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Psalms in the summer  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Big Idea - God lovingly watches over His people to bring them home.

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This week the A level results have been published. I failed my A levels badly and feel for any who have not done as well as they might. But this is a time when many young people will be looking out into the mists of the future and trying to identify a path for their journey of life.
is all about the journey of life.
It is a Psalm that God’s people sang or prayed as they took the journey to Jerusalem when they celebrated their festivals. Three times a year they would have taken this pilgrimage. The festivals celebrated Passover when God liberated Israel from the Egyptians. You recall how they had to paint the blood of the Passover lamb on the upright and cross piece of the door. Then they would celebrate the feast of weeks or Pentecost as it later become known as the harvest began to be brought in. Finally, they would enjoy the harvest ingathering as they celebrated the feast of tabernacles.
These three feasts also act as milestones in the Christian life. Our journey begins at the cross where the blood of God’s Passover lamb was splashed upon the upright and crosspiece of a Roman cross. As we appreciate that in Jesus, God Himself was bearing the penalty for human sin, so we are released from the penalty of God’s wrath. Pentecost saw the first fruits of the church born and the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit in the lives of Believers, as he the Helper enables Believers to display Gods ways to our fallen world. But the destination of the journey is the feast of harvest when God will gather His people to be with Himself for all eternity.
But the Psalm is not just limited to the pilgrimage to Jerusalem – it ends by looking beyond the horizon into the evermore.
So let us explore the journey of life from the Psalmist’s viewpoint.

God helps the Psalmist to face life’s journey.

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
Our Psalmists begins with his testimony in vs 1-2 telling us where he finds help to face life’s journey. In the rest of the Psalm he turns to his readers to invite us too to enjoy help form the same source.
I used to think of the hills as those beautiful grass covered gentle slopes that posed no problem to the Sunday afternoon walker, and that in these verses our psalmist was exploring the beauty of God’s care for His own. But I have since discovered otherwise. Firstly experience tells me that I need help not when life is going smoothly but when I am on Striding edge and not knowing how to progress.
The hills here may have been to our Psalmist the place of danger, occupied by bandits, yet needing to be crossed, or it may have been that as he looked up he saw the high places of godless religion. Either way he knows he needs help, and that there is only one source of reliable help that is from His God.
We hate to admit we need help. Life in an affluent society teaches us that we can cope alone – we are self-sufficient. But we need to ask where is life heading? What is it all about? Perhaps if our destination is limited to this life we may feel we do not need help. But what if there is an eternity? What if there is God to face? Our Psalmist knows that on his journey of life he needs the Help of God.
He tells us about the God from whom he seeks help. He is the Creator of heaven and earth. In other words, He goes to the One who knows all about life on earth and the destination of life’s journey.
But also his God is the LORD – the Covenant God. You will notice that the word Lord is printed in capital letters – that means it is the special name of the Covenant God. The God who gave promises to His people and kept His promises. But the other side of the covenant – that which was to be kept by His people was largely ignored. It is to the God who keeps His promise that the Psalmist looks for help. The God who said I will be their God and they will be my people. The God who is committed to bringing His people home.
We need to note that the Psalmist firmly places his hand deliberately in the hand of God. His help he has decided, comes from the Lord. Here is one who is committing himself to honour the covenant between himself and his God.
In the rest of the Psalm he reassures us his readers that God will watch over us. But he wants us to enjoy the same confidence he enjoys and that arises as consistently and deliberately looks up to God for his help.

The God who helps the Psalmist longs to help us. Vs 3-8.

God will not let your foot slip he says. A few weeks ago I was at my friend’s house in Oxford. They have a small step in their hall. In attempting to negotiate this step I found myself inspecting their lino floor with rather greater enthusiasm than was clearly wise. I lost my dignity, my confidence and one of my front teeth.
So in what way does God not let our foot slip?
Clearly not in Oxfordshire.
The journey of life is not about arriving at the Undertakers with a full set of dentures. It is about preparing ourselves to meet God and enjoy Him throughout eternity.
The God of the Psalmist is determined that the journey of life for the Believer is to reach its destination – and it is in that sense that He will see to it that the one who looks to Him for help, will not stumble.
We need to know that our Helper is ever vigilant. A slip means that we ourselves have not been vigilant. But the God of the Psalmist is ever watchful. He is not like those priests of Baal that Elijah had to suggest perhaps their god was not answering because he may have been asleep!
He protects against all types of danger vs 5-6 tell us. The danger from the sun or moon may mean sunstroke or as they thought in those days the danger of mental ill health or night time anxiety. Perhaps it may refer to dangers foreseen and unforeseen. Or it may refer to the so-called powers of the gods of the sun and moon, feared by the pagans. But whatever the danger, the Lord watches over His people our Psalmist tells us.
Notice that it is personal protection that God offers His people. The shade on your right hand is not some kind of celestial umbrella but God Himself. It is God Himself who protects His people. It is the Son of God Himself who protects us from the wrath of God. It is God the Holy Spirit who is described by Jesus as another Helper, who makes His home with us indwelling the Believer enabling us to display the nature of God to the world. God Himself is the shade on your right hand, protecting you from danger so that those who seek their help from the Lord will arrive at the destination of heaven.
The whole Psalm is written in terms of relationship. The God who helps the Psalmist is a personal God to whom the Psalmist looks for help on his personal journey.
Vs 7-8 tell us that the God who helps the Psalmist will keep us from all harm and accompany His people in every avenue of life.
But we need to understand what the Bible sees as harm. In a very relevant passage Jesus tells us both what real harm is and how God takes intimate care of every one of His children.
28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
In that warm relationship of trusting submission that the Psalmist enjoys with His God he knows that God will watch over him wherever he is, in whatever crisis he finds himself.
He who created the world knows its every alleyway. The journey we take through life is an individual one. The help God offers is tailor made for each individual. He is determined to bring His people home.

Where does our help come from?

explores the journey of life. The Psalmist is clear as to the direction and destination of his life – it is to know God’s help in life preparing him to live with His loving Creator for all eternity.
He describes the journey that God’s people take in terms of companionship. We are not travelling this journey alone. Our invisible Companion is constantly at our side watching over our every move, protecting us from danger so that we arrive at our destination.
is not written for the calm gentle stroll up the grass covered slopes of the Sunday after dinner walk. It is written for the painful craggy crises when we cry out for help. There are times when we feel alone. In times of crisis our prayers bounce off the ceiling. No-one understands our pain.
It is then that the faithful Christian reminds himself that his help comes from the Lord – the Creator of heaven and earth. The One who will not let his foot slip, who watches over him in tireless vigilance and who personally protects him from ultimate harm.
We meet in the God who loves us desperately. Who cannot and will not live without us. He will do anything it takes to bring us to Himself and keep us with Him for all eternity.
But He knows we learn most in times of crisis. It is as the pain of trial and sorrow hits us that we need to learn that our help comes from the Lord. But our natural thinking leads us to desire an easy ride. We don’t want to face sorrow.
Since coming to St Albans 5 years ago Daphne my wife and I have shed more tears together than we have in the whole of our previous adult lives. But God meets us in our sorrow. It is as we come through it that we learn our help comes from the Lord. We long for God to answer our prayers as we want Him to, but we need to remember two things: 1 that He is God and we are not and 2. That our help comes from the Lord. We need to absorb these truths into our fabric in times of calm reflection so that we are ready to face the crisis comes when it comes.
On Nov 21 1873, the French ocean liner Ville du Havre was crossing the Atlantic from the US to Europe with 313 passengers on board. Among the passengers were Mrs Spafford and their four daughters. Mr Spafford had been detained with work and planned to join them later.
About four days into the crossing the Ville du Havre collided with another ship. She sank within 12 minutes. Mrs Spafford was pulled from the water by a sailor. On arrival in Cardiff she wired her husband a message “saved alone, what shall I do?”
Mr Spafford booked a passage to join his grieving wife. The captain of his ship called Mr Spafford at the point where the Ville du Havre sank. He went to his cabin and wrote
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll,
whatever my lot, you have taught me to say,
It is well it is well with my soul.
We need to learn that our help comes from the Lord.
We need to know that life is a journey with a definite destination. If that destination for us is to be heaven then we need to look to the God of heaven for His help.
Our psalm this morning reassures us that our loving God is always ready and willing to give us that help. Jesus said that none shall pluck His own from His hand. Peter writes in his first letter
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
May God enable us all to learn that our help comes from the Lord.
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