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When You Are in Distress 

When liars fill your heart with distress, cry out to the Lord

Psalm 120

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • January 22, In the year of our Lord, 2016

Song Leader and Song Suggestions: Larry Amberg – Songs on Prayer


  1. A ship at sea is in imminent danger of sinking. 
    1. What do the crew members do?
    2. One of the first things is send out a distress signal.
      1. Why do they send out the signal
      2. instead of taking care of the problem or abandoning ship?
        1. They will or are taking care of the problem;
        2. they might be in the very act of abandoning ship.
  2. However, what happens if 
    1. they cannot fix the problem, or
    2. they abandon ship, and
      1. they never sent out a distress signal?
      2. Their problem just got worse.
  3. We come into trouble sometimes, and 
    1. we require immediate assistance, but
    2. we send no distress signal.
      1. We do not ask for help from anyone, and
      2. we never pray, asking the Commander of our lives for help.
        1. What will happen?
        2. Our problem will get worse.


  1. Psalm 120.0 | Ascend to Jerusalem

    0 A Song of Ascents.

    1. Psalms 120 through 134 are all Songs of Ascent.
    2. In these Psalms,
      1. you will hear the psalmists desiring to ascend
        1. to something or
        2. to someone higher.
      2. Psalm 120 will have the psalmist rising to the Lord.
        1. An enemy took the low road, but
        2. the psalmist sought the high road,
          1. by not taking personal vengeance or repaying evil with evil, but
          2. turned the matter over to the Lord.
      3. Also, when we get to verses 5–6,
        1. we will discover
          1. that he did not want to dwell any longer
          2. in certain places because of his enemies.
        2. Therefore, he wanted to ascend to a higher and better place,
          1. which would have been Jerusalem,
          2. a place where he had people of like mind.
  2. Psalm 120.1–2 | When Distress Attacks You

    1 In my distress I cried to the LORD,
    And He heard me.
    2 Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips
    And from a deceitful tongue.

    1. Distress hijacked the life of the psalmist, and
      1. in the case of the psalmist, someone lied about him.
      2. I hear people say that it does not matter to them what people say.
        1. Such a person has never had a lie told about them, for
        2. if someone had and spread it around, and
          1. it damaged their good name,
          2. they would know just what the psalmist meant.
    2. Remember Joseph and
      1. his brothers, and
      2. his false accusers in Egypt.
    3. Also, anyone who says that verbal persecution is nothing,
      1. has not experienced verbal persecution.
      2. Jesus blesses verbal persecution rather than belittles it,

        10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
        For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
        11 Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt 5.10–12).
  3. Psalm 120.3–4 | Sharp Arrows for Your Oppressors

    3 What shall be given to you,
    Or what shall be done to you,
    You false tongue?
    4 Sharp arrows of the warrior,
    With coals of the broom tree!

    1. This is how the Lord would deliver the psalmist from lying lips.
    2. You cannot lie and expect to get away with it.
      1. Revelation 21 informs us plainly and boldly,

        8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Rev 21.8).
      2. If you lie about people,
      3. you will have to deal with the Lord.
    3. Picture a warrior shooting sharp arrows.
      1. Who knows the pain that would bring?
      2. My knife and avocado experience
      3. My recent lip surgery
      4. My blood clot emergency surgery
    4. The psalmist also said that the slanderers would experience
      1. the coals of the broom tree, which burns with intense heat.
      2. They would suffer hell.
  4. Psalm 120.5–6 | Living with People Who Hate You

    5 Woe is me, that I dwell in Meshech,
    That I dwell among the tents of Kedar!
    6 My soul has dwelt too long
    With one who hates peace.

    1. Why was it a woe that he dwelt in Meshech and among the tents of Kedar?
      1. Meshech was in Asia Minor.
      2. Kedar was in Arabia.

        “The writer was not actually dwelling with these people, because he could not live in two places at once, especially places thousands of miles apart. Rather, he was dwelling with Jewish people who were behaving like people who lived outside the covenant blessings of God” (Warren Wiersbe, page 1021, emphasis in original).

        1. Have you associated with Christians who did not act like Christians?
        2. If so, you know what the psalmist meant.
    2. He wanted to dwell with lovers of peace;
      1. He wanted to be back in Jerusalem among his own people.
      2. He wanted people who wanted peace.
    3. He wanted to ascend from Meshech and Kedar to Jerusalem.
      1. We should find the congregation of the saints,
      2. spiritual Jerusalem, as equally comforting.
    4. Although we find it difficult,
      1. we can live among the wicked.
      2. That is why we are the salt of the Earth and the light of the world.
        1. Peter relates the experience of Lot in Sodom, but
          1. it also shows that he survived the experience,
          2. although it troubled his soul,

            7 …delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked 8 (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)— 9 then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment… (2Pe 2.7–9).
        2. What about Jesus?
          1. He knew no sin by personal experience, yet,
          2. somehow He managed to live in this evil world.
            1. One way that He survived was through constant prayer,
            2. just as the psalmist did.
              1. Yes, we want to live in a place where righteousness dwells
              2. without competition from wickedness, but
                1. it is surviving here by righteousness
                2. that shows the Lord our desire to live with Him.
  5. Psalm 120.7 | Seek Peace

    7 I am for peace;
    But when I speak, they are for war.

    1. Are we truly for peace?
      1. If you are a child of God,
      2. seeking peace has to be your way.
        1. God seeks peace with man
        2. even when man hates God.
          1. Therefore, if I am His child,
          2. will I not also seek peace?
    2. Romans 12 informs us that seeking peace characterizes us,

      18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore
      “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
      If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
      For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

      21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12.18–21).

      1. Let others be the lovers of strife.
      2. Let us be lovers of peace.


  1. What do you do when you are in distress? 
    1. What do you do when someone lies about you?
    2. What do you do when you want peace, but someone wants war?
  2. You do what the psalmist did! 
    1. Cry to the Lord!
      1. Ask Him to deliver you from lying lips and from the haters of peace.
      2. Spell out your trouble to the Lord and ask for help.
    2. Do not demand it as the Israelites did in the wilderness.
      1. After they crossed the Red Sea on dry land,
        1. they traveled three days and
        2. could not find water.
          1. When they did find water,
          2. it was bitter and they could not drink it.

            24 And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” (Exo 15.24).
      2. Later they had problem finding water again.

        3 And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!” (Exo 17.3–4).
      3. Then God through Moses brought water out of a rock.
        1. Moses gave the place two names
        2. that indicated it was a place where Israel
          1. tempted God and
          2. contended with Him,

            7 So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” (Exo 17.7).

            1. He had turned the waters of Egypt into blood.
            2. He had divided the waters of the Red Sea.
            3. He healed the bitter waters of the previous place of water.
              1. Yet, they still did not know
              2. whether the Lord was among them!
    3. All Israel had to do when they were in distress because of a lack of water
      1. was ask the Lord to help them,
      2. just as the psalmist asked for help.
        1. Just remember
          1. who is the servant and
          2. who is the Master.
        2. Do you want to know a secret?
          1. We are not the Masters.
          2. God is not the servant.
  3. What do you do when someone lies about you? 
    1. Do good that they may be ashamed.
    2. Do good that people may see the error of what was said,

      16 …having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed (1Pe 3.16).