My Father and I

Psalm 121

Family getting ready to go to event; mom, dad, two children, one at toddler stage still mastering intricacies of tying shoelaces. Not going especially well, everyone else ready to leave but shoes weren’t tied…yet. Window of flexibility rapidly closing, mom asked gently “would like me to help you with that?” Quick and determined response, “I do it myself, mommy!”

Was pretty much natural human response, had not been taught independence…yet. Can really relate to what toddler expressed – often first response when someone offers help, evaluate if we really need help. Is supposed to change at conversion: have come to end of self, acknowledge dependence on God. True believer knows only one who can be counted on at all times, in any circumstance is Yahweh – self-existent God in covenant with his people, who has bound himself to be their God and they his children.

Our problem, we forget we’re non-resident aliens here; instead, try to live as permanent residents. Means we get complacent, like our comfort zones, resist change. Longer we stay in one place, more confident we become in self, less dependent on God and his care of us. Annual pilgrimages ongoing reminder to Jews – wandering didn’t end when they crossed Jordan. We know ultimate destination, in general how to get there. Do not know details of all twists and turns of path God has called us to follow. So… each day should be like pilgrimage to Jerusalem – road trip with family, reminding one another of important spiritual truths along the way.

Overarching theme of this psalm – strong declaration of confidence in “the Lord our keeper”. shâmar: keep, preserve; found in v. 3b, 4b, 5a, 7a, 7b, 8a. So what does that mean in real life that the Lord is our keeper? How does knowing and believing it encourage and comfort us? Who is this God who keeps us? 4 statements: he is my Father whose power is before me; he is my Father whose providence is with me; he is my Father whose presence is beside me; he is my Father whose protection is around me.

A. My Father’s power is before me v.1-2

looks up toward the hills, his ultimate destination lies beyond – sometimes glimpses of Celestial City, at other times hidden by Hill Difficulty, obscured in Valley of Humiliation

what is source of help needed to navigate path, provide strength and guidance, comfort and encouragement

common answer today: go up to the high places and worship what you find there – 1 Ki. 14:23For they also built for themselves high places, sacred pillars, and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree.”

child of God sees beautiful scenery, wonder of natural world, knows better than to worship it; sees and acknowledges what he sees is there by design

answer to question in v.1 simple yet profound – help will not be found on the hills but in one who made the hills

probably have been in situation more often than you’d like: what comes next is uncertain, brain kicks into overdrive, imagining all the what-if’s, getting progressively more anxious – each round of the wheel more overwhelming

now think about this: look at the hills, look at heaven and earth, what power and wisdom was necessary to bring them into being

God our Father is committed to using that power for good of his children in all circumstances – do you suppose there’s any way God feels overwhelmed? of course not!

now look around, is there any place where you look that God is absent? if you are following him, not only God but also his power goes before you

important to remember – God does not force his help on his children; patiently allows us to discover and acknowledge our need

when we cry out to him for help, is never early and never late; neither overpowering nor underpowered

his power perfectly controlled, precisely directed, exactly what is right and necessary to bring about his good purpose in us

just as important, he cannot be overpowered by any outside force – if God created all things, he cannot create something that is more powerful than he is

if Heavenly Father is our helper, we need not fear being overpowered by anything directed at us; Father will never run short, will always be able to equip us to do our part against any threat or obstacle

B. My Father’s providence is with me v.3-4

change of pronoun from v.2 to v3. – “my eyes”, “my help” becomes “you” and “your”; who is psalmist addressing? two possibilities

if this is pilgrimage by families up to Jerusalem for feast, could easily be directing encouragement to fellow-travelers

if off by himself, either in reality or in his thoughts, might also be preaching to himself: self, you know that God will take care of you, provide for your needs

both are good things to do – for fellow believers and for ourselves; too many voices speaking falsehood to let all go unanswered, should counter with God’s truth at all opportunities

don’t forget: make it clear which God you are talking about when you declare he is your source of help

notice who is active now: “He who keeps Israel” – one with a track record that goes back a long time… and is flawless

is the same God, who is immutable / unchanging, committed to his people in a new and better covenant keeping us

since does not allow foot to slip means God’s keeping involves moment-by-moment watchful care over every aspect of our life

not a problem for our God, the true God, since unlike Baal (1 Kings 18:27-29) he needs no sleep – is always on duty

even further, assured he is never drowsy, failing to be alert to needs of his people; nothing escapes his notice, God is never in situation where he cannot respond to cry for help

his “keeping” now has plainly identified goal – keeps us safely on right path, providing for all our needs in this life and…

Jude 24 “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy”

our Father’s providential care is with us throughout this life, through the journey to next life, guaranteeing safe arrival at eternal destination according to God’s purpose

C. My Father’s presence is beside me v.5-6

yes, he’s our Father, but remember: “This is my Father‟s world, O let me ne‟er forget. That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.”

God is King and Keeper: immovably established on his throne (transcendent), at same time present in full strength with each and all of his people (immanent)

God does not rule by remote control, does not send subordinates to conduct affairs on his behalf; He is actively present, presently active

no delay in his care because of distance; no missed details, on either side of our circumstances – nothing comes at us without his knowledge / permission, no need of ours escapes his notice

God in role as keeper provides shade: is a shelter from all that would cause us harm; not only on duty 24/7, is present with us 24/7

when first daughter very small, shade tree in back yard also very small; did mean she could be outside but… only small patch of shade – to maintain protective shade, had to keep moving

doesn’t matter what moves: us on journey through life, movement of sun or moon (things around us), God and his shelter always in right place where we need it

at every moment day or night, should be assured of God’s presence at our side; is within our reach even if arms are short!

since God is intimately present with his people, have no need to fear what might come our way – no danger without his permission

probably been outside, starts to rain, take shelter under tree – stay dry, except for few drops that make their way down through leaves

similar situation, working in bright sunshine, make way to shade under large tree, finding shelter from heat of sun

in either circumstance, whatever reaches us has been filtered – whatever is providing shade takes brunt of rain or sun

Ps. 91:1He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” – is our Father who takes the beating, filters all that reaches us

one more thing – if a time of community or national hardship / calamity, Father will shield his children from worst of it

not always God’s purpose for us to come through those kinds of things unscathed; however… we have shelter, resources unbelievers do not

shade provides more than shelter – spending time in shade after heat of sun is source of refreshing, reinvigorating, renewing

think about how you feel before shade, then after; if “The LORD is your shade at your right hand”, can experience refreshing from him continually

why doesn’t it feel that way more often? to really enjoy shade, need to sit, rest, relax – how often are we still, resting in God

D. My Father’s protection is around me v.7-8

number of images come to mind: Roman military armor, no piece for the back; hackers and security vulnerability, they get your data; conquest of Babylon, divert Euphrates, walk under wall; points of weakness, lack of protection

put all statements in v.7-8 together, no areas of vulnerability in God’s shield of protection – completely surrounds us

absolutely no kind of evil that circumvents his protecting care – all = each, every, totality, no exceptions

not even those things that harm life, especially spiritual life can penetrate against God’s will; Father is committed to preserving / keeping our souls especially, our lives until they fill out number of days in his book allotted to us

important to remember Father is interested and involved in “going out, coming in” – mundane details of daily life, not only big stuff

like good Father, God doesn’t leave children to their own devices; keeps constant 360Later on, question asked: “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?Ps. 139:7 Want to hear, expect to hear in next verse: “duh, nowhere, of course”. Ok, so if that’s true, if God is my Father whose power is before me; he is my Father whose providence is with me; he is my Father whose presence is beside me; he is my Father whose protection is around me – how does that affect daily life?

Enables us to live confidently, with assurance. Hours before trial and crucifixion, Jesus: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 And then: “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4 Or how about this: “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith.” 1 John 5:4

Confidence, assurance, cheerful, overcomers, victorious, faithful. Should not be living as ones defeated, rather as those who are confident of success, Christ’s ultimate victory over all evil. Need not fear nasty neighbors, evil diseases, perverse human judges and their influence on others. Our Father is committed to his own glory and our good – his assignment to us: trust him in all things, do what we know to be right as we follow him. In other words…

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