Friday, May 2, 2014

My Help Comes From the Lord

          Much confusion exists concerning the meaning of distress signals.  The traditional SOS has been misunderstood to mean “Send Out Succour,” “Save Our Ship,” and “Save Our Souls.”  Actually, was officially ratified as the universal distress signal in 1908, and was chosen simply because it was easy to send the morse signal that consisted of only three dots, three dashes, and three dots, and it could not be misunderstood.[i]  The distress call “mayday” is actually an English version of the French m'aidez (help me) or m'aider (to render help to me).[ii]  Each of these distress signals anticipates help that may come from nearby ships or other rescuers. 
            We know that ultimately our help comes not from reliance on people, but dependence on God.  In Psalm 121 (ESV) we read:

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
 He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
 The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
 The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.

            Because our Lord is the Maker of all things, we know that all things are under His control.  As the psalmist looked to the hills, he may have been asking himself if his help might come from ally armies just over the horizon.  But he realized that his help comes not from beyond those hills, but from the Maker of the hills.  As the mountains provide a firm foundation, so God gives you a firm place to stand, and so you will not be moved.
            While they rested in their homes, city dwellers depended on the watchfulness of their night guards.  Yet even these could fall asleep.  Rather than relying exclusively on these sleepy sentinels, the psalmist tells us to depend on God, who never closes His eyes.
            As the sun’s harmful rays can be very damaging to the traveler, “the sun will not harm you by day” refers to God’s physical protection.  God is the “shade on your right hand,” says the psalmist.  Whereas our maps orient with the north to the top, ancient Jews used maps that oriented toward the East—so the right hand would be toward the South.  From the south, or right hand, came the sun’s scorching heat.  The psalmist says God protects you from that, but He also shelters you from the moon.  Since the moon’s forces were reputed to affect the tides of human emotion and levels of sanity, “nor the moon by night” speaks of God’s psychological and spiritual protection.  In other words, God is there to help you, inside and out.
            “He will guard your going out and your coming in,” says the psalmist.  Not only will God protect you inside and out—He will also protect you before and behind.  In fact, God will defend you from all sides. 
            Then, not only will God preserve you inside and out, and from all sides—God will keep you through all time.  “From this time forth and forever” means that our times are in God’s hands.  Inside and out, all around, and through all time—in all ways, God shields those who trust in Him.
            Now, we must temper our reading with understanding.  Some falsely interpret “The Lord will keep you from all evil” as a wholesale promise that nothing bad will ever happen to the believer.  This is neither realistic nor scriptural.  Rather than indicating God’s protection from misfortune, this verse promises that God will shield us from moral evil.  Indeed, God keeps our souls, to be pure and clean, when we trust in Him.  Still, those who look to God for their salvation can know that even when bad things do happen, the Lord preserves our souls so that no damage that is done can ever touch the eternal.
            I invite you to pray today, placing your body, soul, and spirit in God’s care.  Remember that your help does not come from high places and lofty people.  Rest in the knowledge that God cares for you in every place and through all time.  Know that your help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

[i] “What is the Meaning of SOS?”  Krzenski, Jim. 19, 2011

No comments: