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A Tale of Two Valleys
March 29, 2012
Today we continue reading John Bunyan’s classic work The Pilgrim’s Progress, and we arrive at the fourth stage of his journey. Last week Christian looked to the cross and had his burden fall from his back. And now his journey begins anew; the difficulties have only just begun.
The fourth stage of Christian’s journey is a tale of two valleys. As he journeys toward the Celestial City, he needs to pass through the valley of Humiliation. It is here that Christian meets Apollyon, the first great enemy he will face. Apollyon is the accuser who reminds Christian of all the sin he has committed and who tries to convince him that he cannot be forgiven for such sin. I love how Christian replies. After being reminded of all his sin he essentially says to Apollyon, “You don’t know the half of it! I am far worse than that.” And then he pleads the grace of God.
All this is true, and much more which thou hast left out; but the Prince whom I serve and honor is merciful, and ready to forgive. But besides, these infirmities possessed me in thy country, for there I sucked them in, and I have groaned under them, been sorry for them, and have obtained pardon of my Prince.
Christian’s dependence on the grace of God enrages Apollyon who responds by attacking him. The battle is long and fierce, but Christian uses the spiritual armor God provides to protect himself and to do battle. I have recently preached through Ephesians 6 so appreciated this part of Bunyan’s book in a new way.
No sooner does Christian emerge from the valley of Humiliation than he has to make his way through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. He journeys through this battle by using the weapon of All-prayer, another reference to Philippians 6 where prayer is held up as the means through which the believer deploys each of the other weapons that the Lord provides. What struck me here was Christian looking back to the way he had already come; only then did he see the full extent of the danger he had been in.
Now morning being come, he looked back, not out of desire to return, but to see, by the light of the day, what hazards he had gone through in the dark. So he saw more perfectly the ditch that was on the one hand, and the quag that was on the other; also how narrow the way was which led betwixt them both. Also now he saw the hobgoblins, and satyrs, and dragons of the pit, but all afar off; for after break of day they came not nigh; yet they were discovered to him, according to that which is written, “He discovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death.”
For next Thursday please read (or listen to) stage five. You may want to consult the CCEL version if the version you are reading has a different chapter breakdown.
The purpose of this program is to read these books together. If you have something to say, whether a comment or criticism or question, feel free to use the comment section for that purpose.