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January 23, 2022 6:00 pm
The text will be looking up this morning is Psalm 121. This passage of Scripture is no doubt familiar to many of us back recall over the years many Christians have shared with me that this is one of their favorite Psalms in the Psalter. Psalm 121 was a just a brief word about the setting of the Psalm before we read through it together. The book of Psalms was the handle for the Old Testament nation of Israel. As you know these songs were used in corporate worship, all the way back to the days of Solomon. They were used throughout the history of Israel and they continue to be an integral part of worship both in Judaism and Christianity.
To this day. Psalm 121 in particular is the second song in a group of 15 Psalms that carry a certain title. The title is a song of a sense or song of degrees that is been a lot of speculation regarding the significance of this title how this group of Psalms might've been used in worship. But most scholars believe that these 15 Psalms were sung by Israelites as they journeyed to Jerusalem for the three mandatory annual festivals that Jews would attend the temple at Jerusalem was was built on a mountain mount Zion and Jerusalem itself is surrounded by mountains and so geographically. These worshipers would would travel up ascending to get to Jerusalem into the temple as these Israelites ascended Mount Zion they would sing these songs of Ascent and we see a progression through the course of these 15 songs of Ascent that would coincide with this sort of pilgrimage to Jerusalem for a four worship feast.
The first of these 15 Psalm 120 speaks of the distress of someone who's far from home and the last Psalm Psalm 134 concludes with the call to praise God in the sanctuary of Mount Zion. So we see that progression to the course of these 15 Psalms of Ascent. So when we come to Psalm 121, the Pilgrim is still in route to the temple but the mountains around Jerusalem are within sight, and so let's read together. Psalm 121 ask you to stand in honor of God's word as we read it.
I lift up my eyes to the hills from where does my help come my help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved. He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep Lord is your keeper. The Lord is your shade on your right hand son shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil. You will keep your life. The Lord will keep you going out and you're coming in from this time forth and forevermore word of the Lord is pray Lord, maker of heaven and earth. I pray that you would teach us from the Psalm to trust you and to be anxious for nothing, teach us to worship you as the one who never tires, but he was ever ever watchful over our souls Holy Spirit through your word this morning. Would you work into our lives. A quiet and still heart before you. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. You be seated in the fall of my senior year in high school my dad and I decided to take a father-son camping trip to a wilderness area in the mountains of North Georgia. We each had a huge backpack on our backs and we were to hike to the Jack's River Falls been a couple nights their tent camping and hike out now to get to these falls required a 30 minute drive above a washed out unpaved mountain road. It required about a 3 mile hike through the mountains to to get to the falls and we were going to spend our time at the base of of the waterfall.
There was, it turned out we got to within about 100 yards of the falls and something went terribly wrong. My dad's hiking boot boot got wedge between some some tree roots on the trail and he lost his balance and fell in the weight of his backpack caused him to twist as he fell, and then you can imagine what would happen and that kind of Porky he shattered his ankle absolutely broke all the bones around his ankle, and you got to realize that this was a wilderness area. There were no roads hardly any people back in these woods.
So at this point. Adrenaline kicked in and got my dad kinda sorta situated there against a tree with his foot propped up and try to run back out to the trailhead, get the truck to go find help make a long story short, the rescue team and I finally got back to my dad about five hours later, the sun was down and we carried him out on a gurney, he had to have surgery to to rebuild his ankle.
He was in a cast for several weeks we got rather have hip surgery back in November. Thinking as I was running out of those woods to get help what I do. Where do I go whom I can find it can help let me know where I was going yet what even be able to find the way back to my dad in this wilderness area. One moment the mountains were a place of tranquility and beauty. The next moment they had instantly become a threat place of danger and fear, and I can't help but think about that experience.
As I read Psalm 121 and realize that this is the song of a pilgrim who is journeying through mountain contrary up to the Temple in Jerusalem and his song begins with I will lift up my eyes to the hills to those dangerous perilous hills that stand between me and Jerusalem. And then he asks where does my help come from we see in this question. The fact that Israelite pilgrims of centuries ago carried the same anxieties and uncertainties and and fears that we carry today. But this is not a Psalm about powering fear. It's a song of great confidence in peace and security.
See the purpose of Psalm 121 is to evoke in us and unflinching trust in God tells us that as God's people navigate their way through this life.
They can have great confidence in, but in God because he watches over them in all things at all times forever is theme of God watching over his people is evident in a particular Hebrew word that's repeated over and over and Psalm 121 is the Hebrew word Shemar in our English Bibles. It's translated as keeps or preserves. This word appears first in verse three and skin appear in one form or another.
A total six times in the Psalm. Now the word Shemar keeps preserves has a whole range of meanings, but at its heart is the idea that careful attention is being given great care is being exercised over something or someone. This idea of God keeping his children exercising great care of us over us is the central theme of Psalm 121 God keeps his children, so let's keep that theme in mind as we walk through the Psalm together this morning in regard to God keeping his children.
The psalmist answer three questions.
First, he answers the question, who is our keeper. Secondly, what does he keep us from. And thirdly, to what extent does he keep us, let's consider each of these questions in turn. First of all, who is our keeper look of Megan Evers wanted to.
I lift up my eyes to the hills from where does my help come my help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. I should mention at first that some translations the King James version.
Among them translates verse one and in such a way as to make the hills the source of help or lease the location from which the help comes a KJV says I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help. So the question is just one sentence. One thought this translation sees God's help is coming from the hills, which is reasonable.
Think since God's dwelling place. Mount Zion is located in the hills and certainly a valid translation of the Hebrew but there's another valid translation, one which is reflected in the ESV, the version I read earlier in other versions, and this other translation views.
The opening verse as a question.
The pilgrim in this case sees the hills and then in response to that site asks the question, what is my help come from no words rather than the hills being the source of help the hills of the very thing that caused the pilgrim to ask where is my help come from hills or bad thing there there there not the source of help as a source of vulnerability for the pilgrim. It's the hills that drive the pilgrim to look for safety and security and so he asks the question, where does my help come from, and the answer is this my help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. I was to take to take note of two things that are said about the one who watches over keeps the pilgrim first of all the pilgrims keeper is Yahweh will notice that the word Lord is printed in all capital letters in our English Bibles. This is done to distinguish between the various Hebrew names for God that are used in the Old Testament, and when the word Lord appears in all uppercase letters, it's translating the name Yahweh. Now there are many names for God in Hebrew. One name that is commonly used as the name Elohim's name speaks of the power of God is his providence. His dominion over all creation. In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 11 so all men, women, boys, girls alike are related to Elohim by virtue of the fact that they have been created by him, but the name Yahweh is the covenant name of God. It's a name that God reserves only for those with whom he has entered into a binding blood relationship hello him. Elohim speaks of the power of God, Yahweh speaks of the covenant faithfulness of God Elohim can do all that he wills.
Yahweh will do all that he has promised, so whenever we see the name Yahweh or Lord in all capital letters in the Old Testament. We should recognize it was being emphasizes the redeeming work of God for his people. Yahweh in the Old Testament is the God of redemption. So back in verse two we see the significance of the pilgrim's choice of words, who is my help Yahweh, the one who is bound himself to me by blood with eternal promises that he will fulfill. This is the one who is my help not just some generic God but my God, with whom I have a relationship but notice a second description or title is given to the pilgrims keeper. He calls him. The Lord who made heaven and earth who made heaven and earth. The pilgrims keeper is the maker of heaven and earth. If the title Yahweh describes God's desire to help than the title, maker of heaven and earth describe describes God's ability to help the name Yahweh highlights relationship.
The name, maker of heaven and earth highlights power. So we see that this pilgrim has great reason for confidence. Not only does this keeper want to help because he's intimately acquainted with him. The keeper is also able to help because he is none other than the maker of heaven and earth, but the one who made the very hills that this fretful, fearful pilgrim is threatened by his keeper is Elohim creator of the universe. So let's put ourselves in the shoes of the pilgrim who was our keeper from where does our help come if we are in Christ, we can rest assured that we are in a unique and privileged relationship with Yahweh and that he desires to help us, his children, Paul said in Romans 814 and 15 for as many as are led by the spirit of God, these are sons of God. We did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out father and as children of God we can have every confidence that our God who is the maker of heaven and earth. We use as much of his omnipotence as is necessary to fulfill every promise that he's made to us.
Our help come from the Lord made heaven and earth, so the psalmist is answer the question, who is our keeper but notice the second question that this ancient song answers. What is he keep us strong. We find the answer in verses three through seven invite their three categories mentioned in these verses that pose a threat to the pilgrim three things from which the Lord keeps his child. First, Lord keeps us from the internal threat of our own failings, our own sin problem secondly keeps us from the external threats of of opposition of persecution of oppression and mistreatment from those outside of us. And thirdly, he keeps us from all evil's look at each of these briefly. First, God keeps us from internal threat or stream for you will not let your foot be moved. He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep for the Jewish pilgrim on his way to Jerusalem. The hills were a place of of stumbling it was very rocky ground around that pose a physical threat. Personal injury was a very likely possibility and would've kept him from arriving safely at Jerusalem and at the temple and his participation in the festival was in jeopardy because of his own inability to navigate his way safely through these perilous mountains that we aren't Jewish pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem were not physically hiking through the mountains were not threatened by the possibility of slipping on rocks and and falling to her death, so how do we apply these verses these promises to our lives. I think if we read this these verses metaphorically the image of a slipping foot represents those threats that come from within us, our weaknesses, our failings, our inabilities, our sins.
These are the things that cause our spiritual feet on their way to worship to slip. In fact, the Psalms themselves use the same imagery to refer to sins of the heart. Psalm 73. For example, we read truly God is good to Israel to such are two such as are pure in heart, but as for me, my feet had almost stumbled my steps had nearly slipped. Fry was envious of the boastful when I saw the prosperity of the wicked CS as pilgrims in this world are flesh leads us into paths that make us stumble and fall. We we face the rocky ground of temptation and the sinfulness that contaminates everything we do jeopardizes our full participation in the worship of God.
It threatens to hinder our spiritual progress. On what basis can we have confidence that our foot will not slip. In other words, that our own sinfulness will not keep us from reaching heavens eternal festival verses three and four tell us he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep our confidence to this life comes not from our fancy footwork on rocky paths. It comes from a divine keeper who never falls asleep on the job as a study this passage I had asked the question how how far can we take this statement as promised he will not allow your foot to be moved because in my own experience, there plenty of times when my own sinfulness has caused my foot to slip there. More times than I care to remember that I have stumbled and fallen because of my own spiritual carelessness. In those times the God break his promise not to let my foot slip we mention two things that I think helps understand the intention of the state little better. First of all, in Hebrew, the clause he will not allow your foot to be moved could be communicating a reality of fact or it could be communicating a desire to wish it could have been translated. May he not allow your foot to be moved, which is a request directed to God rather than of a promise from God so dramatically.
It's not necessarily conveying an absolute irrevocable guarantee that we will never stumble because of our sin.
Ultimately, we will be protected from our sinful missteps and that God will save everyone of his elect, in the end, but through the course of this life. There will be times when we slip. Also, it's important to notice that the contrast to the pilgrims foot slipping is the fact that the Lord never sleeps.
As of the two truths that are being held up in light of each other. I think the psalmist is trying to tell us that when we grow weary and are at risk of falling.
God is not the least bit tired and never sleeps. When we are weak he is strong were asleep. He's awake.
We think God has abandoned us and we have fallen beyond his reach, he hasn't stopped for a breather isn't taking a little break.
He's right there awake and alert and in control of what we thought was a fatal slip so no I don't think this is wishful and idealistic thinking on the part of the psalmist. It is a promise to every child of God that God will not allow his child's weakness and frailty and sin to separate us from his love. We may stumble along the way. In our spiritual pilgrimage, but we will never slip beyond the reach of an untiring. God is why Paul in Romans eight could say with all confidence I am persuaded that nothing, nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord is the emphasis of verses three and four is not on my sin problem. I have a sin problem. But that's not the focus of these verses.
It's it's not on those things that hinder my spiritual advancement so much as it is on the untiring watchfulness of God over his children. The focus of these verses is not on the slipping foot on the God who never slumbers my weakness and my frailty and my tendency to get exhausted and fighting the sin in my life never makes God tired of you with children know what it's like to be responsible for someone with the sin problem. Sometimes I'm sure our kids are the epitome of perfect obedience and delight. The other 6 1/2 days a week, not so much right and we grow weary of of correcting and instructing and correcting again and instructing again. We get tired folks.
God doesn't get tired.
He doesn't run out of steam. He's perfectly consistent in the rearing of his children, we can come to him for the thousandth time and say Lord I've done it again. I have sin.
I'm weary of this fleshly body, forgive me and hold me up and he never tires is our keeper from the internal threat of sin. But notice also. He keeps us from external threat. Look at verses five and six the Lord is your keeper. The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The hills were a place of harshness in in the Palestinian countryside. The heat of the sun would been a very real threat to to the building, trying to get to Jerusalem to worship the moon on the other hand was not a real threat, but in the ancient near East. There was a widespread superstition that exposure to the rays of the moon would adversely affect one's mental health. And this this superstition continued even into New Testament times. Perhaps even longer than that, we come across the word Moonstruck a couple of times in the New Testament Gospel of Matthew lunatic would be the contemporary word that refers to someone whose mental disorders connected to the moons phases. Now this may seem absurd to us at but it is very it is very likely would have been a perceived threat to the ancient Pilgrim but notice that unlike the slipping foot. In verse three, the moon and the sun pose threats that have nothing to do with the inability of the pilgrim. These are things that are beyond the pilgrims control out again as we try to apply this Psalm metaphorically to our spiritual pilgrimage through this world there are things outside of our control that threaten our spiritual progress. There are circumstances and people and infect a world full of lost people that would try to deter us from seeking wholeheartedly after God, but even in the face of these external threatening circumstances.
God is our keeper.
Notice the words you and and you're in verses five and six. These are pronouns are in the second person singular so the psalmist is gone from speaking about Israel's keeper in a corporate sense to the much more personal your keeper in a very individual sense. In this singular use of the pronoun continues right to the very end of the song got us talking to you now.
Personally, he keeps you from those external circumstances and people that threaten your spiritual progress.
What what would those external circumstances and people be. I think the biblical terminology for this sort of external threats outside of our control is the world is the concept in Scripture that that's contains this idea of an external threat, not that not the physical universe and its inhabitants but fallen humanity as it stands and alienation to God. The apostle John had a whole lot to say about the world and its distinction from those that follow God. John 110 says the world doesn't know Christ. John 77, says the world hates Christ.
John 1725 says that the world doesn't know God the father. John 1430 says the ruler of this world is Satan. John 17 six says that Christ's followers have been called out of the world in first John 215 were told not to love the world or the things in the world because they stand at enmity with God, and are soon passing away, and in first John 54 we read that those who are born of God have overcome the world. The world is not a friend to grace is the sun that strikes by day in the moon that strikes by night, but we have the promise of God that even in the midst of this hostile environment in which we exist.
The Lord is our keeper so that keeps us from both the internal threat of our own sin and from the external threat of the world. And thirdly, he keeps us from all evil with me over seven Lord will keep you from all evil. He will keep your life that were evil in verse seven can sometimes refer to danger in a physical sense, liens, vipers thieves in the mountains but more often it refers to dangers in a moral sense evil goes beyond just threatening the physical or material aspects of our being.
It threatens our spirit it threatens our soul in the Old Testament, these hills around Jerusalem had become places of idolatry as the history of Israel progress as we begin to read more and more about the high places the high places were altars of worship that had been established without the sanction of Yahweh.
Sometimes they were used to worship Yahweh in the wrong way in analytic contradicted his express will sometimes use high places were used to worship totally false gods had nothing to do with Yahweh and Ila supposed deity a couple of kings attempted to destroy the high places altogether, but somehow these altar just kept coming back. The wicked covenant breakers in Israel were determined to establish sanctuaries of false worship in the hills of the promised land as of the pilgrim faced yet another threat on his way to Jerusalem.
A spiritual threat of threat of spiritual wickedness and evil as it was applauded and commended in these shameful temples of false worship is a very serious danger. Many, many Jews were lured into false worship, and as a result not only missed out on the blessings of worshiping the true God, but received. Instead, the judgment and wrath of God. We as 21st-century Christians don't have to allegorizing this because we too are tempted by idolatry. Evil is still present and active in the world. There are high places of spiritual wickedness that we wrestle against today.
Listen to what Paul says in Ephesians 6, verse 12.
We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. There is a devil, and he has a whole host of helpers and they are roaming around this earth trying to devour you and me will be a terrifying prospect.
If it weren't for the fact that the maker of heaven and earth has promised to keep you from all evil. We wrestle against spiritual wickedness in high places.
The listen the Christians help comes from a much higher location than this world.
High places because Paul says in Ephesians 1.
In Christ we have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. The one who keeps us is the maker of heaven and earth, Elohim, and no power is greater than Elohim's power one who keeps us is the Lord Yahweh. The covenant keeping God, and no love is greater than Yahweh's love.
Lord says he will keep your life that were life includes your passions, your desires, your emotions, your appetites everything that makes you a living being.
The Lord will preserve your life, your soul from all evil.
So we seen your keeper is he's Yahweh, the gracious one. He's Elohim the all-powerful one.
We seen what our keeper keeps us from keeps us from internal threats to keep us from external threats to keep us from all evil. Finally, the go to mentor the question to what extent does he keep us verse eight the Lord will keep her going out and you're coming in from this time forth and forever the pilgrim realizes that the Lord is a great keeper. He has all power he is able to keep us from the very things that threaten us, but to what extent is is keeping active in our lives or to notice two things very briefly as we close that describe the extent or the breath the scope of God's watch care over us.
First of all he keeps us in all places. The first half of verse eight the Lord will keep you going out and you're coming in or going out, and you're coming in within the pilgrim was on his way to Jerusalem to worship her on his way home after the festival, the Lord was watching out for him and that covers it all doesn't wear either coming or going times where meet in ourselves coming back. But no matter where you are or what you're doing God is keeping you heading to work God's keeping you if you're heading home after work, God is keeping you, you're on your way to go meet with that difficult person.
If you're heading over to encourage a wayward son or daughter.
If you're heading home after a day of of one conflict or disruption after another, God is keeping keeps you and your going out, coming in keeps you in all places. But notice also the latter half of verse eight he keeps us only in all places, but at all times.
Lord will keep you going on your coming in this time forth right now and forever more.
What good would God's watch care over us be if he kept us today, but tomorrow were on our own is keeping is constant and eternal.
From this time forth and forever more. As long as there is sin and the world and the devil. God will keep us, he will keep us in all places. He keeps us for all time. I mentioned at the beginning of this message that this Psalm was written to evoke unflinching trust in our God.
I also mentioned that the emphasis of this Psalm is not on our struggles as much as it is on our keeper see when we trust God in the face of whatever threatens us. It highlights his faithfulness is power, his love our trust in him brings honor to him that trust is itself an act of worship.
On the other hand, when we go through life consumed with anxiety and fear and worry. It brings dishonor to the God that we claim to trust Christians who are consumed with worry are essentially saying that you're not capable you're not aware, you really don't care about what happens to me, none of which are true, but it dishonors a trustworthy God.
I don't know what the hills in your life are maybe you face hills of addiction to some frustrating sin problem.
Perhaps your Hill is a bad relationship that just can't seem to get straightened out. Maybe you're climbing the hill of of dealing with rebellious children, or having to deal with decisions for the future that are overwhelming you in there. They're just so uncertain whatever threat you're facing. However large these distressing hills are looming, you need to remember that God is bigger than the hills is not in the least intimidated by the problems that give you ulcers and keep you up at night and you need to remember that he has promised to keep and preserve you through these problems. So brothers and sisters. The right response. The faithful response to the threatening hills of life is to discipline our minds to think more on the God who made heaven and earth than on the troubles we perceive to be undoing us. We need to pray more and worry less.
We need to rest in God's power more than we cower at the hills understand why. Psalm 121 is a favorite Psalm so many believers.
It reminds us that the hills are in charge. God, the maker of the hills is in charge and he has unlimited power and he is eternally gracious keeping and preserving his spring. Lord, teach us to rest in you guard our hearts and minds with the peace that passes understanding, and may that steadiness that we possess is your children be a witness to a watching world that you are preeminent in our lives and that you sit enthroned in heaven over all things or bring us safely to Zion, the power of your spirit in us by the blood of Christ shed for us in his name we pray. Amen