The prior post in this series may be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/pilgrims-progress-study-guide-5/
Christian in the Valley of the Shadow of Death:
- Why does Christian go through the Valley of the Shadow of Death?
- This letter from Samuel Rutherford helps us understand this passage:
WELL-BELOVED AND DEAR SISTER IN CHRIST,—I could not get an answer written to your letter till now, in respect of my wife’s disease; and she is yet mightily pained. I hope that all shall end in God’s mercy. I know that an afflicted life looks very like the way that leads to the kingdom; for the Apostle hath drawn the line and the King’s market-way, “through much tribulation, to the kingdom” (Acts 14:22; 1 Thess. 3:4). The Lord grant us the whole armour of God.
….all God’s plants, set by His own hand, thrive well; and if the work be of God, He can make a stepping-stone of the devil himself for setting forward the work.
For yourself, I would advise you to ask of God a submissive heart. Your reward shall be with the Lord, although the people be not gathered (as the prophet speaks); and suppose the word do not prosper, God shall account you “a repairer of the breaches.”
And take Christ caution, ye shall not lose your reward. Hold your grip fast. If ye knew the mind of the glorified in heaven, they think heaven come to their hand at an easy market, when they have got it for threescore or fourscore years wrestling with God. When ye are come thither, ye shall think, “All I did, in respect of my rich reward, now enjoyed of free grace, was too little.” Now then, for the love of the Prince of your salvation, who is standing at the end of your way, holding up in His hand the prize and the garland to the race-runners, Forward, forward; faint not.
Take as many to heaven with you as ye are able to draw. The more ye draw with you, ye shall be the welcomer yourself. Be no niggard or sparing churl of the grace of God; and employ all your endeavours for establishing an honest ministry in your town, now when ye have so few to speak a good word for you. I have many a grieved heart daily in my calling. I would be undone, if I had not access to the King’s chamber of presence, to show Him all the business.
The devil rages, and is mad to see the water drawn from his own mill; but would to God we could be the Lord’s instruments to build the Son of God’s house….
Samuel Rutherford and Andrew A. Bonar, Letters of Samuel Rutherford: With a Sketch of His Life and Biographical Notices of His Correspondents (Edinburgh; London: Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier, 1891), 50–51.
- We may wonder why Christian falls into such a deep trial so quickly after he has recovered from Apollyon’s attack. Rutherford suggests one ground: that Christian has managed to obtain good from the Devil’s attack. A second reason for this progression is found in Psalm 23, which Bunyan apparently had in mind while writing:
Psalm 23 (ESV)
A Psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4 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.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
The movement is quickly from pastures to the gravest trials — because God is in all of them.
- Christian sees two men running in terror from the Valley.
- How far did they go?
- Why did they stop, how do they describe it?
- Job went through the valley, how does he succeed? Job 23:16-17, 38-41, 42:1-5.
- Why does Ahitophel not make it through the valley? 2 Samuel 17:23.
- Compare Judas & Peter: One makes it through and the other commits suicide: what is the difference between the two?
- David came to this valley and nearly died? How did he survive it? Psalm 32
- Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 11:18-20, Jeremiah calls out for the attack upon him. God promises to deliver Jeremiah: 11:21-23. Yet, Jeremiah continues to complain of his trial. God responds in 12:5. Philip Ryken explains this response of God as follows:
In any case, the point is that Jeremiah hadn’t seen anything yet. The troubles he was having in Anathoth were nothing compared to the trouble he would later have in Jerusalem, Babylon or Egypt. Things were bad but not the worse. If Jeremiah thought he had trouble today, he needed to wait until tomorrow. Anyone who gets discouraged, downtrodden, and defeated over little things will never fulfill his divine calling. If even little disappointments tempt Jeremiah to leave his calling, how will he cope with real persecution? God had great things in store for Jeremiah. But he would never achieve them unless he was willing to persevere in little things. He had to be willing to race with men before he could compete with horses.
The same is true for every Christian. If you complain about the simple things God has already asked you to do, then you lack the spiritual strength to do what he wants you do to next. If your troubles keep you from doing the Lord’s work now, you will never have the strength to do it later. If you want to do some great things for God, then you must begin by doing the little things for God. And the only way to do little things for God is to do them in the strength of the Holy Spirit. Jeremiah, 222.
- Kelman writes:
When at last Christian has forced the new cowards to state as well as they can the causes of their terror, his reply is, ‘I perceive not yet, by what you have said, but that this is my way to the desired haven.’ It is a very great answer and he would have said it whatever they had reported. The dangers ahead are not the point of the situation. They are irrelevant side issues, and have nothing to do with a pilgrim’s course of action. The point — the only point — is, Which is the way of God? To go in that way is indeed the only safe course: but even if it were not, it is the only right course, and therefore the only course. When Fear says to our soul, ‘A man must live,’ Conscience had better repeat the old rejoinder, ‘I fail to see the necessity.’ There is only one necessity in the world, and that is to be faithful to God.
- What does Christian pull out to protect himself as he enters the valley? How does Christ respond in the wilderness to temptation. Ian Hamilton notes that Jesus quoted Scripture in response to the wilderness temptation and all his conflicts with men and even after he resurrected: It is written. If it is necessary for Christ to quote Scripture to make all matters settled and to stand in temptation, then who do we think we are that we could stand without such help?
- What do the two sides of the path represent? What would these things look like in our lives? (Who were the blind guides, and what did they do? Matthew 15:14)
- When Christian comes to the most danger point of his trip, Christian cries with passage from Psalm 71:16 (KJV, modern translations take the passage a bit differently): I will walk in the strength of the Lord.
To go is equivalent to abiding in a steady, settled, and permanent state. True believers, it must indeed be granted, so far from putting forth their energies without difficulty, and flying with alacrity in their heavenly course, rather groan through weariness; but as they surmount with invincible courage all obstacles and difficulties, not drawing back, or declining from the right way, or at least not failing through despair, they are on this account said to go forward until they have arrived at the termination of their course. In short, David boasts that he will never be disappointed of the help of God till he reach the mark. And because nothing is more rare or difficult in the present state of weakness and infirmity than to continue persevering, he collects all his thoughts in order to rely with entire confidence exclusively on the righteousness of God. When he says that he will be mindful of it ONLY, the meaning is, that, forsaking all corrupt confidences with which almost the whole world is driven about, he will depend wholly upon the protection of God, not allowing himself to wander after his own imaginations, or to be drawn hither and thither by surrounding objects.
John Calvin, Psalms, electronic ed., Calvin’s Commentaries (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998), Ps 71:16.
- What does Christian hear spoken?
- What are the three things which cheer Christian when he knows another is there with him?
- What is it that lights Christian’s way through the valley?
- Read Psalm 18
- What is our light? v 28
- Whom does God save? v. 27
- How did God prepare Christian for this venture?
Christian Meets Faithful
- Why will Faithful not stop?
- What does Christian’s run and fall represent?
- Why do other people not leave the City of Destruction?
- Must all fall into the Slough of Despond?
- How did Faithful escape Wanton? Proverbs 5
- What did Adam the first offer? How did Faithful escape?
- Who knocks Christian down and why? Romans 3:20. How is Christian rescued from Moses?
- Who tries to keep Faithful from descending into the Valley of Humiliation? Who must Faithful give up to make the trip? Why is Faithful willing to make the descent? Hebrews 12:1-2, 1 Peter 1:4-7.
- Whom tries to dissuade Faithful once he is in the valley? What persuades Faithful to reject this man?
- What is Talkative willing to do? What does Talkative refuse to do? 1 John 1:5-2:6.
 Bonar explains:
During the first years of his labours here, the sore illness of his wife was a bitter grief to him. Her distress was very severe. He writes of it: “She is sore tormented night and day.—My life is bitter unto me.—She sleeps none, and cries as a woman travailing in birth; my life was never so wearisome.”1 She continued in this state for no less than a year and a month, ere she died. Besides all this, his two children had been taken from him. Such was the discipline by which he was trained for the duties of a pastor, and by which a shepherd’s heart of true sympathy was imparted to him.
Samuel Rutherford and Andrew A. Bonar, Letters of Samuel Rutherford: With a Sketch of His Life and Biographical Notices of His Correspondents (Edinburgh; London: Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier, 1891), 4–5.