Newer translations have updated the words, but it is the older text that is most often repeated by and to those who are in the valley of grief: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4 KJV). The assurance of God’s presence, protection, and guidance is consolation for the soul in sorrow.
Comfort, too, is in the phrase “through the valley.” The soul gets through the gloomy place, for God is guiding and shielding. There is, however, a valley where there is no way out: “I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there . . . .” (Joel 3:2 ESV).
God is also in that valley but not as Guide and Protector. He comes there as Judge: “Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the winepress is full. The vats overflow, for their evil is great. Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14 ESV).
The only decision made in the Valley of Jehoshaphat is God’s. Time for decisions by all others has run out. It is now the LORD’s time to hand down His verdict on their past decisions. From that valley there is no escape.
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