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You'll Never Walk Alone - Psalm 23:4
Singing the Songs of Zion
You’ll Never Walk Alone
Psalm 23:4
 
I want to ask you to turn to Psalm 23.  I know you are familiar with this wonderful Psalm, but I didn’t want to bring our study of the Songs of Zion to a close without including it.  And my first thought was to preach on the entire Psalm, but instead this morning I only want to consider one verse.  Let’s begin by reading the whole Psalm, then we’ll look at that one verse in particular.    
 
Psalm 23:1-6
 
In 1963, an English pop group called Gerry & the Pacemakers decided to record a song that had been a part of their stage act for a long time.  It soon hit #1 in the UK.  It has been recorded by almost everybody that is anybody including names like Judy Garland, Doris Day, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Patti LaBelle, Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley, The Righteous Brothers, Andy Williams and Johnny Cash, just to name a few. 
 
It has made appearances in movies, graduations and sporting events all over the world.  But what you may not know is that “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was originally written by Rogers & Hammerstein for the 1945 musical Carousel.
 
The lyrics are:
 
When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high, And don't be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm, there's a golden sky
And the sweet, silver song of a lark
 
Walk on through the wind, Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
 
Walk on, walk on With hope in your hearts
And you'll never walk alone, You'll never walk alone
 
That is the message that we find in the 4th verse of this psalm.  You and I know that we all go through some valleys.  And just because you are a child of God, you are not protected from the valleys of life.  But the promise of God is we will never walk alone.   
 
Now to help us understand this verse, I want to focus your attentionon three words and n the old King james, they all begin with the letter “t”.  If you want to highlight or underline those words, then underline the word “though”, the word “through” and the word “thou”. 
 
"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."
 
The first one, the word “though” tells us about
 
  1.  The Possibility
 
The word “though” carries the idea of a possibility.  There is an “if” there.  In fact, we could phrase it like that:  If I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. . .”  You see, it is possible that you or I will very soon find ourselves in the valley of life.  The next phone call, the next text message or e-mail, the next knock at your door may very well plunge you into a dark valley.
Now you may not realize it, but “the valley of the shadow of death” was a literal valley in Palestine. And David was very familiar with that area. Near the Mount of Olives, a spring breaks out and causes a little river. It has been flowing through the centuries and this little river flows down toward the Dead Sea, down into that valley area.  And over the years, as it has flowed, it has carved out a chasm that in some places is very deep, but very narrow. 
 
In some places, the depth is 1,500 feet and the width is no more than 15 or twenty feet.  And because of the narrowness and the depth, it is a very dangerous place. In addition to that, there are all kinds of hiding places for thieves and wild animals and because of all that, down through the place came to be known as “the valley of the shadow of death” by the locals and the shepherds. 
 
In fact, they say it was a very common occurrence for the shepherd to have to lead their sheep through this valley to the grass down below.  While there might be snow up on the mountains, there would be green grass down in Jericho.  But to get to it, you would have to pass through this dark valley, the valley of the shadow of death. 
 
And that’s David has in mind  to remind his hearers that any child of God can have a dark valley in the every-day responsibilities of life.
 
I’m afraid a lot of people are deceived into believing that as a child of Go dthey are supposed to be immune from trouble and problems.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  In fact, being a child of God just complicates your life that much more. 
 
You are now subject to some temptation and problems and opposition that others don’t have.  And if you need some commentary on that, just take a look at Psalm 34:19.  Do you know what it says?  If you don’t, you ought to commit it to memory.  It says: 
 
"Many are the afflictions of the righteous,"  KJV
 
Many adversities come to the one who is righteous,” HCSB
 
“The righteous person faces many troubles,” NLT
 
Did you hear that? It’s not the unsaved or the ungodly he’s talking about.  It is the people of God. Just because you are saved does not mean that you'll not have any dark valleys.
 
By the way, there is a comma after that statement, not a period and we ought to thank God for the rest of the verse.  It says, “But the Lord delivered him out of them all."
 
Another good verse to have in the margin is 1 Peter 5:10:
 
“But the God of all grace who hath called us into his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you."
 
I like that verse because it speaks of the grace of God and it speaks of the glory of God. But it also speaks of the grief of God and notice it says "after you have suffered a while," not if you have suffered, but “after” you have suffered.
 
Somebody has said that God only had one child without sin, but he's never had any child without sorrow.
 
Sooner or later a hush will come to your home. I don't want to be morbid about it and I'm not trying to be morbid because my message this morning is not a morbid message.
 
But I would be less than honest if I were to tell you this morning that if you become a Christian that from there on there's going to be nothing but joy and light and sweetness and roses and that you're going to move through life in an ever-ascending scale of health and success and happy family life and prosperity and a serene old age and a glorious exit into heaven.
 
That's the way we all like to live. But I tell you there are plenty of people who love God just as much as you do and more than many of us who have gone through some dark valleys.
 
And David was one of them. That’s why the word “though” is there.  He found himself in the valley. 
 
Now think about this:  you can't have a valley unless you have mountains. And you may not know that this Psalm 23 is strategically located in the middle of a tilogy of psalms.  On either side of the valley of the shadow of death in Psalm 23, we find mountains. 
 
In chapter 22, we find a prophetic psalm about the crucifixion.  Psalm 22 takes us to Mount Calvary and places us at the foot of the cross, and in vivid detail describes the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
 
If you look at Psalm 24, you find a prophetic psalm regarding the coronation of the Lord Jesus Christ.  There we are taken to Mount Zion, the and see Him being lifted up in glory. Listen to how it ends,
 
"Who is this king of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads o ye gates
and lift them up ye everlasting doors and the king of
glory shall come in. Who is this king of glory? The
Lord of hosts, he is the king of glory. Selah."
 
So in Psalm 22 we have Mount Calvary and the crucifixion and then in Psalm 24 we have Mount Zion and the coronation and in between in Psalm 23 we have this valley. 
 
Psalm 23 is the valley between the blood drenched slopes of Mount Calvary and the sunlit peaks of Mount Zion. And never forget that for every valley, there must be a mountain. 
 
But that’s not all.  For thre to be a valley, there must also be a mountain and for there to be a shadow, there must be some light.  You don’t have shadows int eh dark.  You can't have a shadow unless you have a light.
 
What did Jesus say?  He said, "I am the light of the world." And I want you to know just because you are in a dark valley doesn’t mean He isn’t the light.  He is the light even through the valley is dark valley.
 
Now shadows may frighten us, but shadows can’t harm us.  And when David talks about death, he describes it s a shadow.  If you know the LORd Jesus, then death is just a shadow.
 
Now here’s the thing about shadows:  You don’t see them when you are facing the light.  The shadow will always fall behind you.  There is a great lesson for those who are in the dark valleys of life.  Just keep your face toward the light.
 
There are some danger ous possibilities that await you, but you will pass through that valley, and remember, you can't have a valley without mountains and you can’t have shadows without light.   You will never walk alone. 
 
Here’s the second thing.  Not only is there the possibility, but there is
 
  1.  The Purpose
 
Think about the work “through”. God doesn't just lead us into the valley and leave us there, He always brings us through.
 
What did we read in Psalm 34:19?  "Many are the
afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers
him out of them all."
 
Never forget He brings you in only to bring you out. And God is going to bring you through.
 
Most all of us who’ve lived in Oklahoma for any length of time know what it’s like to watch a storm cloud gather.  The skies grow dark and restless, the thunder crashes and the lightening strikes.  There may be torrential rain and winds, and perhaps even a tornado nearby.  But there is nothing more beautiful thatn when the skies clear and the clouds part allowing the sunshine to come streaming through.
 
And suddenly,, in the wake of the passing storm, there is the most dazzling blue sky and the most golden and
warm sunlight.
 
Now here’s my question. Where was the sun during the storm? It was in its very God-appointed spot, shining the whole time. It’s always a lie to say, “The sun wasn’t shining today.” Listen: the sun is always shining. And even more sure than the sun is the God Who created the sun and placed it in the sky. 
 
Never forget when you are passing through the valley,
God is always there. And you just wait because before you know it, He'll bring you through and you'll come out of those clouds and you will break into the glorious beauty of the eternal light and glory of God.
 
David knew what it was to pass through the valley. He had been in the valley of suffering as Saul persecuted him, but he came through. He had been in the valley of slander when others lied on him, but he came through.
He'd been in the valley of sin when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband, but he came through.
 
He'd been in the valley of sorrow and seen his little baby die and he'd seen the dead body of his son Absalom hanging from the tree when he died trying to overthrow his father, but he came through.
 
He came through. He knew what it was to go into dark valleys. But he came through. And so will you. So will you. I want you to know if you love our God and
if you will trust Him, He'll turn every hurt into a hallelujah and He'll turn every Calvary into an Easter.
 
 
God intends to bring you through.  And by His grace, you’re going through and you can say with David, "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil."
 
The third and final thing I want you to notice is not just the possibility and the purpose, but I want you to hear
 
  1.  The Promise
 
"Thou art with me."
 
There are lots of wonderful ways to enjoy and benefit from the presence of God.  God draws near when we worship Him.  It’s overwhelming to know that God is with us this morning in this very place as we sing and give and listen. 
 
You can have some amazing times with God in your private devotional life as He draws near and you sense His presence and discern His voice through His Word and Spirit. 
 
God’s presence and power can be sensed when we are faced with temptation and He comes near to strengthen us and embolden us to do the right thing or stand up for the Lord.   
 
But God will never be closer to you than when you are in a dark valley. He is especially near to those who are in trouble. That's what the Bible teaches. He is especially near.
 
And I want you to see the very distinct transition that takes place in the middle of his verse.  Did you notice that David begins the verse by talking about the Lord, but he ends the verse talking to the Lord? 
Did you catch that?  When David finds himself in the dark valley, he is no longer talking about the Lord Who is his Shepherd.  He is talking to the Lord who is with him, the friend who sticks closer than a brother.
 
The same is true for us. We come to church on Sunday and we sing songs about God and listen to stories about God and learn lessons about God and hear sermons about God. 
 
But when you’re out there in the valley and the boss is all over you and the family is falling apart and you can’t pay the bills and your health is gone and life has come crashing down around you, the last thing you need is a sermon or a song about God. 
 
You need to know the Lord is there with you and you can call out to Him and find Him listening. You need to know He is there to help you. That’s what David is talking about when he says to the Lord, “You are with me!”
 
That’s what Isaiah experienced when he heard God say, "When you pass through the waters I will be with you." That’s from Isaiah 43.  Listen to the rest of it: 
 
Isaiah 43:1-3a
 
Did you hear it?  You’re passing through the waters, through the rivers, through the fire. It’s not “if” you make it thorugh, I’ll meet you on the other side.  “If” you survive the flood, I’ll be there to dry you off.  “If” you survive the fire, we’ll get you taken care of. 
 
God says, “When you pass through”, I’ll be with you.  Listen:  He’s already in the water long before you get there.  He’s in the fire, before you come close. 
That means His presence is everywhere. You can’t get to somewhere where God isn’t. You can’t find yourself in a situation that God doesn’t already occupy. You can’t get into enough trouble or distress that God doesn’t greet you when you arrive. 
 
And you need to know, His presence  
 
  • Defeats Fear.
 
Why should we be afraid if He is there? If God be for us who can be against us? Listen:  it is better in a dark valley with Jesus than it is to be on a sunlit mountain without him. David says, “You are with Me”, and because of that I will not fear. 
 
Not only does his presence defeat fear, it
 
  • Provides Protection.
 
Notice David draws attention to the rod and staff and the comfort they provide.  Now rods and staffs serve different purposes. 
 
We might think of a rod as more of a club like weapon.  Typically, the shepherd would make it from a gnarled root on one end that would narrow down to a grip or handle on the other and it would be used to protect the sheep.
 
So from what would a shepherd protect his sheep? The Bible tells us about David killing a lion and a bear to protect the flock. We might be tempted to think a sheep wasn’t worth risking your life.  But a shepherd had a sacred honor to take care of his sheep. His honor was on the line. After all, those were his sheep.
 
And David risked his life by killing a lion and bear just to protect his sheep.  And when David thinks about his relationship to God, he says this is the kind of love and care God provides for me! He loves and values me so much He uses His rod to protect me. 
 
His presence defeats fear. His presence protects me from my enemies, and then he talks about the staff and the staff is a reminder that His presence
 
  • Signifies Security
 
David said His staff brings comfort. Now the staff is different from the rod. Whereas the rod was used for protection, the staff was used for guidance and direction. By the way, the rod was never used on the flock, only on the enemies ofo the flock. 
 
Did you know you are free from God’s judgment and punishment? God will never use the rod on you. He reserved the staff for dealing with the sheep.   
 
The staff was a long instrument that had a crook at the end. The shepherd would take a sapling and smooth it out and then soak it in water so the end could be bent just like he wanted it. It was designed to fit around the neck of a grown sheep or the chest of a lamb and it was used to guide the flock. 
 
He could use it to tap the lead sheep if it needed a turn. If some backsliding sheep would fall into some crevice, he could reach down and lift it out. If a sheep stumbled into the fire, he would lift him out. If a lamb got caught in quicksand, he could rescue it.
 
 
 
David pictured himself in the same way in Psalm 40 when he talked about how the Lord had lifted him out of the miry clay and set his feet on a solid rock and established his goings. 
 
That’s why he could say the Shepherd’s staff would bring comfort.  He had been there.  He had experienced it.  
 
He knew His presence defeats fear. His presence provides protection, and His presence signifies security.
 
Is that not a wonderful promise?  “Yea 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.”
 
“Though” my life and yours are filled with the possibilities of all kinds of tragedies, God has promised to bring us “through”. He has a beautiful purpose for everything that comes my way.  And I don’t have to fear, because He is with me every step of the way providing protection and security for every need I experience.
 
Some of you have been around long enough to remember Alexander (uhl-yik-SAHN-dur) Solzhenitsyn (sol-zhuh-NEET-suhn).  If you don't know who he is, I would encourage you to study a little history and find out.   
 
He was born in Russia on December 11, 1918 and died August 3, 2008. He was a novelist, historian, and short story writer, but became a very outspoken critic of the Soviet Union and its totalitarianism and helped to raise awareness of its Gulag forced labor camp system.
Although he was one of the leading thinkers and literary artists of all times, he was imprisoned as a Russian dissident, accused of anti-Soviet propaganda of "founding a hostile organization".  On July 7, 1945, he was sentenced to an eight-year term in a labor camp.
 
It was during his imprisonment that he abandoned Marxism and converted to Christianity. Of that time in prison, he told that he was shut away from all communication with the outside world. No newspapers, no radio, no television, no books, no pencils, no paper and no conversation, spending his days at hard, physical, manual labor. 
 
He said, "I came to the place where I decided I would take my own life." But then he said, "I thought of my faith in God. I thought of the teaching of the Bible.”
He said, "I knew that I could not do that, but life was intolerable and I did not know what I was going to do."
 
And then he said, "This thought came into my mind. I know what I'll do. I will try to escape, knowing that
it is impossible.  I will break and run and they will shoot me in the back and I won't have to take my life because they will take it for me."
 
Obviously that was twisted thinking and later on he came to realize that, but finding himself in that kind of situation, he made his plans to follow through and put an end to the torture. 
 
On a particular day, he made up his mind this was the day. The guards had been very brutal. The prisoners had been allowed a brief moment of rest and were sitting under a tree, not allowed to speak to one another. 
Solzhenitsyn made up his mind and said, "This is the time." As he put his hand on the ground, ready to jump to his feet and run, at just that moment, a fellow prisoner came and stood before him and looked into his eyes.  They couldn't speak a word, but Solzhenitsyn said, "Love and peace were in that man's eyes.  And as our eyes met, we stood there without speaking, but kindness and compassion and peace flowed from his face.
 
And then he took a stick as though he were just making a mark in the ground. And what he drew would mean nothing to the guards.  But with that stick he drew a cross.  Solzhenitsyn said, “I looked down and God spoke to my heart and said, ‘Solzhenitsyn, I am with you in the valley.’” He said, “Little did I know that in 3 days I would be in Geneva, Switzerland a free man”
 
See, what he did not know was that all over the world people were talking about Solzhenitsyn and what had happened to him and people were pressuring the Russian government to do the right thing and the people of God were praying for him.  He was right on the verge of saying, “It's all over. I can't take it any longer” and had he took matters into his own hands, chances are high his life would have ended that day.  But three days later, he was in Switzerland a free man. 
 
I may be speaking to someone today who is saying, "I can't take it any longer. I've had all I can I take. I don't think that I can go on."  Dear friend, I come before you today to draw your attention to the cross and remind you that God is with you every step of the way and He will bring you through. No matter where you go, as His child, you will never walk alone
Let’s pray.
 
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