“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.” (Psalm 121:1–2)
There is a collection within the psalms known as the Songs of Ascent. Pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem for the feasts sang these psalms on their way up the 2,700 foot climb to the holy city. The pilgrims would be begin with Psalm 120 and work their way up toward Jerusalem and the temple reading or singing their way through to the last Song of Ascent, Psalm 134. The progression of the psalms in this collection are representative of the various stages along the journey.
The pilgrims traveled oftentimes dangerous trails and roadways and were frequently confronted with a variety of unforeseen circumstances and conditions. As one journeyed up to Jerusalem, one could easily be consumed with these struggles and soon find oneself feeling overwhelmed and helpless. Does this sound familiar? Have you been there recently? If not, you may be there before long. We live in a fallen world full of struggles and difficulties, some of our own making and some which are not. The psalmist’s perspective is helpful at times like these.
The nature of these particular psalms was to remind and focus the sojourners on their destination point, rather than to consume them with the difficulties and helplessness they were sure to face along the way. “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 does not look to himself (a creature), rather, he looks to the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth, who is a certain and steady source of help. When the psalmist’s head is low, down in the plains, he feels helpless, but when he lifts his head to look upon the Lord, he is immediately reminded of the source of his rescue.
In an age obsessed with self-help, one would think that we’d be especially aware of our inability to provide ourselves the real help we are in constant need of. Yet, we are tempted to turn to ourselves and everywhere else, except up to the all sufficient grace of 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.” (v. 3-8)
We are back in the book of Genesis, after a break for Holy Week and resurrection Sunday, and return to the scene of Noah, the ark and the flood. Our passage ends with the safe arrival of Noah and his passengers on dry land, but there a few strange things that happen in the interim. Wouldn’t you just love to be a fly on the wall on that ark (were there flies on the wall?)? It couldn’t have been an easy trip. The ride was longer than 40 days, lasting over a year in total.
We’re going to look at the journey from two vantage points: from what God remember and from what Noah remembered. Your actions says a lot about your perspective, and this passage has a way of discerning that perspective. My hope is that it will give you a new perspective and allow you, not only to persevere through challenging times, but will arouse you to worship God through them.
We have reached our second week in the story about Noah, the ark and the flood and find ourselves face to face with the execution of God’s judgment on mankind. It is a sobering account of the de-creation of the world to the point where all that is left is the waters over the deep, and the only living things, with the breath of God in them, are nestled away secure in the ark. As you read this week’s passage (and I hope you do). Give some thought to exactly what is happening. Remind yourself of the reasons why this is happening and the extent to which man has fallen, and still remains fallen to this day. It all points to a greater truth, that no sin goes unpunished by God, but your punishment for sin can be escaped. We are assured that God’s judgment will still be reckoned for our sins, but His grace is also given that each may have the opportunity to escape it. Knowledge of God’s judgment sweetens the message of God’s grace.
I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O Lord. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation. (Psalm 40:8-10)
Did you read that?! The psalmist cannot restrain himself from proclaiming the glad news of how he has been delivered by the faithfulness of God’s salvation. He has not restrained his lips or hidden the news in his heart, but has spoken of it to the great congregation. What an encouragement to tell everyone the glad news of our own salvation and deliverance through the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Like the psalmist, we are recipients of God’s promise to rescue us from our sins and provide an eternal inheritance in His presence.
The Christian faith rests on what God has done for us and what He faithfully offers to all. If we believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we will not be able to conceal it from others. It will well up and pour out of us. Those outside the faith may know we are different by our actions, but they won’t know of Jesus unless we, as the psalmist reminds us, tell others by speaking of Him and the Gospel. I can think of no better time to speak of and proclaim God’s steadfast love and faithfulness than as we approach holy week. Easter, or Resurrection Sunday, is a special time to tell others this great historical truth and glad news of our deliverance by a Savior. It is by far the most glorious date in the Christian calendar, for without the resurrection the news would in no way be glad.
Won’t you consider inviting a friend or family member to church on Easter Sunday and maybe even for lunch or dinner thereafter to talk more about Jesus? I will be preaching and explaining the glad news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Your friends and your family will undoubtedly experience the saints singing with unrestrained lips of joy. O for Christ has risen and we wouldn’t dream of concealing it.