Psalm 121 is the second psalm in the collection of the Psalms of Ascents. It follows Psalm 120 very naturally. In Psalm 120 the author is asking for deliverance from his enemies, and this psalm provides a source of the help. The psalm is divided into four couplets that focus on the Lord; three of the lines begin with “The Lord...” and all of the other lines, except the first line of question, describes something that God is doing or has done.
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
This psalm begins with the question that the previous one focused on–where can we find help or rescue? The psalmists begins with a right action. He lifts his eyes from their downcast state to the hills. We must remind ourselves not to get so downcast and focused on the problem at hand that we ignore our abundant source of help and deliverance.
He finds assurance from this image of hills, because he knows that God Almighty is their creator. God has blessed us with massive and strong things in creation to remind us of His nature. The rest of the psalm is full of confidence and trust in God; this is a result of an understanding of God’s sovereign character.
It is easy in our modern world to ignore God’s creating work or think of it as a side issue. But, for this psalmist the fact that God has made all things helps him to strengthen his faith. Creation is a testament to God’s sovereignty, power, and otherness. We can take great comfort in God because He has made heaven and earth, and if He has made them, He can direct them to aid His children.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
God is looking out for your step. This language of a way is one repeated often in the psalms. God has directed our steps, and He provides for us a righteous way that we ought to follow. He keeps our step for our good, because He keeps us on HIs way, the better, holy way.
Remember Elijah’s taunt to the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel? He suggested, when Baal didn’t reply to the prophets’ gruesome request for fire, that perhaps Baal was asleep or had gone away. We see in contrast to this Jehovah’s swift response of fire to Elijah’s simple prayer. God doesn’t sleep, He doesn’t forget, or take days off. He is faithful, involved, and attentive to our needs.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
When we are being attacked, it can feel relentless. It might be that we are bombarded with insults and accusations both night and day. This is why the psalmist takes care to remind us that, not only does God not sleep, but he will shield us both day and night. He is always by our side to be our companion, protector, and warrior.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
The theology of Psalm 1 is good to remember as we read the psalms. We are reminded that the righteous man is to be planted in the stream of God’s Word. This is how the Lord keeps us from evil. When we are overwhelmed by attacks from evil, we must return to His Word and truth and meditate on it. God is faithful to even keep our life. He is the One who gave it to us. This may not mean that he preserves our life on this earth, but we do know that when we die, He will receive us to eternity.
Again, the psalmist reminds us that God will watch over our paths. We are also reminded of God’s infinite and eternal nature. When God does something, He does it fully. He doesn’t keep our paths for a short amount of time, but forever.
Taking Psalms 120 and 121 together is a helpful way for us to process the times in our lives when we are brutally attacked and helpless. God is our defender, and we know He is able because He was powerful enough to create heaven and earth. He keeps us even when there are forces pushing against us. We should commit to meditating on Him and His Word, so that we may not falter on the path of righteousness.
All Scripture is quoted from the ESV.