Song for the Journey – Lent 2 05/03/2023

Psalm 121

A song of ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains –

    where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,

    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip –

    he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel

    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you –

    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,

    nor the moon by night.

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 for evermore.

There are certain songs for certain journeys in life.

For paying the mortgage it is “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go!

For driving in the car with friends down the open road it is “Oh. Oh, we’re half way there. Oh, Oh, living on a prayer”, or. For piloting a glider of small plane it is, “Well I’m free, free falling” or “I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings …

I wonder whether this psalm song would have been the song Jesus may have prayed in that desert test with the Deceiver; hungry and alone for over a month, facing off with The Deceiver.

This song starts with a question we all ask when scanning the horizon of our life for support;

I lift up my eyes to the mountains –

    where does my help come from?

We ponder our pain, suffering, questions, bad news, bad diagnosis, lost job, lost person, lost direction, lost reputation, lost money, lost relationship, new job, new challenge, next mountain to climb in life….

“I lift my eyes to the skies, the hills, the wind in the trees, the waves on the shore, the setting sun, the early dawn light across the vines …”.

“Where are you God? Where is my hope to get through this? Where is my confidence to succeed? Where am I going and are you there already? Am I going to fail? Am I going to fall? It the Deceiver; The Accuser going to shame me? Will you ‘never let me be put to shame’, as do so many psalm writers pray?

This psalm has been a friend on my journey. It is a song for the testing journey. It is named, ‘a song of ascents’. It is what people around Jesus would have known well. It is a psalm they would have sung and said and prayed as they journeyed up to the city. They would have heard it sung as they hiked up to the temple mount in Jerusalem for the festival.

I don’t know how many times I have prayed, spoken, declared and hung on to this Psalm. In hospital rooms with the sick and dying and the family watching and waiting, in lonely prison rooms, on back patios with friends in pain, in school rooms with kids and staff struggling, in lounge rooms with fellow compatriots on the journey of faith, on park benches with a ‘down and outer’, on the bar stool with a man lost in sorrow, and in church buildings with the sinners and saints in song.

This song is a source of immeasurable comfort when the journey is rough and the destination distant and uncertain; when the ascent seem too steep. It offers God’s immediate comfort in the moment when the journey is hard, dangerous, doubtful, troubling, unsteady or dark.

If you have ever done a hard hike, you know the dangers you have to navigate – direction, snakes, coming to grief on rocky narrow paths, crossing deep rivers, dealing with heat, dealing with fading light, and most of all – managing crucial water supply.

The territory around Jerusalem is a treeless, up and down desert of steep hills and slippery rock gorges. I walked part of it once. There are unstable sharp rocks, heat, snakes, wolves and even bears are known to be there occasionally.

In Jesus’ day, there are human enemies too in this desert, such as robbers with plenty of places to ambush you. Remember the Parable Jesus tells of the Good Samaritan?

And there is still another danger. It is a spiritual danger. On many of the high points of those hills would be statues and other things of stone of wood representing gods of various kinds claiming to be the gods who shape the universe and control your journey.

Gods have to be paid off. If you leave some figs or grapes or dates at a few chosen idols along the way, it may go better for you on this journey. You sacrifice precious resources to these idols in the hope that this will bring safety, security and peace on the journey.

The song starts with a question about who you trust for the journey and the destination;

 I lift up my eyes to the mountains –

    where does my help come from?

Good question. That is a Lent question. How is my journey of faith going and where or who am seeking the help I think I need, especially is the outlook is dark or doubtful?

We have our dangers and threats ad problems – physical health, food and water supply, money supply, pain from enemies, guilt for wrongs, shame from regrets, doubt from fears, temptations to fix it all quick……

We have our gods – the hills to which we turn more than that cross on the hill.

You can tell you are dealing with gods/idols when you hear this within yourself or others…

“If only …”

If only I could have that assurance that my life will count to someone

If only I could look like that

If only I could earn that kind of money and one day have that life

If only I could be like him or her.

If only I could find a trustworthy partner for life

If only I could find someone to love for life

If only I could make that problem go away

If only I could get rid of that debilitating weakness.

If only I could live like they all want me to live

So, we all dice with the doubt and danger we face by leaving a few figs here, a few grapes there, a few dollars to that thing, just a bit more work for a bit more recognition, a little more aggression to win that argument, a bit more of that to kill the pain …

The gods of the world demand sacrifice – and sacrifice in ever increasing amounts.

As we look to the hills instead of looking to the God who created those hills, the relationship of trust between us is broken. Without hardly knowing at first, we put ourselves on a head long journey to emptiness and loneliness down in the dark shadows at the bottom of the gorge.

Why? For one reason: the gods of stone and wood and fame and fortune and self-focus and human glory cannot deliver what they promise. They are fake. They are imposters. They are a lie. I looking to them for life, we die that little bit more.

But, thank God the song goes on; and quickly!

My help comes from the Lord,

    the Maker of heaven and earth

In a flash, our “what if” longings are shifted to the certainty of a God who creates life itself.

Unlike the gods on the hills, the Lord God is a real person with a real history of love for us. The Lord sees, hears, acts and speaks. He is breath, spirit and truth. He is this man of sorrows who enters dark death and kills it and its ugly shadow over us. The Son keeps us by day and night.

It was a common belief among Israel’s neighbors that their gods “slept” (or died) during winter months and at night time, but revived in the day and the seasons of growth and harvest. But the song writer proclaims that Lord does not sleep – ever.

Therefore, our God is able to keep constant watch over his travelling people. In fact, in Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, he walks with us on this road of suffering that he walked before us – all the way to death and back.

Friend, that is who this Jesus is – he is your “keeper”.

He will not let your foot slip –

    he who watches over you will not slumber;

 indeed, he who watches over Israel

    will neither slumber nor sleep.


The Psalmist probably could never have imagined the stumbling feet of the Son of God covered in dust and blood ascending to that cross at the hill of Golgotha when he sung this song, but we who know this Jesus can – and more than just imagine. We can believe. We can trust it. Jesus’ foot slipped. Jesus’ feet bled.

Under the scorching sun he falls. In the darkness that shrouded the world that day, he plunges to his human death with his back to the wood. And as he does, we hear God speak, we see him act, we see our Great High Priest who is familiar with all our ways doing all this for us all the way to the bottom of the chasm.

We see him bleed, we hear him teach, we sing with him. We see him rise and ascend and rule and invite us into his rule of grace.

He prays for us, we pray to him for each other. He is our ‘keeper’, ‘protector’, and friend of friends. He is a real ‘saviour’!

The Lord Jesus watches over you –

    the Lord Jesus is your shade at your right hand;

 the sun will not harm you by day,

    nor the moon by night.

The Lord Jesus will keep you from all harm –

    he will watch over your life;


Friends, with a Shade, Shelter and Saviour like Jesus, the “what ifs” of life become, “Who cares”!

It is true; full life, new life for everyday, true hope for a life that counts, a better marriage, more meaningful and satisfying work, better watching and leading of our kids, our congregation, our friends and the strangers the Lord puts on our journey all are found in him in total.

We live in the light and shade of Christ and him crucified – the power of God at work in us and his world for freedom, love and compassion.

Take your eyes off those “what if” gods on the hill and look to the only God who speaks and acts in love for you at great cost to himself in the Cross of Christ.

Let that love live in you and through you.

What a song for the journey with Jesus! Sing it these forty days.

the Lord will watch over your coming and going

    both now and for evermore.







Sunday 8:45am
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