Surrounded by God!

Psalm 125

Many ways Israel pictures the church. On purpose, God’s design. Israel not the end of the line until God had to re-think his strategy. God hasn’t changed course, never will. Just like people of Israel called out of Egypt into covenant family, God’s elect called out of world into his family. Wasn’t immediate transition from Egypt to Canaan; wilderness experience in between. Same for believers – leave the world behind, yet still in it until God calls all the way home. Were brief periods of peace during Israel’s history, even then and rest of time were surrounded by enemies. Believers in all ages surrounded by enemies, more or less held at bay by God’s restraining hand according to his purpose.

Would be foolish to count on not having any enemies to contend with; like expecting winter in Maine without snow, spring without blackflies, summer without humidity, fall without colorful foliage. Just because enemies likely there, no cause for fear or anxiety. A while back, Psalm 34, considered great truth found verse 7: “The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them.”

Have experienced much blessing… God decides to change our circumstances, often tempting to respond with discouragement, defeat, even anger. Certainly not the example presented to us here. Looks at circumstances with that Sanctified Sight from 2 weeks past – seeing what God is doing, also seeing beyond immediate to big picture up to and including eternity! When have that perspective, the one surrounded by God is immovable, untouchable, desirable and peaceable, able with God’s help to weather whatever difficulties God sends our way.

A. immovable v.1 stability

from our side of the equation, is all about trust not toughness – no hint here of self-reliance, is total focus on dependence

New Age worldview says “look within yourself to connect with higher self and tap into cosmic force that will empower you”

Bible says “look outside yourself to the only Being who has the power to save you from yourself and all other dangers”

God is the only immutable Being – absolutely everything else subject to change, most is in process of change… for good or ill

no matter where you look – nature, society, government, physical self – nothing today same as was yesterday or last month

are pretty adaptable creatures, thank God for that; but… can only adapt / adjust well to changes when some part of life is stable

if you doubt that, consider friends / neighbors / family who do not “trust in the Lord” – like following a kitten: this way, that way…

those who do “trust in the Lord” – entirely different story; more like 18-wheeler than kitten: cross-winds may move it around, but stays in its own lane, maintains course

cannot over-emphasize – is not inner strength, resources that provide security; strength and stability comes from object of trust

picture a limpet – dome or cone shaped mollusk, <3″ dia, attach to rocks in inter-tidal areas; holding force up to 75 lbs/inif limpet is to be moved and survive, gotta move the whole rock; Christian should be like that, clinging to immovable mountain

stability comes from objective character of how things are, not subjective evaluation of present circumstances

“My security comes from who God is, not from how I feel. . . . The image [in Psalm 125] that announces the dependable, unchanging, safe, secure existence of God’s people comes from geology, not psychology.” — Eugene H. Peterson

easy trap to fall into – common question used to be “what do you think about that”, now it’s “how do you feel about that”

feelings fluctuate, objective truth does not; feelings relate to situation, truth is absolute and not relative

when circumstances / situations are against us, what do we focus on? – character of God, promises of God

B. untouchable v.2-3 protection

travelers, esp. from north, follow Jordan River valley to Jericho (800′ below sea level), then up to Jerusalem (elev. 2700′)

“Mount Zion is not the highest peak in the mountain range around Jerusalem. To its east lies the Mount of Olives, to its north Mount Scopus, to the west and south are other hills, all of which are higher than Mount Zion.” van Gemeren

remnant is idea associated often with God’s people – by definition a minority; means majority not God’s people, are all around

need to look with sanctified sight, see that is not only enemies surrounding, Someone else is out there, too

Jerusalem surrounded by other higher mountains on all four points of compass, gives significant advantage to whoever is there

“God’s protection of His people is not an appropriate use of the metaphor of mountains surrounding Jerusalem, for higher mountains around a city are as much a military handicap as an advantage.” Segal

not a handicap when it is God who is surrounding with his power and powerful army; on the higher mountains around is precisely where you would want your protective ring!

the Lord surrounding his people is complete ring of protection – no gaps in the circle, no areas of weakness or vulnerability

when trust is in the Lord, can rest in certainty that no enemy can sneak up on us, penetrate God’s protective circle without his knowledge, permission and continual oversight

God’s protection is all-encompassing, makes us untouchable except by what God purposes to use for our good

here’s one way petition “lead us not into temptation” works out – God does not allow ungodly to so prosper that godly are tempted beyond ability to withstand

apparent prosperity from evil not right under our noses to extent we try to join in; at same time, God limits oppression so not tempted to do wrong

God will not allow situation to become so desperate we need to do wrong in order to do right – father must steal to feed family

the person whose trust is in the Lord, who is a child of God cannot and will not be touched by anything God doesn’t allow

C. desirable v.4 blessing

not just Jews who are jealous – Rom. 11:11 “So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.”

people from all walks of life jealous of what God’s people have – not the stuff, instead the things you can’t buy at any price

unsaved have same basic needs, desires as saved; try to satisfy many with wrong things, following Satan’s lies – hoping power, position, possessions will fill void

they’re frustrated, jealous – see we have peace, contentment, relationships, stability, hope – want all that, try to get it, fail, get more frustrated, more jealous

must remember some things: our desirability to others, i.e. how much God blesses us with good, depends on our obedience

God won’t reward disobedience, does reward obedience; be careful, don’t work at obeying just for the goodies!

notice 2nd half of verse: is upright heart that results in doing good and then good / blessing from God

cannot simply take God’s protection and blessing for granted, live life without thinking about what is right and pleasing

also, important to remember God’s blessing is purely of grace, none of merit – we don’t earn blessing by obedience, we can count on God to be gracious

keep eyes open for opportunity – can use jealousy or desire of others as conversation starter that leads to Gospel truth

don’t be hasty – either answer too quickly with something that shuts conversation down, or, avoid giving the spiritual answers

how do you do what you do? how can you handle all this and that and the other? why do your kids treat you that way?

can give a snap answer that may be right but doesn’t encourage unbeliever to continue talking on the topic

be engaging, ask questions, draw out what they’re really thinking, what motivated their question, seek clarification so you’re using same dictionary (not parallel conversation)

try with help of Holy Spirit to explain: what they seek is really product of something else – saving relationship with Christ; can’t have one without the other – cannot enjoy blessings God’s people do without relationship with God

D. peaceable v.5 benediction

a caution and a hope – those “bent on traveling a sinful path” are warned, hope for those who are committed to following God

in God’s view of things, two basic categories of people – the elect (those who are being saved or will be), the reprobate (everyone else); iow, saved and lost

a subgroup of the lost identified: “such as turn aside” – those who know to do right, perhaps have attempted to do right even self-identified as Christians, persist in sinful lifestyle that distances them from God

warning here – straighten up and fly right… or else your end will be disaster and death: Luke 13:27 “But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.”

we can / should warn those who appear headed for destruction – God makes the rules, here’s what he says, take heed

hope for “Israel”, the people of God – God is not asleep, inattentive, uncaring about the circumstances of his people

in God’s time and way according to his purpose, God will deal with evildoers… all of them; he will do what is just

“But as for those who turn aside to crooked ways, the Lord will banish them with the evildoers. Peace be with Israel.” HCSB

God always restrains evil, has ever since the beginning when evil entered the world; sets limits, brings consequences

God will not allow evil and evildoers to continue unabated forever; he will deal with it, removing / distancing evildoers from sphere where his people are

peace that God brings to Israel, his people, can be viewed / prayed for in different ways

peace in the church: pray confidently that God will bring peace to his church, maintain peace within his church

God will enable us to be at peace among ourselves, removing evildoers and strengthening those who do good


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