Living in Britain, I don’t usually worry about sunburn. After all, the sun is often blocked by a thick cover of clouds. But recently I spent some time in Spain, and I quickly realized that with my pale skin, I could only be out in the sunshine for ten minutes before I needed to scurry back under the umbrella.
As I considered the scorching nature of the Mediterranean sun, I began to understand more deeply the meaning of the image of the Lord God as His people’s shade at their right hand. Residents of the Middle East knew unrelenting heat, and they needed to find shelter from the sun’s burning rays.
The psalmist uses this picture of the Lord as shade in Psalm 121, which can be understood as a conversation on a heart level—a dialogue with oneself about the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness. When we use this psalm in prayer, we reassure ourselves that the Lord will never leave us, for He forms a protective covering over us. And just as we take shelter from the sun underneath umbrellas, so too can we find a safe place in the Lord.
We lift our eyes to the “Maker of heaven and earth” (vv. 1–2) because whether we are in times of sunshine or times of rain, we receive His gifts of protection, relief, and refreshment.
Emil was a homeless man who spent a whole year looking down at the pavement as he plodded around the city day after day. He was ashamed to meet the eyes of others in case they recognized him, for his life had not always been lived out on the streets. Even more than that, he was intent on finding a coin that had been dropped or a half-smoked cigarette. His downward focus became such a habit that the bones of his spine began to become fixed in that position so that he had great difficulty in straightening up at all.
The prophet Elisha’s servant was terrified as he looked at the huge army the king of Aram had sent to capture his master (2 Kings 6:15). But Elisha knew he was looking in the wrong direction, seeing only the danger and the size of the opposition. He needed to have his eyes opened to see the divine protection that surrounded them, which was far greater than anything Aram could bring against Elijah (v. 17).
When life is difficult and we feel we are under pressure, it’s so easy to see nothing but our problems. But the author of the letter to the Hebrews suggests a better way. He reminds us that Jesus went through unimaginable suffering in our place and that if we fix our eyes on Him (12:2), He will strengthen us.
No matter where the athletes of the 2016 Olympics go in the city of Rio de Janeiro, they can see Jesus. Standing high above this Brazilian city and anchored to a 2,310-foot-high mountain called Corcovado is a 100-foot-tall sculpture called Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer). With arms spread wide, this massive figure is visible day and night from almost anywhere in the sprawling city.
As comforting as this iconic concrete and soapstone sculpture may be to all who can look up and see it, there is much greater comfort from this reality: The real Jesus sees us. In Psalm 34, David explained it like this: “The eyes of the
Just who are the righteous? Those of us who place our trust in Jesus Christ, who Himself is our righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30). Our God oversees our lives, and He hears the cries of those who trust Him. He is near to help in our greatest times of need.
Jesus has His eyes on you.
Are the best days of your life behind or in front of you? Our outlook on life—and our answer to that question—can change with time. When we're younger, we look ahead, wanting to grow up. And once we've grown older, we yearn for the past, wanting to be young again. But when we walk with God, whatever our age, the best is yet to come!
Over the course of his long life, Moses witnessed the amazing things God did, and many of those amazing things happened when he was no longer a young man. Moses was 80 years old when he confronted Pharaoh and saw God miraculously set His people free from slavery (Exod. 3–13). Moses saw the Red Sea part, saw manna fall from heaven, and even spoke with God "face to face" (14:21, 16:4, 33:11).
Throughout his life, Moses lived expectantly, looking ahead to what God would do (Heb. 11:24-27). He was 120 years old in his final year of life on this earth, and even then he understood that his life with God was just getting started and that he would never see an end to God’s greatness and love. Regardless of our age, “The eternal God is [our] refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27) that faithfully carry us into His joy.
Fear sneaks into my heart without permission. It paints a picture of helplessness and hopelessness. It steals my peace and my concentration. What am I fearful about? I’m concerned about the safety of my family or the health of loved ones. I panic at the loss of a job or a broken relationship. Fear turns my focus inward and reveals a heart that sometimes finds it hard to trust.
When these fears and worries strike, how good it is to read David’s prayer in Psalm 34: “I sought the
This awe of His goodness helps put our fears into perspective. When we remember who God is and how much He loves us, we can relax into His peace. “Those who fear him lack nothing” (v. 9), concludes David. How wonderful to discover that in the fear of the Lord we can be delivered from our fears.
Veteran news reporter Scott Pelley never goes on assignment without his travel essentials—a shortwave radio, camera, indestructible suitcase, laptop computer, phone, and an emergency locator beacon that works anywhere. “You extend the antenna, push two buttons, and it sends a signal to a satellite connected to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Pelley said. “It tells them who and where I am. Depending on what country you’re in, they’ll either send a rescue team – or not” (AARP The Magazine). Pelley has never needed to use the beacon, but he never travels without it.
But when it comes to our relationship with God, we don’t need radios, phones, or emergency beacons. No matter how precarious our circumstances become, He already knows who and where we are. The Psalmist celebrated this as he wrote, “O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up . . . and are acquainted with all my ways” (Ps. 119:1-3). Our needs are never hidden to God, and we are never separated from His care.
Today, we can say with assurance, “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me” (vv. 9-10).
The Lord knows who we are, where we are, and what we need. We are always in His care.
Normally she doesn’t move or make a sound, but lately she’s been pawing us gently in the middle of the night. At first we thought she wanted to go outside, so we tried to accommodate her. But we realized she just wants to know we are there. She’s nearly deaf and partially blind now. She can’t see in the darkness and can’t hear us move or breathe. Naturally, she gets confused and reaches out for reassurance. So I just reach down and pat her on the head to assure her that I’m there. That’s all she wants to know. She takes a turn or two, settles down, and goes back to sleep.
“Where can I flee from your presence?” David asked God (Ps. 139:7). David took this as an immense comfort. “If I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me,” he noted. “Even the darkness will not be dark to you” (vv. 9-12).
Lost in darkness? Grieving, fearful, guilty, doubting, discouraged? Not sure of God? The darkness is not dark to Him. Though unseen, He is at hand. He has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). Reach out your hand for His. He is there.
Trying to stay aware of current events has its downside because bad news sells better than good news. It’s easy to become overly concerned about the criminal acts of individuals, crowds, or governments over whom we have no control.
Psalm 37 gives perspective to the daily news. David begins by saying, “Do not fret because of those who are evil” (v. 1). Then he proceeds to outline for us some alternatives to becoming overly anxious. In essence, David suggests a better way of thinking about negative news in our world.
What would happen if, instead of worrying about events beyond our control, we chose to trust in the Lord? (v. 3). Wouldn’t we be better off to “take delight in the Lord” (v. 4) rather than fret without limits? Imagine the freedom from worry we could have if we would “commit [our] way to the Lord” (v. 5). And how calm we could be by learning to “be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him”! (v. 7).
News of trouble we cannot change offers us an opportunity to set boundaries for our concerns. As we trust God, commit our ways to Him, and rest in Him, our outlook brightens. The struggles and trials may not disappear, but we will discover that He gives us His peace in the midst of them.
It began as a distant, foreboding hum, then grew into an ominous, earth-rattling din. Soon hundreds of tanks and thousands of enemy infantrymen swarmed into view of the badly outnumbered soldiers in Finland. Assessing the murderous wave, an anonymous Finn lent some perspective. Courageously, he wondered aloud about the enemy: “Where will we find room to bury them all?”
Some 2,600 years before Finland showed such pluck in that World War II battle, an anxious Judean citizenry reacted quite differently to their own overwhelming situation. The Assyrian armies had trapped the people of Jerusalem inside its walls, where they faced the hopeless prospect of a starvation-inducing siege. Hezekiah nearly panicked. But then he prayed, “Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth” (Isa. 37:16).
Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord answered with strong words for Assyria’s King Sennacherib. “Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? Against the Holy One of Israel!” (v. 23). Then God comforted Jerusalem. “I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!” (v. 35). The Lord defeated Sennacherib and destroyed the Assyrian army (vv. 36-38).
No matter what dangers loom on your horizon today, the God of Hezekiah and Isaiah still reigns. He longs to hear from each of us and show Himself powerful.