Blue Ridge Mountains; Symmes Chapel, Cleveland, South Carolina
Based on my sermon October 16, 2016:
(continued…) Look again at these verses from today’s Psalm, Psalm 121:1-2: “I will lift up my eyes to the hills– from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
From where will my help come? That’s a good question. Where do you think our help going to come from? Does anyone think it is going to come from the Republicans or the Democrats this year? I don’t think so. Talk about ‘giving up hope!’ Good grief, what a mess we are in. If your main hope is in our political process, then this is a great year for you to learn a lesson about the disappointments of false hopes. You will certainly “feel much better when you give up that hope.”
Of course we have been richly blessed as a nation, and of course we want to hope for the best for our nation, and of course we need to pray for our leaders, and of course we should do our best to be good citizens and vote and serve our communities in whatever ways we can. But if this is your main hope, and if this is where you think your help will come from, and if you expect anything better than an ongoing mess, you will be disappointed. Listen to these words from Psalm 146:3-4: “Put not your trust in princes, or in earthly, human rulers, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs they return to the earth, and on that day their plans perish.”
Psalm 121:2 tells us that our help comes from the Lord, who made the heaven and the earth. That is the kind of help we must look to and depend on. But we need to remember what kind of help it is that God offers. When the Bible tells us that our help comes from the Lord, it does not necessarily mean that His help will come riding in on the results of the 2016 presidential election, or any other election.
And if we are in for bad times as a nation, that does not mean God is not God, or is not there, or is not good, or does not answer prayer. In 1865, after what was by far the worst four years in American history, Abraham Lincoln said that the horrific Civil War might well have been the judgment of God on the sins of this nation. Then, quoting the Old Testament, Lincoln said, “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” (Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865.)
God is not obligated to bless the United States of America. We have been blessed, and as Christians we continue to pray for those blessings. But then, we leave it in God’s hands as we pray ‘Thy will be done.’ And sometimes, it is the will of God to not bless, but to judge and to punish. And who are we to say what we deserve?
When we read the promises of God’s help as in Psalm 121, we have to ask what kind of help it is that we receive from God. We might want God to help by making everything go well for us all the time. But God wants something different for us and from us. God wants our faith, our attention, our obedience, and our hearts, for now and for all eternity. Sometimes, God may get our attention by blessing us, and sometimes, God may have to withhold those blessings in order to get our attention.
God, the maker of heaven and earth, does not owe us anything. If we take what God has given us, and then choose to ignore or despise God, He is free to take it back. God does not want us to turn away from Him and be lost for all eternity. Therefore, allowing all of our smaller hopes to be frustrated, disappointed, and destroyed might be, in the long run, what is needed to keep us faithful to God, so that we can be with Him for all eternity.
Our ultimate hope must be in God, and in no one or nothing else. And as we trust God to help us, we then must also trust that God knows what kind of help we need, even though what we get may not be what we want. We are God’s children, says the Bible, and children do not always know what is best for them. Sometimes God can help us best by hindering us, lest we begin to take His good help for granted and forget all about Him. (continued…)
Psalm 121:1-2…7-8 (KJV) — I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth… The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.
Psalm 19:9b — The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
Romans 5:1-5 — Therefore, since we have been justified through faith,we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And this hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they can find their rest in you.
–St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), in Confessions.