Psalm 121 – Moving Forwards – 7

7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;

    he will keep your life.

8 The Lord will keep

    your going out and your coming in

    from this time forth and forevermore.

This is so comprehensive, this is total, isn’t it, this is not half a job, 

7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;

    he will keep your life.

8 The Lord will keep

    your going out and your coming in

    from this time forth and forevermore.

So, where can we look to draw hope and strength for the future as we move forwards?

We look to God, the maker of heaven and earth, a very present help, no sleeping or slumbering, keeping us from all evil. We need to know this, and we need to trust this, completely.

Trust me also when I say that this will totally and completely change how you view your life, everything that happens to you, or involving you, this will bring a total change in worldview.

A number of years ago Captain D. commanded a vessel sailing from Liverpool to New York, and on one voyage he had all his family with him on board the ship.
One night, when all were quietly asleep, there arose a sudden squall of wind, which came sweeping over the waters until it struck the vessel, and instantly threw her on her side, tumbling and crashing everything that was moveable, and awakening the passengers to a consciousness that they were in imminent peril.
Everyone on board was alarmed and uneasy, and some sprang from their berths and began to dress, that they might be ready for the worst.
Captain D. had a little girl on board, just eight years old, who, of course, awoke with the rest.
“What’s the matter?” said the frightened child.
They told her a squall had struck the ship.
“Is father on deck?” said she.
“Yes; father’s on deck.”
The little thing dropped herself on her pillow again without a fear, and in a few moments was sleeping sweetly in spite of winds or waves.

She knew that her Father was always watching, keeping her safe, not slumbering nor sleeping, and that he would keep her life safe.

For us then, we look ahead and move forwards to what is coming in the future, look ahead to what is coming in the new year and push on to it, safe in the knowledge that our help comes from the God who made and sustains heaven and earth, always watching, never sleeping, now and forever more.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.

    From where does my help come?

2 My help comes from the Lord,

    who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot be moved;

    he who keeps you will not slumber.

4 Behold, he who keeps Israel

    will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is your keeper;

    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.

6 The sun shall not strike you by day,

    nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;

    he will keep your life.

8 The Lord will keep

    your going out and your coming in

    from this time forth and forevermore.

Amos 4.6-13 – Loving discipline

Today we see the loving, slow, building chastisement of a loving heavenly Father against those who persistently and consistently refuse to listen to Him. It is all designed to turn hearts and minds back to the Lord, and five times in this passage we see God’s heart, God’s intention for discipline; “yet you did not return to me,”

6 “I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me,” declares the LORD.

7 “I also withheld the rain from you when there were yet three months to the harvest; I would send rain on one city, and send no rain on another city; one field would have rain, and the field on which it did not rain would wither; 8 so two or three cities would wander to another city to drink water, and would not be satisfied; yet you did not return to me,” declares the LORD.

9 “I struck you with blight and mildew; your many gardens and your vineyards, your fig trees and your olive trees the locust devoured; yet you did not return to me,” declares the LORD.

10 “I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, and carried away your horses, and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not return to me,” declares the LORD.

11 “I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me,” declares the LORD.

12 “Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”

13 For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind, and declares to man what is his thought, who makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth– the LORD, the God of hosts, is his name!

If, then, we model our lives on how He says we are to live, our loving heavenly Father, and if we look to God’s Word to guide us for moral, spiritual, and practical decision making, shouldn’t we look to it also to guide us when we are giving, or, for that matter, receiving discipline?

God, God who spoke the universe and everything in it into existence, who maintains and upholds it all by the power of His Word, who loves us so much that He came to live among us as a human, forever wedding Himself to humanity – not giving up one iota of His deity, but simply adding humanity to it – God who makes mountains, knows our every thought, God who has power over everything He made, God who rules over all…this God cares so much about each and every one of us that He takes a personal interest in when we’re not living right, He doesn’t want to abandon us to our sin, because, really, what’s worse, being hit with a big stick, or God leaving us alone and letting us destroy ourselves by our sin? Simply, God disciplines and reproves the one He loves, right? (Hebrews 12.4-11).

Really, then, when this God, our God, the God, gives us some loving, corrective, clear, training, discipline, what should we do…

We’ve got a choice…

What do we do when God disciplines us?

Be thankful

Ask Him to show us why

Repent and run…run from sin, run to Him…

Maybe this is you right now, maybe you’re in the middle of God’s loving, re-aligning, teaching discipline…Do we want to listen and see the small, (but building if we don’t pay attention) guiding, loving corrections He offers us?

Or, do we want to see them, ignore them, choose to look the other way, write them off as strange coincidence and carry on in our own feeble and futile ways…all the while, deep down, knowing that there is a better way to live…a better path…not always an easier path, but at the end of the day, when all is said and done, a better path that leads to a better place…remember, we can become bitter, or better…

I read a story about today this, about loving discipline…One Father wrote,

‘Out of parental concern and a desire to teach our young son responsibility, we require him to phone home when he arrives at his friend’s house a few blocks away. He began to forget, however, as he grew more confident in his ability to get there without disaster befalling him. The first time he forgot, I called to be sure he had arrived. We told him the next time it happened, he would have to come home.

A few days later, however, the telephone again lay silent, and I knew if he was going to learn, he would have to be punished. But I did not want to punish him!! I went to the telephone, regretting that his great time would be spoiled by his lack of contact with his father. As I dialed, I prayed for wisdom. “Treat him like I treat you,” the Lord seemed to say. With that, as the telephone rang one time, I hung up. A few seconds later the phone rang, and it was my son. “I’m here, Dad!” “What took you so long to call?” I asked. “We started playing and I forgot.

But Dad, I heard the phone ring once and I remembered.”

How often He rings just once, hoping we will phone home.

Part of today’s devotional came from a message Pastor James gave in 2018 titled ‘A Father’s Discipline’.

You can listen to it here.

Baby steps are confident steps

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1.6 

When our two little boys were learning to walk, like all children, they stumbled, fell, tripped, miraculously reappeared on their feet, and tried again. As their Dad, I knew that they would eventually get the hang of taking a few steps, then walking in a (fairly) straight line, then eventually they would build up the coordination to be regular walking humans. 

Throughout the process I tried to help (when not laughing) by removing obstacles from their path, holding their hand when they needed it, or sometimes even picking them up and reorienting them when they hit a dead-end. They knew I was there, and this gave them the confidence to walk on.

The same is true of our loving Father in heaven, perhaps without the laughing (although God does have a sense of humour, my choice in sports team can confirm that). He removes obstacles from our path, helps us past them, walks with us, and can even totally change the course of our lives when we headed down the wrong path. This is all with one goal in mind; our salvation and sanctification. 

I love what Charles Spurgeon said about this verse,

Show me for once a world abandoned and thrown aside half formed; show me a universe east off from the Great Potter’s wheel, with the design in outline, the clay half hardened, and the form unshapely from incompleteness. Direct me, I pray you, to a star, a sun, a satellite–nay, I will challenge you on lower ground: point me out a plant, an emmet, a grain of dust that hath about it any semblance of incompleteness…

But all God’s works are finished with wondrous care; He as accurately fashions the dust of a butterfly’s wing, as those mighty orbs that gladden the silent night.

God always finishes His work, so walk with confidence that our Father in heaven is there;

there directing those steps,

there clearing obstacles,

there holding your hand,

and will step in and change the path if He needs to.