Summary: The universal question: Is there help? Ps 121 has the (only real) universal answer.
THE PASTOR’S POINTS
sermon ministry of
CEDAR LODGE BAPTIST CHURCH
a fellowship of faith, family and friendships
Dr. Russell Brownworth, D.Min., Pastor
(An Easter Sunday message)
April 11, 2004
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From whence shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD,Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip;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 will not smite you by day,Nor the moon by night. The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The LORD will £guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever. Psalm 121:1-8 (NASB)
From where does your help come? In which direction do you turn when life runs over you like a cement truck? Almost anyone in our culture will admit they turn to God in prayer; a very large percentage of Americans admit to believing in God and prayer.
But “praying to God” can mean different things to different people! The beliefs of many religions conflict; not all of them can be right. For instance, believing that God hears all prayers is as naïve as believing that God would hear the prayers for victory of both the Atlanta Braves and the New York Yankees should they meet in the World Series again. The Yankees pray to be world champs; the Braves ask the Lord, help us defeat the Yankees. It cannot be both ways. (Anyway, everyone knows He is a Braves fan!).
Consider the many and varied religious beliefs about prayer in today’s world cultures:
there are Native Americans praying to the Great Spirit;
Wicca (witchcraft) prays to “Mother nature”
Unitarian Universalists pray to themselves
…and New Age adherents of all kinds send their prayers to anything Shirley MacLaine has dreamed about.
In America today we are asked to go past “tolerance” (being gracious to exist side-by-side in peace) and all the way to valuing each of these belief systems as equal. The problem remains; when one system of belief says you pray to Buddha, another to Allah, some to the wind, and others to God through Jesus Christ, somebody has got to be wrong and someone right.
If I have a plug on the end of my toaster and there is a choice of 110, 220 and nuclear reactor, I can only be right in one outlet…the others will fry me!
The Psalm we just read shows us how our Jewish brothers made use of a litany in worship to ensure that prayers for help would always be directed toward the one true God. Lifting up your eyes to the mountains is the Psalmist’s way of saying – look to Jerusalem – the hills where we worship Jehovah, the deliverer…that’s where real help comes from!
And, they do not mean the hills, as if mountains or nature provides deliverance. Indeed, nature is the opposite of a deliverer; nature can be, and most often is cruel and harsh.
Gazelles being chased by lions know this!
Victims of earthquakes understand how grisly “Mother” nature can be.
Fire destroys homes even on Walton’s mountain.
The psalmist was not looking at the hills; he was looking to the God he meets at the temple built on the hills of Jerusalem.
This Psalm is one of many Songs of Ascent; these songs were sung as worshippers went up to gather at the temple. It was used in worship rituals as the worshipper would approach the priest:
I lift up my eyes to the hills (where my God resides)
The priest responds: Where does your help come from?
The worshipper: My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth!
We do much the same when we invite God to be honored by our worship, and we ask in Jesus’ name that He receive our worship. It is an affirmation by the whole congregation that our prayer is to God.
The ancient and modern Jew state the She’ma daily, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one God, we affirm (to the exclusion of all other gods) – Our God Reigns!
Why do we do that? Look at the calendar – it is Easter; resurrection has dawned. The dead man got out of a tomb and we are following Him. AMEN!
A Muslim in Africa became a Christian and some of his friends asked him, “Why have you done such a thing?” He answered, “Well, it’s like this: Suppose you were going down the road and suddenly the road forked in two directions. You didn’t know which way to go; and there at the fork were two men—one dead, and one alive—which one would you ask to show you the way?”