STUDY IN THE ASCENT PSALMS
Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford
Today is our second day in the study of the “Ascent Psalms” – Psalms 120-134. Have you read them yet? Have you read them in one sitting? I think you will be amazed with at least TWO observations:
#1 You will wonder why it has been so long before you discovered them
#2 You will marvel at how much “good stuff” of blessing to your heart you find in them!
Do you remember our “Theme Verse”?
“Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage. (Psalm 84:5 NKJV). Pastor Eugene Peterson, famed editor of “The Message”, described the Ascent Psalms as “a long obedience in the same direction”. That is what our journey with the Lord should look like, How are you doing?
Today we are in Psalm 121. Without question, this was my mother-in-law’s favorite chapter in the scripture. In fact, at her funeral after her passing at age 91, her nephew – a Baptist pastor – used Psalm 121 as his text for her remembrance.
Perhaps today you, too, will find the joy that my wife’s mom found in this precious chapter.
“Father – as we enter what may be for some familiar territory, and as it might be for some new ground, may the Spirit of God be our Teacher.
Draw our hearts to a fresh walk with You.
With thanksgiving, in Jesus’ Name. Amen”
OUTLINE OF PSALM 121 (Dr. W. Graham Scroggie)
- The Divine Help Proclaimed (vs. 1-2)
- The Divine Help Promised. (vs. 3-8)
(a) Sleepless Watching (vs. 3,4)
(b) Complete Protection (vs, 5,6)
(c) Inclusive Assurance (vs. 7,8)
SOME INTERESTING INSIGHTS
- In the King James Version, verse 1 is a statement:
“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.”
BUT in the Hebrew, it is in the form of a question, as properly evidenced in the New King James Version:
“I will lift up my eyes to the hills— From whence comes my help?”
Why do you think this change – from a statement to a question – is important to our understanding? Perhaps it is because NOW it directs the reader to SEARCH his/her heart as to where the true “Source” (capital “S”) or “source” (small “s”) of their hope is!
Ask YOURSELF – where is the true Source of YOUR hope? Are you dependent upon your own wisdom, or on earthly helps? Or are you REALLY dependent upon the One Who alone can be our Help?
In verse 2, the psalmist tells us that his Help is the Lord – and the Source of his help is specifically identified as the One “Who made heaven and earth”. Can you say that about anyone or anything else? No? Then Who should be YOUR help?!!!
2. Every now and then, the Lord in His wisdom directs His writers to talk about a part of the body!
In verse 3, is the “foot”. The Lord is such an Helper that He won’t even allow your FOOT to be moved – literally, like on a banana peel, the foot will not slip! Now THAT sounds like sure FOOTing! (couldn’t resist, Brother Frank – sorry!).
And note verse 5: “the Lord is your shade at your RIGHT HAND”. Now why is THAT part of the body important? Perhaps it is because throughout Scripture the “right hand” is the place of control, of authority, of power. Where does the Lord Jesus sit today? Is it not at the Father’s RIGHT HAND (Psalm 110:5). And while he was being stoned to death as the church’s first martyr, where do the Scriptures say Stephen saw the Lord Jesus? “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the RIGHT HAND of God.” (Acts 8:56) Did you note that Stephen saw Jesus STANDING? What a way to be welcomed into Stephen’s new eternal home!.
3. I really like the thought in verse 3, repeated in verse 4, that “He Who keeps Israel shall neither SLUMBERS nor SLEEPS”. So have you ever told someone, “I slumbered today”? But you HAVE told them, “I SLEPT in today”, right? What’s the difference? To “sleep” is to take a long restful repose from the cares of your day. But to “slumber” is to do what most of us do, take “cat naps” – to get our eyes closed long enough to get that sleepy feeling out of us and a sense of energy back in. God doesn’t need EITHER!!! On our journey of faith, His oversight of His sojourning children never stops – He neither slumbers nor sleeps. And He does that for EACH of us, sees us as INDIVIDUALS, all at the same time. Wow!
4. Finally, the psalmist has a key theme repeated throughout these verses, and all teach us MUCH about our amazing Heavenly Keeper:
* v. 7: God shall WHAT? He shall PRESERVE us from evil; He shall PRESERVE my soul – my innermost being!
* v. 8: God shall do WHAT? He shall preserve my going out and my coming in!
* v. 8: God shall do this WHEN? He shall preserve me “from this time forth, and even FOREVERMORE”!!!
I can’t help but think this: IF God is the One Who never slumbers nor sleeps (and He IS!), and He is the Preserver of my soul (and He IS!), AND He is going to be my soul’s Preserver, even when I’m coming in and going out, and even from this time forth and forevermore (and He IS!) – how should that affect the way I live?
Shouldn’t I be living with a focus on the end result of my sojourn – even Heaven itself?
And if THAT is true, shouldn’t I be living TODAY with a focus on the One Who is overseeing, protecting, and even preserving my journey and even my soul – even the Lord Himself?
Father, this psalm is amazing! My heart was born with an hunger to know from where is my help, and in my soul search, in my journey, I have found where my true Help is – YOU alone!
There is none like YOU. You are my Protector and my Preserver. And you are the Hope of my sojourn.
Remind me every day – “from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord Who made heaven and earth.”
And we all give you all the praise.
In Jesus Name. Amen!