The Song of Security

Bible Book: Psalms  23 : 4
Subject: Death; Victory over Death; Eternity; Jesus, Presence of
Series: A Song for all Seasons
Introduction

Today we come to sermon three out of four messages from Psalm 23. We are dealing today with Psalm 23:4.

Death is not a popular subject. We try everything we can to forget the fact that we are going to die. In the funeral homes they do everything they can to take away the appearance of death. The makeup, lighting and other features are arranged so as to make the deceased appear to be sleeping. Often people will look into the coffin and say, "Doesn't he look natural." I know I look bad, but I hope when I die you don't look at me and say, "Doesn't Mike look natural!"

The fact is, from the time we are born we are in the process of dying. We try in various ways to obscure the fact that we are winding down to road to death, but it is happening nonetheless. American playwright and novelist William Saroyan phoned the Associated Press five days before his death to make this statement: "Everybody has got to die, but I have always believed an exception would be made in my case. Now what?" Believe me, my friend, when it comes to death, no exceptions will be made.

The song "Ole' Man River" was written to depict the misery of the slaves who worked long hours lugging bales of cotton to boats on the Mississippi River. With bodies tired, aching and racked with pain, they were "weary an' sick of tryin', - tired of livin' an' skeered of dyin'." They looked at the muddy Mississippi and wished their lives were as peaceful and serene as Ole’ Man River seemed to be. It just “keeps rolling' along.” A similar kind of uncertainty is a part of life for many people. They are tired of life but afraid to die. Friend, God wants you to live life abundantly, and to face death courageously.

We are not to fear death, but rather to have victory over death through our faith in Jesus Christ. I don't mean that we look forward to death. We were created to live. Our bodies and minds fight death. Yet, we will die. Today we are going to learn how to have peace when facing death. So, let's look at Psalm 23:4 this morning.

Now lets understand something about our text today that will help us to appreciate the beauty of what David penned so many years ago. I heard it mentioned by someone a number of years ago that there was actually a place in Palestine called the “Valley of Death.” In other words, David was not writing about some fictional, imaginary place when he wrote this section of Psalm 23. This valley existed between Jerusalem and Bethlehem and was about 2,700 feet above sea level. A stream located there cut from the top of the hill down into a valley below. Occasionally the water that came down the hilltop would cut depend into the wall of the hill. Because of this, it cut a deep ravine in the hillside. Over the years this ravine or chasm created a 1,300 feet drop that was about 12 feet wide. Because the valley was narrow and long, it was a place of deep shadows. Even at high noon it was full of shadows. In Bible days, there were bears, leopards and hyenas there. Robbers lurked among the shadows as well. Because of the deep shadows and the dangers, shepherds named it, “The Valley of the Shadow of Death.” When David wrote about this in Psalm 24, he was writing about an actual place.

In the winter a shepherd would lead his sheep down from the hilltop, through the valley, to Jericho. There was enough grass there for the sheep to survive in winter time. But when spring came, the hills above would grow rich with green grass and flowers. The shepherd would take his sheep up through the Valley of the Shadow of Death to the beautiful, colorful, green hills above! That is what David must have been thinking about when he wrote this portion of Psalm 23. David, in fact, had probably done this with his own sheep when he was a shepherd.

David was saying that what he was to his sheep the Lord was to Him! David could smile at death. Today we are going to look at death and how we can overcome the fear of death and the tragedy of death without God.

I. The Fact of Death Realized

Death is a fact, a reality, and must be dealt with appropriately. It is wrong to deny the thought of death. When we close our mind to death, we cut off possibilities for change in life which can make a difference in life and eternity.

A. A Undeniable Fact

It is appointed unto man once to die (Hebrew 9:27). It is a fact! This is an appointment for which you will not be late, and one you and I will not miss. A preacher was once asked if he could not quit speaking about death. He answered, “When you people quit dying, I will quit speaking about it!” The odds were not with the complainers. You see, one out of one persons die! The Psalmist said, “There is but a step between me and death.” A baby, a child, a teenager, a young man, a middle-aged woman, the gray headed saint, each one will die at some point!

B. An Uncertain Fact

We do not know the date and time of our appointment with death. We are simply told to be ready for it. Death may come in one’s youth. I have walked out to the cemetery with families whose children were carried in caskets so small that a single person carried them. I have known those who died having past the one-hundredth year of life on earth. But, they died. The call has come to my home when a teenager has died. You see, death respects no age, no period in history and no family. In the Middle East there is an old maxim: “The black camel of death kneels at every tent.”

C. A Unprejudiced Fact

Death has no favorites. You are living on the edge of eternity at all times. It is a sad fact that a hardened criminal may steal the life of a small child. Just the other day I read about a child in its mother’s arms who was shot and killed in Chicago, Illinois. Apparently some gang members were shooting at each other and hit the child by accident. The most important fact concerning death is that is has no favorites – it is not prejudiced.

II. The Fear of Death Refused

A. There is no Valley without Mountains

There can be no valleys without a hilltops or mountains.

Psalm 22 is a mountain Psalm - it points to Calvary.

Psalm 24 is a mountain Psalm - it points to the Coronation.

But, Psalm 23 is a valley between two mountains – it points to Companionship.

Over there in Psalm 22 we see the blood-drenched mountain of Calvary.

Over here in Psalm 24 we see the mountain lit by the sunlight of homecoming.

But, in the middle, here in Psalm 23, we see the valley of life.

We are living in the Valley. Remember, as we pointed out in the first message on Psalm 23, that we see:

1. The Good Shepherd that gave His life for the Sheep at the cross – Psalm 22

2. The Chief Shepherd that wears the crown of glory, bringing His saints home – Psalm 24.

3. The Great Shepherd who rose to be our companion – Psalm 23/Hebrews 13:20-21.

Jesus spoke in John 14 and told us that He would not leave us as orphans. An orphan has parents, but they are dead. My father’s mother died when my dad was about 3 years of age. He often kept a photograph of her near his bed. I remember how young she looked in the photo. He spoke of her in the past. But, my dad was a Christian, and it was his hope that his mother had been one as well. So, he had hopes of seeing her again. In essence, his thoughts of her were past or future, but he did not have her with him in the present. When it comes to our Lord, we think of Him as past. We read of what He did and what He taught. We also think of Him in the future. We will see Him one day and bow at His feet. But, we are not orphans. We do not just think of the past and the future, we have Jesus with us in the here and now. He is with us in the valley of life on earth. He is with us and in us. He did not leave us as orphans. He did not leave us to think of the past and the future only. He told us that He would never leave us nor forsake us!

B. There Can Be No Shadow without A Light

David wrote about the “valley of the shadow of death.” You don’t have a shadow with a light. In essence, Jesus pulled the sting out of death – “O death, where is your sting?”

Jesus took the gloom out of the grave!

Jesus took the doom out of death!

Jesus took the dread out of dying!

God made you to walk through, not just in, the shadows. Would you rather be hit by the shadow or by the truck? Jesus was hit by the truck, so we would be hit only by the shadow.

C. There Is No Evil without Failure by the Shepherd

“I will fear no evil”

As long as the Great Shepherd of the Sheep, the Lord Jesus, is with us, that which is truly evil need not be feared. The word for evil in this text is the Hebrew word “Ra.” The word means “bad” or “evil.” It speaks of bad things happening to us, or evil things coming upon us. Evil cannot have victory over me unless Jesus fails me. Will Jesus fail me? Not on your life - in fact, not on His life!!!

In this part of the 23rd Psalm the passage becomes very personal. Note that David ceases to speak of the Lord in the third person and begins to address Him in the second person! “I will fear no evil for THOU art with me.” David is addressing the Lord.

When God called Moses, He told him to tell the Pharaoh that “I Am” sent you, and to tell them my name is Jehovah. That name is so sacred to the Jews that a devoted Jew would take a bath before even writing that name. The name “Jesus” means “Jehovah saves!” Think about the name Joshua. That name is actually Jehoshea, pronounced Joshua and I means “Jehovah saves.” In fact, that is the Greek rendering of the name Jesus – “Jehovah saves.” The Savior is with us. He is with us in every valley and has promised to be with us in the valley of death. We need fear no evil, for “Jehovah saves” is with us.

D. There is no Walk without Life

“Though I walk through…” Dead people don’t walk. They made be made to sit, they may lie down, they may even be made to stand up when propped against an object, but a dead man doesn’t walk! You and I aren’t going into the valley to die, we are walking through the valley and that speaks of life! David didn’t say, “Yea, though I lie down I the valley of death….” He wrote, “Yea, though I WALK through the valley of death….”

III. The Finality of Death Rejected

1 Corinthians 3:22-23. What we have in Christ is shown in these verses.

Note Psalm 116:15, “Precious in the sight of our Lord is the death of His saints.”

Paul said in Philippians 1:21, “To die is gain.” Death it is gain, for I will be made like the Lord Jesus. Intellectually it is gain, for I will know as I am known.

Emotionally it is gain, because I will be able to praise Him with my entire being.

Socially it is gain, for I will be with the saints of all the ages, the angels and with my precious Lord.

Spiritually it is gain, because I will be delivered from temptation and sin forever.

What brings me into all that? Death!

A. Presence of the Shepherd

Up till we reach verse 6, passage David has talked about the Lord, but when he comes to the valley of the shadow of death, he talks to the Lord. The Lord is near him. The Lord is with Him. The Ultimate One is my Intimate friend!

B. The Protection of the Shepherd

The rod and staff are there to protect and guide through this valley. An elderly British minister had reached the end of his earthly journey. On the morning of what would become his last day, a friend remarked to him, "They tell me you did not sleep very well last night."

"It's true," replied the aged Christian, "I did not sleep very well, but I rested gloriously; for I put my head down on three pillows--the pillow of infinite wisdom, the pillow of infinite power, and the pillow of infinite love. I had a beautiful night!"

Our Lord has promised to protect us as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

C. The Plans of the Shepherd

The valley David describes is not a boxed-in canyon, but is rather a valley - open on both ends. The Lord is going to lead you through to a better place. He has a plan for each of us when we come to this valley. We will not be alone.

A beautiful young girl was dying of an incurable disease. Although a Christian, she was filled with fear. Her pastor came to visit and she wept as she said, “Pastor, I am afraid of what's ahead for me. I feel as if I am being thrust out of my happy young life into the darkness. I can't see anything, and my faith is so weak I can't seem to believe anything! What shall I do?" The preacher's spoke tenderly as he looked into her face. He knew she was saved. He had the sense that she was being attacked by the evil one. He said, "A year ago you’re sister had a lovely baby. Do you remember all that was done for her? Everyone in the family tried to think of something they could do for tiny new arrival. Pretty little dresses and sweet baby bed were prepared for her. Her food was formulated just for her, and the love that was shown for her comfort was simply wonderful. That is the kind of care we give to a new life when it comes into this world. Well, do you suppose that God is any less love than we do? In that Home He is calling you to enter, He too has arranged everything necessary for your happiness. He is preparing a place for you to make you feel perfectly at ease!" The dying girl said, “I see what you mean. He went to 'prepare a place' for me – just for me." She had peace at last.

Conclusion

Someone once said, “Put your faith where God put your sins – on Jesus!” Don’t let the devil make you live in fear. If you are child of God, you have the promise that you will not walk that valley alone. The songwriter penned:

“You have to walk that lonesome valley by yourself.”

No, I don’t! I have a Friend closer than a brother. I have the One who overcame the grave in me and with me. Death has no hold on Him. Death is but a step into His presence. “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord!” No, no, I will not walk that valley alone!

When you get home, there will be a place made just for you. God has a place for us. What a wonderful promise.

Let me add, however, that there may be someone here today who has never trusted Christ. What an awful dread death must be to you. It doesn’t have to be that way. Jesus died for you. He will save you. He will prepare a place for you in eternity. Turn from your sins and trust what He did at Calvary. He carried you sin and mine to that cross. He died in your place. But, His death is not effective or you unless you receive Him as your Lord and Savior.

Loved ones will weep over my silent face,

Dear ones will clasp me in sad embrace,

Darkness and shadows will fill the place,

Five minutes after I die.

Faces that sorrow I will not see

Voices that murmur will not reach me,

But where, o where will my soul be,

Five minutes after I die.

Not to repair the good I lack,

Fixed to the goal of my chosen track,

No space to repent no turning back,

Five minutes after I die.

Make it forever with my chosen throng,

Long is eternity, O so long,

Then woe is me, if my soul be wrong,

Five minutes after I die.

Extra Illustrations:

David Schiedermayer says that "we are like the man whose doctor who called him and said, 'I have bad news for you.'

"'What's the news?'

"'Well, you have 24 hours to live.'

“'That is bad news,' replied the man.

"'I have even worse news,' the doctor said.

"'What could be worse than that?'

"'Well, I've been trying to call you since yesterday.'

[Christianity Today, Oct 4, 1993. Page 34.]

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Frequent naps prevent old age, especially if taken while driving.

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Drive carefully. Remember a car is not the only thing that can be recalled by its maker.

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Danny: "Why does your grandmother read the Bible so much?"

David: "I think she's cramming for her finals."

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Patient: "Why are the shades down, Doctor?"

Doctor: "There's a big fire across the street. I didn't want you to come out of the anesthesia and think the operation had been a failure."

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Tim: "They had to shoot poor old Rover yesterday."

Bobby: "Was he mad?"

Tim: "Well, let's put it this way. He wasn't too pleased."