Welcome to the online version of our midweek service of worship which was held in our building in Panmurefield
Opening Scripture verses: Psalm 121:1-2:
I lift up my eyes to the mountains –
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
Opening praise: Here is Love
Here is Love, vast as the ocean,
loving-kindness as the flood,
when the Prince of life, our ransom,
shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He will never be forgotten
throughout Heaven’s eternal days
On the mount of crucifixion
fountains opened deep and wide;
through the floodgates of God’s mercy
flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers
poured incessant from above;
and Heaven’s peace and perfect justice
kissed a guilty world in love.
Our great God and Saviour once more we thank You for the privilege of entering Your holy presence in the wonderful and all-prevailing name of Your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. We rejoice that we have direct access into Your presence in His name, the name above all names through the blessed Holy Spirit. We are eternally grateful that His sacrifice on the cross of Calvary paid in full the debt we owed so that we might be redeemed and set free to serve the living God each day of our lives. Thank you that when we come before You in prayer with our praises and petitions that You hear and answer us. Once more we seek the forgiveness of our sins and the fresh enabling by the Holy Spirit to be the men and women You have called us to be. Meet with us we pray here today in this act of worship, in Jesus’ name, Amen
Bible Reading: Psalm 121:
I lift up my eyes to the mountains –
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip –
He who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, He who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you –
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm –
He will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and for evermore.
Intercessory prayer using Psalm 121
Lord we come thankful for the freedom we have to turn to You with all our needs as well as the expressions of our appreciation for your goodness to us.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Thank you Lord that I am never alone, even if sometimes it feels that way. I thank You that I can turn to You at any time in prayer. What a privilege that is. Today, I also want to thank You for ….
3 He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. Thank you Lord that you don’t work office hours or take the weekends off! I can talk with You at any time. Today I want to pray particularly for…
5 The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. Lord, I am deeply grateful for the people who have encouraged me on my faith journey over the years. I want to take time this morning to mention their names to You, and for some who are still alive to pray for …., for Your blessing upon them at this time. If we are blessed by other people supporting us over the years, how much more are we grateful to the Lord for His constant care and watchfulness over us. Thank You. Lord, I particularly want You to watch over …. Who is going through a really tough time now….
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life; 8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and for evermore. Thank You Lord that our future us secure in Your hands. I thank you for the amazing guarantee: and for evermore. I bring before You the things I am worrying about at the moment or know other people are anxious about today …
Thank You Lord for hearing and answering our prayers in Jesus’ name, Amen
Message from Psalm 121 The Source of my help
On Tuesday 17 November 2020 media including the BBC were reporting the heroic actions of a British national who saved the life of a twenty-four year old Chinese student who couldn’t swim who had fallen into the fast-flowing water of a local river. Stephen Ellison, aged sixty-one, who is the British consul-general in the city of Chongqing, was walking by the unnamed river in a nearby village when he saw the woman struggling in the deep water. ‘Mr Ellison said jumping into the water was a “split-second” decision after he was the first to get his shoes off.’
Public relations between China and Britain have been strained in recent months due to the treatment of Uighurs in the north of China and over governance in Hong Kong. However, many social media commentators in China have contrasted the inactive crowds of local onlookers and the heroic action of the older British man who stepped in to save her life. What the crowds didn’t know was that Mr Ellison is a keen participant in triathlons and was very capable of carrying out this rescue. [BBC News website 17.11.20]
This event was unplanned and the young woman’s fall was an accident, but she was in such difficulty that she didn’t have time to call for help. Thankfully there was a happy ending to this story. But where do you and turn for help in a time of crisis? It is a question worth pondering.
All of us have in our lives many ordinary days of regular routines, but there are also some happy days of successes and celebrations for which we thank God. However, no-one can avoid other days of problems and difficulties and even a few situations that might be genuinely called crises. To whom do we turn in those moments? Even more seriously, none of us can escape the reality of death when those most precious will be taken from us.
If a person has faith in the Lord we know they are in heaven and we will meet them again after our own home call, but as far as this life goes it can be a painful loss. To whom do we turn for comfort? We can think that some other people are having an easy life compared to our own or the other way round, but only God really knows all the details of what is happening in someone’s life.
The Book of Psalms is a real encouragement to us, because the authors of these songs have lived through the things they describe and with God’s help have come through to the other side. As a result, we can identify with these words and use them in our prayers or our praises as we come before the Lord. Let us look briefly at this precious Psalm 121.
1. The proclamation of our heavenly helper (Psalm 121:1-2)
I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
This Psalm from the time of the godly king Hezekiah, and possibly written by him, but we cannot be certain. It is a time of national crisis. Hezekiah looks out beyond the city walls of Jerusalem to the ring of hills that surround this city. Normally, it is beautiful view from the heights of that capital city looking down to the valleys below. Looking at the hills can be peaceful.
However, on this occasion it is not an inspiring view of God’s wonderful creation that catches his eye. On this occasion it is not an encouragement to take in the view. We should take delight in God’s creation because there is so much beauty to appreciate. I know that in my family during 2020 when we have been limited in where we can go due to the Covid-19 virus pandemic restrictions that walks down to the beach or alongside the Dichty River have been a real blessing.
For a short time we can escape into the world of nature and enjoy seeing the birds and the trees and occasionally other wild creatures experiencing the same natural surroundings. But that is not what Hezekiah was thinking when he penned or inspired these words in Psalm 121:1. I lift up my eyes to the mountains and saw a vast army of Assyrian soldiers surrounding the city. All escape routes had been cut off. Thankfully, the Assyrian advance had been signposted ahead of time and this allowed Hezekiah and his officials to divert the water supplies in the area to ensure that Jerusalem would have a secure water supply in the event of a siege. (See II Chronicles 32:2-4, 30:
When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that he intended to wage war against Jerusalem, 3 he consulted with his officials and military staff about blocking off the water from the springs outside the city, and they helped him. 4 They gathered a large group of people who blocked all the springs and the stream that flowed through the land. ‘Why should the kings of Assyria come and find plenty of water?’ they said… It was Hezekiah who blocked the upper outlet of the Gihon spring and channelled the water down to the west side of the City of David. He succeeded in everything he undertook.)
Looking to the hills was to see the source and scale of his problems. It was a terrifying sight. When you and I face big problems we can sometimes be so terrified that we are frozen into inaction. But here Hezekiah asked himself a key question: where does my help come from? (Psalm 121:1b) You and I can also ask ourselves this same question. It is important to have something with which to respond. If the answer is ‘no-one’ then we are really in big trouble. Can you answer this question with confidence? What would your answer be? If you have put your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus, then you can be confident in coming to God through Him.
What is Hezekiah’s response? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 121:2). It is a clear testimony of a ruler of this nation who leads with clarity and courage in extremely troubled times. Many others of God’s people down the centuries have taken comfort from this Psalm in their own particular times of crisis.
Here for us in the Covid-19 virus pandemic, on top of many other challenging situations with respect to our health or our relationships or a vast range of other potential needs, we come to the Lord with an assurance that He will help us to keep going through these difficult months when we cannot see for certain how things will turn out in the end. Have you put your faith and trust in the Lord as Hezekiah did? It can make a world of difference as to how you look upon what you may even be going through just now. There are no completely hopeless situations when God is involved in their resolution. The child of God can have complete confidence in God’s taking care of our future. This does not mean every trial goes away. Or that every illness has a happy resolution.
Sadly, we live in a fallen world when sickness and death itself are a part of the human experience, even with the remarkable advances in health care in the NHS. Our confidence is placed in the Lord and we seek the grace and strength to accept what He has determined or permitted in our particular circumstances. There are lots of situations where this side of eternity we will have no answers to our ‘why’ questions. We have to be honest with people about that. Sometimes God’s answer to us is similar to that given to the apostle Paul in II Corinthians 12:9: My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’.
The challenge for us is whether we can come to the place the apostle Paul reached some time later. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (II Corinthians 12:10).
(a)The background to this Psalm (II Kings 18:19-22, 28-30)
The field commander said to them, ‘Tell Hezekiah: ‘“This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: on what are you basing this confidence of yours? 20 You say you have the counsel and the might for war – but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? 21 Look, I know you are depending on Egypt that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it! Such is Pharaoh King of Egypt to all who depend on him. 22 But if you say to me, ‘We are depending on the Lord our God’– isn’t He the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You must worship before this altar in Jerusalem’? (II Kings 18:19-22)
Then the commander stood and called out in Hebrew, ‘Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! 29 This is what the king says: do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you from my hand. 30 Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, “The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” (II Kings 18:28-30)
Things had got much worse not only had Hezekiah seen the soldiers from Assyria surrounding the city, but they had come close to its walls and were demanding the city be surrendered to them. However, in the speech of the Army field commander his logic was only partially correct. Egypt, was the most powerful local neighbour to Israel, but was at that time in history extremely unreliable. The Pharaoh was not confident that his army could take on the Assyrians in open battle. As a result, any pleas for help from neighbouring countries would go unheeded.
However, the field commander was incorrect in this instance. Hezekiah’s army was small and would get beaten easily in an open battle, but they were in a walled city with strong fortifications that required far less men to maintain its defences. Yet it was not Hezekiah’s army the field commander challenged but the God of Hezekiah. To declare so arrogantly: He cannot deliver you from my hand (II Kings 18:29b) was a direct challenge to the God of Hezekiah. Our God then and now is able to do more than we ask or even imagine. What did Hezekiah do in response to this challenge?
(b)The prayer of Hezekiah (II Kings 19:14-19) Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: ‘ Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. 17 ‘It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 19 Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, Lord, are God.’
Hezekiah did what we must do each day of our lives and take our circumstances to God in prayer. He recognised the greatness and power of God, that nothing is too difficult for Him. The God who spoke the word and brought the universe into being can handle any situation that you or I might be facing today. We too need to acknowledge how great is our God! We need not be paralysed with fear. Then Hezekiah raises the fact that the official has given a direct challenge to God:
open Your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God (II Kings 19:16b).
When someone directly challenges God we have a powerful point to raise with the Lord. He doesn’t do ‘score draws’! God Almighty may permit the wicked to triumph for a time, but they will ultimately fail. Their empires’ ruins gather dust awaiting archaeologists’ future discoveries. There was a missional purpose too in his prayer – see II Kings 19:19: …so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, Lord, are God.’ God has not changed. May we also come to Him with boldness and confidence in our prayers today.
2. The promise about our heavenly helper (Psalm 121:3-8)
What does it mean to say that our help comes from the Lord? How did the author of this Psalm understand this statement? In the remaining verses of this Psalm he sketches out a description of what this means for us. It means first of all:
(a)His constant care for us (Psalm 121:3-4)3 He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. You and I need time out to take a break from our work. Although you may work some long hours at particular times it cannot go on indefinitely or your health will be increasingly affected. By contrast, God watches over us every hour of day and night. This does not mean that He prevents all bad things happening to us. Sadly we live in a sin-damaged world and the choices of other humans can be life changing for us.
A drunk driver, for example, can cause mayhem and a serious tragedy could occur when they have inadequate control of their vehicle. Yet on other occasions some of us can testify that we felt extremely fortunate to escape unharmed out of difficult situations. We must be very careful here not to suggest that Christians will have an easier time in economic or social circumstances if we are in a right relationship with God. Christians in the Philippines, for example, along with fellow citizens face many typhoons every year and in 2020 there has been dreadful flooding in some parts of the country. Similar comments could be made about those living in warzones or where terrorist atrocities are a regular occurrence.
Life on earth in 2020 is far from ideal for most people, but in a growing number of countries it is getting much harder to obtain even the basic necessities of life. However, the Psalmist would remind us of God’s care watching over us and giving us the strength we need to ensure the tough times we experience. In the New Testament Peter expressed it this way in I Peter 5:7: Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.
(b) His constant protection of us (Psalm 121:5-6)5 The Lord watches over you –the Lord is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The language is different in these verses, but a very similar point is being made of God’s care and protection of His people. It is a reminder that we are never alone. He never switches off. Whether it is day time or night His love and mercy is constant towards us. Psalm 34:6-8 states: This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles. 7The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and He delivers them. 8 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.
God’s provision and protection can come in very different ways. In Jonah’s case it was a giant plant that gave welcome shade in the fierce Middle-eastern heat (Jonah 4:6-7); for Daniel miraculously surviving in the lions’ den overnight it was definitely protection. In Daniel 6:22 Daniel explained to the surprised King why he was still alive: My God sent His angel, and He shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in His sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.’
The Psalmist’s point is that God provides for our needs and protection in many of our times of need. Who knows what they might be in practice for you and me in the coming days?
(c) His constant assurance to us (Psalm 121:7-8)7 The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life; 8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and for evermore. The message here is remarkably similar to that in Hebrews 13:5b-6: God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ 6 So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’
It is a message of assurance to us to entrust our uncertain future into the hands of a loving and all-powerful God who cares for and watches over us. I pray each one of us commits our lives to follow Him and the day by days seeks to walk closely with Him through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, Amen
Closing Song: Tell Out my soul
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!
Unnumbered blessings give my spirit voice;
tender to me the promise of His word;
in God my Saviour shall my heart rejoice.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of His Name!
Make known His might, the deeds His arm has done;
His mercy sure, from age to age to same;
His holy Name–the Lord, the Mighty One.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of His might!
Powers and dominions lay their glory by.
Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight,
the hungry fed, the humble lifted high.
Tell out, my soul, the glories of His word!
Firm is His promise, and His mercy sure.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord
to children’s children and for evermore!
Thank you Lord that You are with us each day of our lives, each step of the way. Even in uncertain years like 2020 we can have total confidence in You our amazing God. We are so grateful that You will never leave us nor forsake us. We now commit ourselves and the rest of this week into Your trustworthy hands, in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen
May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God
and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore, Amen