Summary: An expositional message on the sovereignty of God.
June 30, 2002
The Rev’d Quintin Morrow
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
Ft. Worth, Texas
Recently, third- and fourth-graders at Wheaton Christian Grammar School in Wheaton, Illinois, were asked to complete the following sentence: “By faith, I know that God is…” And here is some of what the children said:
• “By faith, I know that God is forgiving, because he forgave in the Bible, and he forgave me when I went in the road on my bike without one of my parents” (Amanda).
• “Providingful, because he dropped manna for Moses and the people, and he gave my dad a job” (Brandon).
• “Caring, because he made the blind man see, and he made me catch a very fast line drive that could have hurt me. He probably sent an angel down” (Paul).
• “Merciful, because my brother has been nice to me for a year” (Jeremy).
• “Faithful, because the school bill came, and my mom didn’t know how we were going to pay it. Two minutes later, my dad called, and he just got a bonus check. My mom was in tears” (anonymous).
• “Sweet, because he gave me a dog. God tells me not to do things that are bad. I need someone like that” (Hannah).
It is no wonder, then, that during His earthly ministry our Lord Jesus thanked His heavenly Father for revealing the truths of the Kingdom, not to the worldly-wise, or accomplished, or educated, but to the simple and childlike. For it is they who often recognize what we fail to see.
Our entire lives, the sum of our Christian lives, our hope of heaven, and indeed our very next breath, depend upon two things: The power of God, and the character of God. If God is not omnipotent—if there is even one thing in the cosmos more powerful than He—then our lives are a crapshoot. Things like death, disease, disappointment, and desertion by loved ones really do have the last say, and we frail creatures that break so easily must crawl between heaven and earth, for our brief lives, in constant fear of the blind twists of misfortune. If God is not holy, and does not accomplish every thing He promises, how He promises, when He promises, we can have absolutely no confidence in what He says, no assurance of the forgiveness of our sins, no hope of heaven, no expectation of resurrection on the Last Day. Praise God, there is nothing in this universe more powerful than the Lord, and not a single atom which is out of His control; and praise God, He is holy—His character is flawless—and He can be trusted to the uttermost to do all He has promised to do.
Remember that the Psalter was the prayer book and hymnbook of the Old Covenant people, Israel. Psalm 121, the psalm appointed for today, is part of a grouping of psalms known as the “Songs of Ascent”; the King James Version of the Bible entitled them “Songs of Degrees.” Psalm 120-134 are all Songs of Ascent. These psalms are called the Songs of Ascent because they were sung by pilgrims as they went up to Jerusalem to worship for holy days. Only three of these Songs of Ascent have authors known to us: Psalm 127 was written by Solomon, and Psalms 131 and 133 were written by David. The author of Psalm 121 is unknown, but no doubt he was a pilgrim inspired by God to write and sing of the Lord’s power and impeccable character, for so he did.
Psalm 121 can be divided thematically into two parts quite neatly. Verses 1&2 discuss believers looking up to the Lord for help; verses 3-8 describe the Lord looking out for believers. The title of the message this morning is “Finders, Keepers.” As we will soon see, when we find the find the Lord, He is able to keep us.
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills; from whence cometh my help? My help cometh even from the LORD, who hath made heaven and earth (Ps. 121:1-2, Coverdale Psalter).
The King James Version translated Psalm 121:1 in such a way that wrongly led readers to the conclusion the psalmist was looking to the hills for help. The Coverdale Psalter used in our prayer book is more accurate. Here, the pilgrim-psalmist looks on the mountainous region of the City of Jerusalem, and the mountain-top Temple where God promised to allow His presence to reside, and asks where reliable help can be found. The only answer? Verse 2: My help comes from the LORD who made everything.
Let me tell you what we are prone to do. Most of us are content to live with the Lord on the periphery of our lives. And then when we are faced with turmoil, need, or pain we go to our little bag of tricks—our wit, our money, our education, our good looks, our friends—for relief. When they are all exhausted we start to worry. And when we are barely making it, hanging by our proverbial fingernails, then we call out to God to help us out of our jam. But that isn’t how we are supposed to live our lives believers. We are supposed to live lives of daily trust, obedience, worship, and love, so that when we are confronted with the vicissitudes of life our first response is not to look down in fear, or to look around for a way of escape, but to look up to the Lord for help. Isaiah 55:6 admonishes to seek the Lord while He may be found, and to call upon Him while He is near. Where else can succor and comfort and provision and protection be found? The psalmist asks a question expecting a negative answer—nowhere. Everything in this life can by death, disease, time, deceit, or misfortune be taken from you. Nothing of your own making has the permanence or the power to save you; that’s why, as Isaiah 44 points out, idolatry is so ironic. Idolatry posits that you make a god yourself, with your own skill, then fall down before it and ask it for help. Look for help in the only place where real help can be had: The Lord who made everything. That is to say, the Lord who is omnipotent. Pleasure, and pills, and possessions, and position are not capable of helping you. There are plenty of ways these days to drown your sorrows, but sorrows know how to swim. Everywhere else you turn besides the Lord you are only going to find cut-rate saviors and discount deities. My help cometh even from the LORD, who hath made heaven and earth.