I am 67 years old today! Thank you! Thank you! I often feel that I’m on borrowed time because I’m three years older than my dad was when he died. I’m six years older than my grandfather was when he died. I know it’s coming 15 shadow of deathone day for me! When Isaiah the prophet spoke of the coming of the Messiah he said many things that would characterize the accomplishments of the Messiah. He would set prisoners free. He would heal the sick. He would give food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty. More importantly, he would give hope to those who live under the shadow of death. The Psalmist talks about how he “walks in the valley of the shadow of death.” But God is the great deliverer and even though he will have to deal with death he asserts, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Matthew actually quotes the Isaiah passage when he begins his account of Jesus’ ministry on earth. In Matthew 4:16, he says, “…and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” That’s all of us! We all dwell in the valley of the shadow of death.

Death is this huge shadow that hangs over our lives. We’re reminded of it every day in the newspapers. We see it on the news, and it often even visits our own families. We know it’s there and we, like Solomon, have to come to terms with it. When all we see is what is “under the sun” it leads us to great despair. In Ecclesiastes 2:17 Solomon says, “I hated life.” Then in 2:18 he said that he hated all his toil and labor because it will be left behind to others. Then in 2:20 he says, “I gave my heart up to despair.” It makes no difference what you learn or how much you accomplish in life. Everyone faces the same fate. The famous atheist, Bertrand Russell said, “we stand on the shore of an ocean crying out to the night in emptiness and sometimes a voice answers out of the darkness, but it’s the voice of one drowning, and in a moment silence returns.” Yes, there’s nothing to live for!

But don’t forget the rest of Matthew 4:16. It reminds us that the Messiah, Jesus, came to shine a light on those who live in darkness and in the valley of the shadow of death. That light is the light of God’s great love for us. He will never let us go. He has created us for eternity and He wants us to have it in the wonderful place we call heaven. It’s only when we lose this eternal perspective that life becomes completely meaningless. Even the existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said, “Life has no meaning the moment you lose the illusion of being eternal.” He called it an illusion. I call it living by faith not by sight. The writer of the book of Hebrews explains the work of Jesus. A whole new world is open to those who believe. Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “…through death he destroyed the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and delivers all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” Christ sets us free! Christ shines the light of eternity on us! Whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”