Summary: There’s only one sure Source of protection
Psalm Steps> Psalm 121 “Powerful Protection” -Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
We’re studying the “Songs of Ascent”, sung by Jews traveling to Jerusalem for the high holy days. We read in the Gospels how Jesus as a boy of twelve made the pilgrimage with his parents. He likely sang these psalms, and later sang them with His disciples. Today many people continue to recite Psalm 121 at the beginning of a journey. Its’ been called the “Traveler’s Psalm” and is an affirmation of God’s powerful and providential protection.
Isaac Bashevis Singer once confessed, “I only pray when I’m in trouble…but I’m in trouble all the time, and so I pray all the time.” Where do we turn when we’re in trouble, when life hits us hard? Where does our help come from? There’ve been times in our lives when we can look back at an instance and say, “If it weren’t for God’s protection, I’d have been killed.” What sustains us in our darkest hours? The reassurance of Psalm 121 brings us from fear to faith.
Many people have been blindsided by the beauty of the opening statement, and have misunderstood the author’s intent. We picture someone being inspired by a mountain range, finding strength in the rugged, hilly landscape. Part of the problem is the King James rendering: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” Yet the hills are exactly where the psalmist does NOT find strength. He looks higher than the hills. The NIV correctly puts it in the form of a question, “I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from?” -Then gives the answer: “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” One name for God is El-Shaddai, “the most high God”. He is above all others; He is our “higher power”.
The Jewish composer of this Psalm considered his options. Back in Bible times, pagan shrines were built on hilltops, called “high places”; groves of trees were planted and people were lured to these places by the false promise of spells, magic, and the immoral practices of cultic prostitution. There is no help or protection from Baal or Asherah, or any of the false gods. Don’t look to the hills—accept no substitutes.
Heathen/Gentile nations worshipped and feared the sun and the moon, and people today continue to trust in the stars (astrology/horoscopes). The psalmist looks beyond the hills, beyond the sun, moon, and stars to the One who stood on the edge of nothing and spoke the universe into existence. We’re assured, “the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night” (vs 4). Wicca, Native American, and New Age religions continue to worship nature instead of its Creator (pantheism). The prophet Jeremiah declares, “Truly the hills are a delusion—the idolatrous commotion on the mountains” (3:23). Jesus assures us, “I am with you always.” We don’t need any “supplemental help” from the sun or the moon.
We may not be worshipping nature or bowing down to idols, yet we’re still susceptible to idolatry, which is trusting in anything other than God. An idol is anything we love, rely on, and obey more than God.