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Michael Youssef - Look Up

Michael Youssef - Look Up
TOPICS: Hard times, Hope, Protection, Psalm 121

I want to talk to you about the trusting prayer that we learn from the psalmist, particularly in Psalm 121. And I hope you're turning to it in your Bible, your iPhone, your iPad, or whatever you do, and get Psalm 121 as I begin to bring this message from the Lord. You have to be living under a rock somewhere not to know what's going on in the world. Terrorism is rocking our world. Discrimination against Christians in the West has become rampant, both in your country and in mine. Economically all those who know what's going on tell me that the economic world is on the razor edge. Now we have the right is called wrong, and the wrong is called right. Daily we hear of bloodshed and mayhem.

There are so many Christian marriages struggling. Children have rejected the faith of their parents, and as we look at our world today we must come back to God, trust in God, taking hold of God, believe in God, trust in God that he will do the impossible because it's times like these when we need to learn afresh how to cry to God. And Psalm 121, I hope you got it in front of you, teaches us how to cry to God in trusting terms, in trusting him completely. So many people talk about prayer as like something you do. I was giving an interview not long ago, and somebody says, "Well, what can we do? Well, of course, we pray". And I said, "Well, look. Stop. When you say, 'Well, of course, we pray,' and you tick it off like it's a list of things you take off, you gotta understand that is not how it works".

And I shared the experience of these folks who have prayed and trusted God, and God did the impossible. I remember a story told years ago by an old evangelist by the name of Vance Havner. He was talking about this elderly lady who was having so many difficulties, so many problems. Most of them were real. Others were imaginary problems, and her family was surrounding her. And finally one of the family members, her granddaughter, said, "Grandma, we've done everything possible that we could do for you. Now it's time for you to just trust God". And a kind of depression fell over her face and disappointment, and she said, "Oh, dear, has it come to that"? Well, it always comes that. It has to always begin with that, and that's what the psalmist is trying to teach us here, to pray and trust and believing. It begins with that, and it continues in that, with that, and it ends with that.

And historians have told us that this particular psalm was called the Song of Ascent. Devout Jews would sing this song as they made their way up to the temple in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is located on a hill. Those of you who have traveled to Israel, you have seen it. It's right on a hill, there the temple, and these weary travelers are coming from all over the country and sometimes all over the world going up to the temple. And back then the psalmist, in the psalmist day, there were no real roads. Now when I go there and I see all these big tour buses going up those hills, I say, "Back then were just trodden paths where people came from across the land, from all the valleys that surround Jerusalem to worship God".

And when they'd go up... and I can truly imagine these pilgrims coming in with feeling tired. Their feet are sore, and their muscles are aching. And as they get closer to Jerusalem, because they walked everywhere. And they looked up, and there it is on the hill. The end of their pilgrimage was in sight, the temple of God, and right at that moment they begin to sing this song, Psalm 121, "I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth". But because of a slight error in the translation many people have read this verse to mean, "I lift up my eyes to the hills, and that's where my help comes from".

But if you take the Bible in context and if you understand the original language this psalm is written to, the traveler when they came and looked up to that temple in Jerusalem, they did not think because that's where God dwelt and therefore that's what their eyes are on because in context they were saying more than that. Because, you see, the Canaanites worshipped their gods on the hill. All the hills, on top of every hill, they will put this Asherah pole. You read about it in the Bible. In fact, 78 times in the Old Testament we read about the high places where the Canaanite worshipped their gods, their idols. Many times we read how God was grieved, how God was displeased with his own people, why? Because instead of destroying these idols, they worshipped them. They joined with the pagans, and they worshipped idols.

And the psalmist is saying that when he looks up and sees Jerusalem, his eyes goes further to the heavens to the God who made the mountains, the God who made heaven and earth. His eyes go further beyond the hills to the God of power and might. You see, this is where our culture has gone astray, and we think it's new. It's not new at all. Instead of admiring nature and worshipping the God who created nature we are bowing down to nature. We're worshipping nature. I just read this week some leaders in the church here in England are calling people to fast on behalf of nature, on behalf of the environment. I wanted to cry out. I said, "You need to call people to fast on behalf of the deadly environments in the churches".

And sometimes some may think this is new. This is not new at all. This is as old as the Bible where people forsook the creator of nature and worshipped nature. Back then they forsook the God who flung the sun and the moon and the stars in their orbits and worshipped the sun and the moon. They forsook the very God who created the seasons, and they began to worship the seasons themselves, forsook the God who sends the rain that brought the crop to worship the blessing instead of the blesser, and they worshipped the crop itself. And the psalmist rebukes this falsehood, and he says, "When I look to the hills, I see beyond the hills to the maker of the hills, to the maker of the universe. When I look at the hills, then I look heavenward, further than that and see the stars. And at that moment in realize that the God who made it all is my provider. He is my protector. He is my guardian. He is my all in all," amen.

Beloved, those of us who believe and put their faith totally in Jesus and trust his Word, every one of us are pilgrims. We're on our way to the heavenly Jerusalem. Every morning I wake up... I live in a high rise, and I look up to the heavens. I say, "Lord, if it is today my bags are packed. I'm ready. But if it's not, strengthen me to serve you with all my being". Because we are pilgrims. We are not gonna be here forever. We're not gonna be here. This is not our home. Have you ever seen somebody go to a train station and set up a house? No, they're waiting for the train. They're there to travel, and we are travelers. Even on the journey we face some treacherous roads. My goodness, I have faced so many difficulties in life in all three continents.

Some of us are exhausted along the way traveling to our heavenly Jerusalem. Some of us are grieving over the leaders, not only political leaders but the church leaders, and we need God's sovereign intervention. Some of us are suffering physically, and they need a touch of healing from God. Some of us are puzzled by our circumstances, and we need the Lord's direction. Some of us are anxious about the future, and we desperately need his assurance. Some of us are fearful of what's around the corner, and we need his guiding hand. Some of us have many needs for provisions, and only God can do that. Many of us are in sorrow, in need of comfort. Only he can comfort us. That is why the Holy Spirit, called the Paraclete, the comforter, that's his name. Some of us have torn marriages and torn homes and need God's power. Only God can do that, can bring the healing. And today many of us look up and see that the governments have disappointed us, and all of our political parties have disappointed me terribly.

Now I don't put my faith in any of them. I'm just telling you the truth. In one stage I thought some of them would do some good, but now I gave up. We look up to science, and science has proved its shortcomings. We look up to medicine, and medicine has shows its limitation day after day. And then your friends and your families can do only so much, so where do we go from here? We look up to the heavens. We look up to the one where our help comes from, look up to the one who said, "Let there be light," clicked his finger, and there the sun, the moon, and the stars began to dance in their orbit. Our help comes from the one who flung those stars and knows 'em by name, and they are in their places by his command. It comes from the one who dried up the Red Sea, and he got his people through it.

And then he brought it back on again and drowned the Egyptian army. I probably have ancestors down there under the water, but that's alright. They were against God's people. Our help comes from the one who said to the River Jordan, "You dry up," and it dried up. And Joshua and his people crossed the Jordan. It comes from the one who said to the tide of the sea, "You come so far, no further," and it says, "Yes, sir". It comes from the one who made the cripple walk again. It comes from the one who opened the eyes of the blind. It comes from the one who called out, he called out to the stinking corpse of Lazarus and said, "Come out"! And he came out of the grave. It comes from the one who on Good Friday hung on that bloody cross and then brought down and buried in a borrowed tomb, but then on the 3rd day he rose again with the power of his omnipotence.

That's the God. That's where our help comes from. That's the God who's been trusted by people through the generations, the God who does the impossible, the God who says, "Ask me, and I'll give you the world for your inheritance". He's the only one who can truly help us. I think every time I think of this psalm I think of the nursery rhymes we used to teach our kids, "Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king's horses and all the king's men could not put Humpty Dumpty together again". And I always think of Psalm 121. The reason is because Humpty Dumpty did not need the king's horse and the king's men. She needed the king! And we need King Jesus. He's the only one who can put us together again. He's the only one. All other things are helpful, and I thank God for all these things and for science and for medicine, for I am not against science, and I'm not against medicine. I thank God for it.

Every time I get a headache I take an aspirin, but that's about the only medication I take. I said every time I go and get some tests or something it says, "Have you been hospitalized, and how are you? What about this? What about this"? And I tick them all off. I said, "Can I just cross this page"? I said, "But I've never been hospitalized. I don't take any medication. God has put me together so I can serve him until he calls me home". You see, only God our maker, the maker of the heaven and the earth, can really help us, can really intervene in our lives and meet our desperate needs. I thought of a story I read some time ago. Back in the early days when the motorcars were just coming on the line in the '20s and '30s, some of you, I'm looking around. You're all young, but you probably don't remember that.

But, you know, this man bought a Model T Ford, and he was driving it just outside of Detroit, Michigan. And right on the highway it stopped. He got up. He kept working. He kept fiddling with it, tried to get it going, hours later nothing happening. And finally he sees a sort of a, like, a limo, the high-quality Ford car, limousine. I was driven by a chauffeur and a very highly dressed, very well-dressed man sitting in the back seat. He comes out of the back seat, and he goes into this car. He says, "What's the trouble"? He said, "I don't know. It just stopped". So he said, "Let me look".

He looked under the hood or under the bonnet. We call it the hood. This is freebie on the house, a little bit of education here. And he looked at it and started fiddling around, fiddling around, and he said, "Get back in the car. Start it". And, sure enough, he cranks it, and the car keeps humming. And the man said, "What did you do? How did you do this"? He said, "My name is Henry Ford. I designed this engine".

You see, where does our help come from? From our designer, from our designer, from our maker. The psalmist is saying the only help worthy of the name comes from the maker of heaven and earth. It comes from the one who nestled me in my mother's womb. It comes from the one who watches over his faithful children all the way until they are safely home into the New Jerusalem. He watches us until the journey is over and we go home. He promised that. I often think of the words of Jesus. He says, "Those whom the Father has given me". Sometimes I imagine him probably going like this, "Those whom the Father has given me, I will lose none". You are engraved on the palms of his hands. You are carried on his shoulders. He who touches you touches the apple of his eye. That's the promise of God for you. That's the promise of God for you. He is the God who neither slumber nor sleep.

Now there is a reason for this why the psalmist put that here because, you see, the pagan gods, Baal and Astaroth and Ashtar, and all the rest of them, these fertility gods, they're supposed to go to sleep when the vegetations dry up. They go to sleep. They go off duty for weeks and months at a time but not our true God. He never slumber nor sleeps. In fact, you remember when Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal? I have a picture of us standing there on Mount Carmel next to the statue of Elijah. I mean, he said, "Look, call upon your gods. Call upon Baal. He maybe went to relieve himself. He may be asleep. He may be too tired," and he made fun of them. But he said, "My God hears my prayer". And then he looks up to heaven, and he said, "Do it, Lord," and fire came down and licked up his sacrifice.

Verse 4, "Our God never slumbers nor sleep". And, see, that's why he puts it there. He wanted to remind those unfaithful Jews who went after Baal, who went after the gods of the pagans, who went after the idols, that our God isn't like those gods that are misleading you. He never slumbers nor sleep. Our God never says, "Whoops, how did this happen? How did this god get by me"? He's not sitting up there with heartburn wondering, "What am I going to do? What am I gonna do? Look at these politicians. They're turning against me. What am I gonna", no, no, no, no, you just wait, for the day is coming that the very Jesus who hung in that cross, he's gonna rule with a iron scepter in his hand, and all of those who dragged him in front of Pontius Pilate, they will be dragged into the fire of hell. Don't give up praying, trusting God, for he has not stopped working yet.

One time somebody asked Alexander the Great, he said, "How can you sleep at night when so many people want to kill you? I mean, you are the target of so many folks. How can you sleep so soundly"? He replied, "Because my faithful guard, Parmenio, is watching". Ah, listen, how much more is our God, how much more the maker of heaven and earth who is watching over his children? And he will never allow one of them to slip, and he will take us safely all the way home. Look with me at verses 5 and 6. "The Lord is your shade; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night".

Now I need to explain that to you. Some of you may have also grew up in the Middle East. The first 18 years of my life, I can tell you I went to the desert once in July. Temperature was somewhere between 120, 140 Fahrenheit. I don't know what that translate into centigrades, but it doesn't matter. You get the picture. There is no heat like it. Having lived in Australia and being on the west side of the United States, I've been everywhere but nothing like that. The heat is unbearable. The sun is so hot that a shade can mean a life or death, can literally save a life. And so in the midst of the circumstances, the psalmist is saying, "God is the one who's your shade".

You see, having personally suffered from a sunstroke, I'm telling you I had all kinds of other things, nothing like that. It is horrible experience, and I can testify to you. And that is why our Lord is a wonderful shade from the heat of the sun. Whatever the sun of this world and heat that can bring, that can cause us heartache, he is a shelter. And the people of the Old Testament believed that their mind is affected when there's a full moon, luna, and that is why they called them lunatics because their minds really was affected, but that's what they believed, and that's why the psalmist puts it here.

See, he's answering the questions that all the pagans and the unfaithful Jews are asking about our God. He talks about the sun. They know what it's like in the heat. He tells 'em about the moon. They're afraid of the moon. And he says, "When you're under the Lord's shadow, neither the sun nor the moon can harm you. He's got you covered". Neither physical nor emotional stress can harm you. Neither bodily nor psychologically will you be hurt, neither day nor night. He takes care of it all.

In fact, the ancient Arabs before Islam rose in Arabia, they were terrified of the full moon, but, you see, Satan used that. He made them worship the moon, and some of them continue to do that. Satan knows how to exploit those fears. Even in subsequent times verses 7 and 8 makes it very clear that God is not promising that we will never, never, never have problems. He is not promising that we will never have times of trials in our lives or times of difficulty in our lives. He never promised that we will not face illness or sickness or diseases but that he will keep us safe when we go through these difficulties. They will not permanently injure us. God did not keep Daniel from going into the den of lions, but he went ahead of Daniel and zipped the mouths of those lions. God did not stop Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from going through the fiery furnace, but he walked with them, and he turned it into a beautiful garden.

And that is why a true child of the living God is neither blind to these troubles nor is fearful of them, why? He's got us in the palms of his hands. We're neither immune to stumbling and stubbing our toes nor are terrified of trials in life, why? Because our very breath in his hand, and he promised to never leave us nor forsake us, amen? Amen, Jude, the brother of Jesus, was facing all sorts of difficulties and trials. All the apostles basically were killed as martyrs except for John, and in the midst of that difficulty he could write in one epistle, one chapter, he says, "To him who is able to keep your from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy, to the only God our Savior glory, majesty, power, authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen," amen.

The one things about I'm grateful that I lived long enough to see that things are not as they appear. You know, when I was younger and I would see things, and I said, "Oh, my goodness," you know, "look how they're getting away with this, and look what is happening here. And look what's happening here," God has a way of evening the score. That's why he said, "'Vengeance is mine,' says the Lord". Don't take it into your own hand. He's gonna take care of it, and he does a much better job than you can, you see? And I think of how the Christians in Iraq how they watch their children being crucified alive and how their faith in Jesus was never moved.

I think of the Apostle Paul who suffered physically more than ten people put together. He was beaten until almost death. He was stoned. He was imprisoned. He suffered hunger and thirst and shipwreck and all of the things that he suffered, and yet he could confidently say in Romans 8, beginning at verse 35, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? It is written: 'For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am absolutely convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither present nor future, nor any power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord," amen.

There may be someone here today who would say, "Michael, I have not experienced intimacy with Jesus like this, that absolute confidence and trust regardless of the circumstances". Well, I want to tell you you're here not by accident. You're here because you have an appointment with the living God, and he wants to have an encounter with you.
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