My Help Comes From the LORD!

Sermon on Ps. 121:1-8, preached on 29 July 2018.
20170428_115149-ssBible Readings: (OT) Psalm 121:1-8 / (NT) Hebrews 6:1-12
Main Points:
V. 1: I lift up my eyes to the hills …
V. 2: My help comes from the LORD …
V. 3: He will not let your foot be moved …
V. 4: Behold, He who keeps Israel …
V. 5: The LORD is your keeper …
V. 6: The sun shall not strike you by day …
V. 7: The LORD will keep you from all evil …
V. 8: The LORD will keep your going out …

Today’s text is the 121st psalm which is the third one in the present sermon series on selected psalms. On the previous two Sundays, we meditated on the 19th and the 36th psalms. The messages we heard from those psalms were similar to each other, telling us that man in his wickedness rejects God the Creator, the Almighty One, while all other creatures in His created world praise and worship Him (as in Ps. 19) and while God cares for man in His lovingkindness. So, anyone and everyone who finds the Lord and His love and enduring grace comes to Him for His comfort and rest (as in Ps. 36). Then, this 121st psalm draws our attention to the perspective of those who have fled and come to God and rest in Him. They look to the Lord and remember the ultimate source, root and origin of the help they receive, the God who is gracious. Nowhere does a believer receive help, but from our God who is glorious in His might, yet, tender in His mercy. So, the message of this 121st psalm is this – ‘My help comes from the LORD!’

This psalm was originally sung by Israel, the people of the OT church, as they approached the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem for worship. For this reason, it is titled as ‘A Song of Assents.’ There are total fourteen psalms that are called ‘Songs of Ascents’ (Pss. 120-134). The pilgrims journeyed up to Jerusalem and, seeing the city on a mountain or picturing it in their minds while they were still in the distance, sang, “I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come from?” Then, they answered to one another, saying, “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” It was truly important for them to remember the fountainhead of their help and blessing. And as much as remembering it was vital for their life in the Lord, understanding and applying the same is truly essential for us who live in the same Lord especially in this 21st century world.

Knowing the origin of our help is the key to our spiritual joy. Knowing from where our help come makes us wise, thus, stable in our heart and soul, not being tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine of this world. Such knowledge gives us a clear reason why we should always trust our God and hope in Him. So, the words of this psalm must be read and meditated by us believers always. And I pray that the Lord blesses us all today so that, from now on, we may, by God’s grace, engrave these words of Ps. 121 onto our soul. And by meditating it, we may enjoy the Lord all the days of our life.

Praying this, I’d like to open up verse by verse and share with you the joy of knowing our Heavenly Father more and His grace deeper.

The very first thing you need to notice from this verse is that everyone who wants to know the source of his/her help must lift his/her eyes up and away from oneself. True help comes from without than within a person. So, instead of looking inward, we must look away and up to find the source of our help.

It is straight forwardly against the idea of the world. The world admires self-reflection or venerates self-enlightenment, encouraging people to search themselves for the answers to their quests. The world rejects the idea of looking beyond people’s self. So, the world says, ‘Stop the search: find your answers within you,’ thus, it advices, ‘If you believe in yourself, you can turn your dreams into a plan, and your plan into your reality.’

But that’s not true; it’s a lie. We must lift up our eyes to the hills and look to the only One who can help and bless, God our Father. The psalmist, thus, says, ‘I lift up my eyes to God who alone is able to bless me and all who look to Him for help!’ By this, we’re urged not to look within ourselves because no one can help himself, because there’s nothing within us that might be of use.

Why isn’t there anything helpful within us? Because of our sin of rejecting our gracious Creator God who alone is good and, by rejecting Him, by breaking ourselves away from Him, there’s nothing ‘good’ in us; we’re incapable of producing anything valuable. Hear the verdict of the righteous God on people recorded in the Scriptures, first, in Gen. 6:5, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,” and second, in Ps. 5:9, “there is no truth in [people’s] mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.”

So, it is more than right for all Christians to agree and say together with the psalmist, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?

The answer we know, both the psalmist and us of St Columba’s, is this: “My help (our help) comes from the LORD”! And who is this God? He is the One who made heaven and earth by His wisdom, power; He created it all by His outstretched arm. The living Lord, in a word. He is the King and Lord of His created universe.

This is what people of the world reject. They think that God is either dead or impotent. They lie to themselves and regard their own hands as the only help available. They replace God’s power and comfort with the material of this world and they seek satisfaction of their hearts from its abundance, having completely rejected the truth that the Lord owns it all! Sometimes, the material abundance seems to be helpful with its purchasing power, thus, seems efficient and even sufficient. But, anything of the world that satisfies people is an illusion, like a mirage that rises over the desert horizon. It looks like vitalising people’s eyes, but, chasing it, all die of thirst, if not of despair.

But, the LORD who made heaven and earth helps and gives satisfaction without end to all who lift their eyes up and look to Him. He is gracious and merciful; His wisdom will never be short, His comfort will never run out. But man’s self-help never satisfies his heart at all, not even for a moment; it adds more thirst. So, the God who helps us is alive and powerful, though He seems to be silent and invisible.

Then, what sorts of help does the Lord give us? The psalmist says in v. 3, “He will not let your foot be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.” His eyes are always upon us and His arms are always around us.

I heard this story from a missionary who served in Africa for more than a decade. It was not long after his arrival at his mission field. One day, he had to go to another town which would take about several hours by car. On his way, his car stopped and he couldn’t fix the problem. The contingency plan for such a case was that he remained in the car for rescue. But this missionary decided to walk back home because he thought it wasn’t too far to walk. But soon, he found it wasn’t so in a jungle. The sun went quickly over the trees and darkness covered everything. But he kept following the trail backward and walked all night. Early in the morning, still dark, he finally arrived the elder’s house in the village where he was staying. He knocked on the door, and opening the door, the elder looked truly puzzled. He asked, ‘Rev. so-and-so, why are you here?’ The missionary gave a brief explanation. Then, the elder asked, ‘Did you walk all night from there?’ ‘Yes,’ replied the missionary. Then, the elder raised his arms to heaven and exclaimed, ‘This is a miracle of God! Thank You, Father!’ Do you know why he said that? Because the jungle this missionary walked all night was the area even the indigenous people would hardly dare to walk alone in the daytime and at night, lions, hyenas and leopards swarm. Hearing it, the missionary’s heart and soul became overwhelmingly warm and he and the local elder gave thanks to God the Lord who mercifully kept his every step!

This is what our Heavenly Father does while we walk on this spiritually dark world. Many of us have experienced it in our life. Although we don’t walk through swarming beasts, we tread on this sin saturated, dangerous world. In many cases, we don’t usually notice God’s guidance, His keeping our every step, but later when everything is done and over, we look back and realise His helping hand. Breathing a deep sigh of relief, we give thanks to the Lord God Almighty, don’t we? The claws of danger have almost touched us, but God never slumbers, but embraces us in His mighty hand! Our Lord helps His beloved day and night; not a single step we move does our Heavenly Father miss.

The psalmist stresses this once again in the following verse, v. 4, saying, “Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” It is ‘Israel’ He keeps – His own people who are adopted into His family through faith to be called as His sons and daughters, being washed by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. The Lord God keeps, watches over, takes care of, protects and preserves us, the ‘spiritual’ Israel. So, the Lord Jesus prayed one last time before His suffering and death, as recorded in Jn. 17, in these words: “I am praying form them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. … I … ask … also for those who will believe in Me through their word.”

This is truly a ‘wonder.’ People say that there are certain number of wonders in the world, but this saying that our Father God neither slumbers nor sleeps in keeping His children is the wonder incomparable with anything of this world. So, in Ps. 8:4, the psalmist marvels and says, “What is mankind that You are mindful of them, human beings that You care for them?” and in Ps. 144:3, “LORD, what are human beings that You care for them, mere mortals that You think of them?” The sovereign God always watching over us, mere mortals, is a picture that shows His sheer mercy and grace toward us!

For this reason, the psalmist begins this fourth verse with “Behold”! ‘Look, see how deep His love is for us!’ Remember God’s eyes and hands over and around you and me in every moment of our life; any dark moment in our life is never dark because the Lord is with us always.

Having said, the psalmist speaks to his fellow believers like you and me. He understands the Lord’s gracious helping hand and realises His deep and never changing love, he urges us to know what he knows and to enjoy what he truly enjoys. He continues this from v. 5 to the end of this psalm.

The very first point the psalmist tells us is that the Lord God is our ‘Keeper’! Saying this, you must hear and sense the psalmist’s joy and amazement. Every word is dipped and saturated with a delightful discovery of this wonder, “The LORD (of the universe who made heaven and earth by His power and wisdom) is your keeper”! In the Hebrew OT, this joy is vocalised, ‘Adonai shomreikha’ – ‘the LORD is your keeper’!

This is why the psalmist says in another well-known psalm that even though he walks through the valley of the shadow of death, he will fear no evil! Such is shown through Daniel the prophet’s walk into the lion’s den, not fearing their claws nor their fangs, yet, depending on the helping hand of the Lord who neither slumbers nor sleeps in keeping His children.

This confidence and joy is never known to the hearts of the unbelievers who reject the Father and the Son. But, through faith in Jesus, you know this joy, you have the same confidence the psalmist and Daniel had. “The LORD is [our] shade on [our] right hand,” brothers and sisters!

The psalmist adds more pictures to this in v. 6. The sun and the moon which shine all the days and hours of our life cannot and shall not harm us because the God who owns them all and runs them all is on our side. He protects us, so, who or which of this world could touch us and harm us? None! Not even the curses, calamities and judgments that are recorded in the whole Bible for the wicked will scratch us. The Apostle Paul is clear about this as he says in Rom. 8, saying, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”!

You know what? God spoke and declared His great blessing upon His own in Dt. 33:14 in these words: “[God will bless His children] with the choicest fruits of the sun, and the rich yield of the months.”

This God who neither slumbers nor sleeps, but keeps His people, will guide and protect them from ALL evil! Nothing can escape when God says this word, ‘all.’ When He says this, He includes each and every evil, including the Satan. Isn’t this familiar to your ears with the words of Col. 1:13 which says that “[The Father] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son”? The Lord Jesus teaches us in Jn. 10:29-30, saying this: “My Father, who has given them [that is, ‘My sheep’] to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” No evil, therefore, can touch us; we’re firmly hidden in the mighty hands of the Lord God Almighty! Thus, the sting of death is gone to the hearts and eyes of believer, so, we in the Lord declares, saying, “O death, where is your sting?” Death itself has simply become ‘the shadow of death’ to you and me who have the Lord Jesus’ eternal life.

The very last verse is, therefore, the conclusion of what has been pointed out so far and its application in our everyday living. You walk out and walk in, you go out and come in with such a confidence in the Lord, with such a joy in the Lord. Remember where your help comes from – it is the Lord God Almighty! Remember who protects you – it is the Lord God Almighty! Remember in what way He keeps you – He neither slumbers nor sleeps, but is near you now and forevermore! So, you’re free from all evil now and forevermore!

So, would the words of Phil. 4:4 too much for all believers when it says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice”? No, not at all! That’s why Phil. 3:1 tells us that rejoicing in the Lord always is ‘safe’ or ‘secure’ in the Lord!

Brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus, our help is not from the temporal things of this world, but from the very hand of the Almighty. So, trust Him who has saved you and drawn you to His bosom. Go out and come in today and tomorrow in this firm confidence in the Lord God, our gracious Keeper! ***

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