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SERMON FOR THE WEEK: Weekly sermon: Where does my help come from?

Because opportunities to attend services may be limited for several weeks, the newspaper has invited local clergy to submit sermons for publication here.

Trinity Mennonite Church, Hillsboro

Have any of you been to the top of Pike’s Peak in Colorado?

What is at the top?

There is a monument to “America the Beautiful.”

My husband tells me that at the top of mountains in India there are prayer flags to Hindi gods. These prayer flags carry prayers via the wind to get them answered.

The same was true in the days the psalms were written. On top of the hills were monuments. Jerusalem was built on a hill and at the top is where the temple stood. On hilltops around Jerusalem were shrines of other gods.

Pilgrims en route to Jerusalem, especially from the north and east via the Transjordan and Jericho would face the wilderness hills, an ascent of 4,000 feet. It was a dangerous trek because of beasts and bandits.

One would look to these hills and see the temple, see the flags flying and see statues standing tall above it all. Some of these hills were the “high places” on which idolatrous sacrifices were offered to Baal and the goddess Astaarte. One could say, “I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does MY help come?

It is not from these hills. It is not from the monument that stands at the top of these hills. It is not from a number of Hindi gods. It is not even the temple of Jerusalem. None of these provide the help I need.

No, my help comes from the Lord who actually MADE these hills. My help comes from the Creator of heaven and earth.

Let me tell you about this God. This God is a keeper.

The word for keep is used 6 times in this psalm — in your translation it may have been translated “watch over.”

Baal falls asleep every hot summer and goes down below the ground.

The garden god hibernates for the winter and wakes up in spring.

But the Lord does not sleep; he never lets you go, and never lets your foot slip.

The Lord is your keeper. The Lord never rests, never leaves his post, never goes off duty, just as he never goes to sleep.

There is perhaps no better feeling than knowing that someone “has your back.” When someone has your back you can concentrate on the struggle in front of you without worrying about dangers you cannot see. When someone has your back you feel protected, secure, safe.

My help comes from the Lord! The wonderful implication here is, the adversary can bring it on but God is on the scene. God’s in charge now. No matter what comes, it can be handled. God has your back.

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.

God protects you day and night. The possibility of sunstroke in Palestine is real. Pilgrims had to cross difficult mountains, severe deserts, semiarid areas to get to Jerusalem.

I don’t know if we still practice it, but it used to be that when walking down the sidewalk in town, the gentleman would walk on the traffic side of the lady to protect her from all harm. God is the true gentleman; he walks with all pilgrims on the hot sunny side of the road to keep them cool in his shade. Just as we take shelter from the sun underneath umbrellas, so too can we find a safe place in the Lord.

For Israel, night was really dark. Also, darkness was then considered the origin of all evils that befall humans; and sickness was thought to originate in the demons that roam by night. Superstitions have abounded for centuries about the moon causing illness and affecting behavior. Just ask any ER nurse on full moon night. That’s when it gets crazy. There are several words for illnesses that have come to us from the word for moon. One word for moon is lunar. From this we get the word lunatic.

Many ancients believed that the moon’s light could make you mad. A Greek word translated epileptic means moonstruck. Perhaps the pilgrims had the same superstition; they are told sharply to forget it.

“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.”

Finally the blessing moves to the promise that God will keep the pilgrim from every kind of danger. The Lord will watch and protect from all evil, from all misfortune, from all harm, even your going out and your coming in. God will watch over all your undertakings and affairs.

God will keep your life, guarding you against all that can kill the soul, so you can forget your superstitious worries and fears. He who has kept you on your journey this far, the one who keeps your soul, will surely never let any harm befall you in days to come.

The trick in all this, though, is trust.

Letting someone come to your defense means you have to trust the source of the help. Think about it. Not trusting someone who has your back is pretty much the same as having two adversaries. So it is that these words come with a simple surety. Trust runs through the psalm like a drum keeping time. No doubt here. No wavering or wondering this proclamation. God won’t allow my foot to be moved. God doesn’t slumber or sleep. God is on the job.

The real relief, the only final comfort, is God, and we should refuse to let ourselves be satisfied with any resource but God.

While we can’t prevent trials, heartache, or loss, we can live with confident faith, relying on an ever-present Helper and Protector who watches over our lives.

Eugene Peterson says that all the water in all the oceans cannot sink a ship unless it gets inside. All the trouble in the world cannot harm us unless it gets between God and our trust in God’s love.

It would be an easy thing here to assume that trusting in God is equivalent to some kind of insurance policy. Not so. Life and death continue to flow forward bringing everything with it. Earthquakes, tornadoes, fires, wars, political elections, or flu viruses will not take a holiday because of our trust in God. What will evaporate, however, is the fear with which we confront life’s challenges. What will come is a confidence and sense of power that emanates from the sure feeling that God’s got our back.

“The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

When we use this psalm in prayer, we reassure ourselves that the Lord will never leave us, for He forms a protective covering over us. We lift our eyes to the Maker of heaven and earth because whether we are in times of sunshine or times of rain, whether day or night, we receive God’s gifts of protection, relief, and refreshment.

Do you feel alone, forsaken, abandoned, confused? Ponder the lyrics of Psalm 121. Allow these words to fill your soul with faith and courage. You’re not alone, so don’t try to do life on your own. Rather, rejoice in the earthly and eternal care of God as demonstrated in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever the next steps, take them with His help. God is with us, and we can call to the Lord even if we don’t feel God’s presence. God is faithful. God never leaves us.

That’s where MY help comes from!

Last modified April 8, 2020

 

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