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Studies, Devotionals, Sermons, Illustrations
Old and New Testament.
Inductive Bible Study
& Expositional Commentary
1 (A Song of Ascents.)
I Will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From whence shall my
comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD is your
The LORD is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
you from all evil;
keep your soul.
8 The LORD
guard your going out and
your coming in
From this time forth and forever.
INDUCTIVE BIBLE STUDY EXERCISE
BEFORE YOU CONSULT
THE COMMENTARY ON PSALM 121
Before you read
the notes on Psalm 121, consider performing
Inductive Study on this great Psalm, so that you might experience
the joy of personal discovery of its rich treasures. If you take time to do this before you
read the comments, you will be pleasantly surprised how much
illumination your Teacher, the Holy Spirit will provide (1Jn 2:20, 27,
1Cor 2:10-16 - and you will
be better able to comment on the commentaries even as the Bereans
"commented" on what Paul taught them in Acts
17:11-note). In the
instructions below note that all words/phrases in blue represent
links to further discussion.
a) Print out an Observation Worksheet of Psalm 121 --
this is simply a copy of the inspired Word of God which will allow you to
mark and color the text without fear of making a mistake you cannot
erase from your actual Bible. In short it is exactly what it says --
it is a sheet on which to carry out your work of inductive Bible study.
I use the NAS selected because it is
the one of the most literal and least interpretative versions. The ESV
is an excellent alternative. Or even the tried and true KJV would be
fine as it is relatively literal (see
explanation and chart
comparing different Bible versions).
read (Go to the Author
before you go to His Word)
through the entire Psalm without interruptions for an overview.
Remember that you are not in a "speed reading" contest (compare Mary
and Martha in Luke 10:38-42, noting especially Lk 10:42), so if the
Holy Spirit prompts you to stop and "hover" on a verse, avail yourself
of that opportunity. For example, you may even feel led to use that
passage in a prayer. The main point is to enjoy your Heavenly Father's
presence through His living and active Word.
read the Psalm a second
time but this time
observing for the truth or facts that
obvious. As you focus on those things that are obvious, you will
here also for context). As you read, be alert for the
words (usually repeated words
click here for more detail. Remember "God" is
always is a key word). Each time you encounter a
+ Pause and ponder (as you do, you can be sure
that in a sense you are beginning
to practice the blessed discipline of
Biblical Meditation [or
another discussion of meditation])
+ Place a unique
key word (remember to
+ Interrogate the
5W's & H
questions. This may seem awkward at first but over time you will
discover that discipline is priceless in your study of the Word of
God. Remember that as you consider questions with which to query the
text, you are forced to slow down and "chew" on the text (cp
meditate). Dr John Piper encourages us to hone our skill of querying
the text, writing that...
You can learn more from a book if you stop and ask it questions than
if you just read it passively. That includes the Bible too. One of the
great problems in Bible reading is that we move our eyes over the
words and come to the end of a column and don't know what we've read;
we don't feel our minds or spirits expanded because we saw nothing
fresh. It was purely mechanical. There was no discovery, no life, no
breakthroughs to new insight.
One of the best ways to change
to train yourself to ask questions of the text.
Often the posing of the question
itself will already carry its answer with it and will open your mind
to new things. This fairly prosaic, historical text in Luke 3:21–38
gives me an opportunity to show you what I mean. I'll simply take you
with me through this text, pointing out the questions I asked and the
answers I came up with. My guess is that as you follow me, questions
of your own will arise. Good questions usually beget other questions,
and that's how insight grows and grows. (Introductory comments to
his sermon on
The Baptism and the Genealogy of Jesus
- click the link to see questions Piper asks as he preached this text!
Now begin to incorporate this valuable discipline into your Bible
reading. Beware of the danger of a "through the Bible in a year"
reading program -- it is tempting to "just get through" the daily
reading, but come to the end of the day and not even remember what you
have read. That's "passive" reading. Interrogation of the text is
"active" reading--your Teacher God's Spirit will richly reward you for
your "labor of love!")
d) Read Psalm 121 a third time, marking and interrogating
e) Re-read once again observing for additional
(Click example of key words in Psalm 121 marked with color and
f) For each
word consider making a list of truths in the margin of your
g) Re-read (Yes, again!) pausing, marking and interrogating
(And again query each phrase - for example, you can always ask "When?").
h) Re-read once more noting any
terms of comparison (eg
+ Ask what is being compared and how does this help your understanding
of the "picture"?
+ Although you could have read Psalm 121
times, in this simple inductive study you have read each time with a
specific purpose which serves to actively engage your mind. In other words,
instead of being a tourist (simply reading and re-reading without
a definite purpose),
you have become an explorer seeking priceless, inexhaustible
hidden treasures that ultimately will enrich your soul. The tourist
may remember he visited in Psalm 121 but weeks and even months later, the
explorer will remember the truths discovered from diligent study.
If you have time, perform a Word Study to help mine the
treasures of this favorite Psalm. Now don't check out on me but
consider a simple study on the meaning of the following two words in Hebrew and
then in the Greek (the Greek word the Septuagint uses to translate the Hebrew
word). The word picture is profound and worth
WORD STUDY #1 - "HELP" is a
even though found only twice but if we removed it,
the Psalm would lose much of its meaning and purpose.
Click here for the definition of the
Hebrew word for help = 'ezer
here for the definition of the Greek word that translates
WORD STUDY #2 - "KEEP"
(keeper, protect, guard = all same Hebrew & Greek words).
Click here for the
definition of the Hebrew word shamar and
here for the Greek word
phulasso which translates shamar
+ Now take the definitions you learned and insert them
into the verse to see it this expands the meaning of the passage. Keep
in mind that many Greek and Hebrew words may have more than one
meaning. Therefore one has to be
careful not to take a meaning that is totally unrelated to the context
of the passage being studied. Greek and Hebrew word studies do take
some practice but can be extremely helpful in expanding or amplifying the meaning in
j) Now give Psalm 121 a title based on what you have
gleaned in your study. In your title try to use the actual words from
the Psalm as much as is possible. What is the
(unifying idea repeated
or developed throughout a work) of this Psalm? Remember that the key
words point to the main subject(s) which in turn give you the theme.
APPLICATION: How could you
apply the truth in Psalm 121? Is
there a promise to believe? Is there a change of attitude you need to
make? Is there a verse to
memorize? Are there some
truths about God that should
meditate upon? Is their an example to
follow? Is there something for which you can thank or praise God?,
Now you are prepared to read the
Psalm 121:1 (A Song
Septuagint (LXX) ode ton anabathmon
era tous ophthalmous mou eis ta ore pothen echei (3SFAI) e
(noun: help, aid, used in Hebrews 4:16-note
Acts 27:17) mou
Translation of the Septuagint - <A Song of Degrees.> I lifted up
mine eyes to the mountains, whence my help shall come.
Cross-references: I will:
Jer 3:23; lift up: Ps 2:6, 68:15,16, 78:68, 87:1, 123:1, Isa
THE TRAVELER'S PSALM
Related Resources: Make a joyful
noise to Jehovah -
Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir's version "My
I Lift Up My Eyes - Paul Wilbur
Lift Up My Eyes - Brian Doerksen
I To The Hills Will Lift My Eyes - from the Psalter,
Mine Eyes Look Toward the Mountains - cyberhymnal
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,
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
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:
(1) the Feast of Unleavened Bread
(commemorating the Exodus) in the Spring (Passover),
(2) the Feast of the Harvest or Weeks (Pentecost- the expression of gratitude for the provision of grain) in the
early Summer and
(3) the Feast of Booths or Ingathering
(Tabernacles - expression of thanksgiving for the final harvest) in the
Fall. (Ex 23:14, 15, 16, 17; Isa 30:29).
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"...
The title of Psalm 121 reads שִׁיר
לַמַּעֲלוֹת—”a song of ascents” (NIV). The psalm is the second in a
collection of 15 psalms with essentially the same title. Historically, this
title has created a plethora of interpretations and approaches to this
collection of psalms, but recent scholarship has come to a general consensus
that the title points to songs of pilgrimage. According to this
interpretation, these psalms, among others, were sung in the context of the
great pilgrimage feasts in which the nation was called to Jerusalem three
times a year. The term עָלָה is apparently related to the pilgrim’s ascent
of Mount Zion to Jerusalem for worship. However, it may also reflect the
processional ascents to the temple by the pilgrims themselves in the final
stage of their pilgrimage, or by the processional choirs who led the
gathered pilgrims in worship and celebration (cf. 2Sa 6:12; 1Ki 13:33; 2Ki
23:2; Neh 12:37; Ps 42:4; Isa 26:2; 30:29; Jer 31:6; Mic 4:2). Also these
songs are likely to have been among those sung by the returning exiles from
Babylon as they ascended the mountains to Jerusalem and home (Ezra 2:1;
7:7). Most of the songs have Jerusalem as a central focus of celebration,9
and the themes of unity, brotherly love, family, and prosperity of life were
natural expressions of a worshiping pilgrimage community....The collection
evidently has been carefully structured so as to create a progression.
These psalms begin with a prayer of distress from one who is far from home
(Ps 120) and concludes with a call to praise in the sanctuary of Zion (Ps
134). (Psalm 121: The Lord Watches Over You
- Bibliotheca Sacra 152:606 April 1995)
Notice that this psalm can be
"subdivided" in to
(1) The Anticipation of Divine Help (Psalm
which the psalmist speaks in the first person ("I," "my,"
Psalm 121:1-2) and
(2) The Assurance of
Divine Help (Psalm 121:3-8), which is written in the second person singular
("you," "your"), which might
have been to allow this segment to be sung antiphonally.
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
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
also indicates the
psalmist recognizes that the godly man stands in continual need of and
help. Keen writes that
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. (Keen, J O: Biblical Illustrator)
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...
It is probably best to think of this as
an internal dialogue of the psalmist with himself. We have a good example of
internal dialogue in Psalms 42 and 43: “Why are you downcast, O my
soul? … Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him” (Ps. 42:5,
11; Ps 43:5, italics added).
Thomas Constable agrees with Boice
The psalmist lifted up his eyes to the
hills around Mt. Zion as he traveled to a feast there from some flatter part
of Canaan. As he did so, he reflected on the source of his help. He also
reminded himself that his help was the God who had made those hills along
with the whole heaven and earth (cf. Ps 124:8). This was the God he was
traveling to worship at the temple on Mt. Zion.
Comment: While the identity of the
pronouns cannot be stated dogmatically, the idea of someone speaking these
truths to their own soul is very attractive. Indeed, is this not a
comforting psalm to "preach" to our soul when we sense the need of the
Matthew Henry introduces this
psalm with words of exhortation...
Wherever we are, at home or abroad, we
are exposed to danger more than we are aware of; and this psalm directs and
encourages us to repose ourselves and our confidence in God, and by faith to
put ourselves under his protection and commit ourselves to his care, which
we must do, with an entire resignation and satisfaction, in singing this
psalm. (Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible)
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
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...
And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw
all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere-- this was
before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah-- like the garden of the LORD,
like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. (Ge 13:10)
And the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had
separated from him, "Now lift up your eyes and look from the place
where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all
the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants
forever. (Ge 13:14-15)
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...
To Thee I lift up my eyes, O Thou who
art enthroned in the heavens!
Comment: The best place to lift
our eyes is to fix our eyes on the best Person, Jesus, the Author and
Perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). If our eyes are fixed on Him, our
wills are more likely to be surrendered to His Spirit (Who enables our holy
walk) and our feet are more likely to follow Him. In short, our behavior is
more likely to be like Jesus (See 1 Cor 4:16, 1 Peter 2:21, 1 John 2:6, John
13:15, 1Peter 2:21, 1 Cor 11:1, 4:16).
So let me ask again, in our
technologically entranced, visually oriented world, where are you "lifting
your eyes?" May God grant us grace to lift our eyes to the mountains,
especially to the God Who created those mountains. Amen
Regarding the phrase lift up my eyes,
A W Pink says...
Faith is to the soul—what the eye is
to the body—namely, that which enables its possessor to look outside of
himself and steadfastly fix his gaze on an external object. And hence it is
that the exercise and act of faith is so often referred to in the Word under
the figure of "lifting up the eyes" and "looking unto the LORD."
Look upward! Was not that the very first
thing which the blessed Spirit taught you, dear friend, after He had
revealed to you your lost condition and made you realize that you were a
guilty, polluted, and undone sinner? As the serpent-bitten Israelites were
bidden to look up to the brazen serpent upon the pole—so you were taught to
look upon the crucified Savior as the One who was willing and able to meet
your dire need! "Look unto me—and be saved, all the ends of the earth" (Isa
Now, as you commenced, so you must
continue (Col 2:6). Christ enthroned in glory is henceforth to be the grand
Object of your contemplation and adoration. Look up to Him daily and view
Him by faith—as the eternal Lover of your soul, as the Lord of your
righteousness, as the Bread of life to feed upon. Contemplate Him as "full
of grace and truth" (John 1:14). However cold, dull, and corrupt you feel to
be in yourself, let your very consciousness of the same, serve to drive you
more and more out of yourself, to rest wholly on what He did and suffered
for you, and what He now is to you. Since He is your Savior, who loved you
and gave Himself for you—make use of Him. Live by faith upon Him, and
thereby you will please and honor Him. Look by faith within the veil, and
take a view of what your great High Priest is there doing for you: He has
all your concerns before Him, and is making all things work together for
your good (Rom. 8:28). Let that encourage you to cast all your care upon Him
and entrust all your concerns to Him.
IT IS GOOD
TO LOOK UP!
J R Miller notes that...
It is good always to look up. Thousands
of people dwarf their lives, and hinder the possibilities of growth in their
souls—by looking downward. They keep their eyes ever entangled in mere
earthly sights, and miss the glories of the hills that pierce the clouds,
and of the heavens that bend over them!
A story is told of a boy who one day found a gold coin on the street. Ever
after this—he kept his eyes on the ground as he walked, watching for coins.
During a long lifetime, he found a good number of coins—but meanwhile he
never saw the flowers and the trees which grew in such wondrous beauty
everywhere; he never saw the hills, the mountains, the sweet valleys, the
picturesque landscapes; he never saw the blue sky. To him, this lovely world
meant only a dusty road, dreary and unbeautiful, merely a place in which to
look for coins.
This really is the story of the life of most people. They never lift their
eyes off the earth! They live only to gather money, to add field to field,
to scheme for power or to find pleasure. Or, if their quest is a little
higher, it is still only for earthly things. They never lift up their eyes
to God! There is no blue sky in their picture. They cherish no heavenly
visions. They are without God in the world.
C H Spurgeon comments on the "ascent"
in Psalm 123:1...
We are climbing. The first step (Ps 120)
saw us lamenting our troublesome surroundings, and the next saw us lifting
or eyes to the hills and resting in assured security (Ps 121:1); from this
we rose to delight in the house of the Lord; but here we look to the Lord
Himself, and this is the highest ascent of all by many degrees. The eyes are
now looking above the hills, and above Jehovah's footstool on earth, to His
throne in the heavens. Let us know it as "the Psalm of the eyes". Old
authors call it Oculus "Sperans" or the eye of hope. It is a short Psalm,
written with singular art, containing one thought, and expressing if in a
most engaging manner. Doubtless it would be a favourite song among the
people of God. It has been conjectured that this brief song, or rather sigh,
may have first been heard in the days of Nehemiah, or under the persecutions
of Antiochus. It may be so, but there is no evidence of it; it seems to us
quite as probable that afflicted ones in all periods after David's time
found this psalm ready to their hand If it appears to describe days remote
from David, it is all the more evident that the Psalmist was also a prophet,
and sang what he saw in vision.
Ps 123:1 - Unto thee lift I up mine eyes. It is good to have some one
to look up to. The Psalmist looked so high that he could look no higher. Not
to the hills, but to the God of the hills he looked. He believed in a
personal God, and knew nothing of that modern pantheism which is nothing
more than atheism wearing a fig leaf. The uplifted eyes naturally and
instinctively represent the state of heart which fixes desire, hope,
confidence, and expectation upon the Lord. God is everywhere, and yet it is
most natural to think of him as being above us, in that glory land which
lies beyond the skies.
O Thou that dwells in the heavens,
just sets forth ,the unsophisticated idea of a child of God in distress: God
is, God is in heaven, God resides in one place, and God is evermore the
same, therefore will I look to him. When we cannot look to any helper on a
level with us, it is greatly wise to look above us; in fact, if we have a
thousand helpers, our eyes should still be toward the Lord. The higher the
Lord is the better for our faith, since that height represents power, glory,
and excellence, and these will be all engaged on our behalf. We ought to be
very thankful for spiritual eyes; the blind men of this world, however much
of human learning they may possess, cannot behold our God, for in heavenly
matters they are devoid of sight. Yet we must use our eyes with resolution,
for they will not go upward to the Lord of themselves, but they incline to
look downward, or inward, or anywhere but to the Lord: let it be our firm
resolve that the heavenward glance shall not be lacking. If we cannot see
God, at least we will look towards him. God is in heaven as a king in his
palace; he is here revealed, adored, and glorified: thence he looks down on
the world and sends succours to his saints as their needs demand; hence we
look up, even when our sorrow is so great that we can do no more. It is a
blessed condescension on God's part that he permits us to lift up our eyes
to his glorious high throne; yea, more, that he invites and even commands us
so to do. When we are looking to the Lord in hope, it is well to tell him so
in prayer: the Psalmist uses his voice as well as his eye. We need not speak
in prayer; a glance of the eye will do it all; for - -
"Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear,
The upward glancing of an eye
When none but God is near."
Still, it is helpful to the heart to use
the tongue, and we do well to address ourselves in words and sentences to
the God who heareth his people. It is no small joy that our God is always at
home: he is not on a journey, like Baal, but he dwells in the heavens. Let
us think no hour of the day inopportune for waiting upon the Lord; no watch
of the night too dark for us to look to him.
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
by faith... left Egypt, not fearing the
wrath of the king, for he endured as seeing Him Who is unseen.
note) (Ask yourself "Why did Moses endure? What enabled him to
not be fearful of a tyrannical human magistrate? Observe the text
again if unsure.)
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
have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living
waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no
water. (Jer 2:13)
Beloved, are you at this very present
time in need of help?
Then lift your eyes not to the creation
but unto your Creator, Who stands ready to run to your cry for help (cp Ps
Corrie Ten Boom once said...
and be distressed.
Look inside and be depressed.
Look at Jesus and be at rest.
(cp Hebrews 12:2-note,
Looking to Jesus and experiencing
rest in Him is the same idea brought out by Solomon in Proverbs
The Name of the LORD (Jehovah)
is a strong tower. The righteous runs into it and is safe. (see
notes on Pr 18:10)
Comment: Notice that truth
precedes behavior. Belief should always lead to behavior. In other words first we note Who God is - a
(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.
J R Smith exhorts believers to "Look
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
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
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
look intently —
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
Are, to us, the things unseen the solid things, and the things visible the
shadows and the phantoms? We see with the bodily eyes the shadows on the
wall, as it were, but we have to turn round and see with the eyes of our
minds the light that flings the shadows. (Author unknown)
Mountains - Which mountains?
Where? Although I
feel the mountains have some allusion to Jerusalem, one source rightly notes
there is no certainty about the location
of these hills. Anderson thinks they are the mountains on the route from
Jerusalem to the psalmist’s home, and Taylor takes the journey to be the
reverse of this. Some believe that these are the hills of or near Jerusalem,
while others see an allusion to the “high places” where the pagan gods were
believed to live. (Ed note: and where idolatry was practiced by many
of the Israelites)" (Bratcher, R. G., & Reyburn, W. D. A Translator's
Handbook on the Book of Psalms. Page 1051. New York: United Bible Societies)
another Psalm of Ascent we read that
As the mountains surround
Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and
forever. (Ps 125:2-note)
Comment: Observe that mountain is
term of comparison,
specifically a simile, a comparison which is always introduced by
either "like" or "as." Beloved, whenever you encounter a term
of comparison, pause and ponder what the Spirit is revealing by asking the
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:
the hills are a deception, a tumult on the mountains. Surely, in the Lord
our God is the salvation of Israel. (Jer 3:23)
Spurgeon has an applicational note
on the "mountains" writing...
The purposes of God; the divine
attributes; the immutable promises; the covenant, ordered in all things and
sure; the providence, predestination, and proved faithfulness of the
Lord—these are the hills to which we must lift up our eyes, and from these
our help must come. (Treasury of David)
James Montgomery Boice comments
that Psalm 121 has been known as The Traveler’s Psalm...
David Livingstone, the famous missionary
and explorer of the continent of Africa, read Psalm 121 and Psalm 135, which
praises God for his sovereign rule over all things, as he worshiped with his
father and sister before setting out for Africa in 1840. His mother-in-law,
Mrs. Moffat, wrote him at Linyardi that Psalm 121 was always in her mind as
she thought about and prayed for him.
J. S. Watson, a Rear Admiral in the
United States Navy and the successor to Admiral Dewey, who commanded the
U.S. fleet in the Philippines during the Spanish American War, wrote, “My
favorite chapter is the Traveller’s Psalm, Psalm 121. The seventh and eighth
verses mean more to me than any other.”
William Edwards was a British magistrate
caught in the Indian Mutiny of 1857. His escape after hiding out for months
is a thrilling story. He wrote at one point, “Nothing new has been settled
about our plans, and we are much harassed. Heavy guns were firing at
Turruckabad today. We know not for what cause, but they reminded us
painfully of our fearful proximity to that place where so many are thirsting
for our lives. Amidst it all, the psalms are most consoling and wonderfully
suited to our cause, especially the 121st: ‘I will lift up mine eyes unto
the hills, from whence cometh our help’ [kjv].”
These are only a few of what must be many
thousands of instances when, in danger, God’s people have turned to Psalm
121 and found comfort....
the marvelous spirit of tranquil trust in
God that the psalm breathes from beginning to end. It is this trust that
makes Psalm 121 such a strong discipleship song for pilgrims of all times
and all countries....
Protection by God, under the watchful eye
of God, is the dominant idea in the psalm. (Boice, J. M. Psalms.
Originally published: Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Books)
Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Dr. Blaikie, in his Life of Livingstone,
tells that this Psalm and the 135th were read by him when he parted with his
family and went out first as a missionary to Africa 'I remember my father
and him,' writes his sister, 'talking over the prospects of Christian
missions. They said that the time would come when rich and great men would
think it an honour to support whole stations of missionaries, instead of
spending their money on hounds and horses. On the morning of 17 November,
1840, we got up at five o'clock. David read the 121st and the 135th Psalms
and prayed. My father and he walked to Glasgow to catch the Liverpool
steamer.' The old man walked back with a lonely heart to Blantyre, while his
son's face was set in earnest toward the dark continent.
Rod Mattoon writes...
A little boy was spending his Saturday
morning playing in his sandbox. He had with him his box of cars and trucks,
his plastic pail, and a shiny, red plastic shovel. In the process of
creating roads and tunnels in the soft sand, he discovered a large rock in
the middle of the sandbox. The lad dug around the rock, managing to dislodge
it from the dirt. With no little bit of struggle, he pushed and nudged the
rock across the sandbox by using his feet. (He was a very small boy and the
rock was very large.) When the boy got the rock to the edge of the sandbox,
however, he found that he couldn't roll it up and over the little wall.
Determined, the little boy shoved, pushed, and pried, but every time he
thought he had made some progress, the rock tipped and then fell back into
the sandbox. The little boy grunted, struggled, pushed, shoved—but his only
reward was to have the rock roll back, smashing his chubby little fingers.
Finally he burst into tears of frustration. All this time the boy's father
watched from the living room window as the drama unfolded. At the moment the
tears fell, a large shadow fell across the boy and the sandbox. It was the
boy's father. Gently but firmly he said, "Son, why didn't you use all the
strength that you had available?" Defeated, the boy sobbed back, "But I did,
Daddy, I did! I used all the strength that I had!" "No, son," corrected the
father kindly. "You didn't use all the strength you had. You didn't ask me."
With that the father reached down, picked up the rock, and removed it from
Beloved, God is our Helper. He is the helper of the hopeless, the homeless,
the hurting, the harassed, and the heckled. He knows what you need
emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually, and financially. We are wise
if we will tap into His strength to face our mountains and hills. He will
provide for every need that you have. (Treasures
From Treasured Psalms)
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
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,
The Lord your help will be;
New strength will come from Him who said,
"For rest, come unto Me."
For the right spiritual
fix your eyes on the Lord.
What Can I Do With My Worry?
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
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) .
Hebrew = 'Ezer
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).
(actually the verb 'azar) is used of Jehovah’s personal
assistance for those who cannot help themselves (Ps 10:14-note;
Ezer is repeatedly used in the Psalms in reference to God's divine
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
remember to check the
which will help you
arrive at an accurate
which in turn leads to
especially as you query the text with
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).
my strength and my shield. My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.
Therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him. (Ps 28:7-note;cf
Spurgeon comments: "Heart
trust is never disappointed. Faith must come before help, but help
will never be long behindhand. Divine help is given us every
moment, or we would go back into perdition; when clearer help is needed, we
have only to put faith into exercise, and it will be given us." (Bolding
and underlining added.
Greek = Boetheia
Septuagint (LXX) has
the Greek word
study) which is used only twice in the NT, once in a well known
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."
The second use
by Luke gives us a great word
picture of "help", describing the storm tossed ship in (Acts
27:17), writing that
they had hoisted (the lifeboat) up, they used supporting cables
in undergirding the ship and fearing that they might run aground on the
shallows of Syrtis, they let down the sea anchor, and so let themselves be
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
There will be no reception of the Divine help unless there is a sense of the
need of the Divine help (Ed: A corollary truth is that many times God
sends or allows trials in our life seeking to cause us to remember that He
and He alone is the help we need. We are in greatest danger when we have the
least sense of our need for His help!). God cannot help me before I am brought to despair
of any other help. If we conceit ourselves to be strong we are weak; if we
know ourselves to be impotent, Omnipotence (see
Omnipotent) pours itself into
us. (Biblical Illustrator)
Spurgeon reminds us that
No help comes from anywhere else but from
the eternal hills. Let us lift up our eyes, therefore, hopefully expecting
help from the hills; it is on the road, it "cometh." The psalmist with the
eye of faith could see it coming, so he watched its approach.
promise secured strength for what we have to do today, but this promise
guarantees help when we cannot act alone. The Lord says, “I will help
you.” Strength within is supplemented by help from without. God can raise
up allies in our warfare if it seems good in His sight. Even if He doesn’t
send human assistance, He Himself will be at our side, and this is even
better. “Our august Ally” is superior to thousands of human helpers.
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
His help is effective, though futile is the help of
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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).
help comes from
Septuagint (LXX): he boetheia (help) mou para kuriou tou poiesantos (AAPMSG) ton ouranon kai ten gen
Translation of the Septuagint - My help shall come from the
Lord, who made the heaven and the earth.
Cross-references: My help:
Ps 46:1 Ps 124:8 Ps 146:5,6 Isa 40:28,29 Isa 41:13 Jer 20:11 Hos 13:9 Heb 13:6;
THE PSALMIST CONFESSES
TRUST IN GOD'S HELP
My help comes from
(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
"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
In NT terms one could just as readily say
"My help comes from Jesus" for He proclaimed Himself identical with
Jehovah = Jesus)
when He said to the Jews
Truly, truly, I say to you, before
Abraham was born,
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"
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:
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.
‘Which things are an allegory.’ If we recognise our helplessness, God is our
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
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
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
(exceeding usual limits) Creator is also the ever-present Watcher of each of
on this truth.
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.
To the Hills I Lift Mine Eyes
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!
Nothing is too difficult for Thee
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
Psalm 146 echoes this truth about God
the Creator declaring
How blessed is he whose
help (Hebrew =
boethos) is the God of Jacob, whose hope
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,
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
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
Expositor's Bible Commentary notes that
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,
Jer 10:11)! The sole source of "help"
comes from Yahweh, Who, as Creator, has unlimited power."
F, Editor: Expositor's Bible Commentary OT 7 Volume Set: Books: Zondervan
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
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God...
A mighty fortress is our God, a
bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
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
Warren Wiersbe writes that
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
comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth" (v1,2). God is our
You don't have to go on a vacation or drive on a busy highway to know that. Where does your
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."
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)
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
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
The British Press Association reported the following incident related to the
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
He will not
slip; He who
keeps you will
Septuagint (LXX):me dos (2SAAS) eis salon (rolling or
tossing motion, especially the restless movement of the sea in its
tidal rise and fall) ton poda (foot) sou mede nustaxe (3SAAS: become
drowsy, dose) o phulasson (PAPMSN: phulasso: continually acting
as watchman, guarding, protecting, watching over) se
Translation of the Septuagint - Let not thy foot be moved; and let
not thy keeper slumber.
Cross-references: Ps 91:12
1Sa 2:9 Pr 2:8 3:23,26 1Pe 1:5
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
"May He not allow your foot to slip! May your Protector not
So all of these versions would be read as a prayer. Then verse 4
would read like a response, the NET Version reading
protector does not sleep or slumber!"
JEHOVAH, GOD, THY GRACIOUS POWER
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
Now to Him Who is able (dunamai
which is in the
= 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
James Smith...is right when he
The Christian is always on dangerous
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
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
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 —
constant keeping, divine 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
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
"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)
"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.
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
Spurgeon wrote that
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
"Bless our God, O
peoples, and sound His praise abroad, Who keeps us in life, and does not
allow our feet to slip." (Psalm 66:8-note,
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
and he holds his children so that their feet do not slip (Ps
One of the other psalms of ascent helps
understand "their foot shall not slip", the psalmist writing
Those who trust in Jehovah are as Mount Zion, which cannot be
moved, but abides forever. (Ps
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.”
should be the subject of perpetual prayer;
and we may pray believingly,
for those who have God for their Keeper
will be safe from all the perils of the way.
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
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.
The Treasury of David)
The slipping of one's foot is a frequent
description of misfortune, for example,
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
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
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.)
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
Will ever with me stay,
To assist me on life's journey,
And brighten up my day. --Hall
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.
As Christians, we may confidently commit both the night and the day to our
ever-faithful God. He is fully aware of our fears in the dark as well as our
frustrations in the light. We can be assured of His constant care. His
loving eye and protecting hand are always upon us.
Perhaps you face lonely hours because of illness or the loss of a loved one.
The shadows of the night make the anxiety of your situation seem greater
than ever. Doubts arise and fears flood your soul, robbing you of your
Trust the heavenly Father, and with the psalmist you will be able to say, “I
will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell
in safety” (Psalm 4:8). Remember, God is always awake.— by Paul Van Gorder
In His care
I will sweetly sleep,
For the Lord my Savior
Will in safety keep.
If you have
trouble getting to sleep,
try resting in the Lord.
IN PSALM 121
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).
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
for the eyelids, which are "the keepers" of the eyes. (See
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 LORD our God
is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the
house of bondage, and who did these great signs in our sight and
LXX = dia-phulasso = watch
carefully, guard closely) us through all the way in which we went and
among all the peoples through whose midst we passed." (Joshua 24:17)
The Greek translation of the Hebrew text
(Septuagint or Lxx) renders shamar with the Greek verb phulasso.
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...
the Lord is faithful (He is trustworthy,
worthy of all our trust), and He will strengthen and protect
(phulasso) you from the evil one. (2Th 3:3) (Why can we be certain God will
protect us from evil and the devil, the evil one himself? How is God
characterized by Paul, which undergirds his declaration that God will
protect us? See God's attribute
Peter records that God
did not spare the ancient world, but preserved
Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a
flood upon the world of the ungodly. (2Pe 4, 5- see
Comment: Ponder the picture in
this passage! Imagine the roaring seas, spreading out over the land as the
rains came falling down. Picture men and women and children crying out for
help as the waters rose. And let this sad, tragic picture help you
discern the meaning of phulasso.
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;
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
Blessed (makarios) are those who
hear the word of God,
and observe (phulasso = guard, present tense = continually) it. (Luke
Comment: Note carefully that the
blessing is not just in the knowing of the Word of Truth but of the obeying
of the Word of Truth (Contrast Jas 1:22 with Jas 1:25)
In a similar use in the
LXX we read
Where there is no vision (no prophetic
vision, no truth), the people
are unrestrained (run wild!), but ( - What is contrasted? At least two
truths!) happy (blessed - fully satisfied independent of the circumstances =
not natural effort but a supernatural bestowal!) is he who keeps (LXX
= Phulasso) the law. (Pr 29:18-note)
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
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)
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
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
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
I am not ashamed; for I know
Whom I have believed
and I am convinced that He is able (He has the inherent power -
He is the Creator of heaven and earth) to guard (or keep
= phulasso) what I have entrusted to
Him until that day. (2Ti 1:12-note)
Beloved, we have a
trustworthy, vigilant "Watchman"
Take comfort in this truth.
Spurgeon has these devotional
thoughts on Psalm 121:3...
If the LORD will not suffer it, neither
men nor devils can do it. How greatly would they rejoice if they could give
us a disgraceful fall, drive us from our position, and bury us out of
memory! They could do this to their heart's content were it not for one
hindrance, and only one: the LORD will not suffer it; and if He does not
suffer it, we shall not suffer it. The way of life is like traveling among
the Alps. Along the mountain path one is constantly exposed to the slipping
of the foot. Where the way is high the head is apt to swim, and then the
feet soon slide; there are spots which are smooth as glass and others that
are rough with loose stones, and in either of these a fall is hard to avoid.
He who throughout life is enabled to keep himself upright and to walk
without stumbling has the best of reasons for gratitude. What with pitfalls
and snares, weak knees, weary feet, and subtle enemies, no child of God
would stand fast for an hour were it not for the faithful love which will
not suffer his foot to be moved.
Amidst a thousand snares I stand
Upheld and guarded by thy hand;
That hand unseen shall hold me still,
And lead me to thy holy hill.
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
THERE IS AN EYE THAT NEVER
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...
Behold ...is meant to attract the
readers' attention. In some books, which are intended to be sensational, you
are asked to behold, and when you look, there is nothing to see; but
when God's Word bids you behold what it has to say, you may be sure
that the exclamation is not superfluous or misleading. It would be a marring
of the Word of God to leave out even one of its smallest expressions; and,
therefore, when we see this word "Behold" placed at the beginning of
the text, we may rest assured that there is...something worth noting, worth
examining and considering, and worth remembering and carrying away.
A very useful series of discourses might be preached upon the "Beholds"
of the Old and New Testaments, which culminate in John the Baptist's "Behold
the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world;" and Pilate's "Behold
the man;" and still more in our Lord's own message to John, "Behold,
I come quickly."
(Behold in Psalm 121) tells us about
God's eyes: "Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor
sleep." His eyes are never closed; no feeling of weariness or need of
slumber ever causes them to be heavy and to shut.
He Who keeps Israel
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).
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).
Dear reader, perhaps you are reading
this, longing for the watch care of the Almighty, omnipotent God. If you
have never truly confessed with you mouth Jesus as your Lord and believed in
your heart that God raised Him from the dead
(cf Ro 10:9, 10-note),
then please enter into His eternal New
Covenant today by placing your faith wholeheartedly in Jesus, Who longs to
be your Helper and Protector today and throughout eternity, "for the
Scripture says, "WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED."
Checkbook, Spurgeon has the following devotional thoughts on this
The Unfailing Watch - Jehovah is "the
Keeper of Israel." No form of unconsciousness ever steals over Him, neither
the deeper slumber nor the slighter sleep. He never fails to watch the house
and the heart of His people. This is a sufficient reason for our resting in
perfect peace. Alexander said that he slept because his friend Parmenio
watched; much more may we sleep because our God is our guard. "Behold" is
here set up to call our attention to the cheering truth. Israel, when he had
a stone for his pillow, fell asleep; but His God was awake and came in
vision to His servant. When we lie defenseless, Jehovah Himself will cover
our head. The LORD keeps His people as a rich man keeps his treasure, as a
captain keeps a city with a garrison, as a sentry keeps watch over his
sovereign. None can harm those who are in such keeping. Let me put my soul
into His dear hands. He never forgets us, never ceases actively to care for
us, never finds Himself unable to preserve us. O my LORD, keep me, lest I
wander and fall and perish. Keep me, that I may keep Thy commandments. By
Thine unslumbering care prevent my sleeping like the sluggard and perishing
like those who sleep the sleep of death.
C H Spurgeon
comments on He that keeps Israel noting that...
By this expression we understand
that the Lord keeps his people as a shepherd keeps his flock. There is a
great depth of meaning in that word "keep" as it is thus used; for a
shepherd keeps the sheep by feeding them, by supplying all their needs, and
also by guarding them from all their adversaries. He keeps the flock with
vigilance so that it is not diminished either by the ravaging of the wolf or
by the straying of the sheep. Both by night and by day, even an ordinary
shepherd takes great pains and the utmost care to preserve his sheep; while
"our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep," who was brought again
from the dead, uses his omnipotence, his omniscience, and all his divine
attributes in the keeping of his sheep. O beloved, if you are indeed his
people, and the sheep of his pasture, rest assured that he will preserve
you! You are in good keeping, for he is the good Shepherd, and the great
Shepherd, and the chief Shepherd; and he will perform all the duties of his
office well and faithfully, that he may keep securely all whom his Father
has committed unto him.
Another figure may equally well illustrate the meaning of this expression.
The Lord keeps his people, not only as a shepherd keeps his sheep, but as a
king keeps his jewels. These are rare and precious things which are his
peculiar treasure, and he will not lose them if he can help it. He will go
to war sooner than be deprived of them. He will put them in the securest
casket that he has in his strong room, and set his most faithful servants to
guard the place wherein they are stored. He will charge those who have the
custody of his crown jewels to take a full and accurate account of them, and
to be careful to examine them from time to time to see that they are all
there, for he greatly prizes them, and is not willing for one of them to be
lost. They probably cost him a great price; or, if not, they are part of his
royal heritage, and of the glory and honor of his kingdom, so he desires to
keep them all. Even so does the Lord Jesus keep his people, far they are his
jewels. He delights in them, they are his honor and his glory. They cost him
a greater price than they can ever realize. He hides them away in the casket
of his power, and protects them with all his wisdom and strength. Concerning
those who feared the Lord, and thought upon his name, it is written, "They
shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my
jewels." It is God's work to keep his own jewels; he does not commit them
even to the custody of the tall archangel who stands nearest to his throne,
but the Lord himself keepeth them, and none shall be able to pluck them out
of his hands.
This is not all, for we might multiply figures to almost any extent, and
still not exhaust the meaning of the text. The Lord keeps his people as a
governor keeps the city committed to his charge. He places his guards around
the walls, he has his cannon on the battlements, to defend the place against
those who besiege it, and he is himself constantly on the watch. Early in
the morning, and late at night, he is on the walls; and through the night
the watchmen keep their continual round, for the city must be preserved from
scaling ladders and from assaults of every sort. The Lord will not let even
the suburbs of the New Jerusalem be conquered by the foe. He will preserve
the holy city, his own Church, until the day when his Son shall come to
reign in her for ever.
I find that, in all probability, the figure here used is an allusion to the
common custom of having guards to watch the tents of travelers passing
through the desert. At this very time, if you were journeying through the
Holy Land, you would find that, when you came to your camping ground, and
nightfall drew on, there would be certain persons employed to watch over the
different tents; for, otherwise, the wandering robbers of the desert would
soon enter, and take away your valuables, or even your life. I have noticed,
in the books of two or three travelers, this observation, "We found it
exceedingly difficult to obtain a tant keeper who could keep awake all
night." One gentleman speaks of discovering a thief in his tent, and when he
went outside to call the watchman, he found that the man had gone so soundly
to sleep that he could only be aroused by one or two gentle kicks. When a
man has been travelling with you all day, it is unreasonable to expect him
to keep awake through the night to take care of you. Hence, see the beauty
of the expression used by the psalmist: "Behold, he that keepeth Israel
shall neither slumber nor sleep." There shall be no deep sleep falling upon
him; nay, there shall not even be a brief period of slumber, not even a wink
of sleep shall ever overcome him. A man may say, "I am so tired that I
cannot keep my eyes open;" but God says not so.
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
“I, the LORD, am its keeper; I water it every moment. Lest anyone damage it,
I guard it night and day. (Isa 27:3)
Boice records a
secular example of a vigilant watchman...
When a person asked the Greek general
Alexander the Great how he could sleep soundly when he was surrounded by so
much personal danger, he replied that Parmenio, his faithful guard, was
watching. How much more soundly should we sleep when God, who never slumbers
nor sleeps, is guarding us! (Psalms
Volume 3 Psalms 107-150 Expositional Commentary).
records a related story noting that...
Alexander the Great told his soldiers, “I
wake that you may sleep.” Throughout the night hours, when we are no longer
conscious of the world around us, there is One greater than Alexander who
watches over us with constant, unwearied care.
reminds us that...
His eyes are upon us by day, and in the
darkness of the night (cp Pr 15:3) - the night literally; and also the night
of calamity, woe, and sorrow....Never slumbers, never ceases to be watchful.
Man sleeps; a sentinel may slumber on his post, by inattention, by
long-continued wakefulness, or by weariness; a pilot may slumber at the
helm; even a mother may fall asleep by the side of the sick child; but God
is never exhausted, is never weary, is never inattentive. He never closes
his eyes on the condition of his people, on the needs of the world.
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
Call out with a loud
voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a
journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened." (1Ki
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
Mesopotamian literature a sleeping god is one who is unresponsive to the
prayers of the person who is calling out for help....In a Babylonian prayer
the worshiper wonders how long the deity is going to sleep." (Matthews, V, et al: The IVP Bible
background commentary : Old Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity
We could not stand a moment—if our Divine
Keeper were to sleep! We need Him by day and by night. Not a single step can
be safely taken—except under His guardian eye. God is the convoy and
body-guard of His people. When dangers are all around us—we are safe, for
our Preserver is awake, and will not permit us to be moved. No fatigue of
exhaustion can cast our God into sleep—His watchful eyes are never closed.
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,
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
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
a shepherd keeps his sheep — by feeding them, by supplying all their needs,
and also by guarding them from all their adversaries. He keeps the flock
with vigilance so that it is not diminished either by the ravaging of the
wolf or by the straying of the sheep. As a king keeps his jewels. God hides
His people in the casket of His power, and protects them with all His wisdom
and strength... Think of God’s eyes as never wearying of His people.
Infinite patience! God is never forgetful of His people for a single
moment. God is always ready to show Himself strong on behalf of those who
trust Him. God is never asleep in the sense that He ceases to consider us.
You and I, in thinking of one thing, often forget another; but it is not so
with God. He is so great that His centre is everywhere, and His
circumference is nowhere; and you, dear brother or sister, may be the very
centre of God’s thoughts, and so may I; and all His redeemed may at the same
moment have His thoughts fixed upon each one of them."
Spurgeon writes that
"The consoling truth must be repeated: it is too
rich to be dismissed in a single line. It were well if we always imitated
the sweet singer, and would dwell a little upon a choice doctrine, sucking
the honey from it. What a glorious title is in the Hebrew -- "The keeper of
Israel," and how delightful to think that no form of unconsciousness ever
steals over him, neither the deep slumber nor the lighter sleep. He will
never suffer the house to be broken up by the silent thief; he is ever on
the watch, and speedily perceives every intruder. This is a subject of
wonder, a theme for attentive consideration, therefore the word "Behold" is
set up as a way mark. Israel fell asleep, but his God was awake. Jacob had
neither walls, nor curtains, nor body guard around him; but the Lord was in
that place though Jacob knew it not, and therefore the defenseless man was
safe as in a castle. In after days he mentioned God under this enchanting
name -- "The God that led me all my life long": perhaps David alludes to
that passage in this expression. The word "keepeth" is also full of meaning:
he keeps us as a rich man keeps his treasures, as a captain keeps a city
with a garrison, as a royal guard keeps his monarch's head. If the former
verse is in strict accuracy a prayer, this is the answer to it; it affirms
the matter thus, "Lo, he shall not slumber nor sleep -- the Keeper of
Israel". It may also be worthy of mention that in verse three the Lord is
spoken of as the personal keeper of one individual, and here of all those
who are in his chosen nation, described as Israel: mercy to one saint is the
pledge of blessing to them all. Happy are the pilgrims to whom this psalm is
a safe conduct; they may journey all the way to the celestial city without
Treasury of David
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.
If you think 1.9 hours a day is not much sleep, consider this fact about the
Creator of our tall animal friends: Our heavenly Father never sleeps.
Describing God’s continual concern for us, the psalmist declares, “He who
keeps you will not slumber” (Ps. 121:3). In the context of this psalm, the
writer makes it clear that God’s sleepless vigilance is for our good. Verse
5 says, “The Lord is your keeper.” God keeps us, protects us, and cares for
us—with no need for refreshing. Our Protector is constantly seeking our
good. As one song puts it: “He never sleeps, He never slumbers. He watches
me both night and day.”
Are you facing difficulties? Turn to the One who never sleeps. Each second
of each day, let Him “preserve your going out and your coming in” (v.8). —
by Bill Crowder
The Rock of Ages stands secure,
He always will be there;
He watches over all His own
To calm their anxious care.
The One who upholds the universe
will never let you down.
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
There is no better feeling than knowing you are protected and secure. You
feel peaceful when the doors are locked and all is quiet as you drift off to
sleep at night. You feel safe. But many lie awake in their beds with fearful
thoughts of the present or dread of the future. Some are afraid of commotion
outside or of a spouse who has been violent. Some cannot rest because of
worry over a rebellious child. Others are anxiously listening to make sure a
seriously ill child is still breathing.
These are the times when our loving God encourages us to cry out to Him, to
the One who will neither “slumber nor sleep” (Ps. 121:4). Psalm 34:15
reminds us that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are
open to their cry.”
Pinkerton may have been the original “private eye,” but the One who really
has the eye that never sleeps is listening to the cries of “the righteous”
(Ps. 34:17). — by Cindy Hess Kasper
Before you sleep, just gently lay
Every troubled thought away;
Drop your burden and your care
In the quiet arms of prayer.
We can sleep in peace
when we remember that God is awake.
LORD is your
LORD is your
shade on your
kurios phulaxei (3SFAI: shall
keep you) se kurios skepe (shade as suggesting protection or security)
sou epi cheira (hand) dexian (right) sou
Translation of the Septuagint - The Lord shall keep thee: the Lord
is thy shelter upon thy right hand.
Cross-Reference: Shade: Ex
13:21 Isa 4:5,6 25:4 32:2 Mt 23:37; On right hand: Ps 16:8 109:31
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
He will keep time from danger; he
will keep thee from sin; he will keep thee unto salvation.
David describes Jehovah as His Defender
in Psalm 41
How blessed is he who considers the
helpless; The LORD will deliver him in a day of trouble. 2 Jehovah
will protect (shamar) him, and keep him alive, And he shall be called
blessed upon the earth; And do not give him over to the desire of his
enemies. (Ps 41:1-2)
We see this same truth in several other
The LORD preserves (Jehovah
shamar) the simple (Those whose lack of wisdom and experience exposes
them to danger. - Ryrie); I was brought low, and He saved me. (Ps 116:6)
(A Song of Ascents, of Solomon.) Unless
the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the
LORD guards (Jehovah shamar) the city, The watchman keeps awake
in vain. (Ps 127:1)
Comment: This is most instructive
verse - (1) It teaches the foundational truth that man has a responsibility,
but he can do nothing in the supernatural realm without God's enablement!
Compare this same truth in Phil 2:12 and Phil 2:13. (2) The watchman is only
effective because God is the Guard, the Defender!
Spurgeon: Around the wall the
sentinels pace with constant step; but yet the city is betrayed unless the
alert Watcher is with them. We are not safe because of watchmen if
Jehovah refuses to watch over us. Even if the guards are wakeful, and do
their duty, still the place may be surprised if God be not there. "I, the
Lord, do keep it", is better than an army of sleepless guards. Note that
the Psalmist does not bid the builder cease from laboring, nor suggest that
watchmen should neglect their duty (MAN'S RESPONSIBILITY - which refutes the
specious teaching of "Let go, let God"), nor that men should show their
trust in God by doing nothing: nay, he supposes that they will do all that
they can do, and then he forbids their fixing their trust in what they have
done, and assures them that all creature effort will be in vain unless the
Creator puts forth His power (GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY), to render second causes
effectual. Holy Scripture endorses the order of Cromwell -- "Trust in
God, and keep your powder dry": only here the sense is varied, and we
are told that the dried powder will not win the victory unless we trust in
God. Happy is the man who hits
the golden mean by so working as to believe in God, and so believing in God
as to work without fear.
The LORD keeps (Jehovah shamar)
all who love Him; But all the wicked, He will destroy. (Ps 145:20)
Comment: Who "loves" Him? Only
those who have believed love God, having been justified (declared in right
standing before God by grace through faith) and had the love of God poured
out within their hearts (Ro 5:5). Because of this spiritual transaction,
they are able to lovingly obey God's laws (note: not legalistically, but
lovingly, as motivated and enabled by the indwelling Spirit), such obedience
itself even being a mark that one loves God and belongs to God's family. (Jn
14:15, 21, 23, 1Jn 5:2)
The LORD protects (Jehovah
shamar) the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow; But He
thwarts the way of the wicked. (Ps 146:9)
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
Keep Thou my way, O Lord, be Thou
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
"Here the preserving One, Who had been spoken of by
pronouns in the two previous verses, is distinctly named --
is thy keeper. What a mint of meaning lies here: the sentence is a mass of
bullion (Ed note: uncoined gold or silver in bars - the precious metals
are called bullion, when smelted and not perfectly refined), and when coined
and stamped with the king's name it will bear all our expenses between our
birthplace on earth and our rest in heaven. Here is a glorious person --
Jehovah, assuming a gracious office and fulfilling it in Person, -- Jehovah
is thy keeper, in behalf of a favoured individual -- thy, and a firm
assurance of revelation that it is even so at this hour -- Jehovah is thy
keeper. Can we appropriate the divine declaration? If so, we may journey
onward to Jerusalem and know no fear; yea, we may journey through the valley
of the shadow of death and fear no evil." (Treasury
Wiersbe writes that
God is also our
Keeper. "He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not
slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep"
(Psalm 121:3,4). This is a dangerous world we live in. Enemies would like to
attack and destroy us. But as we walk in the will of God and depend on His
power, He is there as our Keeper and Preserver. "The Lord shall preserve you
from all evil" (Psalm 121:7). This verse doesn't say we won't have
pain. It doesn't say we will never suffer or sorrow. Though we may be hurt,
we won't be harmed. "He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve
your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore"
(Psalm 121:7,8). (Wiersbe, Warren:
Prayer, Praise and Promises)
Someone has said that the three
keys to real peace are: fret not, faint not, fear not.
1. Fret not--because God loves you (1Jn 4:16).
2. Faint not--because God holds you (Psalm 139:10-Spurgeon's
3. Fear not--because God keeps you (Psalm 121:5).
When the way is dim, and I
Through the mist of His wise design,
How my glad heart yearns and my faith returns
By the touch of His hand on mine. --Pounds
© 1913 Hope Publishing Company
The perfect antidote for fear is trust in God.
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?"
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
Thou not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on
every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions
have increased in the land." (Job 1:10)
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
do not rebel against Jehovah and do not fear the people of the land, for
they shall be our prey. Their protection (literally = "their
shade" = tsel; Amplified = "shadow of protection") has been
removed from them, and Jehovah is with us; do not fear them. (Nu 14:9)
Isaiah records a similar great truth
For You have been a defense for
A defense for the needy in his distress,
A refuge from the
storm, a shade from the heat;
For the breath of the ruthless Is like a rain
storm against a wall. (Isaiah
He not only protects those whom He is the
keeper of, but He refreshes them: He is their shade. The comparison
has a great deal of gracious condescension in it; the eternal Being Who is
infinite substance is what He is in order that He may speak sensible comfort
to His people, promises to be their umbra-their shadow, to
keep as close to them as the shadow does to the body, and to shelter them
from the scorching heat, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land,
Isaiah 32:2. Under this shadow they may sit with delight and assurance.
Spurgeon comments that on this figurative
Figurative language), noting that
A shade gives protection from burning
heat and glaring light. We cannot bear too much blessing; even divine
goodness, which is a right hand dispensation, must be toned down and shaded
to suit our infirmity, and this the Lord will do for us. He will bear a
shield before us, and guard the right arm with which we fight the foe. That
member which has the most of labour shall have the most of protection. When
a blazing sun pours down its burning beams upon our heads the Lord Jehovah
Himself will interpose to shade us, and that in the most honourable manner,
acting as our right hand Attendant, and placing us in comfort and safety.
"The Lord at thy right hand shall smite through kings". How different this
from the portion of the ungodly ones who have Satan standing at their right
hand, and of those of whom Moses said, "their defence has departed from
them". God is as near us as our shadow, and we are as safe as angels.
We see a similar picture of God's
perpetual protective presence over His people in Israel's exodus, Moses
recording that Jehovah
was going before them in a
pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by
night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. (Exodus
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,
"the LORD will create over
the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even
smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory
will be a canopy. And there will be a shelter to give shade
(shadow = same Hebrew word tsel as here in Psalm 121:5) from the
heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain."
(Isaiah 4:5, 6)
Comment: Isaiah's description
recalls Ezekiel’s prophecy of the return of the
Shekinah glory cloud to
temple on Mt Zion (Ezek 43:2, 3, 4, 5).
David emphasizes the effect of an
awareness of Jehovah's presence at his right hand writing...
have set the LORD continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I
will not be shaken (Hebrew = mot = same word used in Psalm 121:3 for "slip". (Psalm 16:8-note)
Comment: Setting the LORD
continually before him was a conscious, intentional choice David had made,
one we should all strive to imitate as the Spirit enables us. In Acts 2:25
this psalm is rendered "I WAS ALWAYS BEHOLDING THE LORD IN MY PRESENCE; FOR
HE IS AT MY RIGHT HAND, THAT I MAY NOT BE SHAKEN."
Spurgeon comments that Peter
applies Psalm 16:8 to Jesus: The eye of Jesus' faith could discern
beforehand the continuance of divine support to his suffering Son, in such a
degree that he should never be moved from the accomplishment of his purpose
of redeeming his people. By the power of God at his right hand he foresaw
that he should smite through all who rose up against him, and on that power
he placed the firmest reliance.
Thomas Brooks has some very practical
thoughts: I have set the Lord always before me. David did not by
fits and starts set the Lord before him; but he "always" set the Lord before
him in his course; he had his eye upon the Lord, and so much the Hebrew word
imports: I have equally set the Lord before me; that is the force of
the original word, that is, I have set the Lord before me, at one
time as well as another, without any irregular affections or passions, etc.
In every place, in every condition, in every company, in every employment,
and in every enjoyment, I have set the Lord equally before me; and this
raised him, and this will raise any Christian, by degrees, to a very great
height of holiness.
sun will not
smite you by
hemeras o helios (sun and so the heat of the sun) ou (absolute
negation) sugkausei (2SFAI: set on fire or burn up) se oude (absolute
negation) e selene (moon) ten nukta (night)
Translation of the Septuagint - The sun shall not burn thee by
day, neither the moon by night.
Cross-references: The sun:
Ps 91:5-10 Isa 49:10 Rev 7:16
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
I remember as a boy its being said that
people in asylums behaved more irrationally during a full moon.)
In an interesting NT passage Matthew
records that as the news about Jesus
went out into all Syria; and they
brought to Him all who were ill, taken with various diseases and pains,
demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. (Mt 4:24)
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...
The influence of the moon, in producing
madness or disease - the general influence of it on health - is often
referred to. Thus Shakespeare says:
“The moon, the governess of floods,
Pale in her anger, washes all the air,
That rheumatic diseases do abound.”
Midsummer Night’s Dream, ii. 2.
“It is the very error of the moon;
She comes more near the earth than she was wont,
And makes men mad.”
Othello, v. 2.
David Barker has an interesting comment
on the psalmist's reference to the "moon" writing that
While the Hebrew pilgrim may well have
known from his understanding of God and the world that such a danger does
not actually exist (Ed note: that the moon could really cause mental
illness), it is easy to understand how popular lore and superstition would
invade and dominate in spite of theological understandings to the contrary.
The psalm realistically addresses the mind-set of the pilgrim in his
perceptions of dangers and fears." Barker goes on to add that "there seems
to be more here in reference to the superstitions and popular fears of the
people of the day. One wonders how many of God’s people today still pause to
pick up a four-leaf clover or feel a twinge of anxiety when a black cat
crosses the road ahead of them." (David
Barker: "THE LORD WATCHES OVER YOU": A PILGRIMAGE READING OF PSALM 121:
Bibliotheca Sacra: Volume 152, issue 606, page 163)
- 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,
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.
hosts of God encamp around
The dwellings of the just;
Protection He affords to all
Who make His name their trust.
- Tate and Brady
The IVP Bible Background Commentary has an
Anyone who has traveled in the Middle East knows the threat of dehydration
and sunstroke. Many of the roads to Jerusalem exposed the traveler to
oppressive heat. Just as too much exposure to the sun could be dangerous, it
was believed in the ancient world that too much exposure to the moon could
pose a health threat. Medical diagnostic texts from first-millennium
Babylonia and Assyria identify several conditions as a result of the “hand
of Sin” (Sin was the moon god), including one in which the patient grinds
his teeth and his hands and feet tremble, and another that has all the
symptoms of epilepsy. English words like “moonstruck” and “lunatic” show
that such belief persisted into relatively recent times. (Matthews, V, et
al: The IVP Bible background commentary : Old Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press)
evil; He will
kurios phulaxei (3SFAI: guard, protect, watch over) se apo
(basic meaning = separation from) pantos (all) kakou (evil)
phulaxei (3SFAI: guard, protect, watch over) ten psuche (soul) sou
Translation of the Septuagint - May the Lord preserve thee from
all evil: the Lord shall keep thy soul.
Cross-references: Protect: Ps 91:9,10 Job 5:19-27 Pr 12:21
Mt 6:13 Ro 8:28,35-39 2Ti 4:18; He will: Ps 34:22 41:2 97:10
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
the psalmist writes that
"you have made the LORD, my refuge, even the
Most High (El
Elyon), your dwelling place. No evil will befall you, nor
will any plague come near your tent." (Psalm 91:9-note,
Solomon records this proverb...
No harm befalls the righteous, but
the wicked are filled with trouble. (Pr 12:21)
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...
The Lord will deliver me from every
(cp Ps 121:7 phrase "from all evil") evil deed, and will bring me safely to
His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2Ti 4:18)
Spurgeon adds that
The psalmist... assures people who
dwell in God that they will be secure. Though faith claims no merit of its
own, yet the Lord rewards it wherever he sees it. He who makes God his
refuge will find him a refuge; he who dwells in God will find his dwelling
protected. We must make the Lord our habitation by choosing him for our
trust and rest, and then we shall receive immunity from harm. (Treasury
Eliphaz ,in trying to convince Job to
repent, spoke of the blessing of penitence, declaring that
from six troubles He will deliver you,
even in seven evil will not touch you. (Job 5:19)
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;
The verse is also true when one considers what happens to people after death
as well as before.
Matthew Henry adds that
"Piety is a sure protection. If men
be sincerely righteous, the righteous God has engaged that no evil shall
happen to them. He will, by the power of his grace in them, that principle
of justice, keep them from the evil of sin; so that, though they be tempted,
yet they shall not be overcome by the temptation, and though they may come
into trouble, into many troubles, yet to them those troubles shall have no
evil in them, whatever they have to others , for they shall be overruled to
work for their good...(the righteous) shall be safe
under the protection of Heaven, though hell itself break loose upon them."
(Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible)
He will keep your soul - What an
encouraging truth. This reminds me of Peter's affirmation regarding God's
ability to protect...
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord
Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born
again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the
dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will
not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected
by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in
the last time. (1Peter 1:5-7-note)
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for
He’ll never, no never desert to his foes.
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
He’ll never, no never, no never forsake!
How Firm a Foundation - instrumental and
How Firm a Foundation vocal by Fernando
Matthew Henry notes that...
It is the spiritual life, especially,
that God will take under his protection: He shall preserve thy soul.
All souls are His; and the soul is the man, and therefore he will with a
peculiar care preserve them, that they be not defiled by sin and disturbed
by affliction. He will keep them by keeping us in the possession of them;
and he will preserve them from perishing eternally.
Peter alludes to God's soul
keeping power in summarizing the redemptive work of Christ...
He (Jesus) Himself bore our sins in His
body on the Cross, that we might die to sin (the penalty and the power of
sin) and live to righteousness (progressive sanctification); for (term
of explanation -
What is Peter explaining? How
does this help us understand "you were healed"? Is he discussing physical or
spiritual healing?) by His
wounds you were healed. For (term
of explanation -
What is Peter explaining?)
you were continually straying like sheep, but now (term
of contrast -
What is Peter contrasting?)
you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian (episkopos
= one who has the responsibility of caring for spiritual
concerns) of your souls. (1Pe 2:24, 25-note,
cp 1Pe 4:19-note)
Spurgeon notes that
"God not only
keeps His own in all evil times but from all evil influences and operations,
yea, from evils themselves. This is a far reaching word of covering: it
includes everything and excludes nothing: the wings of Jehovah amply guard
His own from evils great and small, temporary and eternal. There is a most
delightful double personality in this verse: Jehovah keeps the believer, not
by agents, but by Himself; and the person protected is definitely pointed
out by the word "thee", -- it is not our estate or name which is
shielded, but the proper personal man. To make this even more intensely real
and personal another sentence is added, "The Lord shall preserve thee from
all evil:" he shall preserve thy soul, -- or Jehovah will keep thy soul.
is the soul of keeping.
If the soul be kept all is kept.
The preservation of the greater
includes that of the less so far as it is essential to the main design: the
kernel shall be preserved, and in order thereto the shell shall be preserved
also. God is the sole keeper of the soul. Our soul is kept from the
dominion of sin, the infection of error, the crush of despondency, the
puffing up of pride; kept from the world, the flesh, and the devil; kept for
holier and greater things; kept in the love of God; kept unto the eternal
kingdom and glory. What can harm a soul that is kept of the Lord?"
In summary, Jehovah your Helper is your
personal Protector. Jesus' encouragement to His twelve disciples before
sending them out was
do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable
to kill the soul; but rather fear Him Who is able to destroy both
soul and body in hell. (Mt 10:28. cp Lk 12:4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, Is 8:12, 13,
51:7, Ac 20:23, 24, 21:13)
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
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
"I am convinced that neither death,
nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to
come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall
be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our
Lord." (Ro 8:38, 39-note)
going out and
coming in from
time forth and
Septuagint (LXX): kurios phulaxei (3SFAI: guard, protect, watch over)
ten eisodon (coming in, entrance) sou kai ten exodon (exodos: going
out, departure, euphemistically can refer to the end of earthly life)
sou apo tou nun kai eos tou aionos
Translation of the Septuagint - The Lord shall keep thy
coming in, and thy going out, from henceforth and even for ever.
Cross-References: your going
out: Dt 28:6,19 2Sa 5:2 Ezra 8:21,31 Pr 2:8 3:6 Jas 4:13-16; from
this time: Ps 113:2 Ps 115:18
The LORD will guard - Jehovah
shamar - (Torrey's topic "protection")
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!
Blessed shall you be when you come
in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. (Deut
D S Mackay writes...
The Religion of the Threshold - Psalm
121:8 - Between these two things—the exits and the entrances of the day—lie
the whole problem and struggle of existence.
I. Get into the habit each morning and
evening of meeting God for a moment on the threshold as you go out and come
in, and though you may not see it, others will begin to see a new element of
strength and tenderness in your character. The man and the woman who keep
tryst with God at the threshold for just a moment each day as they go out
and come in are ready for every contingency.
II. Of course, to offer that kind of
prayer means that you and I are determined to live a certain kind of life.
There are three definite blessings on which we may surely count every day as
we go out and come in, if we live this religion of the threshold.
(a) It will redeem the monotony of the
day, and will sweeten its drudgery.
(b) It will make us ready for the unexpected things in life.
(c) It will hallow our evenings and sanctify our moments of rest. A simple
religion, this religion of the doorstep, but death will be sweeter if we
have learned to keep tryst with God as we go out and in.
—D. S. Mackay, The Religion of the Threshold, p. 25. (The Expositor's
Dictionary of Texts)
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 God, our help in ages
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
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,
has not led me so tenderly thus far to forsake me at the very gate of
Missionary to Burma)
The going out and the coming in
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.
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
None are so safe as those whom God keeps;
None so much in danger as the self secure.
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
describes a beautiful word picture writing that
the word "shamar"
and the corresponding Greek verb
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
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
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
never takes His eyes off you.
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
O God, the Help of All Thy Saints
Our God, Our Help in Ages Past
Help Us Lord, Each Hour of Need
Help Us, O Jesus, Thou Mighty Defender
Help Us, O Lord!
Jehovah, My God, on Thy
Help I Depend
Dear Jesus, Canst Thou
Help Our Country to Be Strong
The Lord Hath
Helped Me Hitherto
Purer in Heart, O God
Help Me to Be
Across the Sky the Shades of Night
I to the Hills Will Lift My Eyes
Mine Eyes Look Toward the Mountains
To the Hills I Lift Mine Eyes
Unto the Hills Around Do I Lift Up
God’s Boundless Love
Jehovah, God, Thy Gracious Power
There Is an Eye That Never Sleeps
Keep Thou My Way
Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir's version "My
I Lift Up My Eyes - Paul Wilbur
Lift Up My Eyes - Brian Doerksen
I To The Hills Will Lift My Eyes - from the Psalter,
Mine Eyes Look Toward the Mountains - cyberhymnal
Key words marked with
color or shading
1 (A Song of Ascents.)
I Will lift up
my eyes to the mountains;
From whence shall my
comes from the LORD,
made heaven and earth.
will not allow your
foot to slip;
you will not slumber.
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
is your shade on
your right hand.
6 The sun will not
smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
you from all evil;
your going out and
your coming in
From this time forth and forever.