The pilgrim in Psalm 121, contemplating his journey through the hills to Jerusalem, found assurance that the Lord, the Keeper of Israel, would keep him at all times on his journey. The question for us today in a world of dim outlooks is how do we persist in walking with and worship of a God who is always faithful?
Psalm 121 provides three timely steps for us to take in a season of crisis:
Look up to a God who has created everything.
Ps 121:1-2 “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.”
“Hath Made”-past tense of worship in crisis
In verse 1, the psalmist references the temple in Jerusalem which was the dwelling place of God on earth. The glory cloud in the Holy of Holies signified the Lord’s presence among His people. The city of Jerusalem is situated on a mountain and is surrounded by mountains. So, when a Jew in other parts of Israel needed divine help, he looked toward the hills. To him this was the same as looking to the Lord. Since the Creator’s dwelling was in the Jerusalem hills, there was a poetic sense in which all help came from the hills. Notice the key phrase that launches this elevating Psalm, “I will”-faith in God IS ALWAYS A CHOICE!
In contrast with those who looked to the hills in idolatrous worship, this inspired worshipper, in verse 2, has resolved that his help does not come from the hills themselves; but from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. Too often how we feel about the present is based only upon how the physical world around us is trending—don’t forget that we worship the God who made it all!!!
Earlier in Psalm 100:3 we are reminded, “Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” While we are grateful for the “creature comforts” from God and the fingerprints of God in creation, we can lose our “normal” access to all of those things and still have hope. How-our hope is not in the blessings created for us but the CREATOR in “whose hand is the breath of every living thing!”
Rest in a God who is keeping you.
Ps 121:3-6 “He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.”
“Is Thy Keeper”-present tense of worship in crisis
The sliding of the foot mentioned at the beginning of verse 3 is a frequent description of misfortune in the Psalms and a very natural one in mountainous Canaan, where a single slip of the foot was often attended with great danger. The language here naturally refers to “complete, lasting misfortune.” The next few phrases of this Psalm in the end of verse 3 and verse 4 reiterate the truth that while we sleep we can be confident of protection because the Lord never sleeps. Wow! The attacks of anyone, including Satan himself, never catch our God off guard! Notice that there is the guarantee in the beginning of verse 5 that our keeper is none other than the Lord Himself. The great Sovereign of the universe is PERSONALLY INVOLVED in the security of the most obscure saint.
The psalmist continues in verses 5 and 6 to assert that the Lord is protecting him as a shade protects one from the blazing sun. The sun and the moon stand for dangers that occur in the day and in the night. By the way, He has been doing this every day and night of our existence, but we tend to need reminded of it more in seasons of crisis and fear! You could boil this entire Psalm down to one word—“KEPT!” The question is if you are truly, objectively being kept by God, then where is the only spiritual source left for your emotional fears and spiritual paralysis?
I recently read that the world-conquering general of antiquity, Alexander the Great, regularly told his soldiers, “I wake that you may sleep.” May I remind you that throughout even the night hours, when we are no longer conscious of the world around us, there is One greater than Alexander who watches over us with constant, unwearied care.
Hope in a God who shall preserve you.
Ps 121:7-8 “The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.”
“Shall Preserve”-future tense of worship in crisis
The threefold expression in verses 7-8 “shall preserve thee … thy soul … thy going out and thy coming in,” marks, as one commentator put it, “indicate the completeness of the protection vouchsafed, extending to all that the man is and that he does.” Just a simple question. If the Lord is preserving WHO you are from ALL EVIL and everywhere you go and do, WHAT THREATS ARE OUTSIDE OF HIS CONTROL?
Verse 8, in dramatic fashion, concludes with Jehovah’s promise to preserve our movements, from morning to evening, from infancy to old age, from this time forth, and even for evermore. Have you noticed how the rhetoric on COVID-19 has largely been focused upon our ages? Reckless college students on spring break who are overconfident and senior citizens who are extremely fearful at home…the believer should be careful and compliant with authorities but never found in either crowd of extremes. I just want to remind you that, no matter your stage of life or situation, God has committed His full resources to preserving His perfect will for your life and legacy that no temporal threat can compromise. As Henry Martyn, missionary to India, was known to boldly say, “I am immortal until God’s work for me to do is done.”
Here is a creative idea recently shared with me to help parents with quarantined kids: “Bored? Start a bear hunt! My friend just informed me that our neighborhood is doing something awesome for the kids and families going on walks: everyone who wants to participate will put teddy bears in their windows so families can go on a ‘bear hunt.’”
You have, in the Jehovah God you worship, more than a “grizzly bear” to physically defend you or a “teddy bear” to merely hug. You have the great, big, terrible, and yet personable God who made the bears…and you!! This same God loves you and longs to be your defender and guide in times like these. But will only fully do so with your permission! In a season of dim outlooks and concerning trends, will you choose LOOK UP to a God who created everything, REST in a God who is keeping you, and HOPE in a God who shall preserve you?
Here is a video link to the content of this post.