Songs for the Road (8/9/15)

Posted by on Aug 13, 2015 in Sermons | 0 comments

Are you on a trip somewhere?  Looking forward to where you’re going but wondering how to occupy your time in the long car drive?

Our sermon on August 9 2015 was given by Larry Bakely (PUMC Lay Leader).  Click on the below “Play” button, then scroll down to follow along.

Note that the recording begins immediately with the scripture reading, starting with Psalm 130:1…


The scripture reading was from Psalm 130, one of the “Songs of Ascents.” Click the drop down box to read it…

Psalm 130

  1. Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
  2. Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive  to the voice of my supplications!
  3. If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,  Lord, who could stand?
  4. But there is forgiveness with you,    so that you may be revered.
  5. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,   and in his word I hope;
  6. My soul waits for the Lord, more than those who watch for the morning,  more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord!    For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.
  7. It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities. 


On the Road Again…

How do you keep occupied when you’re in the car driving on a long trip (vacation)?  You’re anxious to get to where you’re going, even as you’re anxious about the other drivers who are cutting you off Family Vacationon the highway.  You and your kids are bored.  So you play music on the CD player.  Or maybe you count license plates (picture Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel traveling on the New Jersey Turnpike).  Or maybe you even get the family to sing some songs.  Remember those long bus trips in school where you might have been subjected to 100 bottles of bear on the wall…

But you get the point- music helps us through life’s journeys.

In ancient Israel, they had many festivals which were held in Jerusalem.  People would come from all over and travel “up” to Jerusalem.  They always said “up” to Jerusalem.  Even if you were headed south from Galilee, you’d say we’re going Up to Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is on a geographical high point.  It’s also where the Temple is, so it’s a Spiritual Highpoint.


Songs of Ascents

The book of Psalms records some of the songs that the people would sing as they traveled “up” to Jerusalem.  The 15 psalms beginning with Psalm 120 and continuing through Psalm 134 are identified as “songs of ascents.”Jordan Valley nr Masada _56-26

According to one commentary, there’s is a pattern in the way these 15 songs are arranged.  You can look at them as being arranged in a series of five groups of three songs.  Different commentaries might find other arrangements, but this does give us some insight.

The first song in each group speaks of desperation.  Things are going bad and we know that we need God, and we totally depend on Him.

The second song in each group talks about God’s power, love, and righteousness.  We worship Him and know that He will help us.  Psalm 130 is one of these second songs.  Verse 5 says “I wait for the Lord and in His word I hope.

The third song in each group celebrates the security we have with Him.  Because of His protection, and because of the loving trusting relationship we have with God, we can step out and serve Him.

So as the Israelites traveled to the Temple and festivals in Jerusalem, it’s fair to say that they were singing songs that expressed their Desperation for God, their Dependence on God’s Power, and their Hope in God’s Security.



The people were traveling a long distance headed for these festivals.  And as they traveled they must have been anticipating a time of celebration and worship.  Just as we might look forward to planting our feet in the sand on a beach, they were looking forward to a time of celebrating God in the Temple.

We’re on a trip too. We’re going somewhere; there’s a purpose to our travels.

Paul talked about a prize at the end of life’s journey.

Philippians 3:14… I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
1 Cor 9:24…   “Run in such a way as to get the prize.

In Ephesians 3: 19… Paul prays that we might be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God

We’re on a journey with a purpose.  We want the prize. We want to filled with Christ.  One way to do this is to encourage eachother with songs reminding us of our need for Christ, of His power, and of the security He offers.

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. 

Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”   (Ephesians 5:19-20)


What songs should we be singing as we travel this road?


1: Songs of Desperation


The first Psalm in each group of Psalms of ascents speaks of our desperate situations, and reminds us that God is the answer.  Flip back to Psalm 120, which is the first Psalm in the first group:

Psalm 120:1…    “In my distress I cry to the Lord”
Psalm 123:1-2…    “To You I lift up my eyes”   “As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master… so our eyes look to the Lord our God until He has mercy upon us.”
Psalm 126:4…   “Restore our fortunes O Lord.”
Psalm 129:1…  “Often they have attacked me.”

Psalm 132:1…  “O Lord, remember in David’s favor all the hardships he endured.”


And so, we too have songs that sing of our desperate need for God.  Here are some lyrics that should sound familiar:


”As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after Thee.

You alone are my heart’s desire, and I long to worship Thee”

”Draw me close to you- never let me go.

I’d lay it all down again, to hear you say that I’m your friend.

You are my desire- no one else will do.

You’re all I want, Jesus.   You’re all I’ve ever needed.”

”I need Thee every hour, most Holy One.

O make me thine indeed, thou blessed Son.

I need thee, O I need thee. Every hour I need Thee.”


Our passage for this morning opens with the line: “Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord.”

Pain and physical loss draw us towards God.  It’s easy to cry out to God and to be desperate for Him when we’re going through rough times.

But shouldn’t we also sense our desperation for God even when things seem to be going well?

In Philippians (4:12), Paul wrote that he had learned live in both plenty and in want.  We focus on the “in want” part, but it’s also important to learn how to live “in plenty.”  Charles Spurgeon, in his Morning and Evening devotional (Feb. 10) commented on this verse:

“When we have much of God’s providential mercies, it often happens that we have but little of God’s grace… we are full and we forget God: 

Satisfied with earth, we are content to do without heaven.”

We should always be reminding ourselves and each other of our desperation for God.  Last week Pastor Jim reminded us that Jesus told us (in Matthew 7:7) to:

  • “Keep seeking,”
  • “Keep knocking”
  • “Keep asking”

We should never just become comfortable with the gifts; we need to know the Giver.

James 1:17 reminds us that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.”

Charles Spurgeon, (in his February 6 devotional, commenting on Ephesians 6:18) put it this way:

“All the bread your soul has eaten has come down from heaven, and all the water of which it has drank has flowed from the living rock- Christ Jesus the Lord.   Your soul has never grown rich in itself; it has always been a pensioner upon the daily bounty of God.”

In our prayers, in our personal thoughts, in our conversations with family and friends- both within and outside of the church- and even in our facebook posts- Do we admit, and even celebrate, that we’re a “pensioner upon the daily bounty of God”?  Because when we come to grasp with the fact that we totally depend on God, we’ll want to know Him more.


2: Songs Praising God’s Power

The second Psalm in each group sings of God’s power.  If we’re desperate for God, our faith is well placed.  God loves us enough and has the power to understand our needs and to answer our prayers.

Take a look at the second Psalm from each group…

Psalm 121:1… “I lift my eyes up to the hills, where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord, who made the heaven and earth…”

Psalm 124:1… “If it had not been for the Lord who was on our side…”
Psalm 127:1… “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain…”
Psalm 130:7… “for with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.”

Psalm 133:3… “for there the Lord ordained His blessing, life evermore”


Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:9…

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”


When we try to wrap our minds around the things that “God has prepared for those who love Him,” here are some of the songs that we sing …

”On Christ the solid rock I stand.

All other ground is sinking sand.”

”Shout to the Lord, all the earth let us sing.

Power and majesty, praise to His name.”

”Our God is an awesome God.

He reigns from heaven above, with wisdom, power and love.

Our God is an awesome God!”

”A mighty fortress is our God.  A bulwark never failing.

Our helper, He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.”

”Amazing grace, how sweet the sound-

that saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found.

Was blind, but now I see.”


At the end of chapter 1 of Paul’s letter to the Colossians (Colossians 1:28-29) he writes:

We proclaim him (Jesus), admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.

Then he adds this…

To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.

We can’t do anything without the power, love, and forgiveness that God gives us  But sometimes we’re tempted to sing other songs that that ignore God and instead place our hope in our own abilities.

Anyone remember this one?

”O Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way.  I can’t wait to look in the mirror; I get better looking each day.  To know me is to love me…”

Popular culture says “Suck it up!”  “Be a man!” “Earn your way!

But Jesus reminds us that He is the only true power in our lives:
The house of our life will collapse if we build it on the sands of our own abilities.

God wants us to live songs that glorify Him as our only provider.  He wants us to show others that He is worthy to be trusted.


3: Songs of Security

And third, God gives us songs of security.  The third psalm in each group sings of the peace and comfort that comes when we rest in God’s security…

Psalm 122:1…  “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the House of the Lord!’”
Psalm 125:1…   “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mt. Zion,

which cannot be moved but abides forever.”

Psalm 128:1…  “Happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways.

You shall eat the fruit of the labor of you hands.”

Psalm 131:2…  “like a weaned child with its mother;

my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.”

Psalm 134:1…  “Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord

who stand by night in the house of the Lord!”

Our “Church Lingo” speaks of “Walking with God.”  What’s that mean?  When we have an attitude of dependence on God and an attitude of worship, He leads us into a state of mind where we’re at peace.  We want to “stand by night in the house of the Lord.” And so we use Prayer, Bible reading, and music to savor our relationship with our Creator.  Our thoughts, words, and deeds pull us deeper into that relationship.


But another part of Walking with God is that we use the security He gives us to share with others.  Paul talks about this in Philippians chapter 2…

IF  you have any encouragement from being united with Christ; if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the spirit

In other words, IF you are secure because of your relationship with Christ,

THEN “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”


Paul tells the Colossians (Colossians 1:4-5)  that he has heard of their faith in the Lord Jesus and of their love for all the saints, and he goes on to say:

the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven.”

Nehemiah 8:10 says the same thing…

Do not grieve, for the Joy of the Lord is your strength.

“Hope” isn’t just some kind of cross your fingers and take your chances that it turns out the way you want.  Christian Hope is based on a guaranteed promise from God.  Strength comes from this well-placed hope and from the joy in the Lord.Trench Done!

If you think about it, why is it that we can put part of our income into the offering plate- even if things are tight at the end of the month?  Or why can some of us travel to Mexico to dig a trench in the hot sun and help build a church sanctuary?  Isn’t it because we know our security lies in our relationship with Christ?

In our actions, and in our music, we sing songs about this security:

”And He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own.

And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”

”When we walk with the Lord, in the light of his word, what a glory he sheds on our way!

While we do his good will, he abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey.”

“Be near me, Lord Jesus I ask thee to stay close by me forever,

and love me I pray. (v3)

”Near the cross I’ll watch and wait, hoping trusting ever”

“Rock of ages, cleft for me. Let me hide myself in thee.”

The list could go on and on.  But these songs are there for a reason.  People of God have been motivated to write these songs because they felt closeness with God; they knew His protection and security in a personal way.  They trusted and stepped out in love and service.   And they felt that they just had to sing about this peace and security that God gave them.

Over and over, Jesus promises His security and protection for us….

John 10:14-15…  “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
Matthew 28:20… ”And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 23:37-38… “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”


Are we willing to become like little chicks and to allow Jesus to gather us under His wings?  More than that, are we craving, thirsting to have that protection?  And do we sing life songs that show that we trust this security enough to sacrifice ourselves in works of love?


Looking to Jesus…

When someone we love passes away, we immediately feel an intense need to be reunited.   Even if we could just have 5 more minutes with them!  We’re bombarded with the things that they did for us, and it’s a real sunflower-402249__180struggle to figure out how to do these things ourselves.  We’re constantly reminded how much we need that person, and we don’t hold back when it comes to telling others about it.

Secondly, as we move on, we become more and more aware of all of the good things that this person brought to our lives.  We may even feel guilty that we didn’t appreciate that person enough, but we realize that God brought this relationship into our lives to empower us to serve Him and to love Him.

And thirdly, there’s a sense of security knowing that God loved us enough to give us this relationship.  He used it to build us up in the faith and to help us grow.  We learned things from this relationship, and we want to give back and put what we’ve gained into action.  Even from opposite sides of eternity, there’s a sense of peace knowing that someone close to us, is with our Creator. 


But shouldn’t we feel the same way about Jesus? 

Shouldn’t we constantly feel our intense and desperate need of his love, grace, and forgiveness?

Shouldn’t we be in constant prayer and thanksgiving, always making connection with the things God does in our lives?

And shouldn’t we tell others about this great relationship we have with our creator?

We need to sing about Jesus- not only in our words, but also in our attitudes and actions towards others.


As we travel on this road of growing closer to God and becoming like Him, acting in trust and obedience, and learning to love Him more and more…

What songs are we listening to?  What songs do our lives sing?



 Quiz Time!

As you reflect on what you’ve just heard/read, give this quiz a try.  If you don’t understand an answer (or if you disagree with the “correct” answer, post a comment)…


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