Sermon: God’s Special Protection

God’s Special Protection
Psalm 121:1-8
RUMC 19 March 2017

A mother was getting her four year old daughter ready for bed, but it was obvious that the child was afraid of the dark. When the mother turned off the bedroom light, the child caught a glimpse of the moon and said, “Mother, is the moon God’s light?  And the mother said “Yes”  Then the girl asked, “Will God put out His light and go to sleep?”  The mother replied, “No my child, God never goes to sleep.”  Then out of the simplicity of a child’s faith, the little girl said, “Well, as long as God stays awake, there is no need for both of us to stay awake.”

That is wisdom for us as well. Below is Psalm 121, the reading for today’s sermon:
Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
The Lord will not let your foot be moved, the Lord who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, the One 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 smite you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil and will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and for evermore.

The 121st Psalm was known as one of the “Song of Ascents” when Jewish pilgrims began to sing and worship the Lord at the sight of the majestic temple.  In my message for this morning, I would like to break this psalm down into three sections and make additional comments.

1-2: I lift up my eyes to the hills-where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Let me give you some more background on this Psalm. Three times a year, the Jewish people would make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and worship in the temple at the Feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Booths.  The pilgrims traveled a long distance by foot, donkey or cart through dangerous lands; there were robbers and bandits along the way.  Even though the pilgrims were filled with nervous anxiety about their personal safety, they were also excited that they would worship at the magnificent temple.  They felt both nervous anxiety and great anticipation about the same trip.

In our pilgrimage of life, we will face dangers and difficulties along the way. Sometimes taking a short break from those difficulties to enjoy some of God’s work will make the journey easier.  Go outside to see the grandeurs of the mountains or the serenity of a lake; it can get our minds off of our troubles.  Some good spots in Connecticut include Crystal Lake, the tower at Fox Hill, and Soapstone Mountain.

People may let us down, the church may disappoint, but God will never leave us. If you are going through a situation you don’t know how to handle, come to the church during the week and sit in the sanctuary or drive to a special place of natural beauty and see and feel the presence of God.  It will give a new perspective of what is really important.

V3-6: The Lord will not let your foot be moved, the Lord who keeps you will not slumber.  Behold, the One who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is on your right hand.  The sun shall not smite you by day, nor the moon by night.  He will not let your foot slip, He who watches over you will not slumber.  The Lord watches over you.
We have the assurance that God cares for his people as He guards them through the perils of the day, the deep darkness of the night and everything in between.

The Lord’s care is explained by his watchfulness and amplified by the fact that he never sleeps. Other pagan religions permitted their gods to sleep, but the God of Israel was not like that.

Let me share a story of God’s providential hand. On March 1, 1950 in Beatrice, Nebraska, members of the West Side Baptist Church choir began to prepare for their 7:30 PM choir practice.  But something unusual happened to each of its choir members; for the first time, they were all late.

  • The pastor left his office and went home for a quick supper. He was about to return to choir practice with his wife and daughter when they discovered that his daughter’s dress had a spot on it. Cleaning and ironing the dress took time and they were delayed.
  • High school sophomore Ladonna, had trouble with her geometry homework and needed some extra time to finish. Ladonna was usually the first to arrive for choir rehearsal.
  • Then there were two elderly sisters who always rode together for choir rehearsal, but on this night, their car wouldn’t start.
  • Mrs. Shuster, who normally arrived at church at 7:20 PM, was delayed because her elderly mother needed some special help.
  • One of the men in the choir decided at the last minute to write a letter, and he too was late.
  • Court stenographer Joyce Black, just felt lazy and stayed home until the last possible moment, and she too was late.
  • Machinist Harry Ohl was to drive his two boys to choir practice, but was interrupted by a neighbor who wanted to talk.
  • Pianist Marilyn Paul fell asleep after supper; her mother, who served as the choir director, had trouble getting her up and that caused a delay.
  • Two high school female choir members decided to listen to an interesting radio program and didn’t leave their house until after 7:30.

This was clearly a God ordained moment. At exactly 7:25 PM, the West Side Baptist Church in Beatrice, Nebraska blew up.  A gas leak caused the roof and its walls to collapse.  Fortunately, for the first time ever, all the choir members were late for practice.

I have had a number of God moments, and I know that you have as well. These are times when certain doors were opened, people arrived unexpectedly, or help came at the exact right moment. Realistically speaking, all the circumstances pointed upward.

There is also a paradox here. If you were to read the New Testament book of Acts, there is one lesson you could take away.  There is no predictable pattern of how God will work.  It is often a mystery.  For example, the Apostle James was executed, but the Apostle Peter was released.  Dorcas died of natural causes and was raised to life.  Stephen was stoned to death and buried.  Regardless of what happens in our lives, God is at our side and we should be able to face anything and everything.  He will see us through all the problems and trials of life.  However even though we are in the palm of his hand, it doesn’t mean we will automatically be exempt from all pain and suffering.

Verse 7-8: The Lord will keep you from all harm, he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
When we stay close to the Lord, we are in his will, and we stay in his protection. And this is the place we should want to be.  We can’t straddle the things of God with the things of the word.

I would like to close with two scriptures.

Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. So no matter what comes our way, we need to hold on and let Christ take us through it”.  

And the final words of Jesus in Matthew 28:20. And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.  We often think in the present, but God takes eternity into view, that will help us in our perspective.