Related Resources: Make a joyful noise to Jehovah -
Author - This Psalm is anonymous humanly speaking but we can be certain that the author "moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." (2Peter 1:21-note , the Holy Spirit is a Person Who speaks - see Lk 1:70, Acts 1:16, 3:18, 28:25, 2Sa 23:2, Heb 3:7, 8-note, Heb 9:8-note, He 10:15-note).
The circumstances that led to this psalm and specifically which cause the psalmist to look to the mountains are not clearly stated. The implication of his looking for help is that he may have been in a state of anxiety or distress. On a more personal level, aren't we all in need of the LORD's help to one degree or another every day? As Paul reminds us in Acts, God "is not far from each one of us for in Him we live and move and exist." (Acts 17:27, 28 - see God's Omnipresence) We need His help every moment of every day!
Ascents (Some versions use the phrase "Degrees") = The Songs (Psalms) of Ascent comprised Psalm 120-134 which together appears to have formed a "hymn book" used by pilgrims going up to Jerusalem (which is elevated). Most interpreters feel that these 15 psalms were sung in the context of the great pilgrimage feasts in which the nation of Israel was called to Jerusalem three times a year to celebrate:
It is also very possible that these psalms of ascent were among those sung by the returning exiles from Babylon as they ascended the mountains to Jerusalem and home (Ezra 2:1; 7:7).
David Barker has this introductory note on the "Songs of Pilgrimage"…
Notice that this psalm can be "subdivided" in to
Looking at this psalm another way, the second six verses explain the Divine help mentioned in the first two verses. The explanation in the second could represent a dialogue between two parties (some commentaries suggest the psalmist and a priest). Alternatively the psalmist could be "preaching" or dialoguing with himself (between the godly man and his inner self) as we see in Psalms 42 and 43. where David is also seeking "help". It should be noted that in addition to a dialogue between a man and his soul, other writers have interpreted as a dialogue between a layman and a priest in the liturgy of the temple, or a group of pilgrims and their spiritual leader.
LIFTING ONE'S EYES: IT'S A CHOICE
I will - This signifies that the psalmist makes a choice of his will (a volitional choice) to look up to God. How often when faced with a test, trial or affliction, I choose to look down in self-pity or around at adverse circumstances, rather than gazing upward to my Omnipotent Father!
I will also indicates the psalmist recognizes that the godly man stands in continual need of and dependence upon Jehovah's help. Keen writes that
Boice comments that the identity of the "I… my" (vv 1-2) and the "you… your" (vv 3-8) have generated a number of different possibilities, but feels that in the final analysis…
Thomas Constable agrees with Boice noting that…
Matthew Henry introduces this psalm with words of exhortation…
Lift up my eyes to the mountains - This Hebrew phrase ("lift up my eyes") is the Hebrew words nasa (lift) and 'ayin (eyes). This phrase frequently indicates a looking and seeing with anticipation of or disposition toward the object one is looking at.
As discussed above, lifting one's eyes involves a choice of one's will. What or where one lifts one's eyes to look therefore reflects one's heart disposition (keeping in mind that the heart figuratively is like our "control tower" constantly monitoring and controlling what enters our "eye gate!"). Genesis, the book of beginnings, uses the phrase lift eyes 13 times (Gen 13:10, 13:14, 18:2, 22:4, 22:13, 24:63, 24:64, 31:10, 33:1, 33:5, 37:25, 39:7, 43:29) The first two uses are notable as they reflect two choices which in turn determine two destinies of two men, Lot and Abram…
In short, where we choose to "lift our eyes" can have significant consequences, either good or bad! Be careful where you "lift your eyes!" In another "Song of Ascents" we see a good example to imitate…
Regarding the phrase lift up my eyes, A W Pink says…
J R Miller notes that…
C H Spurgeon comments on the "ascent" in Psalm 123:1…
When the out -look is bleak
The psalmist looks first at what he can see but recognizes shortly that his real help comes from the One Who is unseen. And so he looks with eyes of faith, even as did Moses who
What storm are you in now, dear child of the Living God? Where are your eyes - on the storm or on Jehovah, the One Who is in control of the storm and Who is described as your Helper in this psalm? From television pop psychologists to the unbelievable proliferation of "self-help" books, the world is screaming at us to seek help from deep within ourselves, when all the time (Psalm 121:6 "by day… by night") we have access to Jehovah Ezer, our Helper. Let us not neglect His help as did Judah. Jehovah, speaking to faithless Judah, declared
Corrie Ten Boom once said…
Look around and be distressed.
(cp Hebrews 12:2-note, Mic 7:7)
Looking to Jesus and experiencing rest in Him is the same idea brought out by Solomon in Proverbs 18:10…
Comment: Notice that truth precedes behavior. Belief should always lead to behavior. In other words first we note Who God is - a Strong Tower (metaphorically or figuratively speaking). But it is not just enough to know Who He is. It is not enough as some teach just to "Let go and let God", an approach which absolves us of human responsibility. The righteous man is a wise person, because he or she makes the choice to believe God and to run into the "cleft of the Rock" (cp Ex 33:22), knowing that He is the believer's personal Shield (Ps 18:2) and Defender, our Strong Tower. Acting on the truth about God ("running into" the truth about Him, believing that truth, acting accordingly) brings us safely into His presence. It is notable that the Hebrew word for safe actually pictures one being elevated above the roaring waves of the trial or affliction, just like a coastal home elevated on stilts escapes the surging seas of an on rushing hurricane.
REMEMBER TO LOOK UP!
J R Smith exhorts believers to "Look up!"…
We are entering upon a new year, we shall have …
In whatever state, in whatever place, into whatever condition we may be brought this year — let us seek grace to follow our Lord's loving advice, and "look up!"
Do not look back — as Lot's wife did.
Do not look within — as too many do.
Do not look around — as David did.
But "look up!" Look up to God — He is your Father, your Friend, your Savior. He can help you. He will help you. He says, "Look unto Me, and be delivered — for I am God!" (Isa 45:22KJV)
Look up for light to guide you — and He will direct your path.
Look up for grace to sanctify you — and the grace of Jesus will be found sufficient for you.
Look up for strength to enable you to do and suffer God's will — and His strength will be made perfect in your weakness.
Look up for comfort to cheer you — and as one whom his mother comforts, so will the Lord comfort you.
Look up for courage to embolden you — and the Lord will give courage to the faint; and to those who have no might — He will increase strength.
Look up for endurance to keep you — and the God who preserves you will enable you quietly to bear the heaviest burden, and silently to endure the most painful affliction.
Look up for providence to supply you — and the jar of flour will not be used up, and the jug of oil will not run dry; but God shall supply all your needs, according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Look up in faith — exercising confidence in the Word of a faithful God.
Look up in prayer — asking for what God has graciously promised.
Look up in hope — expecting what you ask in the name of Jesus.
Look up with adoration — and adore the sovereignty, righteousness, and wisdom of God.
Look up constantly — let nothing daunt or discourage you! Rather say, "Our eyes are on the Lord our God — until He shows us mercy."
Look up — for this will keep …
the head from swimming,
the heart from sinking,
the knees from trembling,
the feet from slipping, and
the hands from hanging down!
It is impossible to say what will happen to us, or what will be required of us this year — but "Look up!"
This direction, if properly attended to, will … '
procure for us all that we need,
secure us against all that we dread, and
make us more than a match for all our foes and fears!
Fellow-Christian, are you fearful? "Look up" and hear Jesus saying to you, "Do not be afraid — I Myself will help you!"
Are you discouraged? "Look up" — and your youth shall be renewed like the eagle's, and fresh light, comfort, and courage shall be given to you!
Are you desponding? "Look up" for Jesus never breaks the bruised reed, nor quenches the smoking flax.
Do not look too much at your sin — but look at the infinitely meritorious blood of God's dear Son!
Do not look too much at self — but look at Jesus, who ever lives to make intercession for you in Heaven.
Are you stripped of your comforts, your props, and your goods? Then look up! He who stripped you — loves you! He will be more than all these to you! He will …
bind up your broken heart,
calm your perturbed spirit,
cheer your drooping mind, and
fill you with His own peace and happiness.
Look up …
for all that you need;
from all that you fear;
through all that would obstruct your way.
Look up every day, saying with David, "In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You — and will look up!" Psalm 5:3
Look up in every trial, saying "I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence comes my help: my help comes from the Lord, who made Heaven and earth!"
Do not look at your sin — it will discourage you!
Do not look at your self — it will distress you!
Do not look at Satan — he will bewilder you!
Do not look to men — they will deceive, or disappoint you!
Do not look at your trials — they will deject you!
"Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us — looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith!" Hebrews 12:1-2
Run looking, work looking, fight looking, suffer looking, live looking, and die looking — to Jesus, who is at God's right hand in glory.
Oh, look, look, look to Jesus!
Although the psalmist can see the mountains (or has a memory of actually having seen them) surrounding Jerusalem, here he sees with the eye of faith. As one sage has asked
Mountains - Which mountains? Where? Although I feel the mountains have some allusion to Jerusalem, one source rightly notes that
In another Psalm of Ascent we read that
A S Algen - The meaning of the Prophet is abundantly obvious, which is, that although all the helps of the world, even the mightiest, should offer themselves to us, yet we ought not to seek safety anywhere but in God; yea, rather, that when men shall have long wearied themselves in hunting after remedies, now in one quarter and now in another, they will at length find from experience, that there is no assured help but in God alone. By the mountains, the Prophet means whatever is great or excellent in the world; and the lesson he teaches is, that we ought to account all such favor as nothing. (Commentary on Psalms - Volume 5 - Christian Classics Ethereal Library)
If by the mountains the psalmist was referring to places of false worship, Jehovah's warning in Jeremiah would apply:
Spurgeon has an applicational note on the "mountains" writing…
James Montgomery Boice comments that Psalm 121 has been known as The Traveler’s Psalm…
Expositor's Dictionary of Texts writes…
Rod Mattoon writes…
Lift Up Your Eyes - A woman whose work demanded constant reading began to have difficulty with her eyes, so she consulted a physician. After an examination he said, "Your eyes are just tired; you need to rest them."
"But," she replied, "that is impossible in my type of work."
After a few moments the doctor asked, "Do you have windows at your workplace?"
"Oh, yes," she answered with enthusiasm. "From the front windows I can see the noble peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and from the rear windows I can look out at the glorious Allegheny foothills."
The physician replied, "That is exactly what you need. When your eyes feel tired, go look at your mountains for 10 minutes—20 would be better—and the far look will rest your eyes!"
What is true in the physical realm is true in the spiritual realm. The eyes of the soul are often tired and weary from focusing on our problems and difficulties. The upward look—the far look—will restore our spiritual perspective. At times we feel overwhelmed by life's troubles. If we look to the Lord in His Word and in prayer, however, He will put our problems in perspective and renew our strength. Let's lift up our eyes! (Psalm 121:1). —Henry G. Bosch (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Lift up your eyes, discouraged one,
The Lord your help will be;
New strength will come from Him who said,
"For rest, come unto Me."
For the right spiritual focus,
fix your eyes on the Lord.
From whence shall my help come?: This is a question, but the question does not express doubt, despondency or despair. It is simply asked to introduce the answer which follows. Note that Psalm 121 is often misunderstood especially when read in the KJV. Matthew Henry writes "We must not rely upon creatures, upon men and means, instruments and second causes, nor make flesh our arm."
As an aside, dear follower of Christ, if you do not find yourself continually in a state of desperate need for God's help, then you REALLY do need help! A corollary thought is that if you view family, friends, wealth, position, etc as your main source of help in this life, you might miss the real main Source, God Himself! God grant us grace to depend on Him in our "time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).
Barnes - The expression would properly denote a condition where there was danger; when no help or aid was visible; and when the eyes were turned to the quarter from which help might be expected to come. What the danger was cannot now be ascertained.
Keil & Delitzsch comments that "To render (as does the KJV) “from which my help cometh” (as Luther does) is inadmissible." In other words, the KJV renders the verse not as an interrogative (question) but as a statement of fact "A Song of degrees. I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help." Without going into technical details, suffice it to say that the Hebrew word translated "whence?" or "where?" always conveys the idea of a question. This section should therefore be read as a question "From whence cometh my help?" It is rendered in this manner by most of the modern translations. For example the CSB plainly states "I look up to the mountains – does my help come from there?" Which is answered by the declaration "Not from the hills or the creation, but from the God of creation."
Net Bible Note - The Hebrew term me'ayin is interrogative, not relative, in function. Rather than directly stating that his source of help descends from the hills, the psalmist is asking, "From where does my help come?" Nevertheless, the first line does indicate that he is looking toward the hills for help, probably indicating that he is looking up toward the sky in anticipation of supernatural intervention. The psalmist assumes the dramatic role of one needing help. He answers his own question in v. (Ps 121:2) .
Help is the Hebrew noun 'ezer (root verb = 'azar - commonly used of military support between countries) (click) referring to assistance or to the one who provides the assistance ("helper"). 'Ezer (actually the verb form 'azar) is used in the OT to refer to military assistance such as God’s help in battle (1Chr 12:18).
'Ezer (actually the verb 'azar) is used of Jehovah’s personal assistance for those who cannot help themselves (Ps 10:14-note; Ps 72:12-note). Ezer is repeatedly used in the Psalms in reference to God's divine intervention. Let me make a suggestion - pause for a moment, ask God's Spirit to teach you and then meditate on the following verses that speak of Jehovah's HELP. Get a piece of paper or your devotional notebook and record each verse with truths that the Spirit brings to your mind (and remember to check the context which will help you arrive at an accurate Interpretation which in turn leads to an appropriate Application), especially as you query the text with 5W/H type questions (See John Piper's thoughts on importance of learning to "query the text"). (Ps. 20:2; Ps 33:20; Ps 70:5; Ps 115:9-11; Ps 124:8; Ps 146:5).
The Septuagint (LXX) has the Greek word boetheia (word study) which is used only twice in the NT, once in a well known passage in Hebrews 4:16-note "Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help (boetheia) in time of need."
This procedure of passing supporting cables under the ship to hold it together and keep the beams from separating is known as frapping, (frap is a nautical term that means to draw tight, to lash down or together). So in the midst of the storm the sailors wrapped cables around the ship’s hull and winched them tight. Thus supported, the ship would be better able to withstand the severe pounding of wind and sea.
Beloved, do you see the word picture inherent in the Biblical use of (boetheia) in Psalm 121? From time to time all of saints encounter unexpected storms and are in need of the Captain of the vessel to batten down the hatches, sending His help that we might be able to endure the stormy trial or temptation. Here in Psalm 121 the psalmist is seeking help… he doesn't give us his name nor the reason he is seeking help (unless Psalm 120 can be taken as the immediate context).
Alexander Maclaren writes that
Spurgeon reminds us that
His help is timely, for He is a very present help in time of trouble (Psalm 46:1-note).
His help is wise, for He knows how to give what is good for us.
His help is effective, though futile is the help of friends.
His help is more than help, for He carries all the burdens and supplies, all the needs.
“The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Heb 13:6-note).
Because He has already been our help, we feel confidence in Him for the present and the future.
Our prayer is, “Lord, be my helper” (Psalm 30:10-note).
Our experience is, “The Spirit also helps in our weaknesses” (Romans 8:26-note).
Our expectation is, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1).
Our song will be, “You, Lord, have helped me and comforted me” (Psalm 86:17-note).
Guaranteed security by J O Keen (Biblical Illustrator)…
I. The godly man’s need. “Help.” Can never outgrow this: dependence the characteristic of the creature: “help” must be had in the conflict or it will end in defeat, in the toil or it will issue in failure, in the pilgrim-march or we faint and fail by the way, etc.
II. The godly man’s attitude: Looking for help--“I will lift up my eyes,” etc. He waits--he expects--he obtains. The truest vision is soul-vision. Looking up in solicitation, contemplation, expectation. “Up,” from the mud and mire of earth, and the sins and sorrows of self. “The hills” expressive of strength, “the strength of the hills is His”: of majesty--of stability, “the everlasting hills”: of veneration, “the silence of the hills breathes veneration” (Mrs. Hemans); striking and suitable emblem of Him to whom all might, and majesty, and duration, and reverence belong.
III. The godly man’s confidence: “My help cometh from the Lord,” etc. He is assured that He who made the heavens and made the earth would rather let the sky fall and the earth perish from the want of His support, than that he should suffer injury from the withholding of His help. Help alone cometh from God: help does and ever will be vouchsafed, etc.
IV. The godly man’s safety: “He will not suffer,” etc.
1. Safety guaranteed from the highest source: “the Lord is thy Keeper” (verse 5). His wisdom, power, love, all His attributes a royal battalion--bodyguard around him, unceasingly around him (verses 3, 4).
2. Safety guaranteed to the whole man, under all circumstances, through all time, from all evil (verses 7, 8).
The good in time of need
I. His attitude.
1. God is the only true help of the soul. He alone can raise it from its fallen condition, break its fetters, heal its wounds, energize its faculties, and set it on a course safe and prosperous.
2. To Him the godly soul instinctively looks in trial. The worldly man in trial looks to earthly things for succour and support, to social sympathies, to human friendships, to Church officers, but the good man turns at once to God, feels that from Him alone the necessary help can come.
II. His protector.
1. The universal Creator.
2. A sleepless Guardian.
3. The all-sufficient.
III. His confidence (verse 7). (Homilist.)
A W Pink comments on Psalm 121…
For the benefit of young preachers, let us say that were we sermonizing this verse, our divisions would be:
1. A definite decision—"I will."
2. A right resolve—"I will lift up my eyes."
3. An obvious object—"unto the hills" (the Lord).
4. An eager expectation—"from whence comes [not "possibly may come"] my help."
It was the look of faith and hope; and such a look is never put to confusion. It was the opposite of slothful inertia or fatalistic apathy. He did not say, "I will wait until I feel moved by the Spirit," but determined upon discharging his own responsibility. He had no right to expect it, unless he sought it—sought it definitely, resolutely, earnestly, believingly. "Therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you" (Isa 30:18); and He often waits for our importunate waiting upon Him, for only then do we really value His gracious supplies.
"My help comes from the LORD" (Psalm 121:2). That is a very comprehensive word which includes a great variety of blessings. Let us conclude with a short, "Bible reading" which will serve to open the meaning of this "help" and at the same time, set forth the different favors for which it is the Christian's privilege to look upward.
1. For a daily supply of grace: "In the morning will I direct my prayer unto you, and will look up" (Psalm 5:3).
2. For wisdom: "Neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon you" (2 Chronicles 20:12).
3. For deliverance from temptations: "My eyes are ever toward the LORD; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net" (Psalm 25:15).
4. For illumination and transformation: "They looked unto him, and were enlightened" (Psalm 34:5).
5. For directions: "As the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters,…so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God" (Psalm 123:2).
6. For comfort: "My eyes are unto you…leave not my soul destitute" (Psalm 141:8).
7. For the awing of the heart: "Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who has created these things" (Isa 40:26).
8. For courage: "Not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible" (Heb 11:27).
9. For perseverance: "Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus" (Heb 12:1-2).
10. For the appearing of Christ, "Looking for that blessed hope" (Ti 2:13).
THE PSALMIST CONFESSES
My help comes from Jehovah (note) (yhwh) - A confession reflecting the psalmist's faith or trust that God was His Helper. (Have you made this confession recently?) The Helper is none other than Yahweh, the great "I Am", the unchanging, eternal, self-existent, living God, the “I am that I am,” the covenant-keeping God.
"The meaning of the name yhwh may best be summarized as “present to act (usually, but not only) in salvation.” The revelation of the name is given to Moses, “I am who I am” (Ex 3:14), and later in a self-presentation, “I am the Lord” (Ex 6:2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). The name yhwh specifies an immediacy, a presence." (Elwell, W. A: Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House) (See related study on the Name Jehovah)
In NT terms one could just as readily say "My help comes from Jesus" for He proclaimed Himself identical with Jehovah (See Jehovah = Jesus) when He said to the Jews
Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I Am. (Jn 8:58)
Comment: John uses 7 “I AM's" to describe Jesus: BREAD (Jn 6:35,41,48, 51), LIGHT (Jn 8:12), DOOR (Jn 10:9), GOOD SHEPHERD (Jn 10:14), RESURRECTION & LIFE (Jn 11:25), WAY (Jn 14:6), VINE (Jn 15:1, 5). Beloved, stop for a moment and meditate on each one of these great "I Am" statements by Jesus assessing how each description/name gives us a different aspect of His "multicolored" help.
My help… Jehovah - This is a proper perspective! Help from God. Not from other people (although God can and does use other people often) but from Him. It is interesting that even in Christian bookstores, "self help" books have found a popular niche. This Psalm presents the antithesis -- Not "self" help but Savior help! Here's a test question - Where (to whom) do you go first when faced with an obstacle, a difficult trial, a sudden adversity, etc. Do you run to the Rock of your Salvation? Do you see Him as your Help? Are you in distress even as you read these notes? To whom have you taken your burden? Have you cast it on Jehovah? (Cp Ps 55:22)
Notice that the psalmist says "my help" implying personal possession, which in turn suggests that he had formerly experienced help from Jehovah. I would think that every believer has had some experience with the help from Jehovah. To be sure, even our very introduction into this grace in which we now stand was totally dependent on His help. The problem with our past experiences of His help is that they are in the past and we have a tendency to be forgetful, especially in the pressure of the moment of a trial or test. God continually called Israel to remember what He had done, so that they might believe what He could do. (E.g., Deut 7:17, 18, 19, Neh 9:17, Ps 77:11, 12, Ps 105:5, Ps 106:7, Ps 143:5, Eccl 12:1, Isa 57:11, Jer 17:2, Lam 3:19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26)
OUR GREAT NEED: GOD'S HELP
Alexander Maclaren sounds a warning to all saints who are on their journey home…
The sense of our own weakness and the consciousness of the perils upon the path ought ever to be present with us all. Brethren! if, on the one hand, we have to cultivate, for a healthy, vital Christianity, a vision of the mountains of God, on the other hand we have to try to deepen in ourselves the wholesome sense of our own impotence, and the conviction that the dangers on the road are far too great for us to deal with. ‘Blessed is the man that feareth always.’ ‘Pride goeth before destruction.’ Remember the Franco-German war, and how the French Prime Minister said that they were going into it ‘with a light heart,’ and how some of the troops went out of Paris in railway carriages labelled ‘for Berlin’; and when they reached the frontier they were doubled up and crushed in a month. Unless we, when we set ourselves to this warfare, feel the formidableness of the enemy and recognise the weakness of our own arms, there is nothing but defeat for us.
The Psalmist asks himself, ‘From whence cometh my help?’ and then the better self answers the questioning, timid self: ‘My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.’ There will be no reception of the divine help unless there is a sense of the need of the divine help. God cannot help me before I am brought to despair of any other help. It is only when a man says, ‘There is none other that fighteth for us, but only Thou, O God!’ that God comes to help.
There is a story in the Book of Chronicles (2Chronicles 20:1-24), about one battle in which Judah engaged, of a very singular kind. The first step in the campaign was that the king of Judah gathered all his people together, and prayed to God, and said, ‘We know not what we shall do. We have no strength against this great multitude that cometh against us, but our eyes are unto Thee.’ Then a prophet came and assured him of victory, and next day they arrayed the battle (2Chr 20:15, 16, 17). It was set in this strange fashion: in the forefront were put the priests and Levites, with their instruments of music, and not soldiers with spears and bows, and they marched out to battle with this song, ‘The Lord is gracious and merciful. His mercy endureth for ever.’ (2Chr 20:21) Then, without the stroke of sword or thrust of spear, God fought for them and scattered their foes. (2Chr 20:22)
‘Which things are an allegory.’ If we recognise our helplessness, God is our help.
If we conceit (imagine) ourselves to be strong, we are weak;
if we know ourselves to be impotent, Omnipotence pours itself into us.
We read once that Jesus Christ healed ‘them that had need of healing.’ (Lk 9:11KJV) Why does the Evangelist not say, without that periphrasis, ‘healed the sick’? Because he would emphasise, I suppose, amongst other things, the thought that only the sense of need fits for the reception of healing and help.
If, then, we desire that God should be ‘the Strength of our hearts, and our Portion for ever,’ the coming of His help must be wooed and won by our sense of our own impotence, and only they who say, ‘We have no might against this great multitude that come against us,’ will ever hear from Him the blessed assurance, ‘The Lord will fight for you.’ ‘Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord!’ (2Chr 20:17KJV)
So, brethren! the assurance of faith follows the consciousness of weakness, and both together will lead, and nothing else will lead, to the realization of the vision of faith, and bring us at last, weak as we are, to the hills where the weary and foot-sore flock ‘shall lie down in a good fold, and on fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.’ (Psalm 121:1,2 Looking to the Hills)
Albert Barnes adds that the phrase my help reflects…
(a) a consciousness that help could come only from God;
(b) a belief that it would come from Him; and a confident yet humble reliance on Him.
(Ed: The psalmist could not see Him except with eyes of faith [2Cor 5:7, 2Cor 4:17, 18, 19], a faith based on past experiences of His immutable faithfulness.)
Mike Gilbart-Smith says…
In contrast to humans meeting human needs, the psalmist says, “My help comes from the Lord.” Why turn to anything else? If you are a creature, your only possible help is from your Creator. Seek your blessings only within God’s will. He will supply your needs. Ask yourself, what help do you give others? In difficult relationships or tough situations, do you tell your friends what they are comfortable hearing or do you direct them to God? Nonbelievers, if you don’t turn to God for help, what do you turn to? Does it ultimately address the problems causing your discontent? You will end up bitter if you rely on anything other than God. (Psalm 121 brief transcript - I would also encourage you to listen to the excellent, much more in depth and very practical 54 minute mp3 on Psalm 121)
THE CREATOR ALL
CAN HELP & PROTECT ALL!
Who made heaven and earth - He is able. If you think your problem is too complex for Jehovah remember His rhetorical question (expecting an affirmative reply) "Is anything too difficult for the LORD?" (Ge 18:14, cp Jer 32:27, Mt 19:26, Isa 59:1, Nu 11:23) Even as He had all the power needed to protect the psalmist, so too He is ready and able to protect all His children. This assurance is repeated in Ps 124:8-note ("Our help is in the Name of Jehovah, Who made heaven and earth."). Only the Creator can be the Helper of His creation. If he has accomplished the greater (Creation of everything), He will surely accomplish the lesser (Be our Helper in time of need). His attributes such as His Omnipresence , Omniscience and Omnipotence assure us that He has the ability to follow through on His promise to help us. He Who spoke the heavens is to be "my" personal Helper! Is this not an awesome, humbling thought? The next time you are in a tight spot, recall this verse to your mind ("Preach it to your soul!" in the pattern of Ps 42:5). The transcendent (exceeding usual limits) Creator is also the ever-present Watcher of each of His children! Meditate on this truth.
Will He not His help afford?
In regard to the God Who made heaven and earth the ESV Study Bible notes that
Biblical authors cite this idea, based on Ge 2:4 and Ex. 20:11, to stress that the God of Israel has universal and unbounded power: cf. 2Kings 19:15 (= Isa. 37:16); 2Chr 1:12; Ps. 115:15; Ps 124:8; Ps 134:3; Ps 146:6; Jer. 32:17.
‘Ah Lord GOD! Behold, Thou hast made the heavens and the earth by Thy great power and by Thine outstretched arm!
Derek Kidner observes that…
The thought of this verse leaps beyond the hills to the universe; beyond the universe to its Maker. Here is living help: primary, personal, wise, immeasurable. (Tyndale OT Commentary-Psalms)
Psalm 146 echoes this truth about God the Creator declaring
How blessed is he whose help (Hebrew = ezer; Greek = boethos) is the God of Jacob, whose hope (Greek = elpis) is in the Lord his God; Who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, Who keeps faith forever." (Ps 146:5-note, Ps 146:6-note)
Spurgeon on Ps 146:5: Heaped up is his happiness. He has happiness indeed: the true and the real delight is with him. The God of Jacob is the God of the covenant, the God of wrestling prayer, the God of the tried believer; he is the only living and true God. The God of Jacob is Jehovah, who appeared unto Moses, and led the tribes of Jacob out of Egypt, and through the wilderness. Those are happy who trust him, for they shall never be ashamed or confounded. The Lord never dies, neither do his thoughts perish: his purpose of mercy, like himself, endures throughout all generations. Hallelujah!… He is happy in help for the present and in hope for the future, who has placed all his confidence in Jehovah, who is his God by a covenant of salt. Happy is he when others are despairing! Happiest shall he be in that very hour when others are discovering the depths of agony. We have here a statement which we have personally tried and proved: resting in the Lord, we know a happiness which is beyond description, beyond comparison, beyond conception. O how blessed a thing it is to know that God is our present help, and our eternal hope. Full assurance is more than heaven in the bud, the flower has begun to open. We would not exchange with Caesar; his sceptre is a bauble, but our bliss is true treasure.
In each of the two titles here given, namely, "the God of Jacob", and "Jehovah his God", there is a peculiar sweetness. Either one of them has a fountain of joy in it; but the first will not cheer us without the second. Unless Jehovah be his God no man can find confidence in the fact that he was Jacob's God. But when by faith we know the Lord to be ours, then we are "rich to all the intents of bliss."
Spurgeon writes that…
He would sooner unmake them than desert his people. He that made heaven and earth could certainly find shelter for us either in heaven or in earth. He cannot, he will not leave us, he will make room for us in heaven when there is no room for us here. What a blessed thing it is to look right away from the creature to the Creator! The creature may fail you; but the Creator is an ever-springing well of all-sufficient grace
Expositor's Bible Commentary notes that
This confession (Yahweh is "the Maker of heaven and earth.") goes beyond the modern controversy of evolution and creationism. The creedal statement, also taken up in the Apostles' Creed, originally signified an apologetic statement on Yahweh's sovereignty over all realms: heaven and earth, thereby excluding any claims by pagan deities. Yahweh Alone is God (cf. Ps 115:4-note, Ps 115:5-note; Ps 115:6-note; Ps 115:7-note; Ps 124:8-note; Ps 134:3-note; Ps 146:6-note; Jer 10:11)! The sole source of "help" comes from Yahweh, Who, as Creator, has unlimited power." (Gaebelein, F, Editor: Expositor's Bible Commentary OT 7 Volume Set: Books: Zondervan Publishing)
Meditate on the truth that the same awesome, majestic God takes a personal interest in His children, so that you too will be led to proclaim Him in your experience as Jehovah "my help" ("I Am your help")! Then take a moment to worship Him by singing the familiar words of Martin Luther's hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God…
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
What we need is help, -- help powerful, efficient, constant: we need a very present help in trouble (Ps 46:1). What a mercy that we have it in our God. Our hope (not "hope so" but absolute assurance that He will do us good) is in Jehovah, for our help comes from Him (the God of Hope Ro 15:13). Help is on the road, and will not fail to reach us in due time, for He Who sends it to us was never known to be too late. Jehovah Who created all things is equal to every emergency; heaven and earth are at the disposal of Him who made them, therefore let us be very joyful in our infinite Helper. He will sooner destroy heaven and earth than permit His people to be destroyed (cp 2Pe 2:5, 6, 7), and the perpetual hills themselves shall bow rather than He shall fail Whose ways are everlasting (Ge 21:33, Isa 40:28). We are bound to look beyond heaven and earth to Him Who made them both: it is vain to trust the creatures (Ro 1:25ff): it is wise to trust the Creator. (Treasury of David Psalm 121:2)
Warren Wiersbe writes that
"This psalm is special to my family. When our children were young and we were all in the car ready to leave on a trip or a vacation, we often read Psalm 121 and then prayed. The children became accustomed to hearing the words, "I will lift up my eyes to the hills--from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth" (v1,2). God is our Helper. You don't have to go on a vacation or drive on a busy highway to know that. Where does your help come from? The psalmist lifted his eyes to the hills. The most stable, secure thing the Jews knew were the mountains around Jerusalem. Then the psalmist lifted his eyes higher and said, "No, I don't get my help from the hills. I get my help from the heavens. God is my Helper." Whatever your need or task is today, your help will come from the Lord, the Creator of the heavens and the earth. A God big enough to make this world and keep it going is big enough to help you with your problems today." (Wiersbe, W in his devotional: Prayer, Praise and Promises)
"I requite to remember that my, help cometh from the LORD, not only when seemingly there is no outward help from men or otherwise, but also and especially when all seems to go well with me, -- when abundance of friends and help are at hand. For then, surely, I am most in danger of making an arm of flesh my trust, and thus reaping its curse; or else of saying to my soul, "Take thine ease", and finding the destruction which attends such folly." (Alfred Edersheim)
"God’s strongest saints realize their weaknesses, and appeal to Him for strength. One Sunday morning, as Charles H. Spurgeon passed through the door back of the pulpit in the Tabernacle, and saw the great crowd of people, he was overheard saying, “O God, help!” Strong as he was, he realized that he was insufficient for so great a task as preaching the Gospel in power, unless God should be his Helper." (from Tan, P. L. Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations)
Perhaps you might pause for a moment and sing the following hymn (click link) as your prayer…
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
This beloved hymn of comfort and trust was written in 1847 by Henry F. Lyte a man of delicate health most of his life who served tirelessly as a pastor in a seashore church in Devonshire, England where he ministered to the rough sailors and uncultured villagers who loved him. Health finally forced Lyte to retreat to the milder climate of sunny southern France, and he prepared to sail. On his last Sunday after 24 years of faithful service, despite being too weak to stand and preach, somehow he was able feebly stand and preach his parting message to his weeping flock. That evening, as he walked down to the ocean and watched the sun setting, he took out a piece of paper and penned the poem that was later put to music in this beautiful hymn. The next day he left for France. Reaching Nice, he had a seizure and passed away with the words, “Joy! Peace!” on his lips. In his going out and coming in, Lyte experienced help for the helpless from Jehovah, the Helper of all our souls.
The British Press Association reported the following incident related to the hymn Abide with Me: A British submarine lay disabled on the ocean floor. After two days, hope of raising her was abandoned. The crew on orders of the commanding officer began singing the words of the first verse of Abide with Me (the verse above). The officer explained to the men that they did not have long to live. There was no hope of outside aid, he said, because the surface searchers did not know the vessel’s position. Sedatives were distributed to the men to quiet their nerves. One sailor was affected more quickly than the others, and he swooned. He fell against a piece of equipment and set in motion the submarine’s jammed surfacing mechanism. The submarine went to the surface and made port safely! (Adapted from Tan, P. L. Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations)
In the original Hebrew, verse 3 can also be rendered as a prayer. And so it could read be read
"May he not allow your foot to slip. May your keeper not slumber."
The 1899 Douay-Rheims version for example translates this verse as
"May he not suffer thy foot to be moved: neither let him slumber that keepeth thee."
The English translation of the Septuagint (LXX) has
"Let not thy foot be moved; and let not thy keeper slumber."
The recently released, scholarly NET Bible also has
"May He not allow your foot to slip! May your Protector not sleep!"
So all of these versions would be read as a prayer. Then verse 4 would read like a response, the NET Version reading
"Look! Israel's protector does not sleep or slumber!"
Jehovah, God, Thy gracious power,
On every hand we see;
Oh, may the blessings of each hour
Lead all our thoughts to Thee.
Thy power is in the ocean deeps,
And reaches to the skies;
Thine eye of mercy never sleeps,
Thy goodness never dies.
From morn till noon, till latest eve,
Thy hand, O God, we see;
And all the blessings we receive,
Proceed alone from Thee.
In all the varying scenes of time,
On Thee our hopes depend;
Through every age, in every clime,
Our Father, and our Friend.
He will not allow your foot to slip - The psalmist then describes Jehovah's help, first in negative terms (Psalm 121:3-4) and then in positive terms (Psalm 121:5, 7-8). If He does not allow our foot to slip, the idea is that He will enable us to stand. Like little children, we are safe when our Father "holds our hand!" Remember that in Ps 121:1 the psalmist ask where would his help come from and here see it is as if he is speaking to his own soul, imparting confidence in Jehovah's keeping ability.
Jude echoes the truth of Ps 121:3 writing…
Now to Him Who is able (dunamai which is in the present tense = continually has the inherent power) to keep (phulasso - same verb used in Lxx of Ps 121:3,4,5,7,8) you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24, 25)
Comment: Note the phrase "keep you from stumbling" implies that in our Christian journey, there are many obstacles and situations which could indeed cause us to stumble in our spiritual walk. And indeed sometimes we do fall, but David writes that "When he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong; because the LORD is the One who holds his hand." (Psalm 37:24). Jude encourages us that in spite of our tendency to fail, God's promise is that He will bring us through it all and one day will make us stand in His very presence. He is able! Do you believe that truth? You can because as Paul writes "Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass." (1Thes 5:24-note, cp Php 1:6-note)
Mike Gilbart-Smith says…
If you slip, you can fall, and on the pilgrimage to Jerusalem if you tumbled down a mountainside that could mean death. This is a powerful image. God will not let your foot slip – He constantly watches and keeps us. Have you ever thought your concerns or temptations were too small to take to God? He is not like us; He doesn’t get tired or bored. There is no time when we cannot turn to Him, yet sometimes we are slow to turn to God for help. As you begin to stumble, your instinct should be to turn to God. (Psalm 121)
James Smith… is right when he notes that…
The Christian is always on dangerous ground!
We may fall into sin — even when we cannot fall into hell.
We may break our bones — when we cannot break our neck.
We may make sad work for repentance — when we do not incur a sentence of final condemnation.
We are liable to fall by error — which is specious and powerful.
We are liable to fall by Satan — who is crafty and malicious.
We are liable to fall by our weakness — which is very great.
We are liable to fall by sinful pleasures — in which the flesh takes delight.
We are liable to fall by our unhallowed tempers — which need constant watchfulness and incessant prayer.
We are liable to fall by erroneous people — who may, like Satan, lie in wait to deceive us.
We therefore need keeping —
Our path is often slippery — and we are apt to be incautious. But it is our unspeakable mercy, that God has promised to keep us. "He keeps the feet of His saints."
But He will have us feel our weakness, and need of His keeping — and plead with Him to keep us: "Hold me up — and I shall be safe!" Psalm 119:117
Slip (mot) is a Hebrew verb indicating to be moved, removed, to fall. Mot is used of a wavering, wobbling action, response, or condition in various situations: and occurs as figure of speech referring to great insecurity. It is used figuratively of a foot slipping and in Deuteronomy speaks of failure of God's people, Moses recording
"Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, in due time their foot will slip (mot); for the day of their calamity is near, and the impending things are hastening upon them." (Dt 32:35)
David echoes this truth exhorting saints to
"Cast your burden (Hebrew = yehab = an interesting Hebrew word which literally means "what is given" lot, burden, what is given as a gift (the implication being that it is a gift given in & by the Providence of God! The Greek word in the (LXX) = merimna from merizo = draw in different directions = word picture of the effect that "cares" can have. Note that the related word "worry" conveys a powerful word picture: English word "worry" is derived from Old High German "wurgen" = to strangle and in British dialect means "choke" or "strangle" - what can "cares" and "worries" do? Draw you in different directions! Strangle you, so to speak!) upon Jehovah (Whose name means "I Am… " I Am able to sustain you in all your cares and worries!), and He will sustain (Hebrew word "kul" verb = to hold, to contain feed, to supply. It indicates clasping or holding in something. Beloved you are in your Helper's grip and He is able to keep you from slipping irrevocably. The (LXX) has the Greek verb diatrepho = support, maintain, sustain continually, to feed or nourish. One use of diatrepho describes to "keep the patient well nourished"! Now "plug" that thought back into the verse and praise Jehovah, the Great Physician!) you. He will never allow the righteous to be shaken (Amplified adds "made to slip, fall, or fail")." (Psalm 55:22) (Devotional)
"What your God lays upon you, lay upon the Lord. His wisdom casts it on you; it is your wisdom to cast it on him. He gives you your portion of suffering; accept it with cheerful resignation, and then take it back to him by your assured confidence. He shall sustain thee. Your bread will be given you; your waters will be sure. Abundant nourishment will fit you to bear all your labors and trials. As your days, so shall your strength be. He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. He may move like the boughs of a tree in the tempest, but he will never be moved like a tree torn up by the roots. Many wish to destroy the saints, but God has not suffered it, and never will." (Spurgeon, C. H. The Treasury of David)
To reiterate, "never… shaken" is God's promise in the trial, but note that He does not promise the trial won't feel like waves rocking us to and fro but He does promise that we will not slip and fall. Let us cling to His Truth in the midst of the storm so that our souls are firmly anchored.
Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909), former US Senate chaplain:
"Never attempt to bear more than one kind of trouble at once. Some people bear three kinds--all they have had, all they have now, and all they expect to have."
John McNeil writes…
Any of you who have tried to climb the hills know that that is just the great danger of it. One slip, and you may go sheer down hundreds of feet, and be dashed to pieces. Do we not use this expression to cover the idea of safety? We talk about the “sure-footed” guide, and the “sure-footed” mountaineer, the man of keen eye and cool nerve, and of muscles like iron all over his body; a man who can be depended on. If he gets a foothold for his foot, he will put his foot there, and keep it there, until he gets another as good. So is the Christian. Why, in one sense, we are engaged in a perilous journey. We are going up. We are climbing. To brace yourself to climb the Matterhorn is a small thing compared with this girding of your mind to be sober and climbing right up from hell to heaven. And that is the climb for every one of us. (Biblical Illustrator)
Spurgeon wrote that
"You may expect that between here and heaven, if you have not met with it yet, you will have enough trouble to destroy you unless the Lord is your Helper."…
… Though the paths of life are dangerous and difficult—yet we shall stand fast, for Jehovah will not permit our feet to slide; and if He will not allow it—we shall never be moved! If our foot will is thus kept—we may be sure that our head and heart will be preserved also! Those who have God for their keeper—shall be safe from all the perils of the way.
Among the hills and ravines of Palestine, the keeping of the feet is a great mercy. But in the slippery paths of a tempted, tried and afflicted believer, the blessing of upholding is of priceless value—for a single false step might cause us a fall fraught with awful danger! To stand 'steadfast' and pursue our holy way—is a blessing which only God can give. It is worthy of His divine hand—and worthy also of our perennial gratitude. Our feet shall move in heavenly progress—and we shall never be overthrown!
The psalmist writes
When the verb ‘slip’ is used with ‘foot’ or ‘feet’, it denotes slipping in a time of trouble. The Lord is the one who is immovable (Ps 30:6-note; Ps 62:2-note; Ps 112:6-note) and he holds his children so that their feet do not slip (Ps 17:5-note).
One of the other psalms of ascent helps understand "their foot shall not slip", the psalmist writing that
Spurgeon writes that
Zion was the image of eternal steadfastness—this hill which, according to the Hebrew, “sits to eternity,” neither bowing down nor moving to and fro. Thus doth the trusting worshiper of Jehovah enjoy a restfulness which is the mirror of tranquility; his hope is sure. As the LORD sitteth as King forever, so do His people sit enthroned in perfect peace when their trust in Him is firm. We are, we have been, we shall be as steadfast as the hill of God. Zion cannot be removed, and does not move; so the people of God can neither be moved by force from without or fickleness from within. (The Treasury of David)
Commenting on Psalm 121:3 (he will not allow your foot to slip) Spurgeon writes that
"Though the paths of life are dangerous and difficult, yet we shall stand fast, for Jehovah will not permit our feet to slide; and if He will not suffer it we shall not suffer it. If our feet will be thus kept we may be sure that our head and heart will be preserved also. In the original the words express a wish or prayer—“May He not suffer thy foot to be moved.”
Among the hills and ravines of Palestine the literal keeping of the feet is a great mercy; but in the slippery ways of a tried and afflicted life, the boon (timely benefit especially one given in answer to a request) of upholding is of priceless value, for a single false step might cause us a fall fraught with awful danger. To stand erect and pursue the even tenor of our way is a blessing which only God can give, which is worthy of the divine hand, and worthy also of perennial gratitude. Our feet will move in progress, but they will not be moved to their overthrow." (Bolding added. The Treasury of David Psalm 121:3)
David echoes this true adding in (Psalm 37:23, 24) that
The steps of a man are established by the LORD and He delights in his way. When he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong; because the LORD is the One who holds his hand.
Spurgeon comments that
"Disasters and reverses may lay him low; he may, like Job, be stripped of everything; like Joseph, be put in prison; like Jonah, be cast into the deep. He shall not be utterly cast down. He will be brought on his knees, but not on his face; or, if laid prone for a moment he shall be up again ere long. No saint will fall finally or fatally. Sorrow may bring us to the earth, and death may bring us to the grave, but lower we cannot sink, and out of the lowest of all we shall arise to the highest of all. For the Lord upholdeth him with his hand. He does not leave his saints to mere delegated agency; He affords personal assistance. Where grace does not keep us from going down, it will save from keeping down. Job had double wealth at last, Joseph reigned over Egypt, Jonah was safely landed. It is not that the saints are strong, or wise, or meritorious, that therefore they rise after every fall, but because God is their Helper and therefore none can prevail against them." (Spurgeon, C. H: The Treasury of David)
The slipping of one's foot is a frequent description of misfortune, for example, Psalm 38:16; 66:9, and would be especially meaningful in the rocky, treacherous terrain of the mountains surrounding Jerusalem, where a single slip of the foot could bring quick slippage and great injury.
He Who keeps (protects, guards) you will not slumber (GWT: "Your guardian will not fall asleep") Jehovah your Helper will not sleep lightly or doze and (figuratively) will not be in a torpid, slothful or negligent state. How sure can we be? Look at Ps 121:4.
Matthew Henry comments…
Whatever charge he gives his angels to keep his people, he has not thereby discharged himself, so that, whether every particular saint has an angel for his guardian or no, we are sure he has God himself for his guardian. It is infinite wisdom that contrives, and infinite power that works, the safety of those that have put themselves under God's protection. Those must needs be well kept that have the Lord for their keeper. If, by affliction, they be made his prisoners, yet still he is their keeper… The shepherd of the flock is the shepherd of every sheep, and will take care that not one, even of the little ones, shall perish.
John MacArthur in Seven Keys to Contented Living tells of…
Paul Reese's wonderful story about the man who in World War II was on an American ship that was shot and was sinking and he dove off the deck and hung on to something in the water for a while until he was picked up by a German freighter. He and a couple of other men were thrown in the belly of the ship as prisoners. And he wrote in his little biography,
I began to commune with the Lord. At first I couldn't sleep. The stress was great and the fear was great. Then I remembered the words of Psalm 121, 'My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. He that keeps thee will not slumber, behold he will neither slumber nor sleep.' So I said, 'Lord, there isn't any use both of us staying awake. As long as You're going to keep watch, I'll thank You for some sleep.' And I got it. (Ed: Amen!)
The Christian’s stability - The North Pole is perpetually roving within the limits of a circle sixty feet in diameter. What is the North Pole to-day is not the North Pole to-morrow. The true North Pole has been known to travel more than four feet in a week, while sometimes it has required more than a month to cover a yard. Suppose that you and I were to sail from opposite points to discover this turning-point. We will say that you, with your astronomical instruments, planted your flag upon the exact North Pole six months ago, and then went away. I, arriving to-day, make equally accurate calculations and plant my flag also upon the true North Pole. My flag is probably forty feet from yours, yet neither of us is in error. To-morrow the elusive little tip-top of the earth will have slipped away from both of us. And if I were to claim a building site the corner-stone of which was marked by this North Pole, a strange predicament would follow. I should have to place my fences upon castors, and keep them continually moving in order to mark strictly my own reservation. So it is with too many Christian lives. Want of stability in the Christian faith and life is one of the great--one might say the greatest--hindrances to the true development of Christianity among us. We are constantly veering round in our faith and life, following the latest “new belief,” accepting every modern “faith,” or doubting some established Christian doctrine. Let us be more stable in our religion. (Signal.)
His Mind Never Wanders - Has this ever happened to you? I was driving down the highway on a pleasant evening after a full day. I was paying attention to traffic and driving defensively. The next thing I knew, I heard the crunch of tires on gravel. They were mine! I snapped to attention. My mind had wandered and I had strayed to the edge of the road. Either I was daydreaming or I was enjoying the beauty of the evening and forgot what I was doing.
What would happen if God's mind wandered? Consider Colossians 1:17 (note), which says that in Christ "all things consist." This means that in His providence, the Son of God holds all things together and keeps our world in motion. So if His mind wandered, trees would crash to the ground. Water would pour out of the oceans. The planets would go spinning off through space. Prayers would be unheard and unanswered. And those He protects would be left vulnerable to the attack of the enemy. But that could never happen. Why? Because the God who never sleeps is watching over our world--and us--all the time (Psalm 121:3, 4). We are ever at the center of His attention and His care. We are secure because we love and serve a God whose mind never wanders. --D C Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
I know God's care and kindness
Because God's mind is on us,
we can put our mind at ease.
Always Awake - A mother and her 4-year-old daughter were preparing for bed. The child was afraid of the dark. When the lights were turned off, the girl noticed the moon shining through the window. “Mommy,” she asked, “is that God’s light up there?” “Yes, it is,” came the reply. Soon another question: “Will He put it out and go to sleep too?” “Oh no, He never goes to sleep.” After a few silent moments, the little girl said, “As long as God is awake, I’m not scared.” Realizing that the Lord would be watching over her, the reassured child soon fell into a peaceful sleep.
In His care confiding
If you have trouble getting to sleep,
Key Words (see notes) in inductive Bible study are words that are repeated and of such significance that their removal would significantly alter the intended meaning in a passage. The LORD of course is always a "key word." "Help" is also clearly a key word in this psalm even though it is only mentioned twice. In this psalm one might also consider the multiple personal pronouns to be key words. The dominant key word in Psalm 121 is translated keeps (twice), keep, keeper, protect and guard. These six uses in English correspond to one word in the original Hebrew text - shamar.
As noted the Hebrew verb shamar occurs six times in eight verses. Shamar is a major OT verb, occurring in some 431 verses and is translated by a variety of English words. Basically shamar conveys the picture of one exercising great care to watch over and so to keep, preserve, protect and guard. It can mean to hedge about as in guarding or protecting a person or object. The first Old Testament use is instructive for the "LORD God took the man (Adam) and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep (and guard) it." (Genesis 2:15). As Genesis 3 shows, Adam did not guard the garden carefully enough! In another instructive use we see the Jewish men who "were gatekeepers keeping watch at the storehouses of the gates." (Neh 12:25)
The verb shamar describes a most tender preservation. For example, the noun shemurah is derived from shamar and is used in Ps 77:4 (note) for the eyelids, which are "the keepers" of the eyes. (See note).
Shamar was used by Israel in recounting Israel's Exodus and wilderness journey, the people (answering Joshua's challenge to remain faithful) declaring that
The Greek translation of the Hebrew text (Septuagint or Lxx) renders shamar with the Greek verb phulasso.
Phulasso (5442) means to watch, to carry out the function as a military guard or sentinel (cp Ac 23:35, 28:16), to keep watch, to have one's eye upon lest one escape, to guard a person that he might remain safe (from violence, from another person or thing, from being snatched away, from being lost). The NT uses phulasso of guarding truth (eg, 1Ti 5:21, 6:20, 2Ti 1:14-note)
Phulasso is the verb used to describe the shepherds "keeping watch (phulasso) over their flock by night (Lk 2:8), which congers up the image of savage wolves seeking to devour the helpless sheep. Elsewhere we read of the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd Who keeps watch over His sheep.
Paul assures us that…
Peter records that God
Phulasso is used 31 times in the NAS (Matt. 19:20; Mk. 10:20; Lk. 2:8; 8:29; 11:21, 28; 12:15; 18:21; Jn. 12:25, 47; 17:12; Acts 7:53; 12:4; 16:4; 21:24, 25; 22:20; 23:35; 28:16; Ro 2:26; Gal. 6:13; 2Th 3:3; 1Ti 5:21; 6:20; 2Ti 1:12, 14; 4:15; 2Pe 2:5; 3:17; 1Jn 5:21; Jude 1:24) and is translated in the NAS as abstain, 1; guard, 8; guarded, 1; guarding, 1; guards, 1; keep, 5; keeping, 2; keeps, 1; kept, 4; kept under guard, 1; maintain, 1; observe, 2; preserved, 1; protect, 1; watching, 1. There are almost 400 uses of phulasso in the Septuagint!
Phulasso can also mean to keep away from or make an effort to abstain from as in (Luke 12:15).
Figuratively phulasso means to keep so as to observe and not violate, such as God's Word. Thus Jesus said
In a similar use in the LXX we read
The idea of phulasso in preceding two examples (Lk 11:28, Pr 29:18) is that of the keeping of the commandments, and refers not only to the act of obeying them, but to an attitude of attentive care and protectiveness for their preciousness and honor, an attitude which leads one to carefully guard them from being broken (Note: We can "keep" them only because He has "kept" us and empowered us to be able to "keep" them. If we try to "keep" the law in our own strength, we call that legalism. Grace sets free. Legalism puts us back into bondage to the law and sin.)
Phulasso indicates safe custody and often implies assault from without and Vine says is a stronger word than the synonym tereo which expresses watchful care. I love the ending benediction by Jude…
Now to Him who is able to keep (phulasso) you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24,2 5)
The Septuagint (Lxx), the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT, translates every occurrence of shamar with the same Greek verb phulasso, which was used commonly in secular writings as a military word (for example to describe the duty of a military sentry) and meant to guard (so as to protect from danger especially by providing watchful attention), defend or keep watch in order to prevent robbery, loss or harm.
Phulasso means to keep in safe custody and its use often implies assault from without. For example, Luke records that "when we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him." (Acts 28:16) The verb phulasso is in the present tense picturing continuous action - you have a round-the-clock ("24/7") "Guard". As noted above, Adam was instructed by God to keep (guard - Hebrew = shamar; Lxx = phulasso) the Garden of Eden (Ge 2:15)!
Now take this information on phulasso and "plug" it back into the phrase He Who keeps you. For example, you could read it as "He Who continually guards you to prevent robbery or loss… " What an encouraging picture of the "keeping" power of our great God, Jehovah. Beloved, believe this truth about Him. It does not mean we will not suffer or that we will not be attacked or afflicted. But it does mean that Jehovah Himself will protect us when the trials come.
God's help keeps the believer. Nearing the end of his life, Paul had come to know God as his personal Help (cf, "my help"), for even in the face of persecution for the gospel, he was able to declare
Beloved, we have a trustworthy, vigilant "Watchman"
Spurgeon has these devotional thoughts on Psalm 121:3…
Amidst a thousand snares I stand
Behold (hinneh) is a Hebrew interjection meaning look, now, etc the function of which is to call attention to the text which follows. Hinneh serves to alert the reader to give it special attention. Don't miss this point! The psalmist is focusing our attention on the truth that God keeps Israel. Indeed, the very existence of the Jew and the Jewish state of Israel is a vibrant testimony to God's "keeping power!"
There is an eye that never sleeps
Beneath the wing of night;
There is an ear that never shuts
When sink the beams of light.
There is an arm that never tires
When human strength gives way;
There is a love that never fails
When earthly loves decay.
That eye is fixed on seraph throngs;
That arm upholds the sky;
That ear is filled with angel songs;
That love is throned on high.
But there’s a power which man can wield
When mortal aid is vain,
That eye, that arm, that love to reach,
That listening ear to gain.
That power is prayer, which soars on high,
Through Jesus, to the throne,
And moves the hand which moves the world,
To bring salvation down.
Spurgeon comments that…
He Who keeps Israel - If God has kept Israel as a distinct people group and nation for over 4000 years, surely He is able to keep your foot from slipping. God was faithful to His promise that the Hebrew people would not disappear from the face of the earth, and is just as faithful to keep you dear believer. The same Divine Guardian of Israel is the Guardian of every believer who has entered into covenant with Him by placing their faith in Jesus Christ. Study the history of this tiny country Israel which today is in some areas as narrow as 20 miles across, is surrounded by inveterate enemies, is far from being consistently obedient to Jehovah, and yet He continually keeps and watches over them. Why? Not because of their goodness or greatness but because of His faithfulness, for He is Jehovah, the covenant keeping God, Who remains faithful to His covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (cf Ge 12:1, 2; Ge 15:5, 18; Ge 17:7,17:8). This same covenant binds Him to faithfully, continually watch over all who have entered by faith into the New Covenant in Messiah's blood (Jer 31:31, Lk 22:30).
In Faith's Checkbook, Spurgeon has the following devotional thoughts on this Ps 121:4…
C H Spurgeon comments on He that keeps Israel noting that…
Will neither slumber nor sleep - Simply put "God is never caught off guard." This should encourage you, beloved. You need not fear with such a divine sentry watching over your soul. God never sleeps, and there is no danger that the psalmist will be forgotten. Isaiah records a similar truth regarding God's continual watch care…
Boice records a secular example of a vigilant watchman…
MacDonald records a related story noting that…
Barnes rightly reminds us that…
In stark contrast are the so-called gods of men's vain imagination. Elijah ridiculed the prophets of Baal by sarcastically suggesting their god was asleep and telling them to
Pagans permitted their gods to sleep, but the God of Israel is not like any god--he does not need to sleep and so is always there to help. This image of sleeplessness (and watchfulness) brings to mind the image of Jehovah, our Good Shepherd (Jehovah Roi [Raah, Rohi]), Who unceasingly watches over His "flocks" by night (cf Luke 2:8)! Dear saint, with such a Good Shepherd, instead of counting sheep, you should be able to experience comfortable sleep!
He's Up Anyway! - Linus Mandy wrote, "A friend was telling me she helped out at a kid's summer camp a few years ago. After rounding up the troops for the night, she told them, 'Let's go to sleep and put our cares in God's hands.' 'Yeah,' said one of the kids, 'He's up all night anyway!'"
We all battle with the problem of worry. Fears about the future gradually creep in. Then they get stronger and stronger, and can eventually become overwhelming. This happens when we begin to replace our faith with anxiety, shifting the burden from God's strong shoulders to our frail ones. We fret. We're afraid. We can't sleep.
At times like this we need to remind ourselves that God is always on the alert. He never sleeps (Psalm 121:4). He knows everything, including what we fear (Ps 44:21-note). He is everywhere (Psalm 139:7-note, Ps 139:8-note; Ps 139:9-note; Ps 139:10-note). He is in charge of our world (Ep 1:11-note). Therefore, we do not need to be afraid.
Do you really believe that God sees all, knows all, is all-powerful, and is in control? Then put your cares in His hands. Entrust Him with whatever it is that's keeping you awake at night. He'll take care of it. He's the One who never slumbers nor sleeps. --D C Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
When fear and worry test your faith
And anxious thoughts assail,
Remember God is in control
And He will never fail. --Sper
Worry is a burden God never meant for us to bear.
Spurgeon comments that
Spurgeon writes that
He Never Sleeps - Giraffes have the shortest sleep cycle of any mammal. They sleep only between 10 minutes and 2 hours in a 24-hour period and average just 1.9 hours of sleep per day. Seemingly always awake, the giraffe has nothing much in common with most humans in that regard. If we had so little sleep, it would probably mean we had some form of insomnia. But for giraffes, it’s not a sleep disorder that keeps them awake. It’s just the way God has made them.
The Rock of Ages stands secure,
He always will be there;
He watches over all His own
To calm their anxious care.
The Eye That Never Sleeps- Detective Allan Pinkerton became famous in the mid-1800s by solving a series of train robberies and foiling a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln as he traveled to his first inauguration. As one of the first agencies of its kind in the US, the Pinkerton National Detective Agency gained even more prominence because of its logo of a wide-open eye with the caption, “We Never Sleep.”
Jehovah is your (personal) Keeper (shamar) - He Himself is your Guardian, Preserver, Defender. See also Ps 121:7 where "LORD will protect" and Ps 121:8 where "LORD will guard" both = Jehovah shamar. As Albert Barnes says…
David describes Jehovah as His Defender in Psalm 41
We see this same truth in several other psalms…
Consider pausing a moment to offer up the following hymn as a prayer and doing so without any doubting beloved, because our Great Father Who art in heaven is faithful to His Word…
Keep Thou my way, O Lord, be Thou ever nigh;
Strong is Thy mighty arm, weak and frail am I;
Then, my unchanging Friend, on Thee, my hopes depend,
Till life’s brief day shall end, be Thou ever nigh.
Keep Thou my heart, O Lord, ever close to Thee;
Safe in Thine arms of love, shall my refuge be;
Then, over a tranquil tide, my bark shall safely glide;
I shall be satisfied, ever close to Thee.
Keep Thou my all, O Lord, hide my life in Thine;
O let Thy sacred light over my pathway shine;
Kept by Thy tender care, gladly the cross I’ll bear;
Hear Thou and grant my prayer, hide my life in Thine.
Spurgeon notes that
Wiersbe writes that
Someone has said that the three keys to real peace are: fret not, faint not, fear not.
When the way is dim, and I cannot see
The LORD is your shade or "your shadow" Just as everywhere we go our shadow goes with us, so too God "shadows" us at all times and in all circumstances. The parallel truth is echoed by the writer of Hebrews who reminds us that "we confidently say, "THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT SHALL MAN DO TO ME?" (Heb 13:6-note) The truth is that Jehovah surrounds His people, and guards them at every point of attack. The foe must be able to pierce the impenetrable and conquer the invincible, before he can touch the feeblest saint who is sheltered by the wings of God. Satan speaking to Jehovah about His servant Job said
Shade (tsel) or shadow, refers to a condition resulting when something is interposed between an object and a light source and is frequently used as a highly expressive symbol of protection or refuge especially in the hot, arid middle east. Shade or shadow refers to that which keeps an object safe from harm or danger, even as shade comes between the light source and an object. Joshua and Caleb in seeking to instill confidence in the Israelites to go up and take the land of Canaan, declared
Isaiah records a similar great truth about God…
Spurgeon comments that on this figurative description (see Figurative language), noting that
We see a similar picture of God's perpetual protective presence over His people in Israel's exodus, Moses recording that Jehovah
And just as Jehovah had sheltered Israel's "going out" with a pillar of cloud (Shekinah), so too in the future there be a similar covering. The prophet Isaiah records that in the one thousand year (Millennium) reign of the Messiah on earth,
David emphasizes the effect of an awareness of Jehovah's presence at his right hand writing…
Sun… by day… moon by night - Notice that day and night the Lord is our protector, clearly implying that we are continually in need of His watch care, which He continually provides.
Sun… by day - If you've ever visited Israel, you know that "sunstroke" is constant threat to travelers who are under hydrated and over exposed! Here the psalmist is using figurative language to remind us that Jehovah is our Helper and Protector in all the dangers, afflictions and adversities that we will ever encounter, whether by day or by night.
Smite (strike, hit, beat, slay, kill, first use Ge 4:15, Ps 78:20 of striking the rock) - Strike as with a rod or staff or with plague or pestilence, and then to kill or slay. Not smite parallels shade as a picture of protection. A sun "smite" alludes to a sun stroke.
Moon by night - The reference to the moon may simply lend poetic balance to the verse, but it is likely a reference to the primitive belief that the moon was dangerous and could have adverse effects one's mind. They believed that the rays of the moon had an abnormal effect on the eyes and could cause brain damage. We've all heard the familiar English expression “moonstruck” (mentally unbalanced, romantically sentimental, lost in fantasy) which apparently reflects this strange ancient belief. The etymology (study of the linguistic development of words) of the English word "lunatic" is from the Latin word lunaticus, which is derived from the Latin word luna reflecting the belief that lunacy fluctuated with the phases of the moon. (Merriam-Webster) Whether the psalmist meant to address such pagan beliefs is uncertain.
John Phillips adds this anecdotal note…
In an interesting NT passage Matthew records that as the news about Jesus
The word translated "epileptic" is a Greek verb which literally means to be moonstruck and in Greek usage was equivalent to being afflicted with epilepsy, the symptoms of which were thought to become more aggravated during certain lunar periods.
Barnes comments that this may refer to the belief concerning…
David Barker has an interesting comment on the psalmist's reference to the "moon" writing that
DIVINE SUNSCREEN - Some people are harmed by the sun's powerful rays. They may be allergic to the sun, or they may have a disease, like vitiligo (lack of protective pigment and propensity to severe burns) lupus erythematosis. If these people are exposed to direct sunlight for an extended period of time, they have a visible and painful reaction. To protect themselves, they wear large-brimmed hats and clothing to cover their arms, legs, and necks. They use the strongest sunscreen possible to protect exposed skin areas. And they spend the midday hours in the shade.
In a similar way, Christians need spiritual protection from the "harmful rays" of evil world system. Its ruler Satan bombards us continuously with potentially harmful temptations and pressures that will weaken our testimony and turn us away from the Lord if we yield to them. God Himself provides us with all the protection we need. He stands between us and the enemy even as His cloud of glory separated Israel from Pharaoh's pursuing army. Jehovah is our Shield and our Fortress (Ps 144:1-note, Ps 144:2-note). But we must apply this protection through prayer, reading and meditating on the Bible, faith and obedience, right thinking, fellowship and accountability with other Christians, and continual dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit and the transforming power of the grace He supplies. These spiritual disciplines will keep the world from getting through to us. God truly is our Shade, our Shadow and our Keeper.
The hosts of God encamp around
The IVP Bible Background Commentary has an interesting note:
The LORD will protect - Jehovah shamar - (Torrey's topic "protection"). Dear child of God, you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that nothing can come into your life apart from the permissive will of God. Everything is "filtered" through the hands of our loving Father. There are no chance circumstances or random occurrences in the life of a believer. Nothing happens in a believer's life that is purposeless for "we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Ro 8:28-note, cp Genesis 50:20). As John Calvin says "Whatever thou shalt undertake or engage in during thy life shall come to a happy and successful termination." See related study on The Providence of God.
From all evil - How much? "All"!
In a similar statement in Psalm 91 the psalmist writes that
Solomon records this proverb…
To reiterate, God will not let anything happen which does not work “for good to those who love Him” (Ro 8:28-note, Ro 8:29-note), hard as it may be at times to believe this promise when we are in midst of "the fiery furnace" of affliction or trouble.
At the very end of Paul's life, the great apostle testifies…
Spurgeon adds that
Eliphaz ,in trying to convince Job to repent, spoke of the blessing of penitence, declaring that
Solomon reminds us in the proverb that "no harm befalls the righteous, but the wicked are filled with trouble." (Proverb 12:21, cp 1Pe 3:13-note; Ps 91:10-note) The verse is also true when one considers what happens to people after death as well as before.
Matthew Henry adds that
He will keep your soul - What an encouraging truth. This reminds me of Peter's affirmation regarding God's ability to protect…
Matthew Henry notes that…
Peter alludes to God's soul keeping power in summarizing the redemptive work of Christ…
Spurgeon notes that
Soul keeping is the soul of keeping.
In summary, Jehovah your Helper is your personal Protector. Jesus' encouragement to His twelve disciples before sending them out was
You may lose all your earthly possessions like Job but you will never lose your soul for Jehovah is the Keeper of your soul. When Jesus promised His disciples that "not a hair of your head will perish" (Lk 21:18) He was not promising the preservation of their physical lives (In Lk 21:16 He had just clearly stated that "they will put some of you to death"), but was promising that they would suffer no eternal loss because God Himself keeps the soul of all those who belong to Him. Paul affirms the psalmist's thoughts, writing that
Your going out and your coming in - This verse serves a figure of speech to encompass "everything you do." Everywhere you go, you are guarded by omnipotence!
D S Mackay writes…
From this time forth and forever - Jesus promised His disciples (then and now) that He would give them "another (Gk = allos = another of the same kind) Helper (paraclete), that He might be with (us) forever." (Jn 14:16) The Divine Helper's protection is promised not only for the ascent (whether that ascent was to the Temple in Jerusalem or elsewhere) but for the entire pilgrimage of one's life and thereafter in eternity! God watches over the believer all the time, in every circumstance, and forever. In 1719 Isaac Watts expressed God's ever present help this way…
Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.
Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.
Jesus Who has
all authority… in heaven and on earth" (that should take care of your home address, beloved) said "lo, I am with you always (He sent us His Helper Who will indwell us forever), even to the end of the age." (Mt 28:18, 20)
Our personal Protector promises to perpetually preserve our passage from morning until evening, from infancy until old age and from old age throughout the ages to come… in short, forever!
has not led me so tenderly thus far to forsake me at the very gate of heaven. (see Adoniram Judson: Missionary to Burma)
The going out and the coming in refer to all of the believer's undertakings and occupations. Perhaps too these words refer specifically to the pilgrims journey to Jerusalem. The watch care of the believer's guardian starts the moment he looks toward the hills of Zion, and it continues into the uncharted future.
APPLICATION OF PSALM 121
The Holman OT Commentary has a wonderful word on the application of Psalm 121…
How can we find the supernatural strength of God that can empower us for life's journey? Several actions are necessary if we are to advance triumphantly in the will of God.
Look exclusively to the Lord. This is precisely what the psalmist did. When he said, "I lift up my eyes to the hills" (v. 1), he was looking exclusively to God, the Maker of heaven and earth, from whence his help would come. So must all believers. By looking to God, we look away from ourselves and from all others for strength. In so doing, we must rely completely upon God as the source of spiritual power in Christian living. Faith looks to God, not to man.
Listen attentively to the Lord. God's Word is an all-sufficient source of divine grace for pilgrims on life's journey. God's Word is an unlimited reservoir of undeniable spiritual energy for all who will receive his truth. Only by looking into the Scripture can we truly look to the Lord who has spoken to us in the Bible. If we are to know God's strength, we must hear and heed his Word.
Lean wholly upon the Lord. We must rely upon the superabundant grace of God's Spirit in every demand of life. Only as we recognize our own weakness does God's power fill and flood our souls. When we trust in ourselves, we are impotent. But in looking to God, we find great strength. Let us learn to cast our burdens upon him and lean upon him. (Holman Old Testament Commentary Series)
Spurgeon comments that
"When we go out in the morning to labour, and come home at eventide to rest, Jehovah shall keep us. When we go out in youth to begin life, and come in at the end to die, we shall experience the same keeping.
Our exits and our entrances are under one protection.
Three times have we the phrase, "Jehovah shall keep", as if the sacred Trinity thus sealed the word to make it sure: ought not all our fears to be slain by such a threefold flight of arrows? What anxiety can survive this triple promise? This keeping is eternal; continuing from this time forth, even for evermore… everlasting security: the final perseverance of the saints (Mt 24:13, Heb 3:6, 14) is thus ensured, and the glorious immortality of believers is guaranteed. Under the aegis of such a promise we may go on pilgrimage without trembling, and venture into battle without dread.
None are so safe as those whom God keeps;
To goings out and comings in belong peculiar dangers since every change of position turns a fresh quarter to the foe, and it is for these weak points that an especial security is provided: Jehovah will keep the door when it opens and closes, and this He will perseveringly continue to do so long as there is left a single man that trusteth in Him, as long as a danger survives, and, in fact, as long as time endures. Glory be unto the Keeper of Israel, Who is endeared to us under that title, since our growing sense of weakness makes us feel more deeply than ever our need of being kept. Over the reader we would breathe a benediction, couched in the verse of Keble." (Treasury of David Psalm 121:8)
the word "shamar" (see Hebrew verb shamar and the corresponding Greek verb phulasso) imports a most tender preservation; from it comes "shemurah" (once in Psalm 77:4-note), signifying the eyelids, because they are the keepers of the eye, as the LORD is called in the verse preceding -- the keeper of Israel". If the lids of the eye open, it is to let the eye see; if they close, it is to let it rest, at least to defend it; all their motion is for the good of the eye. O, what a comfort is here! The Lord calls (Israel) "the apple of his eye" (Ed note: God "found him [referring to Israel] in a desert land and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of His eye." Deut 32:10 He Who keeps Israel as the apple of His eye will likewise keep, guard, protect and watch over all who are His children by faith). O, how well are they kept whom "the keeper of Israel" keepeth! The LORD was a buckler to Abraham, none of his enemies could harm him; for his buckler covered him thoroughly. The LORD was a hedge unto Job; Satan himself confessed he could not get through it, howsoever many a time he assayed it, to have done evil unto Job… But seeing this same promise of preservation was made before (for from the third verse to the end of the Psalm, six sundry times, is the word of keeping or preserving repeated), why is it now made over again? … for a remedy of our ignorance. Men, if they be in any good estate, are ready to "sacrifice to their own net," or "to cause their mouth to kiss their own hand," as if their own hand had helped them: thus to impute their "deliverance" to their "calf," and therefore often is this resounded, "The LORD," "The LORD." Is thy estate advanced? The LORD hath done it. Hast thou been preserved from desperate dangers? Look up to the LORD, thy help is from on high, and to Him let the praise be returned." (From a Sermon by Bishop Couper, entitled "His Majesties Coming in", 1623.)
Hills And Streets - Psalm 121:8 - Psalm 121 was a favorite of my father. Scottish people called it "The Traveler's Psalm." Whenever a family member, a guest, or a friend was leaving on a journey, this psalm was read--or more often sung--at family prayers. When my father left the "old country" as a teenager to sail alone to the United States, he was bidden farewell with this psalm.
Over the years, my father enjoyed many hearty days but endured others that were dark and grim. In World War I, he carried this psalm's words with him into battle, and then out of it as he lay in a hospital for almost a year recovering from shrapnel wounds.
In verse 1, the psalmist looked beyond the hills to the God who made them. My father lived in the toughest section of New York City. Although he seldom saw hills, he held to the assurance that the God of the hills was also the God of the dangerous city streets.
In his 87 years, my father experienced many "goings out" and "comings in." And when he went out for the last time, I believe he was singing Psalm 121 as he descended into the valley and traveled home to the other side.
How reassuring that the God of the hills and the streets goes with every believer in Christ! --H W Robinson (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
He will ever keep thy soul,
What would harm He will control;
In the home and by the way,
He will keep thee day by day. --Psalter
Keep your eyes on God
He never takes His eyes off you.
Charles Wesley's Hymn
|1 TO the hills I lift mine eyes,
The everlasting hills;
Streaming thence in fresh supplies,
My soul the Spirit feels.
Will he not his help afford?
Help, while yet I ask, is given:
God comes down; the God and Lord
That made both earth and heaven.
2 Faithful soul, pray always; pray,
And still in God confide;
He thy feeble steps shall stay,
Nor suffer thee to slide:
Lean on thy Redeemer's breast;
He thy quiet spirit keeps;
Rest in him, securely rest;
Thy watchman never sleeps.
3 Neither sin, nor earth, nor hell
Thy Keeper can surprise;
Careless slumbers cannot steal
On his all-seeing eyes;
He is Israel's sure defence;
Israel all his care shall prove,
Kept by watchful providence,
And ever-waking love.
4 See the Lord, thy Keeper, stand
Lo! he holds thee by thy hand,
And banishes thy fear;
Shadows with his wings thy head;
Guards from all impending harms:
Round thee and beneath are spread
The everlasting arms.
5 Christ shall bless thy going out,
Shall bless thy coming in;
Kindly compass thee about,
Till thou art saved from sin;
Like thy spotless Master, thou,
Filled with wisdom, love, and power,
Holy, pure, and perfect, now,
Henceforth, and evermore.
HELP FROM GOD
and PSALM 121