Psalm 125 (ESV)1Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. 2As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore. 3For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous stretch out their hands to do wrong. 4 Do good, O LORD, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts! 5But those who turn aside to their crooked ways the LORD will lead away with evildoers! Peace be upon Israel!

Backslider was a basic word in the religious vocabulary depicting people who had made a commitment of faith to our Lord, had been active in church, but had lost their footing on the ascents to Christ and backslid. This was a threat to all, at all times. You could at any moment fall victim to loosing your footing and slipping backwards. Another way to look at this action Christians are prone to is by examining scripture and seeking a different truth. In scripture there is a background of confidence, a leisured security, among people of faith.

Someone Else Built the Fortress: The emphasis of Psalm 125 is not the precariousness of the Christian life but on its solidity. Jerusalem was set in a saucer of hills. It was the safest of cities because of the protective fortress these hills provided. Just so, is the person of faith surrounded by the Lord.

People of faith have the same needs for protection and security as anyone else. What is different is that we don’t have to build our own. God provides our safe haven. He constructs the walls that secure us in his presence. At no time does a person of faith feel left out in the wilderness, but brought within the city gates to rest in the peace and shelter that God provides in Christ in the Gospel.

A Saw–Toothed History: The confident, robust faith that we desire and think is our destiny is qualified by recurrent insecurities. Singing psalm 125 is one way Christians have to develop confidence and banish insecurity. One threat to our security comes from feelings of depression and doubt. We can be moved by nearly anything: sadness, joy, success, failure.

Israel can be described as a having a saw–toothed–history. One day it’s up, and next it is down. But as we read about their history we realize something steady: they are always God’s people. We learn to live not by our feelings about God but by the facts of God. Our security should come from who God is, not from how we feel about him. Discipleship is a decision to live by what we know about God, not by what we feel. In other words, it’s not what we feel about God that makes us secure, its that God chooses to know us and Christ chooses to save us.

A Damoclean Sword: Another source of uncertainty is our pain and suffering. The daily conflicts that we face can be demoralizing. God tells us that danger and oppression are never too much for faith. That nothing counter to God’s justice has eternity to it. God will never let you down; he’ll never push you past your limits; he’ll always help you come through it.

A Nonnegotiable Contract: The third kind of threat to the confidence promised to the Christian is the fear of defection. However, once you are a Christian there is no getting out of it. We have our ups and downs, zealously believing one day and gloomily doubting the next, but God is faithful. You may choose the crooked way. You may choose to run from God. But if you are His, He will not lose you. If He has begun a good work He will bring it completion. Our confidence, our security, our perseverance is not due to our performance, our faithfulness, or our determination but to the LORD who surrounds His people, to the Spirit who seals His people, to the Shepherd who leads His people.

Mountain Climbers Roped Together: Psalm 125 says that being a Christian is like sitting in the middle of Jerusalem, fortified and secure. Neither our feelings nor the facts of suffering nor the fear of defection are evidence that God has abandoned us. Do not be anxious, our life with God is a sure thing, because He is sure and because He surrounds and because He saves and because He seeks.

Traveling the way of faith and climbing the ascent to Christ may be difficult, but it is not worrisome. The weather may be adverse, but it is never fatal. We may slip and stumble and fall, but the rope will hold us. God will always hold us.

(This post is a summary and partial abridgement of Eugene Peterson’s book “A Long Obedience In The Same Direction.” It is based solely on Peterson’s work and any help that this content gives should be credited to God’s grace through Peterson’s effort. In other words, give God glory, thank Eugene Peterson and consider buying the book.)