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The Pilgrim’s Survival Guide

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?

My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
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 shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

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 forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121:1-8, ESV

1. There is no interruption to God’s care for his children

2. There is no exception to God’s care for his children

3. There is no limitation to God’s care for his children

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Good morning. Welcome, this is Providence Presbyterian Church I am pastor Tony Garbarino. If you’d like to hear more about Providence please tune to Providence Fw dot o RG Providence f W dot o RG, but you welcome all who are listening through the various technologies granted to the church at this time. This is the Lord’s day may 3 2020 This is the seventh floor day by our accounting of the current pestilence pestilence that we are in, and our inability to meet together for worship. Please join your hearts to mind as we ask the Lord’s blessing upon the Ministry of his word now, please pray with me. Almighty and everlasting God, we ask now as we come before you dear Lord, as you pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things with which our conscience is our convicted, Lord and give to us we pray, those good things from which we are not worthy to ask except through the merits. in the mediation, of our Savior Jesus Christ, dear Lord, You have spoken in various times, and in various ways to your people. In the past, but in these last days in your son. The Incarnate Word as we pray that you will open the mouth of your servant out to proclaim that word, and the power of the Holy Spirit. And we pray that that same spirit would open the hearts of its hears, as far as it is heard. To receive your holy word, even as you have promised to do so. All these things. Our gracious father we ask in the name of our powerful Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Amen. This word this morning comes from Psalm, 21 121 Song 121. Please give your full attention now this is the word of our God. Psalm, 121 a song of a sense. I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come. My help comes from the Lord made heaven in earth. He will not let your foot be moved. He who keeps you will not slumber. The old who who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. the Lord is your keeper The Lord is your shade on your right hand. Essential not strike you by day nor moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil he will keep your life. The Lord will keep you. You’re going out and you’re coming in from this time fourth and forevermore. So for the reading. God’s holy inspired word. As I mentioned earlier, this is the seventh week that we are in lockdown or that we have been unable to come together to meet corporately as God’s people to worship and to praise and to receive from the Lord at the Lord service, we collectively have been away from the house of the Lord back into our to the city back into our homes. And while this is a unique time in our lives in our pilgrim in our sojourn through this world. It is not the first. It is not the only, nor will it be the last time that we encounter difficulties and dangers and trials and struggles in our pilgrim life. We come today this morning and we begin to look at a particular group of Psalms that all have the same title. Perhaps you’ve noticed, as you read through the Psalms in your life as a believer or perhaps you are new to Scripture. But you may have noticed there are a group of songs that all have the same title that title is this song of a sense of a sense. These are psalms 122 134 15 songs. They were a kind of special songbook 15 of these songs songs that all having the same title. This book of songs displays all of man’s various experiences right we know that about the book of Psalms, as the whole on the whole, but this group of 15, the songbook of songs of a sense is a kind of spiritual guide to those who are going on pilgrimage from the various places all over the place. Coming up coming from all these places, up to the city of Jerusalem for the great celebration for God’s praise and God’s glory. One of the really awesome wonders. A very practical aspect of God’s word is that it’s a blessing for longtime pilgrims in their life in this land. But it’s also for those just newly coming to God’s word, maybe for the first time, and because the same God authored this book, who also authors. The faith of all who believe there was a natural connection and attraction and an infinite and intimate comfort that comes when we interact with this book with God’s word, and that by the way is not true of those who have no faith, and this is why it has played evidence. When we can see those great learning and true indeed true scholars, and the academic sense of the word can speak and interact with Scripture. And it’s just flat we know that there’s nothing there because they’re professed to unbelievers. But this songbook this song, song songs have a sense. If you read them, you see that these 15 songs they follow the pilgrim from the beginning of his pilgrimage. In Psalm 120 where he’s discouraged and down, and in despair, to the end of the song book in Psalm 134. He’s praising God for the blessings that he’s received on his pilgrimage from the Lord, and they make up and i’m gonna i’m calling a pilgrim survival guide of sorts a pilgrims Survival Guide. Now of course I know when I say that immediately. Many of you may think of those old guys with the funny hats with a buckle on them that there are those who’ve learned how to fish, how to how to grow corn using fish from the Indians or something like that are you boys and girls who are studying in school, you may have thought of the colonists when I said pilgrim or the Mayflower that brought the pilgrims that the word that came to describe those people, was a word that simply means exiles strangers foreigners. Even sojourners. We find this word in Hebrews chapter 11 It’s a great hall of faith that Hall of Fame chapter when it talks about the saints of old in in verse 13 of Hebrews 11 it says this, all these died in faith without receiving the promises. But having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and then confess that they were strangers and exiles on the earth, right, there’s the word that’s where we get this word from. In fact, the old version says strangers and pilgrims on the earth, right so as pilgrims in place of exiles. But this is the sense this is the 10th sense that I use when I use the term. These songs this group of songs the songs of ascent are a pilgrim Survival Guide and likely the songs of ascent originated there their origin was where they were put together for God’s people as they made their way on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for worship. or they were standing up to the mountain of God back from exile. But either way, these were songs of God’s people going up ascending to God’s place for worship. Well, we turn to Psalm 121 today. And we’ll look at the first clause of this song is very well known to those who have sung this song in church. But I wonder how many of you listening or watching I wonder how many of you one point in your Bible reading or song singing experience in your, your lives. Have you ever thought that this first line was referring to looking to help from the hills. I wonder if you’ve wondered that I’ve encountered people who have right and they thought that this first line means that the psalmist is looking to the hills for help, particularly in singing this song right the old version can make us if we aren’t careful think that that’s what’s being said. And in fact, if we read the old Authorized Version. There’s not even a question mark to help us right it just says I will lift my eyes into the hills from whence my from whence cometh my help. Right, but that of course is not what the psalmist is saying. Most of us, certainly in our day are not accustomed to the rhythm and flow of Old English. And that’s of course not the languages fault. It’s just not the way that we speak anymore. but that misunderstanding that Miss reading fits into that the Eco obsessed and earth worshiping Earth Day types in our day right you may have seen this they have kind of CO opted this kind of language, saying that very thing go into nature, look to the hills, lift your eyes to the hills, that’s where my aid comes from. But this of course is not what the song is saying at all that is a question. And so the better versions make this clear it says I lift my eyes to the hills, whereas my help going to come from the hills or ominous the hills or fill fearful, the hills are part of the problem not the solution. They’re a source, not a source of aid here they’re a source of dread and concern. And I mentioned this you’ve mentioned this to you several times and many of you have read this quote, but it’s such a fitting description. Anytime I begin to preach on the Psalms have I’ve not for a while or in teaching through them. I’m reminded of this wonderful quote, perhaps my favorite on the Psalms, the pastor of old who said that the Psalms contain an anatomy of all the parts of the soul right they contain an anatomy of all the parts of the soul. And that’s really true, right, if you’ve read, spent any time in the songs at all you know that this is true. And those of you who spend much time in the Psalms, you know, deeply robustly ritually how true this is God’s mercy and grace. He’s given us this book. And he’s given us words to express all the different experiences and feelings that we go through. And so often they are better even than our own words. And this is one of the ways that we marine romans eight talks about the Spirit helps us in our weakness. This is the one of the ways that he helps us in that he’s given us words of songs praise to seeing and to pray through, and to cry out and to express all the various things that we go through in our lives, he be given a scripture. This middle book in our Bibles The Book of Psalms the Psalter. To do so, what a wonderful and rich treasure that we have the book of songs. They give us words and expressions to the experiences that we go through. Right, it’s in the it’s in the Psalter that we, we, we have expression in times of joy and confusion and disappointment and we have clarity and praise and encouragement. All of human experience is expressed, and met with one another of the songs. And in these 15 songs. We’re going to begin to look at starting today. The songs of ascent, there we learn lessons about how we survive in this pilgrim life, how we survive this pilgrim life how we survive as Christians, how we survive as God’s people in this land as we go through this life. As we move towards our true homeland, even as we move towards worship through it in this pilgrim world, regardless of where we are in our own pilgrim journey, Psalm 121 seems to express, we see a kind of nervousness and anxiety of maybe a young pilgrim. And this young pilgrim cast his eyes upon the way that he will take from his hometown to the great city of Jerusalem. And he looks not to the hills for help, or for encouragement upon the way the psalm actually says, This man is worried and fearful, but the hardships and the obstacles they’re in the possibility of outlaws or robbers those who seek to do him harm, as he travels there in from his village to the city of Jerusalem his question. Is this where am I going to find help. And there are many people. Most in fact who might make a generic cry for help. Right. We’ve all seen this God help me. People may have a belief in a generic God. They may acknowledge him as creator or even. And of course it’s just what what the Word tells us, they know him they perceive him from his creation. But that doesn’t mean that they have an intimate, personal knowledge of Him, they don’t know him in a way that the Lord knows them personally relationally, but especially in the difficult fearful times of life. There’s this natural cry that comes even to the self professed unbeliever, or even those who have this generic concept or belief in a god. God helped me. God saved me. And the young pilgrim here. He says I lift my eyes to the hills From where does my help come from the Creator who made heaven and earth. He will help me. But it’s no it’s interesting as you look at this song. And you study what’s been written about this song and you dig in to the way that it’s constructed in the pronouns that are used in the perspectives the point of view that the verses come from you’ll notice a second voice that comes in the Psalms, if you’ve noticed this before, but the bulk of the song comes not from the person speaking in verses one and two, but from someone else. It’s another voice or another voice from another perspective that speaks most of the song, there is a call of inexperience and then there is an answer of experience that we see here and the second voice is from the person who has been on the pilgrimage. The person who knows the way person and can explain what will happen on the way. It’s the voice that can give the young pilgrim and of the inexperienced pilgrim, an explanation that that young pilgrim needs. And he tells him the God who created heaven and earth is more than just simply the Creator. This God is able to keep him and care for him and give him tender help and aid. Notice again verses one to the voice of inexperience. And how many times in our lives that that’s our voice as well is it not even experienced pilgrims. Ask and need reminding of these things right the most experienced in this pilgrim life, the life of journey where we encounter tests and trials and discouragement and difficulties. We all need to be reminded, and we all need to remember. And all of us find ourselves facing situations that we’ve never faced before times in our lives and our current situation. In this this pandemic is one of those times. This pilgrim hears a voice of spiritual experience, who has been there and done that. This one who’s able to speak to him out of the riches of his experience of what it means to know God and to trust God during times of pilgrimage. And the important lesson here is not that God is the God, merely generically who created heaven and earth. But that God is a God cares for his children is a God who not merely watches his children. Rather, he’s a guy who watches over his children. Right, you feel my, you get my meaning there. My challenge and those of you are watching, watching or listening right now who only believe in God, only that He exists, and he created and he knows us but it’s not interested in us. There’s so much more. There’s so much more dear friend, more intimate more glorious more loving and more personal. And the psalmist is saying, I’m not just talking about a remote kind of God God of deism, for example, I’m not talking about a distant God, who wound up all these things and set them in motion. And now he sits back to see how they will unfold. He’s talking about the covenant God. Yahweh takes an intimate loving interest in his children and his people in his pilgrims on the way. And he actually watches over them. I mentioned to some of you at the church here, there’s a strange phenomenon that happens when you become a parent for the first time. And I remember it, though it was two and a half decades ago I remember this. Quite vividly this thing that happens when you become a parent for the first time, God gives you as it were an extra emotional tear right there’s this, this wonderful growth that happens. And I think particularly to men. When that happens, God does this at other times as well to be sure. But when a man becomes a father. For the first time, there is an emotional broadening that takes place in increased emotional capacity that comes to him. And all that growth can be overwhelming. As the Lord grows us and moves us closer into the direction of true biblical masculinity. And we throw off that all the trappings of godless masculinity and narrow worldly harsh masculinity that’s not masculinity at all. I told many of you younger men, even as I told my own son. You know, it’s more manly to resist blowing up at people in our lives than to give in to that. It’s more manly to listen and be tender with your wives, than to yell at them. Those aren’t manly qualities, those things are in fact the opposite of being manly. those things are being cowardly, and weak. But think as we try and hear what the song is saying. Think of a father, the father you maybe you’ve had or maybe the father that you become by God’s grace. Think of the way that you with this extra emotional gear that you care for your children that you watch over your children that you care for them and that you’re sensitive to them to their knees and even how you look upon them in their cribs as they sleep. And even after they’re married off. Never stop caring for them. Never stop looking out for them. There’s an old fashioned word that a friend would use a man that I got to spend some time with and privilege to spend some time with in seminary. And he, he used this word to describe this fatherly care that fathers have for the children and then even more so that God has over his children he would use the word watch care. And I don’t know if that’s a word that’s unique to his generation, or to his generation from his home in the UK, but it describes it well, God’s watch care, his concern. His interest. His protection, etc. Over his dear children is an expression of how much God loves them. They just owe so much more than any human father could ever begin to express this experience believer in our song is encouraging this inexperienced pilgrim to go further into experience more of just that God’s watch care or his care, God’s care his help, God’s aid, the care and aid and help of his great and gracious God. And in those remaining verses verses three and three to eight, we see several things right. What does this psalm say about God’s help, and care in aid for his children. Well, others have made the point that regarding this care that there was no interruption to his care for his children, there is no exception to God’s care, there is no limitation to his care. And so let’s look first at verses three to four. We see there is indeed no interruption to his care, it says this, he will not let your foot be moved. He who keeps you will not slumber, behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep here in Psalm 121 verse three. God cares for the foot right each step. I remember that time and again it was in seminary, we had a Welsh professor who was teaching through all of Psalm 119, and I believe it’s verse 105 where it says Your word is a lamp to my feet, and explain to us that in Hebrew that word is foot. Your word is a lamp to my foot right and it’s even even more intimate. Careful, just enough needed, Trust step at a time step at a time, a lamp to my foot. And here in this in verse three God cares for the foot for each step. He says he will not let your foot be moved. And notice he keeps Israel. He who keeps Israel remember the people of Israel began as the man the individual the person Israel once called Jacob. You remember Jacob’s journey. He’s the one that stole the scoundrel who stole his brother’s birthright. And even so, God had an incredible care. Over Jacob right later on the Bible, read, read that God said, says, I have loved Jacob loved him. He keeps Israel. These verses tell us that God the God from whom help comes, the god, this God is able to watch over you, and to pursue you even when you’re running away from him. And notice as well. The use of the personal covenant Name of God, right, it says, Lord, I help come from the Lord in all caps and you know what that means right that’s the personal Name of God, the covenant Name of God, Yahweh. It’s not a generic name. It’s the personal covenant Name of God, this God never slumbers, and he never sleeps. Some sometimes in our minds, it seems as though God is sleeping. Even in some of the other songs. Being an expression of all the parts of our soul. We see this very thing some of the writers of the songs expressed this thing this very thing as of the gods sleeping Where are you, Lord. No wonder if you’ve ever felt like that in your life and your pilgrim life and your distresses and stresses and the strains and pains of your life. Have you ever felt like that. Have you ever felt like God was asleep or far from the situation that you were in. Unlike some of the songs. Have you cried out and asked, Where are you, Lord. Where are you now in my problem in my need. Why don’t you wake up to my situation. And this experience pilgrim has been there, and he knows the response of the Lord that comes to him. Do you believe that I’m asleep on the job, your child. But I’m slumbering when I should be caring for my people. I never slumber are asleep. I know brothers and sisters, that this is the position that we find ourselves in at times. Whenever I encounter the theme of sleep in Scripture. I can’t help but think of that time when the disciples were in this position, remember on the boat on the sea with Jesus. And he’s sleeping. And while Jesus slept. He was still upholding all of creation by the word of his power and river they came to me they said Don’t you care Jesus that we’re perishing, again I know there have been times in my wife. Right has that I’ve asked that very question. Oftentimes it’s through tears. Don’t you care about me, Lord, child. But we must remember that slumbering Jesus knows more about the situation than the disciples who were very awakened Jesus says, Don’t you understand. Why are you so afraid. If I’m in the boat with you. You’re safe. You’re safe with me. You know there’s a line in life of Stonewall Jackson, of course you know the Stonewall Jackson the great civil war, in general, that gets this this confidence in God’s care and His providence. There’s a slide that says, where he says, The Lord has ordained the time of my death. It is not for is not for me to worry myself about it. Right. The Lord is a day ordained The title of my death, it’s not for me to be concerned to worry myself about it. and he also said that he felt itself. As he felt as safe in battle as he did in his own bed sleeping right that’s the confidence. He had and God’s sovereignty in His providence, and his protection over him, that he would accomplish through him what He willed, but you know there’s no better example from human from a human perspective of this very thing that could be given than from King David himself right King David and what we read about him. In the Old Testament I’m always struck at the boldness and the certitude of David as we read of his exploits throughout the Old Testament. He is fearless right and this fearlessness and certainty of God’s sovereignty is inspiring. And it boggles the mind. But it’s that care and concern and watching over David, that this song is all about a God does for all of his children for his people. There is no interruption to God’s care for his children. As a glorious thing indeed. The very thought of it your warm your heart should warm your heart and render praise to God to motivate praise to God, there’s no interruption to God’s care for his children. And the next there is no exception to God’s care for his children right we see this in verses five to six. It says this, the Lord is your keeper. The Lord is your shade on your right hand essential not strikey by day, nor the moon by night. Right there is no category that can be given regard does not care or watch over his children. No category there’s no exception to that care. And we have here these verses images of the problems of heat and sun that they can cause I don’t know if you’ve ever had heat exhaustion, or heat stroke, but they are very real things. If you’ve ever been on a hike or in another situation or occasion where the sun is beating down on you unrelentingly. You know the feeling, and this danger that comes from being in the sun like that. And on the other end, we have the moon is mentioned. Some of you may know that the word lunatic. The word lunatics come from comes from the Latin word for moon Luna. People believed in former days that people were affected by the moon at night. But you don’t have to know that to realize that in our day to day lives and in the dramas of life in a fallen world that brings to us, sometimes at night we have our most difficult and greatest of our greatest difficulties at night, many of the problems that we. problems that we wrestle with these things with which we wrestle in struggle are their worst, the wee hours of the night, 123 am God’s word says, even in these times the sun and the moon, Yahweh is your keeper, you are kept by Yahweh, the Lord. And this Dear Christian is something we must all learn and learn better and learn reflexively in the things that we go through in life. It is the very thing we need, and we must remember them, and we must remind ourselves and others, remind each other of these things. Because it is more true and more real and more powerful than any of those problems, and dramas, with which we wrestle, none of these things can harm you. Ultimately you sons and daughters of the king. Let us wonderful and great and glorious news believe that believe it, because it’s true. There is no interruption to God’s care for his children there is no exception to God’s care. And then finally, there is no limitation to God’s care for his children, no limitation listen to verses, seven, eight, in our song. The Lord will keep you from all evil he will keep your life. The Lord will keep going, you’re going out and you’re coming in from this time forth, and forevermore. His care is without limitation, your Christian. There is no moment when God fails to keep his promise to his people, no moment when his care and help is limited, or restricted or held back. And some have pointed out, interestingly, about this song What about the second voice that makes up the bulk of this song The song The voice of this experience pilgrim someone pointed out that he may just have been from the line of Aaron may have been from the line of Aaron we may have been the priests and they say this because there are echoes here in verses seven and eight of that well known ironic benediction from Numbers chapter six that we know know full well, many many worship services closed with this benediction. The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Again, this is a well known benediction from the minister at the close of worship service, this three fold benediction. The first one out to God’s people from God’s high priest. They’re in numbers. And so maybe this person was from the line of Aaron maybe he was a priest himself and is now applying this to this young pilgrim to encourage him in the Lord. And you know, when you see this, and you think upon these things and you think about the threads that are pulled through Scripture, these things that are all through God keeping his people keeping their life all of their life without limitation, without interruption without exception. In the pronouncement of this blessing as the function of the priest. We must think of the great and final High Priest Jesus Christ. Because Christ in the Bible tells us was. He is able to protect us from the enemies of the night and the day because he has faced and overcome the great enemy of our souls, he’s able to help us in our sickness, and our brokenness because he has been there in our sickness in our brokenness, and he’s able to help us in our iniquity in our sin because he has borne the burden and judgment of us he’s able to bring us forgiveness. This of course is what the book of Hebrews is all about. Because all these things are true of our great king and prophet and priest. We are able, we were able to more fully and truly grasp the message of this Psalm Psalm 121 and experience God’s promise, most fully in Jesus Christ. And we can and do know that as we face new difficulties and challenges, and trials in our lives, we know indeed that we can overcome. Is that great encouragement for you and your Christian life. Brothers and sisters, you better believe it is. You better believe it this is an incredible amazing comforting assuring blessing to us. And we know this because God, King Jesus he says what he says, Yes, my beloved I have been there, I have taken away, the sting of death. I have gone and I’ve grappled with the very things that plague you at night and haunt you in your spirit. He says I have overcome all of them. I will overcome them all my care for you, has no interruption, no exception. It has no limitation. And Jesus said this very thing didn’t mean the words of Jesus Himself. I have overcome the world. And it says I will be with you always, always, so let us conclude. Now, let us remember, brothers and sisters are God’s great and tender care for us as children, and let us remind one another of that care. Because we do forget. Do we not. Brothers and sisters, we do forget we forget or deny or distrust God’s personal and powerful in perfect care for us. So let us go back from the Ministry of the word back into the world. Newly refreshed. In this truth that we need so badly. He will keep your life. Oh give Him praise to Christians, give Him praise. An amazing father that we have an amazing King Jesus, and know this as well that if you’ve not known. This fatherly care and help from the Lord. It is my plea to you in my prayer flee to him flee to Jesus for peace, the peace that will come and the peace that passes all understanding. And if you have you explain this to the world. Explain that. This is why you have the peculiar peace in your soul that you have. And it’s also why even when you don’t. And even when you fail. You can have resolution of those things, all why all because of the work of the great high priest who died for you. And whoever lives to pray for you. What a wonderful Lord that we have. Oh man. Let us pray. Our Heavenly Father we come again before you and we thank you. We are awed by the wonder of your word. And your love that is expressed there in to us your children we thank You for Your goodness to us. And for all the evidences of your care for us, even down to the small things the food that we can eat, and the fellowship that we can enjoy. And we pray dear Lord, that we could soon return to experience those things again corporately as your people. And when we do. And even now help us to minister to others who are in need help, those of us who are in special need to be able to call out to you and our distress, and to know that in Christ you have given us your ultimate answer. Bless us, Lord, we pray give us hearts that are ever more tuned for our true home in glory with you. We pray all this in the name of our powerful Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Amen.