Songs of Our Faith Part 3
Walk With Me Lord
Scripture: Amos 3:3; Deut. 4:9; 2 Tim. 1:5; Joshua 1:5; Hebrews 13:5
This morning we will examine a song that most of you know because we sing it here. The name of the song is “Walk With Me Lord.” As I was researching this song I discovered that there were several versions of it in existence. This song is so old that I could not find the original author and others have changed and/or added different verses to it based on their own experiences. As to the age of the song, it is one of many songs that are referred to as a slave song and was actually sung by slaves in the early 1800s. To understand the song, we must consider why it from a slave’s point of view.
As you might assume, the life of a slave was not a very good one back in the 19th century. Most slaves belonged to large plantations and were required to work long hours doing labor intensive work. Because of this permanent life of servitude, many slaves tried to escape while dying in the process. The plantation owners overlooked the importance of song and music to their slaves and thus the slaves could use these songs to convey hidden codes and to help boost morale of their fellow workers. Initially, slaves would use song and music to boost the overall happiness of the people they worked with, but during times of difficult labor, slaves would break out in a song to pass the time and lift their spirits. They would often sing songs that praised the Lord or asked the Lord for help and guidance. One of these songs is “Walk With Me Lord.” According to one writer, this song was usually sung by slaves during very stressful and strenuous situations. Most slaves were devout Christians not only to give them hope and faith, but to also please the white men into possibly shortening their time as a slave. These songs were constantly heard in groups and were crucial to getting through the day. As these songs were sung by slaves and handed down through the generations to their descendents, many of them remain as an integral part of the traditional African American worship experience. Before we review the lyrics of this song, I want to share how this song came to mean so much to me.
I. My Experience
I do not remember when I first learned this song, but I have sung it for as long as I have been able to sing. When you read the words of the song it speaks of a personal request someone is making of Jesus. The request is a simple request for Jesus to walk with them through their tedious journey. Depending on the version you listen to, it speaks of family members that Jesus had walked with which provided an example for the requester to follow. When I learned this song it was always personal to me. I wanted Jesus to walk with me, even when I did not fully understand what it meant. I was not thinking of others, I wanted Him at my side. This song is very personal to me.
As a child and teenager (and some say as an adult too), I have always held things close to the vest as they say. It was not that I was a quiet person, it was simply that I did not talk a lot about myself and what I dealt with. On a superficial level I would share basic things about myself during conversations, but I seldom discussed my pain, trials and tribulations. There are very few people today who really understand or even know of some of my personal experiences that have led me to be who I am. Again, I learned at an early age to talk to God, especially when I was alone. My mother told me once that I worried about things that most kids never thought about. I remember when I was in elementary school I was thinking about all the things my father knew and was responsible for and I wondered if I would ever get to the point of being that responsible. At that moment I was concerned about being a father. As a child I was concerned about bills being paid and food being available. I did not want to be that kid whose family stood in the line to get help. I did not like being that kid whose friends knew my parents were struggling to pay their bills when our phone would be cut off from time to time. During that time when the phone was cut off you’d get the message “This number has been temporarily disconnected” and all your friends would know and tease you (or the least the friends that I had.) I did not enjoy this type of attention and it was not something I could talk to my parents about. They were doing the best that they could and I did not want to make them feel worse by telling them how I felt about our situation. Because I could not talk to anyone, I talked to God. When I learned this song it became my theme song for when I was dealing with something and I felt as if I was all alone. Today, when I am dealing with something or when I am stressed, I will sing and/or listen to this song. Let me share with you the words to one of my most favorite songs, “Walk With Me Lord.”
II. Verse One
Verse one says, “Walk with me Lord; walk with me. Walk with me Lord, walk with me. While I'm on this tedious journey Lord, walk with me Lord walk with me.”
This first verse makes the request that flows through the remainder of the song. This is what the author wanted Jesus to do for them, to walk with them. Imagine yourself as a slave under the harsh conditions of the 1800s. Imagine being taught about a man whose love was so powerful that it changed the world. Imagine for a moment that you chose to believe that this man could do for you what no one else could. Imagine yourself being in the fields and being abused by your master and thinking about your Lord and Savior and the peace you will find on the other side. Imagine singing this song as you focused on getting through another day with Jesus at your side. This is the root of this song. It comes from a deep place within a heart that is crying out for comfort and support which could only come from Christ.
As I shared with you at the beginning, this song is a slave song and was probably written by a slave. Slaves did not come to America knowing Christ. They were introduced to Christ through their masters once they arrived. In order for a slave to write and/or sing this song, they had to have developed a relationship with Christ that went beyond what their masters taught them. Christ is our personal Lord and Savior. Someone might teach us about Him but it is that individual time that we spend with Him where we are able to fully understand who He is. Somewhere in the process the slaves went from being introduced to the Savior of their master to making their master’s Savior their own. When this happened they no longer needed the master to interpret what their relationship with Christ should be as they now defined it based on their own interactions with Him. Turn to the third chapter of the book of Amos.
Amos 3:3 says “Do two men walk together unless they have made an appointment and agreed?” These are the words that God spoke to Israel through the prophet Amos. God asked this question to the Children of Israel because their sins had caused them to stop walking with God. In order for two individuals to walk together they must first make an “appointment” to do so and be in “agreement.” There must be some meeting of the minds, if you will, for two people to decide when, how, and where they will walk together. If there is no agreement, two cannot walk together. This is what this song implies. The person singing this song asks Christ to walk with them on this journey. There is recognition that the journey is a hard one and the person is asking Christ to walk with them along the way. The request for Christ to walk with them comes from an acknowledgement of what He has done from others which we will discuss shortly. Let’s examine verse two.
III. Verse Two
Verse two says, “Hold my hand Lord; please hold my hand, Hold my hand Lord; please hold my hand. While I'm on this tedious journey, hold my hand Lord, hold my hand.”
I talked a little last week about the power of holding God’s unchanging hand. In this song once again we see a request for Christ to hold the person’s hand. Again I ask that you place yourself in the shoes of a slave and all you know is hard work accompanied by a very hard life. You look to heaven and ask the Lord to hold your hand. What happens when you hold hands with someone is there is an exchange of emotion and spiritual connectedness. I am not talking about shaking someone’s hand when greeting them but what happens when you hold someone’s hand for an extended period of time. When we are troubled, we hold hands. When we are in love, we hold hands. Holding hands represents togetherness and support during both good and bad times. It represents a source of peace and strength when you need it most. The author in this verse is asking Christ to hold their hands.
One additional point I want to make with verse two. For those of you who have kids or have been around kids, when a child is afraid, what is their first response? They reach out and grab the hand of the person they believe can protect them. A child will walk beside their parents through any scary situation as long as their parents hold their hands. Imagine the life of a slave, knowing that they could be killed at any time or that their family could be taken from them at a moments notice. Do you think there was not some fear resting within them on some level? I imagine they were able to gain a sense of peace knowing that their risen Lord was spiritually holding their hands and supporting them. These two requests for the Lord to walk with them and to hold their hand comes from a development of the relationship which started with something they had witnessed in others. In this version, verse three gives us insight into how the person knew they could trust the Lord. Let’s examine verse three.
IV. Verse Three
Verse three says, “You walked with my mother, Lord walk with me. You walked with my mother, Lord walk with me. While I'm on this tedious journey Lord, walk with me Lord, walk with me”
My message last week talked about a mother who taught her child about God’s amazing grace through song. The child came to know the Lord because of what his/her mother had shared with them during the time when they were growing up. Verse three of this song gives the same impression. The person making the request of the Lord tells the Lord that they know He walked with their mother so therefore He could walk with them in the same manner. If you’re wondering how the person knew that God had walked with their mother it had to have come through something their mother taught them or what they witnessed in their mother’s life. You see, how we walk and carry ourselves is as much or greater a testimony than what comes out of our mouths. We know the proper things to say and it is much easier to say such things than to live them out.
When God brought the Children of Israel out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses, He began to teach them how to have a relationship with Him. As He began to give them direction, He told them that they were to likewise teach their children. Look at Deuteronomy 4:9. It says, “Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.” God commanded the Children of Israel to bury His laws deep within their hearts so that they would remember them and never forget them. He told them not to forget what they have seen. But He did not stop there. He also told them to teach their children and their grand-children so that they would know too. What is important here is the responsibility to teach our children about our relationship with God so that initially they can use what they see in us to start their own. This is what Paul referenced when he reminded Timothy of the faith of his mother and grandmother.
Second Timothy 1:5 records the following: “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.” How did Paul know of the faith that resided in Timothy’s grandmother and mother? He knew because of what he witnessed in how they lived. He could see their faith in action through their works and through their words. He was so convinced of their faith that he reminded Timothy of what he had inherited from them. Do you understand what Paul was telling Timothy? We talk about things that are passed down from parent to child. We talk about the physical features, habits, tendencies, etc, that are genetically transfers through birth. But what about our faith? Paul told Timothy that he was sure that the same faith that resided within his grandmother and mother also resided within him. Do you not think that this gave Timothy a sense of hope? Paul reminded Timothy that he came from a bloodline of people who walked in faith. In other words he was reminded Timothy that his family had a strong faith in Christ to get things done and it was within him also. God walked with his mother and grandmother and would walk with him! This is the idea that the author brings out in this verse. Let’s examine the last verse of this version.
V. Verse Four
Verse four says: “Don't leave me alone Lord, don't leave me alone. Don't leave me alone Lord, don’t leave me alone. While I'm on my pilgrim journey, don't leave me alone Lord, don't leave me alone.”
When Joshua took over after Moses’ death, God spoke to him to encourage him. The following is recorded in Joshua 1:5: “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.” Paul reminds the Hebrews of this in Hebrews chapter thirteen and verse five. God, who does not change, promised that He would never leave nor forsake us. He would be there at all times, even when we think that we are alone, He is there.
The request in verse four comes out of recognition of what could be lost if the person was left alone. When you take verse four in context with the rest of the verses you understand that the person was talking out of their need. It was not that the person thought God would leave them, but they wanted to profess that they did not want Him to. In the context of this song, the person recognizes that while others might have gone off and left them, they did not want Christ to do this. Again, if you read the words with the mind of a slave in the 19th century, you can understand how often they experienced loss. Their family members could be sold to other plantations without notice and many slaves experience loss on a daily basis. If you have experienced a major loss in your life and you’re clinging to Christ, you’d want Him to know that you did not ever want Him to leave you. This is what is being portrayed in this verse – a sense of need for Christ. While the person is on their journey they do not want Christ to leave them alone.
My Personal Thoughts
I am not sure how many of you sing this song when you’re alone or dealing with something, but I sing it often. This song represents my request to God. I can cry out to Him when no one else could possibly understand what I am dealing with. When I have moments when I feel like I am carrying the burden of the world on my shoulders, I cry out to Him to walk with me. I love the poem “Footprints” and the line where the person asks God why there was only one set of footprints in the sand during their most difficult moments. God replied that it was during those times that He carried the person versus just walking beside them. This is the image I focus on sometimes when I am singing this song.
I do not know what you may be experiencing today, but I can tell you that when I sing this song, my peace returns. When I am stressed and feeling alone, I begin to sing this song and the Spirit of God helps me to refocus. This song is a plea to God to walk with you. If you’re walking alone, that can change right now.
Next week Rev. Williams will bring the message on his song, “A Living Testimony.” For those of you on email list, I will email to you his notes. May God bless and keep you as you continue to walk with Him.