A Sermon by Pastor Samuel Fitz-Henley
Philadelphia Assembly Hall, Kingston Jamaica, March 3,
Our text is taken from Nehemiah 3:l2-l3 .'And next to them repaired Shallum, the son of Hallohesh, the ruler of the half-part of Jerusalem, he and his daughters. The valley gate repaired Hanun, and the inhabitants of Zanoah; they built it, and set up its doors, its locks and its bars, and a thousand cubits of the wall as far as the dung-gate.'
LET US PRAY; Loving, gracious Father, we wait in Thy presence. We ask for the leading of the Holy Spirit and Thy guidance. Glorify Thy Name. Lord, we are weak, but Thou art strong. Let Thy power be unleashed and be manifest in this place, and bring revival to us, for Thy Name'
INTRODUCTION Nehemiah went up from Babylon to build the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down. Walls would speak to us of the security, safety, separation, and sanctification in which we dwell. But the walls also had twelve gates for communication. There was the sheep gate, which has to do with the care of the flock of God, and there is the fish gate, which has to do with evangelization, fishing for men. 'Come after Me and I will make you fishers of men'
THE VALLEY GATE The valley gate represents the varied spiritual experiences that we have to go through for spiritual growth. May I repeat that? The valley gate represents the varied spiritual experiences that we have to go through for spiritual growth. Are we growing in the Lord?
Life involves peaks and valleys. It is not a level and a smooth course. It is not an easy road that we are travelling to heaven. It has its ups and downs, and the Lord said to John the Baptist, 'Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low.' Very often the lessons we have to learn, the most precious lessons, are not those that we learn on the mountaintop, but rather those that we learn in the valley experience. All of us would like to be on the Mount of Transfiguration with the Lord, where we had Moses and Elijah manifested with the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. All of us would like to have been with Moses, who spent forty days and forty nights on Mt. Sinai, and the glory of the Lord shone in his face when he came down. The mountaintop. It is good to be there, but, unfortunately, that is not where we have our greatest spiritual experiences, and not where we have our greatest spiritual growth and victory.
And so, we have before us this morning a number of valleys, which represent the various spiritual experiences, and I am going to ask you to have your Bibles open and ready as we go through a number of scriptures.
THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH The first valley is found in the well-known Psalm 23. We all know that by heart, but we will nonetheless turn to it. The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness. And we all like green pastures, don't we? And we all like the still waters, don't we? And we all like to be led in the paths of righteousness, don't we? But, do we welcome the valley? But here, the Psalmist, and the Spirit of God, is saying to us, Still waters, yes. Green pastures, yes. Paths of righteousness, yes. But, valleys also, yes. And if we are going to grow in the Lord, and walk with the Lord, then we have to go through the valley, because there, David says, Thou art with me. And if we don't want to go through the valley, we are going to miss part of the experience of walking with Him.. If we are going to walk with Him all the way, then we have to walk in the valley also. And this valley is not a welcome valley. It is the valley of the shadow of death. But, please note that for the believer it is not the valley of death. It is not the valley of judgment. It is not the valley of condemnation. It is not the valley of loss. It is the valley of the shadow of death. Because the power and the sting of death cannot affect the believer.
We are saved by grace, born by the Holy Spirit, washed in the blood, and we have victory by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Death has no more power or sting over the believer. We have conquered. We already have gained the victory. Thanks be to God Who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. But death, the shadow of death, is nevertheless there. There are times when we lose our loved ones; there are times when those that we know and care for are taken away, suddenly or otherwise. There are times when we ourselves feel as if this is the end, that we feel like giving up, even as we have here now, the shadow of death. And it is in those times that the old man, the old way, the old nature, is crucified and put to death. We have got to learn to walk the Calvary Road with the Lord Jesus. The Calvary Road leads to the death of self. Crucified. The Apostle Paul said, I am crucified with Christ,. Nevertheless I live, yet not I, and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me. I am crucified. We die daily. As far as this world is concerned, 'for Thy sake we are put to death all the day long. We are reckoned as sheep for slaughter. The Apostle Paul says, Death works in us, but life in you. We have to go through day by day the death experience, the death of self, in the valley of the shadow of death.
And so, I call that valley, 'The Valley of Dying'. Dying to sin, dying to self, dying to Satan, dying to the world. Dying with Christ, that we might live His life, that His life might be manifest in us, in glorious resurrection power. And if we will not go through that valley, then we are not going to benefit from the other valleys.
THE VALLEY OF BACA; The next valley is also in the Psalms. It is Psalm 84. It is a valley, perhaps, that we do not welcome, but yet a necessary valley; and we read from verse 4, where it says, Blessed are they that dwell in Thy House, they will be constantly praising thee. Selah. Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee. Please note... please note that these verses start with Blessed... blessed... blessed. God wants to lead all of us... to lead all of God's children, into blessing; and sometimes God blesses us in various ways, at various times, in various manners, in various places, which we do not expect, or even understand. Sometimes He wants to bless us, but because of our own stubbornness, our own unbelief, our own disobedience, we deny ourselves the blessing God would bring upon us.
Blessed are those who dwell in Thy house. They will be constantly praising Thee. Blessed is the man whose strength is in Thee. Psalm 84:5. And please note what follows, they in whose heart are the highways. The Scripture says, God leads us into largeness of heart. We tend to be too selfish and self-centred, narrow and constricted in our faith, in our love, in our worship, in our service for God. God says, that those who walk with Him in the path of blessing, in their heart are the highways, because they extend and expand the love of God to all God's people, and we have a vision, and a mission for those who are lost, not only in our homes, in our communities, and in our church, but even in the world. In whose hearts are the highways; and God's blessings flow there from.
But, for that to be effected, we have to pass through the valley of Baca, verse 6. And Baca means, weeping. Baca means, weeping. Perhaps for some of us, crying comes difficultly, and we say, so-and-so is dry-eyed, even in the face of death or disaster. For others, the tears are too ready, and they flow ever so often, and ever so quickly, even for little or no reason. But here, the Scripture speaks of the valley of weeping. Weeping for the right reasons. Tears of sorrow, tears of grief, yes, tears of repentance, tears of brokenness, tears of longing with a desire for a closer walk with God, tears with a longing for greater dedication and consecration; tears, as the Psalmist says, As the heart pants after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God. I cry unto God.. Tears for the souls of men, tears as we pray for the condition of our beloved Jamaica, tears as we pray for revival in our lives and in the Assembly, and in our individual lives. These are the tears that we want to see manifest, and it is no weakness for men to cry. For David cried, Jeremiah cried, and Jesus cried. It takes strong men to weep for the right reasons, for the right reasons.
But, passing through the valley of Baca, they make it a well-spring. It is like a fountain of tears that flow in tha valley. But, please note what follows. It says, The early rain covers it with blessing. Because, after the tears, after the clouds, after the darkness, and after the pain, the sunshine comes at last. Then, rest comes at last. But, even then, it is not finished. Verse 7 says, that even in that valley of weeping, where God covers our souls with His blessings, with the early rain, they go from strength to strength. In our weakness, His strength and His power are made perfect, and we emerge from the valley of weeping, stronger in our spirits, stronger in our souls, stronger in our faith towards God, and stronger in our love, we pray, towards Him and towards others. They go from strength to strength. Each one will appear before God in Zion. The valley of Baca, the valley of weeping, is The Valley of Testing.
THE VALLEY OF KIDRON; But that is not all. We look at 2 Chron. L5, and there we see the valley of Kidron. The valley of Kidron. Asa is one of the revival kings of Judah. Others are Josiah and Hezekiah. And this is where, again, we need to study God's Word to see the precious lessons that are there. The gospels are fine. The Psalms are beautiful. Proverbs are edifying. But also need to study the whole Word of God. And we seek to bring ministry from these portions, but we need to have the believers with a desire for God, with a desire to study God's Word, in order to share these things.
In the case of Asa, Asa brought about revival to Judah, and when he came he saw the people were given up to idolatry. Idolatry! And even his mother, v. l6, Maacah, the Queen Mother, he removed here from the position of Queen Mother, for she had made an idol for the Asherah. That was a painful exercise. It takes a strong man to stand for God uncompromisingly, even where his own relatives, his dear relatives, those closest to him, are involved. Asa was such a man. And even though she had an idol, he did not crush other idols and leave hers alone. Charity begins at home. And he started from his house, and he cut down her idol, and he stamped on it, and he burnt it. He was very serious about it. This was no make-belief. This was no, sort of, face card business. And he burnt it in the valley of Kidron. There, the idolatry is to be washed away.
Let us turn to 2 Chron. Cap. 29. And there we see Hezekiah. And in his time, believe it or not, the house of God had filth in it. Yes. That is what I said: the house of God had filth in it. And, verse l5, Cap. 29, the brethren hallowed themselves, and came, according to the commandment of the king and the word of Jehovah, to cleanse the house of the Lord... to cleanse the house of the Lord. The priests went into the inner part of the house of the Lord to cleanse it, and carried forth all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the Lord, into the courts of the house of the Lord. And the Scripture shows us, that they started on the first day of the month, verse l7, and they continued on the eighth day, and they completed on the l6th day. It took sixteen days - are we shocked? - to clean up all the rubbish in God's House; and they took it into the valley of Kidron. Going back to v. l6; the Levites took it to carry it forth into the brook Kidron.
The Scripture says, judgment must begin from the house of God. There come the times, unfortunately, and even sadly, when there has to be a cleansing of God's house. There are times when, unfortunately, the Assembly has to take a stand in disciplining, in withdrawing from, believers according to God's word, because the Kidron is The Valley of Cleansing. The valley of cleansing. And you and I need daily cleansing in our lives, the washing of the water of the word of God, and we are told that we ought to examine ourselves honestly before God and confess our sins to Him, for if we judge ourselves, then He will not judge us. But if we fail to examine ourselves, to repent and to confess our wrongs, then we will have to deal with the Lord, and He will have to do the cleansing. In our lives we have to go through also, the valley of Kidron.
And there are other instances, which I will not spend time on, when there was uncleannesses and idolatries among God's people in the house, and they took it to the valley of Kidron..
So we have the valley of dying, the valley of testing, the valley of Baca, the valley of Kidron, the valley of cleansing. And then we have the valley of Achor, the valley of judgment. Joshua, Cap. 7.
THE VALLEY OF ACHOR; Let me give you in summary the background to this. I am moving quickly from one point to the other, so we have to pay attention and be very alert. Israel are on the borders of Jericho, over the Jordon. God says, destroy everything. Do not touch the unclean thing. But, Achan, in going through Jericho which was now overrun and overcome, he saw a goodly Babylonish garment, like those who have a red-eye, a covetous eye, whose eyes open, and sparkle, and shine, when they see something they would like to have, in a spirit of covetousness. A beautiful mantle of Shinar, the Bible says, two hundred shekels of silver, and a golden bar, fifty shekels worth. And Achan must have said to himself, surely I cannot destroy this. Surely God does not mean for me to burn all of this. I will take it. Nobody will know. I will hide it in my tent, which he did, and then sin is committed. Be sure your sin will find you out, the Scripture says. And Hagar says, Thou God seest me. The Higher than the high is watching. And He saw Achan hide these things in his tent. And the Bible shows us, the oneness of the Assembly; for when there is sin in the camp, there cannot be strength and power and victory. And it is so until this day.
This came out when Israel went up with a few soldiers to Ai, a little village, a little town, and they were roundly defeated, this, after the great victory of Jericho. Beloved, there is a lesson in that. If you have a great spiritual victory, watch out! Satan will come to take away our joy, and to make us realize that our strength is not in ourselves. It is in the Lord. Remember Elijah? Elijah on Mt. Carmel. He alone destroyed the 400 prophets of Baal, the prophets of Jezebel. He routed them. And after that great victory on Mt. Carmel, when fire came down and licked up the offering and the water around it, and the people said, The Lord, He is God, the next thing you find is that this great prophet of God, Elijah, is running away, because ofa woman Jezebel.. She says, I am going to have you for this. I am going to take your life. And he ran away, into a cave, and said, Let me die now. Beware after a great victory, the enemy comes to exploit our weakness. This proves that our strength is in the Lord, and not in ourselves.
And so, we come to Achan, as I said, and his Babylonish garment. And Israel is defeated. And Joshua cries, Lord, I don't understand this. The Lord said, Don't cry unto me. There is a time when we must not be praying. We must be acting. Why cry unto me? The Lord said. Rise up, and search out, for Israel has sinned, and I will no more be with you until you judge the sin in your midst. And so, eventually Achan was discovered, and the sin he committed. And he, and the beautiful garment, and the gold, and the silver, and his family, were stoned with stones and they died, in the valley of Achor. And they placed there a monument with stones. It sounds very severe, but Achor is The Valley of Judgment. Judgment against sin. And the Bible says, you must put way evil from your midst.
It is possible that the people of God can become so accustomed to sinning and to evil, that sin comes like bedfellows. We lose our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, and even our consciences can be seared and the word of God has no more effect upon us; and we do not judge sin in the midst. The valley of Achor is the Valley of Judgment.
THE VALLEY OF AJALON; But we must move on. Joshua, chapter l0. The Amorites came in their force against Israel, and Joshua would lead the battle, and they were prevailing. The day was dying; the sun was coming down and sunset approached. And Joshua prayed a prayer that has never been prayed before in the history of the world, nor even after. Joshua l0, verse l2. Then spoke Joshua to Jehovah, in the day that Jehovah gave up the Amorites to the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gideon and thou moon in the valley of Ajalon; and the sun stood still, and the moon remained where it was until the nation had avenged themselves upon their enemies. They were winning the battle at last, but darkness was coming down, and so he cried, Sun, don't `g o down. Stay high in the sky. We are going to win the battle to day. Is it not written in the book of Jasher, The sun remained standing in the midst of heaven - verse l3 - and hastened not to go down about a full day: the longest known day in history. Twelve hours in the day, twelve hours of sunlight. But this was twenty-four hours of sunlight. The world lost a full day. Verse l4. And there was no day like that before it, or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man, for Jehovah fought for Israel. And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal.
Please note that astronomers who study the heavens, and the movements of the earth and of the sun, have established that there is a day missing. Yes. It has been historically and astronomically established that there is a day missing. It is this day - the day that was prolonged so that they could win the battle over the enemy in the valley of Ajalon. . Have we been in the valley of Ajalon? Where we have this titanic struggle against the forces of darkness?
The Bible tells us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers of darkness and wickedness in heavenly places. Demons would oppress our souls, or lead us into depression. Demons would weaken us and make us lose our faith and our purpose in God. Demons would stir us to speak and to do evil, and to depart from G od. Yes. Powers of darkness can press so much against the soul and the spirit of the child of God that we have to go into fasting and prayer in that valley for victory, and exercise our faith as Joshua exercised his faith, to call upon God for a miracle, and for His power to be manifest to overcome the enemy that threatens our very existence. Ajalon is The Place of Battle. Battle!
We are soldiers, soldiers of Christ. Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before. And we had better take unto ourselves the whole armour of God, in the evil day, so that after all things we may still stand, with the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation, and the breastplate of righteousness, and our feet shod with the preparation of the glad tidings of peace, and also prevailing in prayer. The valley of Ajalon.
THE VALLEY OF REST Sometimes when we speak of these things, we think that the Christian pathway is only struggle and battle and heartaches and pain. It is not so, for when we look in Isaiah, chapter 63, we see another valley, and we remember that the people of God, coming out of Egypt went through the bitter waters of Marah, which were made sweet by the cross - the tree that was cut down and put in it - the tree of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. And after Marah, He led them to Elim, a place with twelve springs of water, twelve wells of water, and seventy palm trees. A beautiful sight!
In Isaiah 63, and verse ll, we read, He remembered the days of old with Moses and His people. Where is he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he that put his holy Spirit within him, his glorious arm leading them by the right hand of Moses, dividing the waters before them to make himself an everlasting name - who led them through the depths like a horse in the wilderness, and they stumbled not
They were recalling the mighty works of God, which He did among His people. They went through various experiences, and we know that this God, our God, is the God Who is the Same. He is the Same, yesterday, to-day, and forevermore. What He has done yesterday, He can do to-day, and He will do tomorrow. And so they recall this God that brought them times of victory, through, as the Psalmist says... I went through water, I went through fire, but He brought me out into victory. And verse 14 says, As cattle go down into the valley, the Spirit of the Lord gave them rest, so didst thou lead thy people to make thyself a glorious Name. Yes, we have sung, There is peace in the valley. This is where it comes from. There is peace in the valley for me. And we sing, Down in the valley with my Saviour I would go, where the flowers are blooming and the sweet waters flow. Yes, as we go through the valley, the Lord also brings us into the valley of rest, a place of communion, a place of fellowship, a place of spiritual encouragement, a place of consolation, and a place of enrichment. The Lord gave them rest in the valley. It is not all sorrow and struggle and pain. And so, this valley in Isaiah 63 is The Place of Rest, the place of consolation. The Lord says, Comfort ye my people. Comfort ye my people, saith your God. Great is Thy faithfulness, and Thy compassions they fail not. They are new every morning. So, even in the midst of the time of weeping, the time of testing, He brings us to the place of rest - rest of soul - the place of consolation, the place of comfort.
THE VALLEY OF ESHCOL; And, finally, we come to Numbers, chapter l3. I want to say, that if we are going to go into the valley of rest, we have got to pass through, first, the valley of dying; the valley of Baca, the valley of weeping, of testing; the valley of Kidron, the valley of cleansing; the valley of Achor, the valley of judgment; the valley of Ajalon, the valley of battle; before we can reach the valley of rest, of comfort, and consolation.
And now, Numbers 13 tells us of another valley. Numbers l3, and verse 23, where Moses sent out the twelve spies. You know the story. Ten spies brought back a sad and misleading report. Joshua and Caleb brought back an encouraging report. The people were afraid of the giants of Anak. You know, I have said this before, and I say it again: Two men were in a cell and looking through the bars, looking out. One looked down and he saw the mud. The other one looked up and he saw the stars. He saw the Lord. Ten men saw the giants of Anak. Joshua and Caleb saw the power and the victory of God, in the valley of Eshcol. 'And they came as far as the valley of Eshcol, and cut down thence a branch with one bunch of grapes, and they bore it between two men upon a pole...' And this is not the figment of one's imagination. This is not an anancy story. I am saying, This is the Word of God, where there was a bunch of grapes that you and I have never seen, and perhaps will never see in our lifetime.
It took two men upon a pole to carry the one bunch. The Lord said, I am come that ye might have life, and that ye might have it more abundantly. He wants to give us blessings overflowing. In the valley of Eshcol is the Valley of Fruitfulness, the valley of spiritual prosperity, the valley of the abundance of blessings, that God would lead us into, if we will walk with Him step by step.
'And they brought of the pomegranates and of the figs. That place was called the valley of Eshcol, because of the grapes which the children of Israel had cut down there.' And so, beloved, we have to walk with God, with the Lord Jesus, step by step, in the valley of life. And as I began, I close to say, that very often the lessons, the most precious lessons, that we learn, are not on the mountain-top, but, rather, in the valley experience. And I say it again, you cannot reach the mountaintop if you are not prepared and willing to go through the valley experience.
'Down in the valley with my Saviour I would go.' Let us close with that hymn, and let it be meaningful. I would invite us, if God has spoken to our hearts, if we want to walk with the Lord through all of life's experiences, to make this a prayer. If perhaps we are seeking a closer walk with God, with strength and power and victory, and are prepared to go through all the way with Him, even though it leads through the valley of death, the valley of testing, the valley of judgment, the valley of cleansing - if we are prepared to go all the way with Him, so that we might go into the valley of rest, and the valley of Eshcol - if we would not bypass the other valleys - let us sing this hymn as a prayer and as a hymn of dedication, that we might experience the joy of the Lord which is our strength, and experience victory in our lives. Amen!
Jesus, the light of the world|