Psalm 121 1-8, Where does my help come from?
Note to the Teacher
This psalm offers a sense of comfort and assurance that is so desperately needed in the world and in our own lives. It tells us how our God is a “keeper” and the source of our help. God is our guidance and our protector. One of the falsehoods that some Christians have come to believe is that if we just believe enough and devote ourselves to God even more, everything is always going to go our way and life will be easier. We know this not to be true, and often life can be even more difficult in this world the more we commit and worship God. The sort of keeping that the Lord offers is that of a comforting presence and affirming assurance that you will never walk alone or be outside the realm of God’s shade. Students wrestle often with the idea that maybe God is absent, that God isn’t “keeping” his children like this Psalm promises us. Engage your students in earnest conversation tonight about how the Lord’s keeping is that of assurance in God's ultimate peace and goodness and comfort that comes for those that abide in Him. The Ice Breaker will get the students into a conversational mood, all while having some fun doing so. The Discussion invites students to assess how God keeps us and invites them to seek out God for refuge in this whirlwind we call life. The activity gives the students a visual interpretation of what it is like to try to carry all the burdens by ourselves without seeking God for help and relief. Times are based on a 50-minute lesson period, but can be adjusted.
Description of activity (time)
1. Ice Breaker: Secret Identity
How to play: Have everyone secretly write down the name of a person on a small piece of paper or a Post-it Note. It must be a person that everyone in the room would know about – a famous historical figure, actor or athlete, the youth pastor, etc. Then have them tape the name on the back of the person on their left.
Everyone goes around and asks people yes or no questions about who is on their back. You can either have people keep asking questions until everyone finds out who they are, or the person who can do it in the least number of questions wins.
2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)
Our Psalm today is the song of ascension, a song that was commonly sung as people made their ascension to Jerusalem to worship at the temple. While we aren’t making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, your students are still on a journey of their own during this Lenten Season. Some of them may be worn out and just plain tired. This scripture can really speak to them as the can rest assured in its promise that our God will keep us in the comings and goings of this life that can leave our soul weary.
Read Psalm 121: 1-8.
3. Discussion (15 minutes)
Who are the people in your life that you can rely on to help you when you need a helping hand?
- The beginning of this Psalm reminds us that God is our eternal helper. The creator of Heaven and Earth helps us! How has God helped you in your life?
- What can God offer us that can’t be offered to us by anything this world has to offer?
- In verse 3 it begins with saying “He will not let your foot be moved.” Some may see this and think it means that God will never let anything bad happen to you. We've all endured hardships and know that bad things can still happen to good people. So, if the promise isn’t that nothing bad will happen to you, what do you think the promise from verse 3 is?
- The promise is that even in the bad times of life, our God still holds us and keeps us. Nothing in this world has the power to overcome us when we abide in God. When was a time that you got through something not by your own strength, but by God’s strength and grace?
- Where is the place you go when you are looking for peace from the difficulty and chaos of life?
- In verses 5-6, it says that God is our shade, which means that God is our relief from the evil and corruption of this world. What are the promises of God that bring you relief?
- Some of you may just be tired in this season of life. Tired of the fighting, tired of the hurt, tired of the mundane routine, tired of feeling the way you do about “fill in the blank.” If you are feeling this way, this passage is for you. You don’t have to carry the hurt, monotony, and burden all on your own. Your help comes from God who will not let whatever is you are carrying overwhelm you. All we need to do is rest in the shade he offers.
- How do we rest in God’s shade? How can we cast off all that weighs us down to God our helper?
4. Activity and Discussion (20 minutes)
Bag of burdens: For this activity you can use either use smooth river stones from a craft store, or you can use slips of paper (rocks are better for the illustration of our burdens being heavy). Give everyone a rock or two, and have them write down something they carry that weighs them down, e.g., shame, hatred, feelings of inferiority, etc. Once they finish, they will come and place their stones in a bag.
Once everyone has placed their stone in the bag, ask students if they’d like to share what it was that they put in the bag. After they share, invite them to pick up the bag. Explain how one rock doesn’t seem like all that much to carry, but when we start to pile on all the rocks, the weight can start to become unbearable and even immobilizing.
The same is true for our burdens. Looking at them separately we start to think we can handle it on our own, without the help of the God who keeps us. But once we pile every burden on our shoulders we get crushed by the weight. Tell your students that they don’t need to carry the baggage. We have a God who has come to take it all away with what Jesus has done on the cross.
- Sharpies (for icebreaker and activity)
- Post-it Notes
- River stones or paper