Summary: Psalm 121:1-8 shows us how God helps his people.
Our various governmental agencies have directed that there be no meetings of ten or more people at the present time. This is because of the worldwide Corona Virus pandemic.
Like many churches, we wrestled with our response to the directive. Our Session decided that as a matter of prudence we should cancel worship services, until further notice. There are two reason for doing so.
Our first reason for obeying our government’s directive is because our government is acting in the best interests of its entire citizenry. Christians are not the only ones being singled out in this directive. No group of any kind of more than ten people are to meet together.
The second reason for obeying our government’s directive is because this pandemic is worldwide. In the past three days, I have spoken to family members on three different continents (in Africa, Europe, and South America), and at the present time their restrictions are even more severe than ours. This is a worldwide pandemic that countries all around the world are taking extremely seriously.
Now, we recognize that God commands his people to worship him every Lord’s Day. The Fourth Commandment says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). And in the New Testament, the writer to the Hebrews says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25, NIV84). Sometimes, however, we are providentially hindered from gathering together in person as the covenant people of God to worship our Triune Redeemer. Such providential hindrances include personal illness and weather-related closures due to snowstorms, hurricanes, flooding, fires, and so on that occur on the Lord’s Day. This pandemic is a providential hindrance that is so unusual that it seems wise to honor the government’s directive so as to stop as quickly as possible the virus from spreading. It is not a sin, therefore, not to meet together for corporate worship because of this extremely unusual providential hindrance. On the other hand, it is a sin not to meet together with God’s people for corporate worship when we are able to attend a corporate worship service.
I want to note that what we are doing via audio and (perhaps) video is not, properly speaking, a worship service. A worship service can only take place when God’s people meet together with one another and with their Triune God in one location. Video and audio feeds may be helpful in terms of instruction and edification, but it is not corporate, covenantal worship. Indeed, Dr. Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, recently said something like this, “Not gathering together on the Lord’s Day to be with one another and to worship our Triune God should make us yearn longingly to get back to it as soon as possible.”
I would like to make one further comment about this unusual situation in which we find ourselves. It is my intention to deliver a meditation suitable for the occasion. It is entirely fitting and appropriate to address the congregation in relation to the particular providence in which its members find themselves. Therefore, I am suspending my sermon series on “The Life of David.” Until we are able to resume our regular, gathered, corporate, covenantal worship services I plan to deliver a series of meditations titled, “Hope in Troubled Times.” These are not sermons, as a sermon is, according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, “a religious discourse delivered in public usually by a clergyman as a part of a worship service.”
So, as I thought about how to approach this unusual season in which we find ourselves, I thought and prayed about what to bring to you. We need hope in troubled times. With that in mind, I decided to begin with Psalm 121. I want to answer the Psalmist’s question in verse 1b, “From where does my help come?” When you and I face trouble, where does your help and my help come from?
Let’s read Psalm 121:1-8:
A Song of Ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.