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Down into the dry, lonely valley

"A person plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps."
Proverbs 16:9

Psalm 23 has always been one of my favorite Scriptures.  It is short and sweet and goes like this:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 
He makes me to lie down in green pastures: 
he leads me beside the still waters. 
He restores my soul: 
he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 
I will fear no evil: 
for you are with me; 
your rod and your staff they comfort me. 
You prepare a feast before me in the presence of my enemies: 
you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. 
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life: 
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever

One of the things that I have always pondered when reading Psalm 23 is the tranquil scene set by the Shepherd.  He takes the little sheep and leads her gently into safety.  Her soul is restored and she is at peace.

He leads her.  In paths of righteousness.

Notice how the next line is speaking about the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
We can assume that this is also where the Shepherd has led her.  And that even in this valley, the Shepherd considers it to be a path of righteousness.

I believe this is also true about Proverbs 16.  The entire chapter speaks of the heart's motivation and action.  It says that the Shepherd weighs the heart's intentions and motives.
There is a way that seems right to the little sheep.
She would stay beside the quiet stream, bedding in the soft grass, forever. This is the place of peace and safety.  And lots of food!
But the Lord weighs the heart.  In this place, there are no needy, messy people to disturb slumber. There are no enemies--no predators that lie in wait ready to devour.
Here, there are no calls for justice--No tiresome running on the wheel of consumerism.

But the Shepherd knows that she must go down into the Valley.
We must go where we know there will be no sustenance.  It will be dry and lonely and dark.

"It is better to be lowly in spirit with the afflicted than to share the spoils with the proud."

We can plan our path but the Shepherd will always lead us in the perfect place.
Even in the dry, lonely, and dark valley- he "prepares a feast."

Our motives and intentions may not always be righteous but He promises that the path will be.
If we are willing to follow.  Even though we tremble in fear...we walk on.


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