(Part 1) Psalm 121: The Lord Is My Keeper

By Pastor Robbie Casas

INTRO

       As each week passes in this crisis we are in, the future (at least from our finite perspectives) does not seem very promising, if not altogether bleak. It is because of this that we must fiercely battle against discouragement and hopelessness. We must daily fight for hope even when it seems like a very distant and faint light in our vision.

In all this striving, however, we must also resist the temptation to lose sight of Who is truly in control and from Whom ultimately our help comes. Let me warn you: the longer the extension of the quarantine, the more prolonged

the delay of a cure for this virus, the harder this spiritual fight will become. We must radically decide to remain truth-founded in the way we will respond everyday to this crisis.

          I pray the psalm we will study today – Psalm 121 – God will use to help us continually refocus our perspective on Him.


BACKGROUND

          Psalm 121 is part of what some consider as possibly the loveliest single group of psalms, Pss 120–134, in the whole book of Psalms. The writers of this group of psalms (who included Davis and Solomon, among others unnamed) wrote each as a “A Song of Ascents”. According to the New Bible Commentary, the word (correctly and literally) translated “ascents” is used of  “steps/stairs” (Ex 20:26; 1Ki 10:19f; cf. 2Ki 20:9f; Amos 9:6). These psalms were probably first brought together to provide a hymn-book for traveling groups of Israelites on their way to Jerusalem for the annual pilgrim feasts (Ex 23:17; cf. 1Sam 1:3; Lk 2:41).

          Psalm 121 is a psalm of trust and is the second song of ascent. Psalm 120 sets the stage for the Israelites’ journey to Jerusalem. Psalm 121, as one writer put it, is a song “for the road”.

          Remembering that it is a song used in the pilgrimage to the Holy City is a key not only to its understanding but also to our appreciation of its comforting assurances for us who are “pilgrims” on this earth on our way to the heavenly Jerusalem, to eternity with God.

THE PSALM

  • Read Ps 121:                                        A SONG OF ASCENTS

1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;

From where shall my help come?

2 My help comes from the Lord,

Who made heaven and earth.

3 He will not allow your foot to slip;

He who keeps you will not slumber.

4 Behold, He who keeps Israel

Will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The Lord is your keeper;

The Lord is your shade on your right hand.

6 The sun will not smite you by day,

Nor the moon by night.

7 The Lord will protect you from all evil;

He will keep your soul.

8 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in

From this time forth and forever.


This psalm reminds us of two things:

       I. Who Our Helper Is (121:1-2)

       II. What Our Helper Does (121:3-8)


I. Who Our Helper Is (121:1-2)

  • Read Ps 121:1-2:                                  A SONG OF ASCENTS

1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;

From where shall my help come?

2 My help comes from the Lord,

Who made heaven and earth


          In this song, the psalmist begins by saying, “1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come?”

          This is more of a rhetorical question because, as the rest of the psalm reveals, the psalmist provides the answer to his question.

          However, this question also serves as an expression of contemplation. As he and the company that he was most likely with were traveling up to Jerusalem (which was a mountain city, 2,575 ft. in elevation), the psalmist pondered the familiar dangers (in the form of robbers or wild beasts) and the well-known difficulty (the toughness of the treacherous paths) of the journey. Being concerned for his safety, he now acknowledges his need for God’s protection through the rhetorical question, “From where shall my help come?”

          In v. 2, he supplies his own answer: “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” The word “Lord” is literally YHWH or Jehovah, the “I AM WHO I AM” of Ex 3:14, the self-existent God. This was God’s personal name that the psalmist used to identify the One who is the help of his life, implying that God is not some far-off god who had no relationship with him, no. This was the God who he knew personally chose the nation of Israel to be His own people. Deut 7:6-8: “6 For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8  but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers….”

          But this personal God was no just some god akin to the false territorial gods of the heathen nations. This was the God “who made heaven and earth”! His sovereign reign was not limited only to certain areas or to certain forces of nature.

          This God, Jehovah, is the Creator of all things and, as such, exercised ownership and absolute sovereignty over all of creation. Ps 89:11-12a: “11 The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours; the world and all it contains, You have founded them. 12 The north and the south, You have created them….”

          But God is not only Creator; He is also Sustainer of His creation. Neh 9:6: “You alone are the Lord. You have made the heavens, the heaven of heavens with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them and the heavenly host bows down before You."

          This God was the psalmist’s Source of help, and to him there was no other.Note the definiteness of his statement: “My help comes from the Lord….”

          THE GOD OF THE PSALMIST IS ALSO OUR GOD! BUT MORE THAN THIS, FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN CHRIST JESUS, THIS GOD IS ALSO OUR FATHER! Jn 1:12, “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.”

          In Ps 121:2, however, I believe the psalmist is not just answering his own question, but is also actually affirming his faith in the Lord, “who made heaven and earth” – including those “mountains” which brought in his heart some anxiety.

          IN ALL THE CIRCUMSTANCES IN OUR LIVES – ESPECIALLY IN TIMES OF CRISIS LIKE WE ARE IN NOW – WE MUST NEVER FAIL TO CONFIRM TO OURSELVES WHO OUR HELPER IS, REMINDING OURSELVES THAT "[OUR] HELP COMES FROM THE LORD, WHO MADE HEAVEN AND EARTH.” The fact that “Lord” is repeated 5 times and the word “He” (referring to the “Lord”) 4 times emphasizes this truth to the reader.

          But if we are to be honest, though most of us may readily acknowledge this as true, more often than not, our actions or reactions show otherwise. How often do we find ourselves doubting, anxious or discouraged, sometimes even to the point of behaving as though our God is far away and uninvolved, if not altogether absent? Yet the truth of Ps 121:2 is even further affirmed by Ps 146:5-6: “5 How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, 6 who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever.”

          May we always affirm the truth that the Lord God Jehovah is our great Helper forevermore!

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