When we reach the summit of our life, we all smile, yell with joy, and laugh. Especially when we ultimately accomplish making great strides toward material and personal wealth and success in gaining the top positions. This accomplishment must be celebrated, and we should be proud of it. Particularly because we are aware of how challenging it is to accomplish all of this achievement and the numerous sacrifices we have made. All of us yearn to succeed in life’s highest goal!
However, did you realize that there are experiences that are considerably more priceless than succeeding? There is a much more unforgettable experience than all of that. David doesn’t describe himself as being on a mountaintop in the well-known Psalm 23. He actually references walking through the “valley of darkness” in verse 4 instead. A journey that takes place in a valley, not at the summit of a mountain.
1 Kings 20:23-34
Verse 28 of 1 Kings 20:23–34 NKJV reads,
Then a man of God came and spoke to the king of Israel, and said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The LORD is God of the hills, but He is not God of the valleys,” therefore I will deliver all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.'”
The words of the Arameans quoted by the man of God, the servant of the LORD in verse 28 are taken from verse 23,
Then the servants of the king of Syria said to him, “Their gods are gods of the hills. Therefore they were stronger than we; but if we fight against them in the plain, surely we will be stronger than they.
Verse 29 and verse 30 of the next chapter serve as proof of the words of this servant of the LORD.
And they encamped opposite each other for 7 days. So it was that on the seventh day the battle was joined; and the children of Israel killed 100,000 thousand foot soldiers of the Syrians in ONE day. But the rest fled to Aphek, into the city; then a wall fell on 27,000 of the men who were left.
Verse 29 and verse 30 state that the Kingdom of Aram was now defeated by the Kingdom of Israel in the plains as well as on the high hills (verses 1 to 22). They saw the LORD’s might against them, whether on higher ground in the mountains, on lower ground in the plains, or in the valleys. Because He is the LORD of the mountains and the LORD of the valleys.
The LORD of the mountains and the LORD of the valleys
The valley, or rather the dip of the ground between the mountains, is the area at the base of the mountain. The ground at the foot of a mountain in an expansive area with only one mountain will typically be very large and is referred to as a plain or flat terrain. However, if there are numerous mountains or hills in a single, vast area, the space between them will take the shape of a deep, dark valley. This is a valley, or more accurately, a ravine.
Mountains’ peaks are extremely distinct from valleys. The mountain’s summit typically receives all of the sunshine and is very well-lighted because it is at the top. The valley received relatively little sunshine due to its lower location in the dip between the two sides of the mountain. It is rather dark, sometimes no light at all. Not an exciting destination, or popular to visit. And for many of us, we will often race quickly to the top. But not to go down to the valley as many would consider it as falling. Yes, to get there to the valley, we have to descend, going down!
Success is always associated with being “on the top”. Contrarily, the valley is a place of pain, sorrow, and even death. In Psalm 23:4, the valley of darkness represents death or at the very least, a “near death” experience. Yes, Psalm 23 does not record the pinnacle of David’s success; rather, it describes David’s darkest experience: walking in the valley, with the LORD.
One excellent example of a biblical character who experienced the LORD of the valley is David. Starting when he was rejected by his parents (Psalm 27:10), left in the field as a young child to take care of only a few sheep (1 Samuel 16:11, 17:28), and even had to face the lion and the bear (1 Samuel 17:34-36). It was here precisely when he experienced “the valley”, he encountered God as the good Shepherd, Psalm 23:1. He wrote I lacked nothing, for the LORD is my Shepherd. Just like he was a little shepherd over only 2-3 sheep, the LORD was able to take good care of him in his solitude. David experienced God as his Savior who had given him victory over much bigger and stronger opponents than him when he was trying to protect his small flocks from the teeth of the lion and the claws of the bear.
What a lesson David gained from the plain or the valley! In another version of the Bible, the part I will not lack is translated as I shall not want (of anything else). David found the LORD as his Shepherd was all he ever needed. The LORD is enough for him, yes, all he needed was God alone. Nothing else, He had become everything to David.
In the life of the Lord Jesus when he was on the earth for 30 some years, there were interesting things that we often miss seeing properly. Jesus, who is revered as the Wisdom of God, did not seek all the academic degrees that were available in his day. Even though His Father possessed everything, Jesus, who is regarded as the Son of God, didn’t pursue a powerful position in society or material wealth. He does not aim for or pursue achievement in the same way that other people do. When we read the 4 Gospels carefully, we can see what He was really after, the Cross. He claimed the Cross was God’s will for Him.
This is contrary to what the children of God and pastors nowadays claim today. We like to claim big and luxurious houses, expensive cars, private planes, and great treasures. We even use the number of our things to gauge our spirituality. We tend to believe that God is more pleased with us when we have more. We believe that God’s blessing is evidence of how spiritual and upright we have grown to be in His eyes. Is that so? Maybe we fail to recognize HIM as the LORD over the Valley.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,
Jesus who is the LORD, equal to GOD THE FATHER, did not regard this equality of his as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, took the form of a servant, and became in the likeness of men. Verse 7. Why are we, who are merely regular people, behaving the opposite way? We seem to aim to be as powerful, wealthy, and wise as HE is. Isn’t imitating Jesus’ character—rather than trying to match His charisma—what it means to become more like Him? Why is it so difficult for us to humble ourselves and follow Jesus to the Cross by taking the route down into the valley? Why don’t we want to go in this direction? We like to cry out to Him why Lord?! when He humbles us down and tries our hearts. Why not, right?
Being like Jesus requires us to learn to let go of our status, self-respect, and even our equality (with those above where God has raised us)—not to hold onto them tightly, but to let go, to humble ourselves, to learn to be a servant, and to be faithful to the end, at least until the task that requires humility is finished. Isn’t this the reason the LORD prefers to examine our lives than respond to our prayers? Because of this, we have received a “no” or at the very least a “wait” in response to our petitions in prayers.
Even more intriguing are Jesus’ own statements in Matthew 6:28–30.
So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Look at this word of God, Consider the lilies of the field, its beauty overcome Solomon in all its splendor. Flowers and grass only bloom for a day and are discarded the following day. These is the same lilies in Song of Solomon 2:1-2,
I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.
– Like a lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.
Yes, the valley is the only place these types of flowers grow. And if you look closely, these flowers bloom with their blooms facing downward. God seems to have kept the most beautiful, far better than all the splendor of Solomon, in the valley. In a rather dark place, gloomy and cold, and even tend to be frightening, there are the most beautiful things there. God did not put this most beautiful thing, the lilies of the valley, on the top of a mountain. Not to be exhibited, showed off, or glorified by everyone. But hidden and only made available to those who is willing to descend into the valley.
It is not unexpected that Joseph always journeyed downhill before rising to become the second man in Egypt. His life had been plunged into a well ever since he had a dream and a significant vision. He discovered himself physically underground! Genesis 37:23–24. He was sold to merchants from Midian in the following episode of his life, who then transported him to Egypt to be traded as a slave. He was no longer that golden child or a free man—now he was a slave!
In the following scene the wife of Potiphar, who had previously tried to have sex with him, slandered him. Again, he was forced to find himself physically underground, in prison, as a result of this slander. In those times, the prison was underground. Maybe he was thinking if only I had done what she asked. Or oh, if only I hadn’t told my brothers about my dream?
Perhaps this explains why he seized the next opportunity to rescue himself or return to the top as soon as it presented itself. Genesis 40:14-15,
But remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house. For indeed I was stolen away from the land of the Hebrews; and also I have done nothing here that they should put me into the dungeon.”
Genesis 40:3’s description of Joseph’s interaction with Pharaoh’s Cup Bearer appearred to offer him “a way up.” Joseph, however, was subsequently forgotten for almost a full two years, much like the majority of politicians we are familiar with who constantly forget their lofty promises. Genesis 41:1 and 40:23, Joseph once more descended into the valley!
Only after Pharaoh had a dream did Joseph’s life abruptly change.
If we pay serious attention, none of Joseph’s efforts to ascend to the top were successful. It was not by any means of his own doing that he rose to become the second-highest-ranking Egyptian, just after Pharaoh! Joseph was not only freed from his sorrow as a result of the Pharaoh’s dream, but he had also launched to such heights to the highest position in the entire globe in his time! Dreams made him an outcast, dreams also lifted him up so high.
God is with Joseph
What did Yusuf discover after spending all this time in the valley? Genesis 39:2,
The LORD was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.
God is with him is Joseph’s first lily. Because God was with him, the LORD made all he did to prosper in his hand, verse 3. Potiphar saw all these things, so Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority, verse 4. Potiphar had such faith in Joseph that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had in the house and in the field, verse 5.
Even more spectacular was God’s presence when Joseph was defamed till he was imprisoned! The experience of the lilies of the valley became more and more real to Joseph. Genesis 39:21,
But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him mercy (steadfast love, ESV), and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.
Now it’s not just a lily of God with him, but the second one of God’s steadfast love overflowing on Joseph! These things are the ones Joseph discovered on his journey through the valley, the presence of God and His steadfast love. Many times we need to learn to let go of everything only to find God alone: His presence and steadfast love. He is the lily of Sharon, Song of Solomon 2:1.
Just as what David discovered in Psalm 23:1, The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want any other except presence and steadfast love.
Likewise, Jesus, though was God the Son himself, did not regard His equality with God the Father as something that needed to be maintained, but He let it go, emptied Himself into a man just like the others, even though He came down as a slave, not king nor nobility. And as this lowly man, He once again humbled Himself and obeyed the will of God the Father to the point of death, even death on a cross!
When He was undergoing His crucifixion, He did not regret that voyage. Even in His divinity, He would have understood that not all men would accept His sacrifice, but He did not back down or change his mind. He did not give up by just to die quickly, He endured all the parts of the Crucifixion and was willing to suffer all the pain He had to, being humiliated, beaten, spat on, whipped to almost die, kicked, stripped naked, crowned with thorns, and He still willing to be ordered to carry that heavy cross. Simon Cyrene came to help Him so He could still have the strength left on the cross in the end. Yes, He persisted in the agony of those big nails piercing through His hands and feet. The nails that hanged Him high on the Cross.
What He endured most during His crucifixion was that He was forced to go through it alone, not only that all of His disciples had left Him, but also when God the Father turned His Face away from Him. That was one level down from what Joseph and David went through. On the Cross, Jesus was separated from God. That was why he cried out, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?, Matthew 27:46. The true blessing is when the Lord’s face is shining towards us, Numbers 6:24-26. But not at the moment when Jesus was on the Cross. So why did the Father turn His Face away from Jesus on the Cross? For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21.
Yes, He submitted himself to the will of the Father and humbled so much to the point of death—even death on a cross! He chose the valley’s way so that He may be the lily of salvation, the lily of redemption, and the lily of sin forgiveness and atonement to anyone who would repent and believe in Him, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Jesus is the ROSE of SHARON and LORD of the valleys!