Faith For The Hills (Psalm 121)

MOTIVATE

Last couple months our family has had physical impairments.

  • Nov. Danielle had abdominal surgery to correct destabilized stomach muscles. Her recovery took almost 8-weeks.
  • The past month I have been dealing with inflammation in my back muscles. For two weeks I have had difficulty moving from a seated position to standing, and minimal ability to bend.

In each case, our children have been champions. They have initiated help (not just when asked). They have considered the needs of us and each other, more than their own. They stayed up late to perform chores and their own schoolwork and gone above and beyond to support our family. I/we are so proud of them.

Providing help to others is something you do bc you care.

Receiving help from others is something you do bc you can’t.
For many of us who are independent, and used to providing for yourselves, it is humbling, if not unwelcome, to receive help.

Today, I want to speak about acknowledging our boundless need for the LORD’s help.

EXAMINE               PSALM 121 A Song of Ascents.
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.

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 Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.

The Lord will keep your going out & your coming in from this time forth & forevermore.

3 resolutions for the year:

Let us lift our eyes to receive God’s perspective (121:1-2)

Intro: This psalm has an inscription: “Songs of Ascent/Degrees.” Psalms 120-134 are all known as songs of ascent. There are a few views about this inscription:

  • Intended as musical notation about singing higher and louder.
    • 15 psalms correspond to the 15 steps up to the temple complex in Jerusalem. Each psalm was sung as Jews ascended to the house of the Lord.
    • 15 psalms were sung ascending the geography upward to Jerusalem. Each year, the Israelites traveled from near cities and distant towns to be present for one of Israel’s three major feasts: Passover, Pentecost, and Feast of Booths (Ex 23:14). Jesus made this precarious ~200 mile round trip from his hometown many times. Along the journey there would be challenges and dangers: robbers hid in caves and on hillsides. Jesus spoke about the potential of these perils in His parables.
    • From the Psalms to the teachings of Jesus, and throughout the Bible, each recognize the life of faith is one of pilgrimage. We cling to God’s promises and long for the fullness of His presence. Yet, temptation lingers, and trials lurk to overtake us. Overall, what was true geographically should be true of us spiritually. The people of God are sojourners, with this world not our home, seeking to elevate and endure onward through highs and lows.

The life of faith is one of pilgrimage with the people of God as sojourners. This world not our home. We must seek to elevate our perspective in the Lord and endure onward through highs and lows.

The Psalmist lifts his eyes to the mountains. It is unknown if the mountains are viewed as a shelter or threat, as referenced early in the parables of Jesus. The hills have duality with eternal refuge and enigmatic risk. [1] Yet, either way, the Psalmist looks beyond the hills to the One who made them.

  • Ps 90:2; Prov 8:25 “Before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I existed”
  • Isa 2:2/Micah 4:1 “In the latter days… the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.”
  • Ps 97:5; Nahum 1:5 “The mountains quake before the LORD, and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at His presence”

The Psalmist perspective of God is big – even bigger than the problems we face. The LORD is Creator of heaven with earth as His footstool (Isa 66:1). God is sovereign, and any problem we face is puny to the infinite wisdom and immense strength He offers to us.

The LORD is our hope and help, and the Psalmist wants God’s people (us) to be unafraid and undeterred. We must elevate our perspective from our line of sight to God’s vantage point. God sees everything from the distant past to the advanced future. And He still promises His children protective salvation and provided strength to endure through life’s journey.

So, while trials and temptation can wall us in, they can never roof us over. Satan can deter us with roadblocks or deceive us with walls, he cannot prevent us from looking up and praying to our certain hope and confident help in the LORD.

While trials and temptation can wall us in, they can never roof us over. Satan can deter us with roadblocks or deceive us with walls, he cannot prevent us from looking up and praying to our certain hope and confident help in the LORD.

  • Write down & memorize Ps 121:1-2 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
  • Make a list with three columns. On the first side write hills that are risks and roadblocks. After this list, on the far third side begin to list hills of resource and refuge. In the middle column write 1-2 habits or disciplines that will help you take advantage of God’s resources & refuge. Most people who make new year goals will forget about them one month in. Dreams and desires are not enough to cause movement or change and individual’s life. We must include disciplines that nudge us forward. Spiritual disciplines are God’s resources to accomplish goals and overcome obstacles in our life.
  • Ultimately, many religions had their hope in ascending a hill to their altar of sacrifice. In NT light, the Christian hope is not in our ascending a hill of works but faith in God’s descension of grace. Our help is in the work of Calvary’s hill – Jesus’ sacrifice, not our own.

Let us move our feet to God’s shade (121:3-7)

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.

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 Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.

The Psalmist recognizes God’s greatest help is His keeping strength. The 5x repeated word in these verses “shawmer,” (שָׁמַר) which means to vigilantly guard and carefully tend to something.[2] Our help is not only sitting on the throne but is standing beside us. He guides our footsteps and protects our front and backside. He does not suddenly doze, slumber briefly, or sleep soundly. The Lord is our all-powerful Creator (v.2) and our ever-watchful Sustainer (v.4). [3]   His protective care is 24-7-365, day and night.

Think of your work efforts. We work our daily shift and avoid overtime (unless we need extra income). After a few days of work, we are fatigued. Our bodies get exhausted, our bones ache, our minds get drained. We work and wait expectantly for the weekend to rest and enjoy for ourselves. Our greater excitement from the weekends is vacations. Our approach and outcomes of work are entirely different than God’s.

God tirelessly works and never wearies.[4] His work is around the clock, without days off, and never sleeping. While we are prone to consider ourselves as workers in God’s life, the reality is God is wholeheartedly working in our life. The Bible wants us to ponder the amazing reality that

  • “God works for those who wait for Him” (Isa 64:4)
  • “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His” (2 Chronicles 16:9)
  • “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve” (Mk 10:45).
  • “Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13)
  • “God works for the good of those who love Him” (Rom 8:28)
  • The gospel is not a “help wanted” advertisement but a “help available” announcement. In Christ, God is overflowing with eagerness to provide His help and pour out hope in our life.
  • V.5) The shade on our right hand is God’s favor. The right hand is a symbol of strength. Our strengths are the talents and resources we have from the LORD. Everything we have is a gift from God, which we are to steward. If we do not use it for God’s glory, eventually we will lose it. Be careful of using your resources for earthly happiness or even holding off for our own heavenly mansion. God wants us to spend and be spent for His glory.
  • V.6) The sun by day or moon at night reflects God’s comprehensive protection. A host of challenges and complications can arrive day or night. Yet, the same God who causes each celestial rock to rise in the sky and who counts all the stars by name, is the same God who feeds sparrows, clothes flowers with beautiful petals, and intimately invades our life with His love and grace.
  • V.7) Our feet stay on the right path by listening to what is true, and not always what is new.
  • Ps 1:1 “Blessed is the one who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
  • Ps 116:8 “For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.”
  • Prov 4:26 “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.”
  • 3 Jn 1:4 “I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”

  • When the oppressive sun, or blowing winds and pummeling rain arrive, the only protected and dry individuals will be those with an umbrella. Are you living under the umbrella and shade of Jesus Christ? Are you genuinely saved or are you attempting to fool God and others about your spirituality? Friend, God cannot be mocked or tricked. Many will say, “Lord, Lord, didn’t we do work in your name?” but Jesus will say, “Away from me, I never truly knew you.” (cf Mt 7:21). Today, step under the shade before it’s too late.

Let us live our life in God’s peace (121:8)

The Lord will keep your going out & your coming in from this time forth & forevermore.

Our life/soul is preserved by grace through faith in Christ. He keeps our going out and coming in. In God’s eyes, time is irrelative. One day to us is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day to God. Our view of forever is limited to how long it truly is in eternity.

The beautiful promises of God give us peace.

I’ve shared this illustration before, but it’s worth repeating.[5]

There’s a story about a husband and wife who were driving along a highway. The couple noticed a late-model Cadillac with its hood up, parked along the side of the road. Its driver appeared troubled and agitated. The couple pulled over to see if they could assist the stranded driver. The troubled driver was embarrassed as he described his circumstances. He stated he knew when he left home that he was low on fuel, but he had an important meeting that he was trying to hurry and attend, so he didn’t take the time to fill up on gas and he ran empty. The Cadillac need nothing more than refueling.
Ironically, the helpful couple had a spare gallon of fuel in the trunk of their car that they were generous to share. As they poured the gas into the Cadillac, the husband instructed the driver about a nearby gas station a few miles down the road that he could stop and fill-up the rest to get to his desired destination. The driver thanked them profusely and then sped off.

The couple took their time continuing their journey. They chose to stop at the gas station, not just for their own vehicle but their empty can and to get some snacks inside the store. After completing their stop, they drove down the highway about 15 miles and noticed the same Cadillac with its hood up again and the stranded driver even more agitated this time. The amused couple stopped again and asked the driver if he saw the fueling station. Unfortunately, the man grumbled on and on about how late he was and how important his meeting was, and how frustrated he was that he was stopped again. He skipped refueling with the hollow hope that the one gallon he received would somehow be enough for his full journey.

It is hard to believe anyone would be so naïve, until we reflect on our own frenetic and fast-paced lifestyle.
In our work, our family, and our play, we rush to perform and accomplish so much that we miss out to pause for refreshment, refueling, and refocusing.
We seldom take time to be still;
to think;
to meditate;
to evaluate;
to wonder and dream;
and to simply speak to our Heavenly Father in prayer.
We miss the resources available to us through Christ because of our pride to operate in our own power.
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer.

A burden shared is a trouble halved. A blessing shared is a joy doubled.

  • Share your burden with the LORD.
  • Share your burden/blessing with a brother/sister in Christ. Stick around… or schedule time this week.
  • SPBC prayer list is for your peace and the peace of others. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.

A burden shared is a trouble halved. A blessing shared is a joy doubled.

APPLY/THINK

Perhaps you have watched episodes of The Chosen. Many times, when characters enter or leave a house, they touch the fingers with a kiss and then touch the doorposts. Why?

On the doorframes of a Jewish house is a Mezuzah (doorpost), a special metal box with parchment paper inscribed with the verses Deuteronomy 6:4-9
4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.
7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

In our coming and going, the key to our peace and blessing is having God’s word at the forefront of our life. However hard your journey is, however lonely your life feels, whatever pressures or fears emerge, hear this promise: “The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and forevermore.”

The key to our peace & blessing is having Scripture at the forefront of life. However hard your journey is, lonely your life feels, whatever pressures or fears emerge, hear this promise: “The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and forevermore.”

As God was with Jesus, so He is with us.


[1] Derek Kidner, Psalms 73–150: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 16, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1975), 467.

[2] https://biblehub.com/hebrew/8104.htm

[3] C. John Collins, “The Psalms,” in Psalms–Song of Solomon, ed. Iain M. Duguid, James M. Hamilton Jr., and Jay Sklar, vol. V, ESV Expository Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2022), 611.

[4] Some thoughts in this paragraph inspired from John Piper, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/god-works-for-you.

[5] Adapted from D.A. Carson, A Call To Spiritual Reformation: Priorities From Paul And His Prayers, p.111.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s