There are times when we just want to get away from it all and find a place of peace and solitude. A time of quiet away from the crazy rush of everyday life. But it can be a search to find that elusive place where we can feel close to God – when we are seeking a time of inspiration and renewal.
The world is full of opportunities where we can find that peace and presence. Some people like to find isolated places where they can retreat from the rush of life to go and experience silence for hours or days. Others go to places with a “directed” program of meditation or discussion where they can go and think stimulating thoughts. And yet more others would seek out a lonely cottage on a hillside where they can get away from cars / e-mail / phones / TV!
And I can hear the Psalmist saying that today: “I lift my eyes to the hills”. What is he seeking – what are we seeking?
Psalm 121 sounds like a pilgrimage. I imagine a worshipper joining a group and looking upward to the hills and seeing in the beauty of the scenery a place where God could be found. And in that moment a recognition of the presence of God was there.
Let us follow that pilgrimage in the four short stanzas of this Psalm, the first calls us to look at the world and see God.
1) 1I lift up my eyes to the hills—
from where will my help come?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
As always we begin with God, acknowledging God’s presence with us at all times. The Psalmist saw God in the beauty and the majesty of creation. We begin by doing the same.
We often take this world for granted – it is an amazing world and we have the benefit of all our needs being met. The story of Creation in Genesis tells us of God’s involvement in the development of this world and how the world came into being under the oversight of God.
And the story of God’s involvement develops as we read the Old and New Testaments, revealing God’s actions in loving us so much that he sacrificed his own son, to enable us to fulfill our destiny of living as God’s family.
2) 3He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4He who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
So not only is God watching out for you and me, he is a God of presence – present with us 24 hours a day. And just as God loved and cared for his Son Jesus, so too he is loving and caring for you and me at all times.
3) 5The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
6The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
God is not a distant God, watching us from a distance, only responding if a need arises. The Bible story, especially the Gospel stories of Jesus’ life on earth and his teachings, and Paul’s letters show us how deliberately God watches over us.
God is a “hands-on” God, who loves us and cares for us. That is so obvious in the life and example of Jesus.
Does that mean we will have an easy journey through life? Basically – no! Two reasons come to mind (1) we have a much higher standard to follow in the eyes of our friends and neighbors – they will expect us to be “perfect”. And (2) just as Jesus was tempted to use his powers for his own interests, the stronger our faith is, the more likely we are to be tempted in very subtle ways. God keeps us safe in his hands.
4) 7The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in
from this time on and forevermore.
But God remains hands-on and he will never desert us. One of the amazing victories that Jesus earned for us through his death on the Cross was the certainty of our eternal future in the heavenly kingdom. When God raised Jesus from the dead and back to life, Jesus won the victory against death and broke the greatest power of the devil – death itself.
God will always be with you and me – even if we walk away from him, he will never leave us. God will always be at our side – in good or bad times; in success and failure; in sickness and in health. Always and forever.
We may not always look to the hills. In fact we all have different ways of connecting with God. Yes, it may be walking around a wooded lake in the peace and quiet, or it could be the feel of the wind in your hair as your Harley accelerates on an open road, or … … … [fill in your way]
Wherever it may be, we are assured that when we lift our eyes, we will connect with the God who watches over us; who keeps us safe at all times; who protects us from evil, always and forever.
The Lord is our Keeper.