Summary: All too often we see so many pickle-faced people in church.
PRESERVED, NOT PICKLED
INTRO: As a little boy, I remember my mother putting up jar after jar of food for the winter. My question was mostly the same: “What’s that?” She would patiently point out the various items of vegetables. Then she said, “This jar is preserves and these jars are pickles.”
When I got to science class, I discovered that my teacher used the words pickled and preserved inter-changeably in reference to the frogs, snakes, and other creatures in jars on display in her room. One day, I asked my mother what the difference was between pickles and preserves. Her answer was somewhat simplistic, I realize, but clear. She said, “Preserves are sweet and pickles are sour.”
It seems to me that God intends to preserve His saints to the end until He takes them to dwell with Him in the eternal kingdom. And yet, all too often we see so many pickle-faced people in church. As I read Psalm 121, I began to realize that God’s intention is to produce preserved Christians who can be sweetening agents in the world rather than pickled Christians to be sour agents. Notice the truths in Psalm 121 intended to aid the Christian in showing the sweetening power of God.
I. GOD IS OUR SUMMIT OF POWER (vv. 1-2).
It seems that the picture drawn here by the psalmist is of the post-Exilic period when the Jews would make their way to the newly rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. As they drew near to the city, the Temple would come into view and they would sing out the stanza, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” In simple terms this is an affirmation of faith in God’s power as a helper. The robbers would hide in the hills. The traveler would need help to be safe from the robber.
Our power to endure as Christians also comes from God rather than ourselves, as 2 Timothy 1:12 seems to declare. A positive reinforcement of this power which issues from outside ourselves is seen in the picture which Jesus drew of Himself as the Good Shepherd in John 10:25-30. He clearly stated there that God has His sheep firmly in His hand and nothing can ever take them out. This truth should seep deeply into the innermost reaches of the Christian’s heart to truly sweeten and preserve.
II. GOD IS OUR STANDARD OF PROTECTION (vv. 3-4).
During the biblical period, people had to travel in caravans to protect themselves from thieves. Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan shows us the risks one would take if traveling alone. The pilgrims had guards that stayed awake at night, protecting against possible attack. This Psalm reminded the guards of the standard of protection which God gives: “He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.”
God says to His children that we can rest assured and worry-free because our God is protecting us. We do not have to worry over whether or not we will be saved. We need not concern ourselves about whether or not we will be acceptable in the end. The apostle Paul reminded us in Phil. 4:7 that it is the peace of God which shall keep us. If we place our whole trust in God, He will make sure that we are protected from all wrong.
This does not mean that we will be protected from all physical dangers. Jesus Christ promised Christians that they would have to suffer for His sake.
Tragedy does not always avoid the Christian’s household. However, the promise that God makes through His Word is that no matter what happens to us, we will see Him on the other side of death. Our faith in His faithfulness assures that.
III. GOD IS OUR SOURCE OF PERMANENCE (vv. 5-8).
In ancient Palestine, the mid-day sun could be treacherous. And the nighttime held many superstitious fears. The moon was often looked on as evil. So, having someone along who could promise to see that neither the sun nor the moon would harm the travelers helped to make the trip more enjoyable. Other Psalms, such as the twenty-third, contain verses on the assurance of God’s presence through the good times and the bad.
If your faith is in Christ Jesus, then on the authority of God’s Word, you are saved. If you are trusting Christ Jesus alone for your salvation, the you have the promise of eternal life ( see John 6:47; 3:36; 5:24; 11:25; etc.). Getting hold of a truth such as that ought to make you want to stand up and shout. Better still, a truth like that should make you more determined than ever to allow the love of God to live through your life.
CONC: My mother made great preserves and pickles because she followed the recipe. I think God only intends to make preserves. He has promised that if we follow the recipe He has set down in His Word, we can be confident that our lives will have a sweet aroma and taste to those we see. As God has preserved us, let us be a sweetening, preserving agent in the world.