From the Vale to the Summit

Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there expecting thank you, because without you, we would not be here today. That's my dad joke. So now we have a complete Mother's Day. Thank you so much for entertaining that. Hey, happy Mother's Day to you online as well. Mom, if you're watching, I'm in a room full of awesome mothers and you're still the best. So happy Mother's Day, Mom. I love you. Can't wait to see you soon. Hey, if you have your Bibles, open to Psalm 121. Psalm 121, we will be there for the majority of this morning and we'll be doing some flipping back and forth from passages. There's pens in front of you. We'll be doing a lot of scripture. So if you want to write down those references, because time may be a little short today, Psalm 121. Hey, I'm going to start out with a question. What did you guys do to pass the time like a long road trip? A lot of people today will turn on a podcast or sports radio or an audio book. My go to back in the day. I had mixed tapes. Yeah. You know, the time where you would listen to the radio and you got to push record as soon as that song came on. Otherwise you missed it. We would go on vacations and listen to these mix tape. And I of course, my parents control the radio.

So it was late seventies and eighties and nineties music. I grew up listening to. I'm still very fond of all the memories we created on our road trips. Well, this song right here, Psalm 121. All these songs were sung to music and it's called the Song of ascents. From one twenty to one thirty four tradition holds that pilgrims traveling back to Jerusalem would sing these songs. And I remember Judah and Israel were taking over. They were captured and they were dispersed throughout all the land, the subjected people to their captives. And so they'd come back to Jerusalem three times a year for certain festivals. Every able-bodied male and his family, if they could make it, they'd come. And as they got closer to Jerusalem, they'd see more pilgrims. And sometimes they would take weeks, days, depending how far away they lived. Some would come from other countries. They weren't just locally as they got closer and they saw the the hills, the sounds, maybe the temple, they begin to sing these songs of ascent. And it's called songs of ascent. It's not the best you can see here. It's better because of where Jerusalem was situated. Jerusalem is situated twenty five hundred feet above sea level. Case in point here, Jericho down here. Jericho is actually below sea level. Seven hundred and twenty feet. And so you're hiking up this ascent, if you will, even if you came from far away countries from taller mountains when you landed near Jerusalem, there's valleys surrounding it.

You could go down into the valley and then climb this ascent up to the mountain, up to Jerusalem. And so the songs of a sense is what they're called. Well, perhaps these were not originally composed for this purpose. These songs were later grouped together for use in traveling towards Jerusalem for their yearly Jewish festival. They became known as the Pilgrim Songs and really the songs for all believers. Are we all pilgrims traveling from this world to the next? This song was not only song for traveling mercies and protection. It was also a song of salvation as we'll read later on of our eternal destination as in verse eight, we just read talks about God being today and forever with us. It's a beautiful song of God's providential care and protection for his children. It's a reminder that God actively is involved your life, that he never, never sleeps nor slumbers always with a watchful caring eye on you. I call this message from the Vale or the Valley to the Summit, because we're all on this journey, this spiritual journey of life. And we know whenever we gather to worship like we are today, in essence, we are ascending to him because God is otherworldly. He's holy, which means he's set apart distinct, different above us, literally holy.

Just, perfect. So different. And so like we are ascending to him on this journey as pilgrims from this world into the next. And so before we continue, I'm going to ask you guys to join me in prayer. Father, we we come to you today and and ask that you would open up our hearts and minds and give us understanding into your word. Father, I think of Moses when he ascended the Mount Sinai and you told him this was a holy place to take off his sandals. We're in your direct presence through the blood of Jesus Christ. That temple veil has been rent in half from top to bottom. And we stand before you. God we are in the presence of your spirit. We have access to you, our great keeper, provider, protector, shield, high tower. So Lord would you make my words Your words. May they be edifying, encouraging, uplifting. In Jesus name I pray. Amen. So these eight verses and Psalm 121, I'm going to tackle them two verses at a time. I think they go really well together. So let's go over the first two verses. I lift my eyes up to the hills from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. If I could summarize these two verses, it's that God saves us. Now, picture yourself in this journey that you're a pilgrim coming from, let's say, Jericho.

Seven hundred and twenty feet below sea level and you're trekking up this terrain now. You would need supplies for the journey, water, food, protection. Most times the pilgrims are traveling with other people, friends and family, maybe other villagers. You're actually a target for robbers. In fact, the Good Samaritan was on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he found the man who was robbed and beaten and left for dead. Same journey, same trek that he's taken. So your a target kind of like a tourist who goes to a tourist town and that person sticks out. They got money. That's what the robber's looking for. In addition to that, you saw that trek, the thousands and thousands of feet of different elevation. You're going uphill. Not only that. It's hot, it's desert, sun stroke. Make sure you bring enough water and food for the little ones even. And at night, the desert can even have these wild range of temperatures and you can be cold if left unprepared. So you gotta carry maybe extra tunics or coats. The Psalmist understands the danger that lies before him and asked for help recognizing he needs it. This officer is not only referring to the physical dangers that I mentioned and the elements, but also the spiritual dangers as well. In Hebrew culture, the hills or the high places, maybe in your translation, were locations of worship.

And unfortunately, there was places of idolatry even in Israel during that time. Jeremiah Chapter three, verse six says this During the reign of King Josiah, the Lord said to me, Have you seen what fickle Israel has done? Like a wife who commits adultery Israel worshipped other gods on every hill and under every green tree. The hills symbolize the treacherous journey both ahead of the physical dangers, but also the spiritual ones. The hills in this context and Psalm 121 are the source of the trouble and the reason for the question where does my help come from? And as pilgrims ourselves journeying from this world to the next, we can look around in the high places of our culture in broad daylight and seen people worship false gods. The pressure, the temptation to bow down to these idols even exists for us as believers, maybe you are here today asking the same question, where does my help come from? Life is tough already as it is with all the physical challenges, let alone the spiritual warfare behind the scenes. Like the Psalmist, we're asking, where does our help come from? Well, who made these hills? This Psalmist answers - the Lord who made heaven and earth. That's where our help comes from. If he has the power to create the earth, he has the power to defend his people as well. When you realize that the maker of heaven and earth, the hills that are situated on top of these places of idolatry, that he himself has sovereign and control and powerful and created that, these hills become a little less menacing.

See, I think this song is much bigger in perspective and talking more than just a road trip to Jerusalem while were singing these songs. I think he's talking about the bigger all over picture, of the big overall picture of salvation in Jesus and salvation in God. Read Psalm 56:11 in God. I trust I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? Again Psalm 27:1. The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid? At the end of a beautiful chapter Romans eight. This promise stands. If God is for us, who can be against us? And then Isaiah, fifty one. Listen to me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law, that's us, fear not the approach of man, nor be dismayed of his revilings for the moth will eat them up like a garment and the worm will eat them like wool. My righteousness will be forever and my salvation to all generations. What the Psalmist reminds us here is that even though there's earthly threats, opposition against us, maybe a physical and both spiritual, that these threats are temporal and short lived because God holds our salvation in his hands.

So these first two verses speak of how God saves us physically and even more so spiritually from the dangers and toils that lie ahead of us. Verse three and four. He will not let your foot be moved. He who keeps you will not slumber and behold, he keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. If I can paraphrase this it would be that God studies us in our walk. He's vigilant. He's watchful. The dangerous road ahead. As the pilgrims get closer to Jerusalem, maybe they would get a little more crowded be excited to see the Pilgrims, maybe the songs to start earlier. But as they went up those steep ascents, the roads were like today. They weren't paved and were a little more narrow. And as traffic was coming down, there could be a caravan, an ox drawn cart. There had to be space. And with those sleepers, with those steep ascents, one false step, if your foot wasn't secure, you could fall not not suffering an injury, maybe even suffering death. So having your foot steady, so let's not move is important here. In fact, the phrasing foot be not moved or not slipping is a euphemism for judgment in scripture. Check it with me. Deuteronomy Chapter three to five. Vengeance is mine and recompense or repayment for the time when their foot shall slip for the day of their calamity is at hand and their doom comes swiftly.

They're talking about judgment here, when the foot slips, the psalmists would be familiar with this kind of euphemism or language. And he's writing something greater than just road hazards on a pilgrim's journey to Jerusalem. This is God's eternal deliverance he's talking about. You see the Psalmist here is not saying that believers will not suffer physical injury. Maybe some of us here are suffering from physical ailments, even today. But what he's saying here that the believer will never suffer loss of his eternal foothold or footing in God because it's God who is our help and God who secures our salvation. Dear brothers and sisters, more important than our physical safety is our spiritual security. Let me give you an example juxtaposed against this. You remember the story of the paralytic. Jesus was in a town and he was healing people and there was droves upon droves of people coming to visit. And these four friends said, hey, we have this guy, he can't walk, he can't get there. So let's carry him. They get there. The doors are blocked, just jam packed. Let's go up on the roof and let's remove the tiles and we'll lower him down. What's Jesus's first words to this man who obviously can't stand, who obviously is wanting physical healing. He says the most unexpected thing, your sins are forgiven.

It would be like someone coming all the way to Mayo Clinic because there's a new type of procedure that can heal this disease that's very rare and and has no cure. But getting to the physician and he's about to fire up the machine, he says, you know what, I know you made this long trek. Your sins are forgiven. What? How much do we value physical protection, our well-being and healing over that which is more, maybe more important? Let me let me personalize if I can give an example, John, you think that you need that broken limb fixed? You think that that disease or that ailment that you're carrying around, that's kind of a thorn in your flesh. You think that would bring you the relief and joy set you free? No, son, before I fix the brokenness outside, I need to fix the brokenness within. Jesus gives a better gift than healing the paralytic. He says your sins are forgiven. That's why Jesus is the great physician, because there is no other doctor, no other God, no other religion that can forgive your and my sins completely and then keep our foot from slipping. You guys get that. He should not let your foot slip. Check out these encouraging verses from Psalm 91:11-12, for he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways on their hands.

They will bear you up lest you strike your foot against a stone. And Daniel 2:9, he will guard the feet of his faithful ones. But the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall man prevail. And this is from Proverbs 3:21-26, which is on the screens, my son did not lose sight of these keep sound wisdom and discretion and there'll be life for your soul and adornment for your neck. Then when you walk in your way securely and your foot will not stumble if you lie down, you will not be afraid. When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked when it comes for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught. What these verses here are saying in verse three and four is that God steadies us in a spiritual sense. Jude twenty four. Now to him, who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless, holy, forgiven, perfect before the presence of his glory and with great joy. If you don't have that underlined in your Bible memorized or highlighted, I would encourage you to do so. That is a great promise that any pilgrim would want to hold on to. He studies us, forgives us and keeps our foot from stumbling. Romans 14:4 says this who are you to pass on judgment on the servant of another.

It is before his own master that he stands or falls and he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. How is God able to make us stand? It's because he never sleeps, he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel whill neither sleep nor slumber. The reason why God keeps us from falling is because God is never not awake. He's always vigilant, ever watchful, ever graciously looking upon providing for protecting and guiding his beloved. You may be saying to yourself, you know, sometimes it feels like God asleep on the job. There's occasions where it's silent. I don't hear him. There's an instance in Jesus ministry where he's after a long day of service, he is in a boat in the middle of the ocean and the waves and the winds are picking up and he's sleeping at the bottom of a boat on a cushion fast asleep. And I mean, the disciples think they're going to die. They wake them up. Don't you care that we're perishing? And the creator of heaven and earth stands rebukes the wind and he stills the waves. He does this because he transcends creation, because he is the creator, he's able to still and calm the waves and the wind in our life.

This speaks of God's eminence. Definition for you guys: God's eminence holds that God is present in all of creation while remaining distinct from it. In other words, there's no place where God is not. His sovereign control extends everywhere simultaneously. So even though he's above and beyond us, he controls nature. He's outside time and space. He's also near. He's eminent. He's Emmanuel God. With us in the middle of the muck, in the middle of the storms, he's sovereignly in control, guiding and protecting us every step of the way. The slumbering Jesus, even in the bottom of the boat knew more about their situation than the alert disciples. One 17 speaks of this, and he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Speaking of God's eminence verses five and six of one twenty one psalms, The Lord is your keeper. The Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. This is the key verse, that the Lord is our keeper. And the key part is to keep your eye on the keeper. Isaiah 26:4 says you will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you? That God is watchful. He's a steward. The same word here for keeper is used elsewhere in Scripture and speaks of shepherds and door keepers, prison keepers and vine dressers. All these occupations are employed as metaphors for our God.

They are a picture of God closely tending his people, ministering to their needs and guiding them in their journey, protecting them along the way, caring for their afflictions and even atoning for their sins. God himself is our shelter and he says that he's at our right hand. Back in the day, the Roman soldiers predominantly would carry their shields on their left and their swords on their right. So their most exposed side was their flanks. And to increase the defensiveness, the soldiers said I got your right and God is on your right, protecting and boosting your defenses, watching you, caring for you. It was strategic. Psalm 109:31 says this: for he stands at the right hand of the needy one to save him from those who condemn his soul to death. The last two verses seven and eight, the last two verses psalm 121, the Lord will keep you from all evil. He will keep your life. The lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time and forever more. These last two can be summarized as God safeguards us, God safeguards us from evil and he preserves us. Here all these points that God saves us, God steadies us, God shelters us. are summarized in these last two verses, verse seven reiterates all we've been saying that God securely holds our salvation in his hands. In the last two verses

are a beautiful promise or the last verse, excuse me. Now the Lord will keep you from going out and if your coming in from this time forth and forevermore, even the day to day details. He's invested. In my closing I want to share a personal story about how God has revealed this to my life personally. Years ago I used to work on straight commissions as a salesman, and I if I wasn't selling anything, I wasn't bringing home any money. I wasn't buying food and groceries, wasn't paying for bills. And so it was a pretty stressful job. I did it for a couple of years. High stress sales. There was a season where things weren't going so well. And the way it worked is I would get the commission of my sales half of it up front. And once the job was completed, which could range anywhere from a couple of weeks, even months, I would receive the later half. I remember vividly in my apartment with my two young children changing my daughter's diaper, going to my wife and saying hey. Can you throw another one so I can change real quick? And she looks at me really quietly and says, we don't have any more. I said, All right, I'll go get some. Like, No, you don't get it.

We don't have anymore. And we're out of money. It's like the worst thing you can hear as a dad, I can't provide diapers for my child, I kind of got angry and discouraged and I said, fine, give me the laundry, I'll go do laundry. At least we have detergent and I'll go wash clean clothes. So in case an accident happens, my daughter can at least have clean clothes. I never checked the mail. I went downstairs, started the load of laundry. I was just beside myself. I think I even cried. I was like, what kind of dad am I can't provide for my kid? I walk up the stairs, back to our apartment. My wife is in tears. What's going on? She says, let me guess it. She said in the mailbox that day was a check for three thousand dollars from a job I did. I did six months ago, the biggest job I've ever did for that company. And it was there exactly when it needed it. When we talk about God is imminent or eminent, eminent in our lives and we think that he's silent or that he slumbers, it's not that he's silent or slumbering. No, our perspective is that we're in the vele, we're in the valley and we see the hills around us and we get overwhelmed by them. And we ask, where does our help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven, earth.

From that day forward, I've never questioned God's Providence provision, protection and guidance. I've been up and down since then, but he's always come through. This beautiful song reminds us that we need not fear life or death today or tomorrow time or eternity for we are in the loving care of our heavenly Father. Let's pray. Lord as a song that we just sang, you are a good, good father. That's what you are Lord. Lord, we being evil give our kids when they ask for food, we give them bread. We don't give them a stone or serpent God, and you being even greater than us. How much more do you provide? And Lord sometimes you take us through the storms while you appear to slumber God. While you appear to not be involved, but it says here you're always awake and alert. I know Jesus was human and his humanity He was resting. But God it says now in Hebrews that he makes intercession for us. That never slumbers, that he lives to pray for us even today, even now. What a great promise. What a great reminder of who's for us. Your timing is perfect, and it teaches us, God to trust you and to be content. And God, that you won't cause our foot to stumble, to move, that our salvation is secured in the blood of the lamb. We thank you for that greater promise, Father, in Jesus name we pray. Amen.


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