Surround Us LordSeries: Turbulence
SURROUND US LORD
Sermon By Terry Siverd / June 14, 2020 / Cortland Church of Christ
Good morning to all of you. We hope that you will plan to join with us for Sunday Morning Worship next Sunday, June 21st, at 10AM. A decision will be made this week at to whether we will be meeting indoors or in the pavilion. Betina, Albert & George are now visiting with us - - our thanks to George for this morning's Scripture reading. They will be with us for two months and we love having them here.
I have titled this current sermon series, Turbulence. When we were first given stay-at-home directives due to the virus, few of us ever imagined that a few weeks would evolve into a several months of dis-ease. It has been a difficult spring for all of us: the pandemic … the economy … and most recently, the demonstra-tions and rioting. With that being said, I want to remind us all, that many others (many of our fellow bro-thers and sisters in Christ) have experienced far worse in times gone by.
Imagine yourself as a follower of Jesus during the first-century. Trials and tribulations were the order of the day. The book of Acts opens with the early saints huddled together, united and prayerful, awaiting that which they knew not (Acts 1:14). Soon their beclouded future would become more clear: it would not bring days of wall-to-wall sunshine, but rather lives filled with non-stop difficulties. Acts 4:1ff notes a great distur-bance resulting in the imprisonment of Peter & John, yet they persevered. The disciples, though warned to speak no longer regarding Jesus, would not be silenced (Acts 4:17-20). Added to these external conflicts, two of their own were struck down by God for lying (Acts 5:1ff) ... the Grecian widows of the Jerusalem church complained about racial discrimination (Acts 6:1-2). Stephen is stoned to death because of His faith in Christ Jesus (Acts 6-7). Saul of Tarsus began ravaging the church and believers were forced to run for their lives (Acts 8-9). Shortly thereafter, the apostle James the son of Zebedee, is beheaded with a sword (Acts 12:1-2).
Despite both external and internal struggles, the church did not flounder but FLOURISHED.
Imagine yourself living in the middle ages during the days of the protestant reformation. Those who dared to opine about a back-to-the-Bible movement were persecuted and executed. It was during this time period that Martin Luther wrote that wonderful hymn, “A Mighty Fortress”, with one verse declar-ing: Did we in our own strength confide Our striving would be losing; Were not the right Man on our side The Man of God's own choosing. Imagine yourself as a God-fearing believer living in Germany in the days of the third Reich during WWII. Talk about stress and strain. Throughout the ages, God has sustained His people and we can stand assured that our God Almighty will continue to do so. In the words of a great hymn written by Isaac Watts, God is ... Our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come, Our shelter from the stormy blast, and Our eternal home.
The primary text for our brief word of exhortation this morning comes from Ps.125:1-2 - - Those who trust in the Lord are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. As the mountains sur-round Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people from this time forth and forever. Jerusalem was a well-fortified city. Some 30 or so years before the birth of Christ, Marc Antony made Jerusalem the eastern edge of the Roman Empire. As a part of this “coalition”, in 35 BC Herod the Great constructed the Fortress Antonio situated on the northwest quadrant of Jerusalem. It was to provide a bulwark against enemies. But long before the Fortress Antonio was built, Jerusalem was already a fortress, naturally so. 2Sam.5:7 chronicles the capturing of the stronghold of Zion by King David from the Jebusites. This ancient bastion represented a portion of Jerusalem, which came to be known as the city of David.
The location of Jerusalem (not just the geography, but the topography) made it a natural citadel. It was a city set on a hill (Mt.5:14). In addition to being a city set on a mountain, Jerusalem was a mountain city surrounded by mountains. The setting of the city Jerusalem painted a picture of strength and security. It was founded on Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken or moved. But it was really wasn't Jerusalem's choice real estate that made it a mighty stronghold, it was Jehovah God. Almighty God dwelt in the midst of the city. The temple was its hub and the Holy of Holies was it centerpiece - - housing the ark of the covenant which was crowned or capped with the mercy seat. This redounded in producing faith. confidence and courage among God's people. The New English Bible translates Ps.125:2 with these poetic and powerful words - - As the hills enfold Jerusalem, so the Lord enfolds his people...
As we discussed a few Sundays ago, the psalms of ascent include 15 psalms (120-134) that were sung by the children of Israel as they made their way to Jerusalem for worship and celebration during God-ordained times of pilgrimage festivals. Bobby Price has put to music these words from this psalm of ascent - - Ps.125. This is one of those instances where simplicity gives way to profundity. What a stirring and satisfying image: Jehovah God enfolding His children. Be sure to sing this brief hymn after this morning's message. It's posted on our website.
This lesson is a kind of sequel to last Sunday's. Ps.91:1 & 4 states - - He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty...He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge. That psalm pictures baby eaglets finding protection under the wings of their mother. It may be a reference to safe- keeping from a storm or a fire or a predator or other dangers. cf. Ps.17:8; 36:7; 51:1; 61:4; 63:7 with Mt.23:37. Here, in Ps.125, the image changes from a mother eagle defending her young to a fatherly God enfolding His children with strong arms of love and protection. These are the vivid portraits that we need to etch into our troubled minds as we encounter trials and turmoil. We have also posted another song based on the words of David's Ps.32:7 - - Thou art my hiding place; Thou dost preserve me from trouble; Thou dost surround me with songs of deliverance. There are so many hymns that can comfort us and renew our minds in these times of tumult. Song #841 - - “Hide Me, O My Savior”. The Scriptures contain numerous exhortations - - Take courage (Mk.6:50) … Let not your heart be troubled (Jn.14:1) … Be of good cheer (Jn.16:33) … and Fear Not (Isa.41:13 & 43:1).
Dear Heavenly Father, Help us to not be anxious. Give us strength and courage. And grant us cheer in the midst of heartache. Through Christ our mighty fortress, who enfolds us with His love, we pray. Amen