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God our helper! – Psalm 121

God our helper! – Psalm 121
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 23, 2017

From the movies and into the language fabric of American culture has been the question: “Who’re you gonna call?” and the answer, “Ghost Busters!” But who do you call when you need help in life? Some call their therapist, psychiatrist, minister, friend, or family member. Calling 911 isn’t going to help you answer the deep spiritual questions one has or some of the day to day problems one faces. So, who do you call to when you need help?

The Bible teaches us over and over that the believer is to be dependent upon the Lord and to go to him when they need answers in life. Sadly, few do unless only as a last resort. I have had thousands of conversations about relationships, finances, family problems, addictions, and fatal attractions and few have heeded the advice I have offered only to later respond that they wished they had. Once I was asked where I went for help and I remarked, “To God our helper.” Let’s discover what the Psalmist sings about this…

READ: Psalm 121

The Israelites were told over and over and over again to depend upon the Lord and not themselves, the pagan gods of the land, nor the worldly wisdom of the age. Yet they often failed to do so and suffered the consequences of their decision. Here we discover that…

I. God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world! (Vv. 1-4)

A song of ascents. I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

1. The title “song of ascents” identifies Psalms 120-134 as a song to be sung when the Israelites “ascended” or “went up” to Jerusalem for their annual feasts. Four of these 15 psalms are ascribed to David but this one is anonymous. Jerusalem sat on a hill and the temple rose up on the highest point, so when the pilgrim went to worship God in his temple he would sing, “I lift up my eyes to the hills”. Like a scene from a movie of a besieged city looking to the hills for reinforcements against her enemies, we lift our eyes to the Lord! The believer is to look to the heights of the Lord for their help; not just in times of distress but in every situation! So, today, like the pilgrim of God ask yourself, “Where does my help come from?” Your answer should be immediate and direct, “My help comes from the Lord!” But notice why the Psalmist was willing to sing this? He knew that God, like we learned last week from Colossians, is “the Maker of heaven and earth”! The Christian knows and understands that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” and that “by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” (Colossians 1:15-16 NIV) Therefore he is sure and certain and he keeps us from slipping up in life, as the Psalmist sang, “He will not let your foot slip”! We forget Jesus told us succinctly, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (John 15:7 NIV) This is not some “name it and claim it” heresy but rather the promise of the Lord God that if we walk daily with him he will walk daily with us! There is so much false advice and ungodly wisdom in the world today that it is good to know God will keep us from slipping up when we remain in him. The Psalmist realized this and reiterated that “he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep!” God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world!

EXAMPLE: You can by hiking boots or walking shoes with treads designed to give you better footing in rough places; you can purchase cork or felt-soled waders to help you navigate the moss and algae-covered rocks while fishing; and you can buy simple flip-flops to protect your feet while using public showers in gyms or at the swimming pool. But what can we depend upon to keep us upright in a sin-filled world that offers so much trash for advice? The Psalmist reminds us that God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world!

A good parent doesn’t hover over their child but they remain watchful throughout the child’s life. When they are younger they help them to stay safe, look both ways, and to say “please”, “thank-you”, and “you’re welcome”. We discover that like a watchful loving parent…

II. God helps us by watching over our lives! (Vv. 5-8)

The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

1. God is not a nag. He does not scold you, berate you, or remind you of your mess-ups. He is not some angry old grump or judge watching and waiting for you to mess up just so he can discipline you back into line. It was truly liberating for me to learn that rather than an angry God that the God of the Bible was a loving God who loved me even before I was born and knew every step I would take in life! He loved me so much that he provided for my salvation from sin’s judgment! Rather than a judgmental narrow-minded bigoted deity, he is my helper, redeemer, and friend. The Psalmist reminded his readers that “The Lord watches over you”; not as a nag but to be your “shade at your right hand”! He is the one we can depend upon to shield us and lead us in a corrupt world and to keep us safe and secure. Shade was an important part of life during the Psalmist’s time. The Israelites looked for it as they traveled to Jerusalem to worship; shepherds sought it out to rest in during the heat of the day; and all wanted the protection of the snug roof over them at night — so he sings to those who are seeking shade and shelter, “the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night”. It does not matter the time of day, the season of the year, or what phase of life you are in, God is with you; right beside you, shading you and protecting you, “The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” I truly like that. It is refreshing to know that a loving God cares enough for me to remind me that he is with me always, through every stage or up and down of life. The Apostle Paul asked and age-old question when he queried, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” Like the Psalmist even Paul was “convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 38-39 NIV)  God helps us by watching over our lives!

EXAMPLE: One of my favorite hymns is “His Eye Is on the Sparrow”. It speaks of how God loves us and watches over us just as he does each tiny sparrow like Jesus reminded his disciples, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26 NIV) The Psalmist reminds us that God helps us by watching over our lives!

Conclusion:
God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world! God helps us by watching over our lives!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Hebrews 2:1-4 – Dude, don’t drift!

Hebrews 2:1-4 – Dude, don’t drift!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
June 24, 2012 AM

Recently, just as there is every year, there have been a lot of people killed boating, kayaking, or canoeing. Often it is because the folks involved did not wear proper safety equipment such as a life jacket. It is easy to be caught in the swift current of a river and be swept away to your death. The same is true spiritually for those who refuse to heed the Word of God. They can get caught in the swift current of life and be swept away to their spiritual deaths!

We live in a day and age whereby everything we involve ourselves in wants to drag us away from our faith in Christ. What may seem so innocent at first can become a major undercurrent ready to pull us under into sin. Let’s discover how and why we should give heed to what Hebrews says and not drift away…

READ: Hebrews 2:1-4

I will never forget many years ago challenging a young man to be careful of his involvement with a certain young lady because it was evident to everyone else around him that she was a poor influence on his life. In fact, they had little in common except he liked her looks and so did she! When I spoke with him, his eyes glazed over and his attention span was reduced to zero. He heard nothing of my warning. I believe the writer of Hebrews was facing a similar situation within some of the early churches. He begins to warn them to not allow themselves to drift away into sin. Perhaps we also need to give heed to what Hebrews teaches “so that we do not drift away.” We begin…

I. By paying attention to what we have heard! (v. 2:1)
1. “Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?” – Jesus (Mark 8:18 NIV)
1) In most translations we have “therefore” which denotes that since God’s Son is way better than angels “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” So important was the message for the writer that he now pauses to give his readers the first of five dire warnings. (The others are in chapters 3-4; 5:11-6:20; 10:19-39; 12:1-29.) The believer’s attention span should not drift when it concerns spiritual matters of such primary importance! Yet far too often we allow ourselves to become distracted. We float from our church attendance, we coast from our allegiance to the body of Christ, or we waft from our daily devotions! It becomes easier to “go with the flow” of the world than to walk with the Lord of our life! This is why he would later use the “lettuce” sayings: “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart,” “let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess,” “let us consider how we may spur one another on,” and “let us not give up meeting together.” (Hebrews 10:22-25) Our lives are to be daily sacrifices to the Lord where we “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but (are) transformed by the renewing of (our) mind.” (Romans 12:1 NIV) Why? Because both Paul and the author of Hebrews understood that it is only then that we “will be able to test and approve what God’s will is.” When we allow ourselves to be spiritually distracted we drift into sin and then crash and burn. As James would warn that “each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15 NIV) Therefore, we should give heed to what Hebrews says “so that we do not drift away” by paying attention to what we have heard!
EXAMPLE: In the Disney Pixar movie “Up” there is a character called “Dug.” Dug is a lovable golden mutt living in the wilderness of Paradise Falls as part of a dog pack searching for a rare, flightless bird. Like the rest of his pack, Dug is outfitted with a remarkable high-tech collar that translates his thoughts into speech. But Dug is mocked by the rest of the pack. He is very easily distracted and in mid-sentence he will focus on whatever passes near him. In one particular scene Dug is explaining why he can talk, “My name is ‘Dug’ and I am just met you and I love you! My master made me this collar. He is a good and smart master. He made me this collar so I could talk… SQUIRREL!” When I saw this scene I thought, “Wow! That graphically displays a lot of Christians!” We are so easily distracted by the current trend of the world and so easily go with the flow. We should give heed to what Hebrews says “so that we do not drift away” by paying attention to what we have heard!

Some of might whine, “Why should I pay attention? Didn’t God save me and therefore no one can snatch me out of His hand?” As Jamie Hyneman of the TV show “Myth Busters” quips whenever an experiment fails, “Well there’s your problem!” The writer states exactly why we should give heed to what Hebrews says “so that we do not drift away.” We discover that…

II. Because the message is binding whether we believe it or not! (vv. 2:2-4)
1. “While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” – Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:3 NIV)
1) The author was aware that the message of the Gospel was extremely important. The Apostle Paul would ask, “What, then, was the purpose of the law?” (Galatians 3:19 NIV) The author of Hebrews tells why, “For if the message spoken by angels was binding and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” The answer is, “The Law was essential but this gospel is even more important, therefore, we will not escape!” And, like Paul, who knew “The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator,” the writer of Hebrews understood this message was far more critical! How then could anyone “ignore such a great salvation” that did not have to follow a bunch of rules but was based on and established on faith in Christ alone! Later the author would write, “See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?” (Hebrews 12:25 NIV) He enforces his argument by reminding them that, “God also testified to it (the gospel) by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” More than that, however, “This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him!” The author had evidently been one of those who had come to faith in Jesus as the Apostles had shared the gospel! Adam Clarke wrote, “Christ’s preaching was only a beginning of the great proclamation: it was his own Spirit in the apostles and evangelists, the men who heard him preach, that opened the whole mystery of the kingdom of heaven…. and consequently there was no excuse for their unbelief, and no prospect of their escape if they should continue to neglect it!” The same is true for us right now because the message is binding whether we believe it or not! Therefore, we should give heed to what Hebrews says “so that we do not drift away”!
EXAMPLE: We live in a world where fifteen minutes of fame has become more important than being respectful. Recently there was a bus monitor who was berated by a bunch of boys about her age and appearance. One of them actually video-taped it and put it on YouTube! One psychologist who was asked why “good boys would join in” remarked how they “probably had been bullied” at some point. HOGWASH! Those boys joined in because they are full of sin and live in a sinful world where such actions are lauded and placed on display for everyone to see! I am sure the parents of these Cretans are wondering, “How in-the-world did my son miss the message of respecting other human beings?” It is easy; they ignored it for a moment’s worth of selfish aggrandizement on YouTube! Some of them truly regret it now because what they did has consequences! The rest of the world has now seen them for what they were at that selfish moment. What we say we believe spiritually is forever binding. And this is why Christians should give heed to what Hebrews says “so that we do not drift away”!

Conclusion:

We should give heed to Hebrews and not drift away by paying attention to what we have heard and because the message is binding whether we believe it or not!

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 25 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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