1 I will lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence comes my help? 2 My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. 3 He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade at your right hand. 6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night. 7 The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in From this time forth, and even forevermore.
Death was walking toward a city one morning and a man asked, "What are you going to do?" "I’m going to take 100 people today," Death replied. "That’s horrible!" the man said. "That’s just the way it is," Death said. "That’s what I do." The man hurried to warn everyone he could about Death’s plan. As evening fell the man saw a newspaper that said 1000 had died that day in the city. Just as he arrived at his home he met Death again. "You told me you were going to take 100 people," the man said. "Why then did 1,000 die?" "I kept my word," Death responded. "I only took 100 people. Worry took the rest."
Are you worried about anything today? Odds are that someone is. Worry seems to be an epidemic in the world in which we live. Some years ago, the Mayo Clinic stated that statistically 80 percent to 85 percent of their total case load were ill either in reality or artificially due directly to worry and anxiety. Many experts say that coping with stress is the #1 health priority of our day. One leading physician has stated that, in his opinion, 70% of all medical patients could cure themselves if only they got rid of their worries and fears. Medical science has closely tied worry to heart trouble, blood pressure problems, ulcers, thyroid malfunction, migraine headaches, and a host of stomach disorders. An estimated 25 mill Americans have high blood pressure due to stress/anxiety. 8 million have stomach ulcers. Every week 112 million people take medication for stress related symptoms.
When you feel unsettled, unsafe, you need help. Psalm 121 is a great reminder of our only and ultimate security. Three times a year, faithful Israelite families would march from the small towns of their nation to the proud city of Jerusalem, home of Solomon’s Temple. The capital sat on a hilltop, so no matter what direction you came from, you could truthfully say you were “going UP to Jerusalem.” And as these pilgrims walked, they would often sing together, to pass the time. (This was before cell phones, you see.) Psalm 121 is one of a number of “Ascent psalms,” sung on the way up to Jerusalem. Look at the opening two verses:
“1I will lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence comes my help? 2 My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.”
Lots of things promise help today, the latest pharmaceutical on TV will take away your pain, or help you forget you ever had it. It will cure your depression, and give you zest for life once again. Alcohol will numb your fears. Drugs claim to bring life more vividly. Hobbies keep your mind busy. Close friends bring fulfillment. But ultimately, our help comes only from the Lord, the one true God, Maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 121 reminds us of three great ways God helps us. Consider them with me on your outline. How does God help? 1. God watches over you always (vv. 3-4) Verses 3 and 4 give the image of one who stands guard over us 24/7:
3 He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep.
A big no-no in the military is falling asleep while on guard duty. When it comes to the military’s mortal sins, falling asleep on guard duty is right up there with losing your weapon. It’s a huge deal, it could be the difference between life and death! And here we see that God never slumbers, He never sleeps. Why? Because He is on guard duty. He’s watching over you 24/7. The Hebrew word for “watch over” or “keep” appears six times in this short poem, the same amount of times as the word “Yahweh,” or “Jehovah,” interpreted here as “The LORD.”
Our God, Yahweh, has our back. He watches over our lives, day in and day out. Sometimes you pray and you see nothing happen, and you wonder if God is asleep at the wheel. No, He is not. Just because He hasn’t answered your prayer the way YOU thought was best doesn’t mean He hasn’t answered your prayer. God is always at work in and around you. He always has your best interests at heart. He is infinitely in love with you and will stand for nothing less than your very best.
Know that you are guarded, 24/7. God has angels watching over you. And God himself is on guard duty. And secondly, know that... 2. God protects you always (vv. 5-7a)
5 The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade at your right hand. 6 The sun shall not strike you by day, Nor the moon by night. 7 The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul.
Remember, this was one of the songs sung by Israelites walking up to Jerusalem. Can you imagine the hot dry sun beating down on you in the desert? A rare shade tree became a refreshing oasis. On the other hand, the moon reminds us of the dangers of the night, robbers and wild animals. Day or night, God will “keep you from all harm.” He gives round-the-clock protection.
Can you say with me what the Apostle Paul said in…
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
God is your protector, always. He will “watch over your life.” Your ultimate security—from COVID-19, from the regular flu virus, from every sickness and illness known to mankind, everything that is happening in our world today. Your only real security is found in God. Charles Stanley writes, “Why worry? The omnipotent Lord of the universe has declared His unending love for you and will never fail in protecting you.”
Yet, we all know that bad things happen to good people. And we know that death comes for us all, unless Jesus comes first. So how can God keep us from ALL harm? Hold that thought; we’ll come back to it in a minute. And consider lastly, that you are not alone because... 3. God is with you always (vv. 7b-8)
7 The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. 8 The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in From this time forth, and even forevermore.
Let’s pick up on the second half of verse 7 and then verse 8:
“7b He shall preserve your soul. 8 The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in From this time forth, and even forevermore.”
God is always watching over you. Not in a negative sense, waiting for you to trip up, “I caught you now! I knew you were going to go for that extra dessert!” No, God is the most loving, non-manipulative parent, not one to impose guilt every chance He gets. God watches over you with the promise of His presence. The phrase, “going out and your coming in” refers to the everyday ebb and flow of life. Certainly, God was with you in those big moments, when you got married, when you had a child, when you got promoted, when you lost a spouse, lost your job and when you moved here. God was with you in those moments.
But God is with you in the little moments too… when you wake up in the morning, when you eat breakfast, when you take a walk, when you watch a movie, or write an e-mail, or meet someone for lunch, when you go to bed at night. God is there. If you’re a believer, everywhere you go, the Holy Spirit goes with you. He knows our fears, our worries, He knows what we are going through. And He promises to be with us every step of the way. He alone knows what is best. He’s already had it written down in His book.
This was the big promise Jesus made to his disciples, in John 16:7…
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.
The Holy Spirit is your advocate. He fights for you. He stands up for you. He speaks out for you. He is always with you. He is the very Spirit of Jesus Christ; the Trinity: three yet one. That’s why Jesus could truthfully say, right before he ascended back to heaven…
20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
And so that care extends from this life to the next; you see it in the little phrase, “both now and forevermore.” That’s why, for the believer, death has lost its sting. When Jesus walked free of the grave, He broke the power of sin and death for all time. In him, we have life, eternal life, forever life. So we don’t have to be afraid. What’s the worst that could happen? We die and go to heaven. Not too shabby, right? I like how the NIV Jesus Bible puts it: “Followers of Christ will not be kept from difficulty, but they WILL be kept.” Remember, six times in this poem, it says God will “keep you” or “watch over you.”
God watches over you, always. God protects you, always. God is with you, always. You belong to the One who controls the whole universe. So have no fear and know that you are in good hands.
Thank you, Father, for your protective hand over each one of us. Thank you that we can sing, like the Israelites, of your great love and protection. We need you, because you are our very life. Help us all to turn our fears into faith, as we reach out to Jesus, the Lover of our souls. And to know that You are in control and will never leave us or forsake us. We pray this in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.
Pastor Richard Santos
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