December 12, 2008

My Help Comes From the Lord! ~ Psalm 121

Psalms 121
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 and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

This Psalm is one of the “Psalms of Ascent,” often thought to be sung by pilgrims on the way to Zion during one of the annual feasts (Exo. 34:23; Deut. 16:16; 1 Sam. 1:3; Luk. 2:41). You can imagine the psalmist, looking off into the distance at the foreboding journey, and feeling quite uneasy about what lies ahead.

                In some ways, I can see this psalm as a parable of my own life and faith. I will often find myself imagining Jesus saying to me, “O, you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mat. 8:26; Mat. 14:31; Mat. 16:8; Luk. 12:28). The arrows come from all sides, “Fear this! Fear this!” Pondering the journey ahead, just as the psalmist looked to the hills towards Zion, we can’t help but ask in our hearts, “From where does my help come?” Some may not even ask the question at all. Instead they just assume there is no help coming, and we need to rely on our own strength or we will fail.

                We know better than this, right? We must ask the question, if only for a chance to give the answer: 

~My Help Comes From the LORD~

                Easy to say, but on what basis can we say that? Why should I be confident in the Lord’s help? Well, for one, he is able, seeing as he “made heaven and earth.” Hebrews 11:3 says this:

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

How often do you stop to consider this simple fact - “He created the universe?” Think about it, and you can see where the psalmist is going. If we confess (as every Christian does) that God made the universe, what exactly are we saying if we don’t trust him? Obviously, he’s powerful enough to help (he made the universe!). Then what? By not trusting him, we are essentially saying that either he is not good, or he is not on our side.

                We know better than this, because we know that he keeps (guards) Israel as a people, and anyone who is in Israel as an individual. We might also say that he keeps and guards Christ, and anyone who is in Christ. On what basis? Well, Jesus prayed for it:

And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:11-15, 20-21)

In many ways, our foundation is more secure than the psalmist, since we know him – not only as Creator of the universe and keeper of Israel, but also as Redeemer and Friend (John 15:13). We also have the confidence of rock solid logic. That is, we believe that Christ died for our sins. More than that, we believe that the Father sent his Son with the express purpose of dying for our sins. Therefore, if he has already done the most difficult thing to keep us, guard us, and save us, how can we not trust him in the infinitely smaller and easier things (cf. Rom. 8:31-32)?

                Never lose sight of the glorious gospel of Christ, and never stop pursuing a deeper understanding of it. For the gospel is the power of God, not only to bring us to Christ, but to keep us in Christ. Belief in the gospel is not only the means by which we are justified (that is, forgiven and counted righteous before God), but it is also the means by which we are being sanctified (that is, made to be righteous).

                We have a superior revelation and a better covenant than the psalmist, so our hope should be all the surer. If we can confidently say in our hearts, “My help comes from the LORD,” then we have found the key to overcoming sin and temptation, fear and unbelief, and any troubles that we encounter in this life – from this time forth and forevermore.

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