Jerry Woodfill

Consider what is meant by biblical revelation. The simplest definition would be knowledge imparted by the Holy Spirit focused on a person(s) or event(s). Revelation goes beyond natural understanding. It is "the story behind the story." Much of what successful Bible teachers communicate is "revelation knowledge." However, like all interpretation of scripture, both an "inner witness" and agreement with all scripture must exist. Test the following example in light of this definition.

Scripture, like secular non-fiction prose, paints word pictures using imagery coupled with facts and figures (numbers). Of these, figures serve a unique role, a role often ignored or misunderstood. Because every word of the Bible has purpose, it is significant when the Holy Spirit inspires a quantifier such as " great multitude" in one case and "153 fish" in another instance. Because of specific numeric choices, correlation between numbers and God's messages has added meaning. Often, such meaning is imparted as biblical revelation. Scholars speak of a "law of first mention" because general agreement exists between how a number is used in "its first mention" with the rest of scripture.

Such is the use of "23" throughout the Bible's text. Perhaps, the best example is the Holy Spirit's numbering of the Twenty-third Psalm. Countless sermons cite the comfort of the verse, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of DEATH, I will fear no evil for thou art with me." Admittedly, the Psalm's main theme is Christ's role as the "Good Shepherd," giving His life for His sheep. However, in both roles, shepherd and protector, death is an operative situation. In the former, Christ's sacrifice on Calvary and the latter, defending the believer's walk through the "valley of death."

Assigning the number "23" to situations involving either Christ's death on Calvary or the threat of a believer's death becomes an exercise in revelation knowledge. Obviously, such agreement should exist most prominently in the New Testament rather than the Old. The Twenty-third Psalm has a strong prophetic sense of Christ's first advent on our planet. Predictably, one finds in the TWENTY-THIRD chapter of Luke exact correlation with the death of Christ on Calvary. Additionally, the TWENTY-THIRD verse of Luke Chapter TWENTY-THREE decides the issue of death. Pilot has stated in verse twenty-two, "I find no cause of death in him...I will let him go." Then, comes verse TWENTY-THREE , the sentence of death, "And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified: and the voices of them and the chief priests prevailed." Death and its threat are a revelation associating Psalm 23, Luke 23:23, and the number 23. This gives added meaning to Christ's role as the Shepherd of Psalm 23, giving His life for His sheep.

But what about the DEATH VALLEY of the Twenty-third Psalm? The Psalm promises the believer "safe passage." Would not an example of this protection be expected in the New Testament? We know from scripture that the Shepherd of Psalm 23 dies for His sheep. Having shown Luke 23's account of Christ's death on the Cross, we should be able to find a corresponding New Testament example of "walking through the valley of the shadow of death." Likely, such correlation would appear in Acts, the history of the early Church, also authored by Luke.

Again, revelation associates "23" with this aspect of Christ's promise to the believer. Chapter TWENTY-THREE of Acts exactly depicts what Psalm TWENTY THREE promised, "Yea though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil (harm)." Paraphrasing the situation, Acts TWENTY-THREE describes the Apostle Paul's most dire death threat. Paul has angered the Jews calling their respected High Priest, the most derogatory of terms, "a whited wall." But for Paul reminding the Jewish council of his Pharisee background, he might have been murdered on the spot. Nevertheless, more than forty of the Jews conspired to assassinate the Apostle, vowing not to eat or drink until their plot had succeeded.

And so Paul's "valley of death" would be an invitation to appear "a last time" before the council. During his final audience, not one, but forty assassins would strike. With Paul's demise, their evil fast would lift. But did not God's word promise, a "walk THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death..." , and futhermore, that Paul would fear no evil." Expectedly, Acts TWENTY-THREE, identifying with "23," should be an exceptionally fine example of the promise of Psalms 23, overcoming death. And so it is.

Think about Paul's "fear of evil," i.e. his concern that death at the hands of the Jews would silence his witness. Acts 23's red print reports God's audible fear-fighting-words, "...the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome. " Even though the very next morning the evil band of assassins formed, God had audibly spoken. Commentators agree the Lord's intent for these words was "exhortation, edification, and comfort" assuring Paul that "no weapon formed against him shall profit."

Having dealt with Paul's fear per Psalm 23's promise, Acts 23 follows with an awesome example of death defying protection. Only the Hebrews' providential protection from execution in the Book of Esther compares with Paul's deliverance in Acts 23. Divine intervention explains his course of escape from the 40 assassins: Paul's sister's son, his nephew, overhears the plot against "Uncle Paul." The bad report forewarns the apostle. "Tell the chief captain," is Paul's response to his nephew's warning. What ensues personifies the "walk through the valley of the shadow of death." Not only does God's warning abort a second council meeting but the captain feels compelled to augment Paul's protection.

Where Satan had incited more than 40 assassins, God builds a "wall of defense" as the captain barks out God's fortifications. The unbelieving gentile military becomes God's agent for Psalm 23's deliverance. Not only is "23" identified with death, but most importantly, it relates to deliverance FROM DEATH. For the 23rd verse of Acts 23 reveals the extent of God's protection mustered for His saints.

The chief captain "summons 200 foot soldiers in Paul's, defense." It would seem that 200 armour-clad / iron-shielded / sword-swinging warriors might suffice against 40 rock-throwing / knife-wielding / tunic-attired Jewish theologians, almost a four to one margin. No! God's protection is greater. The captain commands, "To which add 70 horsemen."

Imagine, the forty fasting clerics attacking 70 saber slashing horsemen!" What are the odds of these "underfed" fanatics' success? Almost two horsemen per assassin...a one ton four legged beast faced-off against a hundred seventy pound robed / sandal-clad Sadducee who had missed his last six meals? Should Paul fear the walk through the valley of the shadow of death? God is the original author of the term "overkill" when it comes to protecting his children from the enemy's killers.

Is this not overkill on the believer's behalf when the captain gives yet a third order? "To which add 200 spearmen!" Such is God's protection that Satan's forty agents may not even threaten His children. For His spears will slay them while they are far off. Should a spear fail to meet its mark, four more remain, i.e., five spears for each of the enemy. Did not but one of David's five stones destroy a ten foot giant? In Paul's defense, God had raised up AN ARMY! Psalm 23's walk amidst the threat of death is wonderfully fulfilled in verse 23 of Acts 23. Indeed, Paul could say, "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall not fear for thou art with me."


Let the reader judge whether the aforementioned narrative be revelation or random coincidence. A depth of understanding comes of Christ's remark of "calling 10,000 angels" in His defense. If God could so protect Paul with a supernaturally summoned human army, how much more could He defend His beloved Son with legions of angels. Truly, the Lord gave Himself freely.

Furthermore, consider Acts 23's account as a parable. Elements of the historical account certainly serve as types of the Gospel. The Chief Captain becomes our defender, the Lord Jesus Christ. His recorded words, written to the Roman Governor, perfectly speak of our Lord's promise to us: ..."most excellent Governor (a type of God the Father in this instance). This man (each of us) was taken (by our enemy Satan) and should have been killed (yes, our sentence was eternal death because of our sin) then came I (Jesus) with an army (He is the Lord of Hosts) and rescued him (He went to the Cross and rescued us from eternal death), having understood that he (each of us) was a Roman (a believer, one of the redeemed, a citizen of the Kingdom of God).

...and finally, by revelation consider the Book of Revelation. Chapter twenty-two concludes the Bible. THERE IS NO CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE.

I wonder why?

Copyright 1999, JRWIV INTERESTS


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Page Posted: Tuesday, February 01, 2000


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