Listen: From this Valley
Read: Psalm 121
Reflect: Valleys are the place where you meet your enemy and where battle lines are drawn, (1 Sam. 17:2) Valleys are full of tar pits (Gen 14:8-10), are where the sun and moon stands still (Josh. 10:12), are where chariots roam (17:16), where giants and detestable idols dwell (1 Sam 17, Jer. 7:30), where sons and daughters are sacrificed to Molek and where dead bodies and ashes are thrown. (Jer. 31:40, 32:35) Perhaps most frightening of all, valleys are the place of ultimate judgment (Joel 3:12-14, Micah 1:6, Zec. 14:4).
Despite being places of fertile gardens, large trees, brooks and streams, valleys most often represent places of danger and death in the Scriptures. Those in the valley experiencing tumult and terror cry out to the mountains (Isaiah 22:5). They lift their eyes up to the mountains for help (Ps. 121). In times of disaster, the mountains become the place of safety, rest, provision (Gen. 8:5, 19:17, 22:14) and even holy revelation and worship (Ex 3:12).
Yet, Jesus in his most pressing moment (the moment of his betrayal and arrest), doesn’t flee for safety on a mountain, he goes deep down into the valley. John writes, “When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it.” (18:1) There in the valley on that cold dark night Jesus is arrested, bound and led away to undergo judgment at the hands of his enemies.
The season of lent is meant to be a purposeful descent into the valley of our human experience covered by the grace and mercy of God. It is a time to draw battle lines, to acknowledge our idols, to face our sin and cry out for help. We are reminded of the good news that after his valley experience, Jesus ascended to the mountain at Golgotha, handed over his body to be crucified, and defeated death once and for all. It is after the resurrection standing on the Mount of Olives where we once again see His smiling face, the Savior who died for us. (Luke 24:51)
Respond: What are some valleys in your life? Have you faced your enemies there? Have you drawn battle lines? Have you acknowledged the pit falls, giants and idols that dwell there? In what ways are you still longing for rescue from those valleys? As you end, take time to reflect on the goodness and care of God in Psalm 121.
By Pastor Paul Olson