilderness.”
What really caught my attention was the great weeping and sorrow that filled the hearts of the people in Israel. In fact, in Psalm 84: 6, there is a reference made to a geographical area outside of Jerusalem which was called the Valley of Baca or as Biblical scholars note, this “valley of oozing water or tears” which was a narrow valley where “brackish water trickled out of the rocks” and it is located at the last stage of the journey from Northern Palestine into the city of Jerusalem. But here is what I find so encouraging. When writing a “hymn” or “psalm” about this sorrowful Valley of Baca, the sons of Korah penned these words in Psalm 84: “Blessed is the man (or woman) whose strength is in Thee; in whose heart are the ways of (God). Who passing through the Valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools” (Psalm 84: 5,6).
What we uncover is that as we traverse through the dark times of our lives, as we walk through the valley of tears, the comfort and strength we gather from being in the presence of God and being surrounded by His Spirit – our Comforter – makes it possible for us to turn a valley of tears into a pool, a well of refreshment for others who find their own journey difficult.
This is exactly what the Apostle Paul told his Christian friends at the church in Corinth when he wrote his second letter: “All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us” (II Corinthians 1: 3,4, The Message Bible). As J. H. Jowett writes about this passage of Scripture, ”God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters.”
Whatever valley you find yourself in right now, your Great Shepherd is more than prepared with His rod to protect and strengthen and His staff to guide. Even if your way is through the Valley of Baca, our Shepherd’s comfort will infuse us with His grace. This is because He wants us to pass on His heavenly comfort, which has blessed our lives, to those who need comforting, too!
The Valley of Weeping
“I have been through the valley of weeping,
The valley of sorrow and pain;
But the ‘God of all comfort’ was with me,
At hand to uphold and sustain…
When He leads through some valley of trouble,
His omnipotent hand we trace;
For the trials and sorrows He sends us,
Are part of His lessons in grace…
Well He knows that affliction is needed;
He has a wise purpose in view,
And in the dark valley He whispers,
‘Hereafter you’ll know what I can do,’
As we travel through life’s shadowed valley.
Fresh springs of His love ever rise;
And we learn that our sorrows and losses,
Are blessings just sent in disguise.
So we’ll follow wherever He leadeth,
Let the path be dreary or bright;
For we’ve proved that our God can give comfort,
Our God can give songs in the night.”
Words of Comfort And Cheer
“In the multitude of my anxious thoughts within me, Your comforts cheer and delight my soul.”
Psalm 94: 19
“Comfort, we ask You, most gracious God,
All who are cast down and faint of heart
Amidst the sorrows and difficulties of the world:
And grant that, by the quickening power of the Holy Spirit,
(We) may be lifted up to you with hope and courage,
and enabled to go upon (our) way rejoicing in Your love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Richard Meux Benson
“O Lord God
When grief comes upon us, grant us Your comfort.
When loneliness overwhelms us,
Grant us Your presence.
When the day is dark, grant us Your light.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
P.S. During the coming weeks, gifts which are sent to Transformation Garden will help us honor requests for God’s Word, as shared through our bookmarks, with God’s children in India, Russia, Pakistan, Australia and here in the United States in women’s prisons and for Domestic Abuse Shelters. I thank you so much for the gifts you have chosen to send – Praise God! Your generosity is helping us share God’s Word in countries where the bookmarks are accepted as beautiful artwork but they carry the message of God’s saving grace. Thank you again!!
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