Psalm 121

Title: The Lord is my Keeper

Text: Psalm 121

Introduction: A kindergarten teacher told every student to draw a picture of what was important to them. In the back of the room, Johnny began to labor over his drawing. Everybody else finished and handed in their picture but Johnny didn’t. He was still drawing. The teacher graciously walked back and put her arm around Johnny’s shoulder and said, “Johnny, what are you drawing?” He didn’t look up; he just kept on working feverishly at his picture.

He said, “God.”

“But Johnny,” she said gently, “no one knows what God looks like.”

He answered, “They will when I’m through.”

 

Today I want to describe God to you in such a way that you’ll know Him better. I can’t say you’ll know what he looks like when I’m done, but I hope you’ll have a deeper, richer understanding of Him.

 

Open your copy of God’s Word to Psalm 119. I want to show you the flow of Psalms. Psalm 120;

This morning we move from Psalm 120 – a statement of distress and struggle, to a psalm of God’s magnificence. This Psalm is really all about God: His greatness and His goodness.

What a great lesson – even before we begin – to take our eyes off of us, off of our problems and focus in on God.

In this situation of distress and struggle, the Psalmist changes his tune (pardon the pun).

The Psalmist asks a rhetorical question to begin with: rd v 1 – I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?

Let me give you some context quickly. This Psalm was originally set in the context of the King asking this question and responding to himself. In v.2 he answered himself. Then, in v.3, the Priest would take over the Psalm with this amazing declaration of God’s greatness. When the Israelites returned from exile, they used this Psalm in the context of themselves – those returning from exile. They would speak in v1-2 and the Priest would make the declaration in v3-8;

  • Confession of Faith: Where does my help come from?
  • Confidence in His Character:
    • He is steadfast, causing us to be Immoveable,
    • He is faithful. People will let you down. A Human Guard will fall asleep while on duty, while on the wall. Not so with God.
    • He is your protection, your guard, and your keeper.
    • Not just in this moment, but in your future, He can be trusted.

Transition: so, let’s begin with this first section – the voice of the people who are beginning their journey.

From where does my help come? They know.

I.     A Confession of Faith in the Creator God. (1-2)

exp.: rd v 1a; the hills, or mountains. There is this idea of lifting up the eyes to see where God is. You’ve probably noticed that Israel – against God’s demands, by the way – offered sacrifices on the ‘high places’. These folks had a perception that God dwelt on high and wanted to offer their sacrifices on high. But God told them that sacrificing on the high places was what the previous occupants of the land did and they weren’t to be like those people. The Israelites were given specific commands about sacrificing. Again, I don’t think this is a concerned question (i.e., like I’m scared and I don’t know where I’ll get the help I need.) I think this is rhetorical in nature. Rd v 1a again; rd 1b; I love this word ‘help’.

  • Help: We often think of help as that assistance that makes work or toil easier. That isn’t what this word means in Hebrew. Help in Hebrew doesn’t mean assist. It means without assistance, without intervention I would die or I would fail – I would not make it. The English idea of help has weakened this word. Consider: rescue, redeem or
  • Lord: Yahweh. God’s covenant name. And then, there is an answer you might not expect. My help comes from the Creator God – Yahweh. This is the very first characteristic we learn about God in Genesis 1.1 – In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

ill.: As one stands in Jerusalem, at the Temple, you can see the mountains which surround the city – or, I guess in today’s understanding, make up the city. I was told there are 7 of these summits. I was drawn to them one day while I was at the Dan Hotel in Jerusalem. I was rooming up on a higher floor and stepped out onto the balcony where I was counting cell phone towers and noticed how the hills looped around the city. They are indeed impressive. I imagine a king making this statement and being encouraged and enthused, as he would see these mountains tops that God created. This same Yahweh, who created these massive, impressive features, is the same God who will rescue the king in his time of need. And it would be the same for the Israelite pilgrims as they made their way to Jerusalem. It would be a tremendous visual aid.

app.: This first, opening statement then wouldn’t be a question of concern, but rather a Confession of Faith.

t.s.: Based upon this confession, the priest would now declare his confidence in God. And this confidence is based upon God’s Character. Let’s look at that now:

II.   A Declaration of Confidence in the Character of God’s (3-8)

exp.: rd 3a; He will not let your foot be moved; this definitely fits with the journey motif of the pilgrims. For the king, the idea was that the king might be assassinated if his human guard failed him; rd 3b; He might ‘slip’ into Sheol or tumble into Sheol if his human guard fails him. But, as a reminder, The Creator God we serve is not like the ‘gods’ of the people or the human guards of the king. God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the one who keeps Israel, he will neither slumber nor sleep. Rd v4; So, here is our first characteristic as presented in Psalm 121:

  1. He is Steadfast. He will not be moved. So then, neither will you be moved.
  2. He is Protection. Rd v 5-6; The Lord stands to your right hand. Therefore, you are covered in the shade created by such a great God. Modern-day statements similar to this one: He hides you in the shadow of the Cross. Now, take yourself to the desert areas of the Holy Land. Try to walk from Jericho to Jerusalem in the heat of the day. The Sun would eat your lunch. I’m guessing that none of us could make that journey. First, we’d probably get lost. 2nd, we would become dehydrated and overheat. We would die out there in the barren land. The night wouldn’t be any better for us. It gets cold at night.

I see two different spheres of influence here. One is that of people. God protects his king in the one instance, and God protects his people in the 2nd instance. The 2nd sphere deals with nature. The elements can bring destruction, but God protects his king or his people from nature, too.

This isn’t the only time we see characteristics of God. The Bible is filled with “the Lord is” statements:

Today we read that the Lord is your keeper. I thought of some other verses that describe what the Lord is to me, to us and I decided to search my Bible for statements about the Lord. This is what I found: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. The Lord is my strength and my song. The Lord is my refuge. The Lord is my banner. The Lord is holy. The Lord is with us. The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in love. The Lord is our inheritance. The Lord is mighty. The Lord is among us (in our midst). The Lord is Peace. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer. The Lord is righteous. The Lord is able. The Lord is a stronghold. The Lord is king. The Lord is my cup and my portion. The Lord is my light. The Lord is my shield. The Lord is powerful. The Lord is upright. The Lord is good. The Lord is near. The Lord is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. The Lord is robed in majesty and glory. The Lord is merciful and gracious. The Lord is at your right hand. The Lord is high above all nations and his glory above the heavens. The Lord is on my side. The Lord is faithful. The Lord is a fountain of life. The Lord is the Maker of all. The Lord is safe for all who trust him. The Lord is justice. The Lord is exalted. The Lord is the judge. The Lord is the lawgiver. The Lord is our righteousness. The Lord is Awesome. The Lord is God. The Lord is the everlasting God. The Lord is the true God.

And I didn’t even type up all of them! I wonder how many there are? Someone could take each of those statements and create a devotional book expounding upon all of the declarations of who God is!

3. He is Eternal. In this 3rd declaration, the Psalmist moves from images and metaphors to generalizations with the purpose of expressing God’s steadfastness and his protection, not just for this moment, but forevermore. Rd v7-8;

  • For the king – this would be a statement that God would be with the king as he went out to battle and as he returned home.
  • For the Israelites – it would be a statement that God would go with them in their going out to the field to work and when they returned in the evening to their home.
  • For those in exile – it would be a declaration that God was indeed with them as they were sent away and that he would be with them as they returned.
  • For the pilgrims – it would be a declaration that God was with them as they traveled from their homes to festival or feast and that He would be with them as they returned home – until the next festival time. I think the context would be closer to say that he was with them as they left the festival or feast and be with them until they returned for the next festival or feast.

Conclusion: Consider the vivid imagery of the Psalm for a moment. If you were watching this Psalm on a TV screen, you might see the opening verses from outer space. God, the Creator God, Created all things. You could stay in outer space for some time observing the vast universe and slowly move in toward the earth as you take in the vastness of God’s creation. You might move in beyond the oceans to the land. You would see the mountains and lakes. You might move in closer and see the animals that dwell there: all the birds of the skies and the beasts of the fields and all that passes through the sea. You might move in even closer to the people, zooming in past all of the people to where you are. And, zooming in even closer to your foot you would see that this Creator God, who created all of that, he will not let your foot to stumble.

What a great picture of God. He is so great and grand, tremendous and magnificent. You can fly to the farthest, most remote part of our Universe and not escape his eye. Indeed, so close is he that he can move beyond all of those created things to see you right where you are. He knows your needs, your pains, your fears.

Ill.: You need a little perspective. Chuck Swindoll tells the story of a new member of the British Parliament took his 8-year-old daughter on a brief tour of his beloved London. They came to Westminster Abby and the awesomeness of it struck that little girl. She stood looking way up at those columns and studying the beauty and grandeur of the Gothic church building. Her father was struck at her concentration. He looked down and said, “Sweetheart, what are you thinking about?” She said, “Daddy, I was thinking how big you seem at home and how small you look in here.”

Psalm 121 gives us some perspective – of who we are and who we are to God.

Application: So, what are some take-a-ways from all of this?

  1. The Lord is your *helper. And I mean that in the Hebrew sense of the word: without him, you would not make it. You would surely fail. When I say ‘help’, I don’t mean to assist you. He’s not Onstar! He is your salvation, your rescue, your redemption.
  2. The Lord is your keeper. He is your guard. He is your eternal, steadfast, immovable protector. He guards your going out and your coming back in. In him, we live and move and breathe and find our very existence.
  3. But The Lord is only this to you if you’re His. If you’ve never surrendered your life to Him, you’re just out there on your own. Would you surrender your life to him today if you never have before?

Here’s how we do things at Calvary. I want to call you to surrender your life to Christ. I’m not going to ask you to come forward in front of everyone, but I am going to ask you to come to talk to me. If you want to know what it means to be a Christian, come to visit with me. If I’m talking with someone, be patient. I really want to visit with you.

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1 Comment

Filed under Psalms, Psalms of Ascent, Scripture, Sermon, Uncategorized

One response to “Psalm 121

  1. Fred Obrecht

    Amen and Amen. Thank you Lord for being our help. Thank you that you call us to you thru your son. I truly enjoyed this message. Thank you for sharing God’s word with your congregation and online.

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