Summary: God is a capable, caring and constant Keeper.
This week I read about a cartoon that appeared in newspaper several years ago. The first panel showed a man entering a gas station. In the background were his car packed for vacation, his flustered wife fuming, and his children bickering. The man said to the gas station attendant, “I am a man. I am lost. And I am asking for directions.” The next panel showed the man getting back into the car and the gas station attendant saying to a friend, “It must be some kind of self-help program for husbands.”
As they travelled from their homes to worship God in Jerusalem several thousand years ago, the Hebrew pilgrims also needed some help on their journey. But the help they needed went far beyond just needing some directions. They often travelled long distances on foot and there were numerous dangers along the way. They faced the threat of being attacked by wild animals and, like we see in the account of the Good Samaritan, there was always the danger of being ambushed by robbers. During the day, they had to deal with oppressive heat and the direct rays of the sun – and I don’t think they had any SPF 50 sunscreen to protect them. At night, they had to camp out in the open, exposed to the elements.
So it’s not surprising that the second of the fifteen psalms of Ascent that these Hebrew pilgrims sang on their way up to Jerusalem deals with the help that they need as they make that journey. Once again, let’s read that Psalm out loud together.
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
Psalm 121:1-8 (ESV)
Let me make a few general observations about this Psalm and then we’ll see how we can apply this Psalm to our own journey toward becoming mature disciples of Jesus.
1. “The hills” – three possibilities:
There is certainly no universal agreement about the significance of the hills mentioned in verse 1. As with many places in the Scripture where several interpretations are possible, it seems that God leaves the language intentionally ambiguous so as not to limit the passage to one specific meaning. According to the most frequently proposed ideas, the hills could picture:
Although we can’t know the setting of this Psalm with certainty, it certainly seems possible that this is the song that the Pilgrims would sing on their last night before they arrived in Jerusalem, with the hills of Jerusalem in the background.
As we’ve already discussed, the people were also constantly looking up to the hills during their journey since those hills were often the place where the dangers they faced came from.