The Step of Deliverance
Dr. Joe Temple

Review

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Psalms. In our last lesson we began a series of messages related to the devotional material in the book of Psalms which is well known for its devotional character. Many psalms might have been selected for this purpose, but God led us to a series of psalms which begins with Psalm 120 and concludes with Psalm 134.

We printed out to you in our introductory remarks that, beneath the number of the psalm in most Bibles, there is the title, “A Song of Degrees.” That title is under each of these fifteen psalms. We also pointed out to you that some Bibles have beneath the number the phrase, “A Song of Ascents.” We discussed with you the fact that the word which is translated “degrees” or “ascents” can be translated “stairs”–the songs of the stairs. We suggested to you that, very literally, the word which is translated “degrees” may be translated “the songs of advancing upward” or “the songs of going upward.” We pointed out to you that these psalms are sometimes referred to by Bible scholars as the “Pilgrim's Staircase” because they represent various degrees of spiritual growth from the time that one first finds the Lord until the time he stands absolutely satisfied in His presence.

Now, I do want to utter a word of warning. I do not want you to think because we are considering the “Pilgrim's Staircase” that you can climb to Heaven by your own efforts. You know better than that. I'm not suggesting that this is a way to get to Heaven. I'm suggesting that these are the various stages of Christian growth.

In our last lesson we noticed Psalm 120 and were pleased to call it “The Step of Distress.” You will remember verse 1 of that psalm.:

Psalms 120

1In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me.

We pointed out to you that no one will advance spiritually until he comes to the end of himself, until he comes to “wit's end corner,” until he comes to that place where he feels all hemmed in, and in the midst of his adversity he cries out, “Oh, God, help me!” Whether it is a person who has never been born-again, a Christian out of fellowship, or a Christian pressed beyond measure, he will never find that which he needs until he recognizes his spiritual condition. The psalmist recognized his need. He said, “In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and He heard me.” I repeat: Only when you and I take that first step will we begin to grow

Assurance of Deliverance

Now, the psalmist says that the Lord delivered him. So we are ready for the next step which I am going to call “The Step of Deliverance,” or more accurately, “The Step of Assured Deliverance.” Notice the words “assured deliverance.” It is one thing to be delivered; it is another thing to live in the daily assurance of that deliverance. That is what the psalmist describes for us in Psalm 121:

Psalms 121

1I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
2My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
3He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
4Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
6The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
7The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
8The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Notice, please, the grammatical construction of that first verse. Notice that, according to the grammatical construction in the King James version, it would seem that the psalmist is saying that the help for which he prayed came to him from the hills. Nothing could be farther from the truth than that. If that is what he meant, then in verse 2 he is contradicting what he says in verse 1.

You are aware of the fact, I am sure, that in the original text there are no punctuation marks such as we have in our English text. The punctuation marks can only be determined by the meaning of the various phrases and by the context itself. I believe that the testimony the psalmist would give us here concerning assured deliverance will be clearer if you will permit me to change the punctuation which is in the King James version.

Where the word “hills” is followed by a comma, it would be better to put a period. The word “from” should begin with a capital letter, and it should be followed by a question mark. Then verse 2 will be the answer to the question. You will notice, reading it this way, the psalmist says:

Psalms 121

1I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills…….

Get the picture. He lifts up his eyes and he gazes at the hills all round about him there in the area known as the Holy Land. As he lifts up his eyes to the hills in meditation, he asks, “From whence cometh my help? Oh, I've asked God for deliverance. I've asked God for help. Where does it come from?” Then he answers his own question in verse 2 by saying:

Psalms 121

2My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.

Perhaps, paraphrasing it a bit, he looked up at the hills, filled with the inspiration of them, and he asked, “From whence cometh my help?” Then he said, “My help comes from the Lord who made these hills. My help comes from the Lord who made the heavens. My help comes from the Lord who made the earth.”

Inspiration of the Psalmist's Assurance

That leads me to suggest to you the first mental peg on which you might hang some of the thoughts I want to leave with you—namely, the inspiration of the psalmist's assurance. “Oh,” he declared, “I cried unto the Lord in my distress, and he heard me and he delivered me!” And Satan might well have slipped up alongside of him and said, “God delivered you? Are you crazy? What makes you think God is interested in you? God delivered you? God's got too much to do to be concerned about you, little insignificant you.” And the psalmist might have said, “I don't know about that. When I think about all that God has done in relation to nature, when I think of God's interest in the most minute thing related to His creation, why, of course He's interested in me.”

Take No Anxious Thought

Turn with me, please, to the Gospel according to Matthew and notice in chapter 6 a passage of Scripture which verifies what I am saying to you at the moment and which should encourage our hearts. The earth about us–all of God's handiwork, His creation–was meant to be enjoyed, and you are a very foolish person if you think you should not get out where you can enjoy some of the wonderful things which God has done. It is emphasized here that marvelous lessons can be learned from them. In Matthew, chapter 6, verse 25, the Lord Jesus Christ says:

Matthew 6

25Therefore I say unto you, Take no [anxious] thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Let's pause for a moment and understand what we've read. In this verse the

Lord Jesus Christ didn't say, “Don't make any plans.” He didn't say, “Don't get a good job and don't have a savings account.” He didn't say, “Don't live in a thrifty fashion.” He says, “Don't take any anxious thought for it.” You see, there is a difference between planning and worrying . And these folk to whom Christ was speaking were worrying; they weren't planning. So He said, “Take no anxious thought about the everyday, ordinary things of life, what you're going to put on and what you're going to eat. Life is more important than your body and what yoiu're going to put on it.”

And yet we realize today that any number of God's dear children are missing what there is in life for them because they are so afraid of not being able to make ends meet, and they are so afraid of the evil that might come their way. The Lord Jesus Christ says, “Now, don't worry like that.” Then in verse 26 He continues:

Matthew 6

26Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. [notice now] Are ye not much better than they?
27Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Do you see what the Lord Jesus Christ is saying? “You were created to live. Now live, and God will take care of everything that's necessary for you to live. The birds were created to be birds. They weren't created to spin, so God takes care of their clothing. The lilies of the field were created to add to the beauty of a dreary and a drab world, and all that they have the responsibility of doing is growing. God takes care of everything else.”

God's Interest In Us

This same thought is emphasized in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 10, in a way that I like even better than what we've just read. We read:

Matthew 10

29Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.

Isn't that wonderful? You see, the psalmist says, “I was in distress and I cried, and the Lord heard me.” Someone may have asked, “The Lord heard you? What makes you think He's interested in you?” And the psalmist could have answered, “He's interested in the sparrow, Not one sparrow falls to the ground without God's knowing about it.”

Then the Lord Jesus Christ adds something else. He says in verse 30:

Matthew 10

30But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

It is always a source of great blessing to me to know that God is so vitally interested in me that the very hairs of my head are numbered. I know there are any number of practical folk (God deliver me from practical people) who say, “Well, I don't quite see how God can do that. When you think about all the people there are in the world, and all the hair there is, you just tell me how God can.” I don't know how He does it. I don't care how He does it. All that I'm interested in is that He said He does it. It has been a tremendous blessing to me.

A few months ago I was studying this verse, meditating upon it and saying, “Lord, show me something new about this verse; I've known it for years, but show me something new about it,” And the Holy Spirit of God said, “Look at that word ”numbered.“ I said, ”Lord, I know, and I've said 'Amen' any number of times when I think about how You count the hairs.“ And He said, ”Look at that word “numbered” and then I gradually realized what the Holy Spirit would have me do. And I began a study of this word “numbered,” and then my heart really was thrilled.

Do you know what the word really means? It doesn't mean that God counts the hairs of your head 1-2-3-4-5. It means that God catalogs the hairs of your head. If you have had any experience along this line, you know that no two hairs are constructed the same. The cellular construction of the hairs are different. This passage of Scripture says that God not only counts them, but God even catalogs them. My God, Beloved, is able.

The psalmist, when he looked up to the hills, said, “Aren't they wonderful? The sky, the earth, the heavens, everything; my God did that.” Then he said, “My God has delivered me.”

Example From Job

Job found a great deal of inspiration along that line, you know. He was about as low as he could get and he didn't know what to do. And God said to him, “Job, I want to talk with you a little bit.” God said, “Where were you when I measured the heavens with the span of My hand? Where were you when I set in space Pleiades and Orion? Where were you?” God asked him a lot of questions like that. Of course, Job said, “I wasn't anywhere, I guess.” And God said, “Well, now who are you to think that if I did all that, I can't take care of you?” This is the inspiration of assurance.

Preservation of Assurance

I want to suggest to you the preservation of that assurance. He had the assurance that God had delivered him. He not only had the assurance that God had delivered him, he had the assurance that God was going to preserve him in that deliverance. And there is where the real joy comes.

Preservation is Personal

Let me suggest a few things to you that come to mind from Psalms 121 as we think about the preservation of assurance. First, let me suggest to you that it is personal. Notice three times over in this psalm it is recorded, “The Lord is thy keeper.” Notice in verse 5:

Psalms 121

5The LORD is thy keeper……

And in verse 7:

Now verse 8:

Now, it is personal from a twofold standpoint. It is personal, first, in that the Lord Himself is the one who does the preserving. It is the Lord Himself who does the delivering.

Notice that the word “LORD” is spelled with every letter capitalized. This is the translator's ways of showing you that it is the translation of the Hebrew word “Jehovah,” which is the strongest, most powerful, most holy name that can be used for God.

As a matter of fact, when the Hebrew scholars were copying the sacred texts, they revered that name so much that they couldn't even spell it out. They just put a symbol there, because they thought it was such a great name they didn't even want to disfigure it with even a little line that would be crooked. Now, that's the One is preserving you.

It is one thing to say that God preserves everyone; it's another thing to say that God preserves me. It is one thing to say that God answers prayer; it's another thing to say that God answers my prayer. So I suggest to you that this preservation is personal.

Preservation is Protective

Then I would like to add something else, and that is that this preservation is protective. Notice that the word “keep” and the word “preserve” are mentioned three times each in this psalm, making a total of six. Six times over the Lord says, “I'm going to keep you, I'm going to preserve you.” I would like to suggest to you that the word “keep” and the word “preserve” is a translation of the same word, the Hebrew word shamar , which is a very interesting word. One of the meanings of this word is “to hedge about,” and I like that.

You know, in ancient times they didn't have ways to build fences as we do today, and so they would build a hedge about a vineyard out of thorns. And until there was such a time as the thorny bush itself would come up, they would gather thorns and put a hedge all about the vineyard to keep out the wild, marauding animals that might come their way. And this word that we are thinking about is the very word that is used.

Get the picture. God has delivered you, and not only has He delivered you, but He's going to protect you. One of the ways that He protects you is to build a hedge all the way around you.

Do you remember what the Devil said about Job when he went into Heaven and told God that he didn't find anyone that really loved Him. And God said, “Have you considered My servant Job?” And the Devil said, “Yes, I have.” God said, “Well, what about him?” And the Devil said, “Well, that's simple. You have built a hedge about him?” That is the word that is used here. “You've built a hedge about him and that's the reason why he's serving you. Take down the hedge and let me get at him, and I'll show You he doesn't love You nearly as much as You think he does.”

Do you get the lesson? Most of the time, our emphasis in that lesson is on the testing of Job, but here is what I want you to realize. The Devil couldn't get to Job until God took the hedge down, and he can't get to you until God takes the hedge down. God is our protector, and He has built a hedge about each one of us, and nothing–absolutely nothing–can break through.

This word is also translated “guard.” It is translated “attend.” It is translated “protect.” But the idea is that God will keep you, and you don't need to worry about it at all.

Specific Ways of Preservation

I'd like for you to notice with me some of the ways in which God's protective preservation actually works. You see, He doesn't only throw out the general challenge, “I'm going to keep you, I'm going to deliver you,” He becomes specific. Notice, please, in Psalm 121, verse 3, where we read:

Psalms 121

3He will not suffer thy foot to be moved….

The word “suffer” in this verse means “permit.” So what we are reading is that God will not permit your foot to be moved. What in the world does that mean? Go back to Psalm 40 for a moment, and read the story of Danid's deliverance from sin:

Psalms 40

1I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.
2He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, [notice now] and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.

How many dear people there are today who can give that testimony, but then spend the rest of their life worrying whether or not their foot is going to slip off the rock? Here's the answer, Beloved: God puts feet on the rock and he says, “I will not suffer your feet to be moved.”

That word “moved” in Psalm 121, verse 3, is the translation of the Hebrew word mowt , which can be translated several different ways. It means “waver,” for example. What God is saying is, “Your foot is on the rock. I put it there, and I'm not even going to permit your foot to waver. I'm not even going to permit it to shake while you are on the rock.”

This word also means to “slip.” It also means “fall,” and the emphasis becomes greater. God says, “I'm not even going to permit your foot to fall off the rock. I've delivered you, and when I deliver an individual, then I establish his goings.”

I hope you'll claim this for your own heart. How grateful I am today that I have a God who not only delivered me and put me on the rock, but He keeps me there, firm, without wavering.

God Takes Care of the Unexpected

Notice another way that God's protective preservation works in verse 5:

Psalms 121

5The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.

Did you ever wonder about that verse? Why does it say only the right hand? What about the left hand? Well, let me tell you why. This word “shade” is not speaking so much of protection from the sun, although there isn't anything wrong with suggesting that; but it is suggesting an individual who stands between–an individual who comes and cuts off the enemy from this side of you.

You may say, “Why the right hand?” If you are familiar with the ancient Hebrew warrior you know why. He had a shield in his left hand and he could put that shield up between him and anyone who came his way. But in his right hand he had nothing. He had to keep it free for the sword; he had to keep it free for the spear. So the enemy could come to him from this direction. What God says is, “I'll be a shade on your right side..”

Do you get the picture? On, He's just using a figure of speech. What He is saying is, “Now, I'm your preserver; I'm your keeper, and I'm going to provide protection on that side of you where you can't do anything about it yourself. I'll be there. Don't worry about what you can't help. I'll be there. Don't worry about something that's going to come crashing out of the dark and take you unaware. I'll be there.”

Oh, what peace of heart and mind there could be for believers if we could realize that we don't have to worry about that which we don't know. We don't have to worry about the unexpected. How much peace there would be if we could take this promise and say, “I believe: now I've got my shield over here on my left side. I'll take care of it. I don't know anything about this side, but I'm going to leave it up to God; that's His business. He'll take care of it.” And He will!

You'd sleep better at night if you believed that. You know, a lot of folk are scared about what's going to happen to them at night. I've had ladies, bless their hearts, talk to me and say, “I'm afraid to live by myself, especially in the days of uncertainty in which we are living, and I lie awake all night. I can't rest. What do you think I ought to do?” And I've said to them, “Well, I'd lock all the windows and I'd lock all my doors and make sure that all the protection was made that I could make. I'd turn on all the lights outside that I needed to turn on, and then I'd turn over in the bed and go to sleep and leave it with the Lord, because He is the shield on your right side. He is the One who is able to take care.”

A Canopy Above

Look again, please, at the promise in verse 6:

Psalms 121

6The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.

That doesn't mean very much to us folk in this country, but over in the Orient it meant something. As a matter of fact, God made several promises about Heaven in relation to the sun and the moon. Did you know that?

In the book of Isaiah, chapter 49, verse 10, He encouraged the Israelites to believe in a future place of blessedness an abode that we call Heaven by saying that “when you get up there, the sun and the moon won't bother you. You'll be free from it; you won't need to worry about the heat of the sun and the moon.”

I'm going to suggest to you now, for whatever this might represent in your own heart and life, that the Lord our God is able to not only be a sheld on the left hand, but He is able to be a canopy above. Isn't that wonderful? You see, you just don't have anything to worry about.

Protection From Evil

Now, look at verse 7, as I suggest to you something else:

Psalms 121

7The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil……..

That's another way in which the protective assurance of our God becomes a reality in our lives. He protects us from all evil. Now, usually, when we see the word “evil” we see the word “sin” and the word “wickedness.” But the word “evil” is a translation of the Hebrew word ra , and it's a word that is translated by the English word “adversity,” by the word “stress,” and by the word “affliction.” You see, the psalmist was in distress when he cried out for deliverance. He thought, “My, I wonder if I'll ever get in trouble like that again.” God whispered to his heart, “I'll keep you from it. I'll keep you from affliction. I'll keep you from distress. I'll keep you from evil.”

Someone may say, “Wait a moment. Does that mean I'm never going to have any affliction? Does it mean I'm never going to have any distress?” Perhaps we should make a qualified statement here, because this Hebrew word ra comes from a root word which means “break to pieces,” and I think that qualification ought to be made. It isn't that you won't ever be in distress; but you'll never be in that adversity, in that distress, in that trouble, that will break you. Just remember that. God won't let it break you.

That's the reason I suggested we pray for these dear folk who are at the breaking point, these folk who are screaming on the inside, these folk who can't take any more. God has given a promise. He says, “I'm your protector, and I will protect you: I'll keep you from breaking!”

Beloved, we ought to claim that promise. I wonder if, all too often, too many of us take things lying down. I wonder if, all too often, we break because we don't claim the promise. Let's learn to claim the promise today. He is our protector; He is our preserver. Let's take this second step in this spiritual staircase and say, “Yes, in my distress I will cry and the Lord will deliver me, and I will have the assurance of lthat deliverance.”

Preservation of the Soul

Then notice, please in verse 7:

Psalms 121

7……….. he shall preserve thy soul.

Are you afraid of losing your soul? You don't need to be. He'll take care of your soul if you have turned it over to Him, if you have trusted Christ as your personal Savior. God has the situation well in hand.

Preservation In Travel

Notice again, please, verse 8. This is often referred to as “the traveler's song”:

Psalms 121

8The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in …….

This is the psalm that I claim every time that I make any kind of trip. The Lord will keep me on the way out, and the Lord will keep me on the way in. When I pray that the Lord will give me a safe journey, I'm not only talking about one way. I always buy a round trip ticket, spiritually speaking, when I pray that prayer. Sometimes, you go to get a ticket on a plane, train, or bus and they will ask, “Round trip?” And you answer, “No, one way is enough.” Well, one way is not enough for me, when I'm talking to the Lord. I make it a round trip ticket. “Lord, I want You to preserve my going out and I want you to preserve my coming in.” And in His grace, all these years, He has done that. He has preserved my going out, and He has preserved my coming in, and I want to praise Him for it.

Do you know something else that I do? I pray before we go out, and I always pray after we get in, and I thank Him. It is amazing how many of us pray about the going out, and then when we get in, we dash out of the car and go about our business. Never one time do we say, “Yes, God was good; He took care of us. He preserved our going out and he preserved our coming in.”

A Permanent Preservation

There is one last thing that I want you to think with me about, and that is that this preservation about which we've been speaking is a permanent preservation. It is peremanent as far as this life is concerned, and it is permanent as far as eternity is concerned. Look at verse 3, and notice the words:

Psalms 121

3………..he that keepeth thee will not slumber.

Then notice verse 4:

You have read in your newspapers many, many times the story of what happens because a driver goes to sleep at the wheel of a car. Let that sink in for a moment. A driver goes to sleep at the wheel of a car. His life is sometimes taken and the lives of all those in the car with him. I always feel such a tremendous responsibility if anyone is in my car with me.

Let's lift that illustration a little higher and let me suggest to you that our God will never go to sleep at the wheel. You don't need to worry about the automobile going over an embankment because the driver has gone to sleep, spiritually speaking. He'll never sleep. He won't even doze.

You have all had the experience, I suppose, of driving beyond the time you should have. Oh, you weren't asleep; you still had control of the situation, but everything was kind of foggy, and suddenly something happened, and you realized you'd been dozing, slumbering. Well, our God won't ever do that. He'll never go to sleep at the wheel. You can be positive about that.

We Are Never Alone

There is something I want to add conerning the permanency of this preservation. It is found in the last part of verse 8 where we read:

Psalms 121

8……… from this time forth, and even for evermore.

From this time forth, even for evermore. Permit an illustration. In the process of the years I have conducted a great many funerals. Most of the time those funerals have had a police escort. The police ride up to the intersection and stop traffic. The funeral procession drives through the intersections and red lights. They have the right-of-way as they have a police escort.

I've always been interested in this, and I don't mean this as a criticism; it's simply a statement of fact. When the police come to the city limits they stop their motorcycles; they take off their hats, and stand politely while the procession continues on. What they are saying by their actions is: From here on out, you are on your own. You don't have an escort.

Beloved, let's lift that illustration a little higher, and let me say to you that our God isn't like that. He doesn't carry you, He doesn't escort you, He doesn't attend you only part of the way; it's all the way. That's the reason He can say, “When you go through the valley of the shadow of death, I'll be with you.”

Have you ever stood at the bedside of one of your lived ones when they were leaving this earth? Have you ever stood there, doing everything you could for them those last minutes, those last seconds? You know they are leaving you but you do everything you can to make them confortable. You wipe their lips; you cool their forehead; you fluff their pillow. You want to make it as easy as you can. And they they go.

One of the heart-rending things about it is that that's as far as you can go. You can't go any farther. You would like to take their hand and go all the way, right up to the gates of Heaven, and then come back and get busy about what you have to do. If you could just do that, it would be all right. You see, you can go just so far. Thank God today that He says, “I will preserve you; I will attend you from this time forth, even forever more.” Thank God we are not alone.

Conclusion

Let me ask you, in relation to this spiritual staircase, in relation to the Pilgrim's Staircase, have you taken that first step–the Step of Distress? Have you come to the end of yourself, when you knew you couldn't help yourself? Have you said, “Oh, God, help me.” Have you? Well, if you've taken that step, He did help you, for He has never turned a deaf ear to anyone. You are on the step of deliverance now. Don't wonder if you are there. Don't doubt it. don't question it. Enjoy it!


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