Sermons

Sun, Aug 05, 2018

No Matter What, Look Up!

Psalm 121 is one of the 15 psalms (120-134) known as the Songs of Ascents. These psalms were sung by those traveling to Jerusalem for the three great feasts. (Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles) And so these psalms you might say are travel songs, songs for the road, songs for the journey of life. They are called Psalms of Ascents not only because the people were going up to Jerusalem, but because the psalms themselves lead us upwards to God in our own personal walk with the Lord. The call of the Psalm is to trust in the Lord as you make your journey. Psalm 121 is a psalm about trusting in God’s providential care. It is a travel Psalm. Many families read this Psalm together before going on a trip.
Duration:47 mins 30 secs

Series: The Psalms of Summer

Text: Psalm 121

Title: No Matter What, Look Up!

 

Psalm 121:1-8 (NKJV)

1  I will lift up my eyes to the hills-- From whence comes my help?

2  My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.

3  He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.

4  Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

5  The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade at your right hand.

6  The sun shall not strike you by day, Nor the moon by night.

7  The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul.

8  The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in From this time forth, and even forevermore.



Psalm 121 is one of the 15 psalms (120-134) known as the Songs of Ascents. These psalms were sung by those traveling to Jerusalem for the three great feasts. (Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles)

 

And so these psalms you might say are travel songs, songs for the road, songs for the journey of life. They are called Psalms of Ascents not only because the people were going up to Jerusalem, but because the psalms themselves lead us upwards to God in our own personal walk with the Lord. The call of the Psalm is to trust in the Lord as you make your journey.

 

Psalm 121 is a psalm about trusting in God’s providential care. It is a travel Psalm. Many families read this Psalm together before going on a trip.

 

Devout Jews recite portions of this Psalm when they leave or enter their homes, particularly verses 5,8. They attach a small cylinder called a Mezuzah (Ma-zuz-a) with some Scriptures in it to their right door frame. And whenever they leave or enter their home they touch the Mezuzah (Ma-zuz-a) and recite Psalm 121 verses 5 and 8.

 

How about you? Do you need help this morning? If so, then this psalm is for you. This is a good one to memorize and have handy for the journey of life.

 

James Montgomery Boice in his commentary on the Pslams writes, “David Livingstone, the famous missionary and explorer of the continent of Africa, read Psalm 121 and Psalm 135, which praises God for his sovereign rule over all things, as he worshiped with his father and sister before setting out for Africa in 1840. His mother-in-law, Mrs. Moffat, wrote him to him that Psalm 121 was always in her mind as she thought about and prayed for him.”

 

I prayed this Psalm almost every day on our vacation. Not always because I just wanted to, I needed to. We were in a foreign country, in places we had never been before and we didn’t speak the language though we did have Google translator at our disposal if need be.

 

You know how when you face certain situations scripture comes to mind. Let me explain too you how this particular psalm became the basis of my sermon today. For our 35 wedding anniversary my wife and I traveled to London and France and places in between. We visited the city of Carcassonne.

 

Story of Carcassonne. Carcassonne is the largest walled city in Europe, a medieval fortress that dates back to the Roman Empire, and throughout the centuries it was expanded and then restored in 1853. Inside the walls of the fortress now is an entire city and its where we were staying on our vacation. Our taxi dropped us off just outside the city walls so we gathered our luggage and began to walk up and over what would have been a drawbridge into this double walled fortress trying to find our hotel.

I was walking up a old cobblestone road with all our luggage in hand. Lee was navigating. She had her phone out with Google maps and we began to walk. All the while I am carrying and rolling our luggage up an old cobblestone hill. I’d love to say I was having a deep spiritual moment but I was inside having a melt down. Its hot, I’m tired and we are lost. Did I mention I was pulling our luggage? I was crying out in my head, “where does my help come from” and this Psalm came to mind. Just when I was about to lose it the Lord reminded me, “why are you here? Whats your purpose?” I had determined to be my wife’s domestique. In road bicycle racing, a domestique is a rider who works for the benefit of his or her team and leader, rather than trying to win the race. In French, domestique translates as "servant".

 

I was so frustrated at being lost and walking around when Lee called to me to make another turn I just kept going. No idea why as it was uphill and I’m carrying the luggage. I got to the corner of a building and stopped to die. I said, why not just ask that girl at that shop if she knows where the hotel is. Lee walks over to her and the lady points up to the sign on the building we have our back too. It says in Big English Block Letters about 24” tall each. BEST WESTERN MOTEL. Felt kinda dumb in the moment. I’m looking down when I should be looking up. Verses 1 and 2 come to mind from Psalm 121, “1  I will lift up my eyes to the hills-- From whence comes my help? 2 My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.”

 

The point is. There comes a time when we all need help in life. Being in London I was reminded of The Beatles, they would sing: “I get by with a little help from my friends.”  

 

Where do you go when you need help? Who do you call on in times of trouble? Google Maps? Family? Friends?

 

It’s good to have a support system in place, but we need to look further. Because history and experience teach us that no safety plan, no insurance policy, no security system can keep you absolutely safe in this life. You can follow all the safety rules, take every precaution, exercise and eat well, and things can and do go wrong.

 

And that’s why we need to look to God for our help. It was Ben Franklin who said, “God helps those who help themselves,” It’s not in your bible! Our Bible teaches us that God helps those who seek His help.

 

It was Samuel Cox who once said, “None of us are safe until we take refuge in God.”

 

Psalm 121 are 8 verses of Scripture that have brought much comfort to God’s people over the years.

 

My prayer today is they provide comfort for you like they have done for countless believers throughout the ages.

 

Psalm 121

 

Verses 1-2:  “I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.”

 

The singer of Psalm 121 looked to the hills, likely the distant hills of Jerusalem as they travelled towards the city to keep fulfill their pilgrimage. You recall the city of Jerusalem is the highest point so to travel to it you had to go up. God designed the walk to force our eyes to look up. Not just to the hills but beyond.

 

You don’t want to miss the point. The singer understood that they didn’t need to arrive at Jerusalem before they were under God’s protective care. He would watch over them on their journey.

 

God is just as present in the journey as in the destination.

 

“My help comes from the LORD”: The traveller looked to Jerusalem as his goal, yet his trust was not in that city itself. Help would come from the God who made heaven and earth. The Creator would be his helper. (Home is not as much a place as it is a person… For me, my home is wherever my wife Lee is. It could be our house, an apartment, a tent (as long as it has air conditioning).

 

The point is… Look beyond the mountains to the God who created them

 

The hills in verse 1 are symbols of strength and stability. The hills are great in size, long-lasting and unchanging. The creation reflects the Creator. And so the God who made the mountains is even greater in power and strength than the hills in front of them… and us today too!

 

The hills are also upward in direction. We tend to look down when we’re in trouble. Our faces become downcast and we hang our heads. In sports the coaches would yell from the side line, “Keep Your Head Up.” When our focus is on our troubles we tend to look down not up.

 

Corrie ten Boom once said, “when I look around I get confused when I look down I get depressed, but when I look up my hearts at rest.”



But don’t look down. That’s the wrong direction! The hills are a reminder that we are to look up. You must lift your eyes to look at a mountain. But don’t stop there. Are you looking high enough? You must look beyond the mountains to the God who created them because God is higher than all.

 

Remember these psalms were sung by travelers on their way to Jerusalem, and it is possible they may have sung this Psalm as they were nearing the hills that surrounded Jerusalem. In that case they were not only looking up at the mountains, but they would also have been looking up towards Jerusalem and the temple, the dwelling place of God.

 

Psalm 46:1 tells us: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

 

Psalm 90:2: says, “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”

 

God is bigger than the mountains and God is before the mountains. We don’t look to the mountains for our strength, but the mountains get our eyes off of our problems and lift our eyes up towards God who can help us in our time of need.

 

So don’t just look to the hills but look to the one who made the hills.

 

Look past the creation to the creator.

 

“Nature is’nt our solution … Nature points us to the solution.” Look beyond the mountains to the God who created them.

 

Verse 2:  “My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.”

 

In verse 1 the psalmist asks the question, “Where does my help come from?” And in verse 2 he gives us the answer: “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

 

Where does your help come from? Your help comes from the Maker of heaven and earth. God not only made the mountains. He made everything!

 

Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  

 

Jeremiah 10:12 says: “God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.”  

 

Remember the children’s worship song… “He’s got the whole world in his hands”. And he is your helper.

 

Colossians 1:16, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.”

 

The Scriptures teach us that God is involved in every aspect of His creation and that includes me and you. We call God’s power over all creation His “providence”.

 

What a difference it makes to know that the Creator of heaven and earth is your helper and your friend!

 

How big is the problem you are facing today? Compare it to the Maker of heaven and earth. I think it’s safe to say, “God’s got this.” Say that with me this morning, “God’s Got This!”

 

Gerald Williamson writes: “Because God controls the universe, chance is ruled out, and because it is God who controls the universe, fate is ruled out also.” We live in a world neither of chance nor fate. This is God’s world, and God’s providence means that nothing can happen to you outside of God’s will and providential care.

 

Translated, “everything that happens to you must first pass through the filter of God’s love.”

 

What is the source of our help? Psalm 121 tells us the source of our help is the Maker of heaven and earth. Our Creator is our helper!

 

But it doesn’t end there! It gets better!

 

The God of Israel is your protector too!

 

Verses 3-4: He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

 

If you are in Christ, then he who watches over Israel watches over your life as well. The God of Israel is your protector. He is your body guard. And here in verses 3-6 the psalmist tells us some of the various ways that God watches over you.

 

God will not allow your foot to be moved. God helps His people by establishing them in a firm place, allowing them to stand.

 

For the followers of Jesus, this reminds us of the principles found in Ephesians chapter 6.

 

Ephesians 6:11

 

Ephesians 6:11, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

 

Traveling in London a couple of weeks ago now I was reminded of the rich biblical heritage there. A song comes to mind that was written over 150 years ago by Pastor Edward Mote who wrote this song while walking to work one day. He was a successful cabinet maker before becoming the pastor of a small baptist church in London. If you have walked with the Lord for a number of years you probably remember singing this song… I remember Benny Hester singing it the first time I heard it. Thats a blast to the past.

 

"My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus' name.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand.

All other ground is sinking sand."

 

When you walk every day on cobblestone streets you learn quickly any other ground than Jesus is sinking sand. Crossing the road which is made of cobblestones I rolled my ankle and almost went to the ground.

 

Verse 3: He who keeps you will not slumber: The theme here is that God watches over His children. The one who looks to the Lord can have confidence in the fact that God does not sleep, and the idea is repeated in Psalm 121:4 for emphasis. God’s watchful eye is always open looking with love and care upon His people.

 

Some say in a negative tone, “God’s watching you” when in reality “He is watching over you!” God is not the enemy. He isn’t seated on His throne chalking up strikes against you.  

 

This is in contrast to the pagan gods we read of in Scripture. In 1 Kings 18 we read about the prophets of Baal trying to reach their god. When Baal didn’t respond, Elijah teased them in verse 27: “And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, "Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened."

 

The point being made is, if your god is sleeping when you need him, then you don’t have much of a god, do you?

 

And because God never slumbers nor sleeps – that means that you can! God is awake so we can sleep! Growing up our kids would often ask us to stay in their room as they were going to sleep. Our presence in their bedroom offered them comfort knowing we were there to watch over them while they slept.

 

It’s the same way with our God. It doesn’t matter what problem we are facing, we can leave it in God’s hands and go to sleep at night knowing that God never slumbers nor sleeps and he will take care of it.

 

As we read in verses 5-6, He will take care of us!

 

Verses 5-6: “The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade at your right hand. 6  The sun shall not strike you by day, Nor the moon by night.”

 

The LORD is your shade at your right hand: Living in Bakersfield we understand the toll the sun can have on you when its over 100 degrees. I like riding a bike and sometimes it will be so hot when I am riding when I come to a stop light I have sought refuge in the shadow of a light pole.

 

The travelers to Jerusalem faced many dangers along the way. Sunstroke was a real danger during the day, and there were often extreme changes of temperature between day and night. The moon was associated with lunacy, known as “moonstroke.” There was also the danger of bandits and wild animals at night. There were dangers both day and night on the road, but verse 6 assures the traveler: “The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.”

 

Compare that with Psalm 91:5-6, “You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.”

 

The Hebrew language often uses pairs of opposite words to signify totality. Both ends and everything in between!

 

So when we read that the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night, what this is really saying is that God protects you at all times – both day and night and everything in between. God is present to help you with every problem in your life. The God of Israel is your protector.

 

The Creator is our helper. The God of Israel is our protector. And then finally we read, the LORD will keep us from all harm.

 

Verses 7-8:  “7 The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul.

8  The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in From this time forth, and even forevermore.”

 

The psalmist hads great confidence in God’s protecting power. Yes, evil men do come and afflict the child of God, but never can they do us permanent harm as the LORD Himself shall preserve your soul.

 

WHAT GOD HATH PROMISED

Author: Annie Johnson Flint

 

God hath not promised skies always blue,

Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;

God hath not promised sun without rain,

Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

 

God hath not promised we shall not know

Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;

He hath not told us we shall not bear

many a burden, many a care.

 

God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,

Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;

Never a mountain rocky and steep,

Never a river turbid and deep

 

But God hath promised strength for the day,

Rest for the labor, light for the way,

Grace for the trials, help from above,

Unfailing sympathy, undying love

 

 

Jesus taught His disciples to pray in Matthew 6:13 in the “Lords Prayer”, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

 

God watches over every aspect of your life. God doesn’t say you will never have problems, but he promises to be with you in your problems, and to turn all your problems to good. We have a whole list of beautiful promises in Romans 8 that assure us God is directly involved in your life and that he is for you, not against you.

 

Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Romans 8:37-39, “37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

These verses don’t teach us that we will never have problems or trouble in this life, but rather that evil will never ultimately win out, and that nothing can stop or derail God’s purpose for our lives, that nothing can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord. Thats the Good News of the Gospel.

 

The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in:  We can trust in God’s preserving power for all of our daily activity (going out and coming in) and at all times (from this time forth, and even forevermore).

 

It’s usually in the transitions, in the in between times in life that we get tripped up, the tweener stage. Like Saturday after Good Friday and before Easter Sunday.

 

Once we are safe in reaching our destination or arrive back home things usually go pretty smooth, it’s in the in-between times – the commute, the move, the change of jobs, the change of health, the change of relationships – it’s in the in-between times of life that we usually struggle. The psalmist reminds us God is with us not just when we reach our destination but every step along the way!

 

Every time I read Psalm 121 I am reminded of the song by John Fischer titled, “The All Day Song”

 

He wrote,

 

“Love Him in the morning when you see the sun a-rising

Love Him in the evening 'cause He took you through the day

And in the in-between-time when you feel the pressure coming

Remember that He loves you and He promises to stay… with you!”

 

And so the Psalm ends with this epic reminder…

 

Verse 8: “From this time forth, and even forevermore.”

 

Spurgeon writes regarding verse 8, “He has not led me so tenderly thus far to forsake me at the very gate of heaven.”

 

David was overjoyed with the same knowledge in Psalm 23:6, “6  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.”

 

And yet we save the best for last as it was Jesus Himself who said in Matthew 28:20, “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.”




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