I will lift up my eyes to the hills [of Jerusalem]—From where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord,Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip;He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps IsraelWill neither slumber [briefly] nor sleep [soundly]. The Lord is your keeper;The Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not strike you by day,Nor the moon by night. The Lord will protect you from all evil;He will keep your life. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in [everything that you do]From this time forth and forever.
With my daughter and son, then ages fourteen and twelve, we set out for a brief morning stroll down a path from the southern rim into America’s Grand Canyon. So rapid and enjoyable was our descent that before we knew it we had reached Indian Gardens-a drop of four thousand feet on four-and-one-half miles of switchback trails.
We should have paid attention to all the hikers struggling on the upward climb; instead, we bantered among ourselves about how out of shape they were.
How foolish. By the end of the afternoon my wife, who had remained behind, was about to call for the rescue squad when we rounded the final bend.
I learned two lessons that day: it’s easier to go down than up and never underestimate the difficulty of the climb.
The Psalmist had no such miscalculation. In Psalm 120 he began his pilgrim journey of
assent to Zion by deciding he had remained too long in the wrong place. Now in Psalm 121, he stood in the Jericho Valley twelve hundred feet below sea level and gazed toward the mountains around Jerusalem. A long tough climb lay ahead.
Psalm 121 teaches us three things about this journey of life: (1) We are no match for the difficulty, (2) Without help we won’t make it, (3) We are often vulnerable and unprotected.
In Psalm 121 the psalmist immediately concludes he won’t make it on his own, so he asks, “From where will I find help?” It would be a mistake to think that he teaches us in verse 1 that our help comes from the hills. Hills are against us, actually the problem and not our solution. Maybe we face what appears to be monstrous obstacles that appear as impassable mountains and our resources the size of molehills. But we shouldn’t let our adversities become larger than God. Instead we should declare our faith: “My help comes from the Lord.”
The writer of Psalm 121 worries that his foot will slip. When climbing mountains such could end in nothing more than a heart-stopping moment, or serious injury or even a fatal fall. Are we feeling our foot slipping today? Perhaps into grief, depression, or feelings of worthlessness? Do we find ourselves saying, “What’s the use? I’ve tried and tried and it’s not making any difference. I might as well throw in the towel.”
John, the exiled prisoner on the Isle of Patmos, keys in on the same concept as the writer of Psalm 121. He sees the Lord Jesus securely holding the “messengers” or leaders of the Church(Revelation 1:20). Jesus will not let go of us(verse 3). He’s on guard every waking moment and watches over us even as we sleep(verse 4).
Psalm 121 uses the word “watch” five times in speaking of God’s care for us. It means much more than God just looking at us, observing us. It actually means that He is looking out for us, guarding us and protecting us from the hardships and terrors of the trail which include exposure to the sun and moon. The Lord know so when the sun’s heat is too much for us to bear and He will give us shade. He also knows when the moon tears at our viscera bringing the haunting memories of some action that caused you injury from someone close who shattered your trust and took advantage of your love. He knows the loss of those who preceded us in death and He won’t let that “moon by night” harm us.
We ask ourselves if God will really come through for us.
The psalmist points out the dangers of the ascent to Zion: the difficulty of the climb itself(verse 1), a slip or fall(verse 3), and exposure(verse 6). So that no danger be omitted, the psalmist concludes with the promise that the Lord will keep us from all harm(verse 7) at all times (verse 8).
We may never understand how the Lord has spared us from harm until we gain perspective that only comes through time and distance. Let us remember that only after Easter and the resurrection that Friday was called good.
Dr. John Thompson