Pastoral Reflection for Thursday, 7th May
A Reflection on Psalm 121
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved: He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper: the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and in from this time forth and forevermore.” Psalm 121
This is a psalm that is all about being Kept. I am sure that is something we all want for our lives-to be kept. Kept safe. Kept from danger. Kept from falling. Kept from hurt and harm. Kept from being lost. Kept from shame. Kept close to the Lord. We live in such a dangerous, deceptive and uncertain world. A world that is constantly threatening us spiritually, morally, physically, mentally at every turn; so the theme of being kept is really precious to us.
This as we know is a ‘pilgrim psalm’; one that was sung going up to Jerusalem. As such, the idea of having a keeper and being kept on a long and often arduous journey was very important for the Jews. We too are on a long and arduous journey going through life, so having a Keeper and being kept are vital essentials for us as well, as we make our way home. Here we find in v1 the psalmist, while he is looking to the hills, is actually looking way beyond the hills. The hills of course speak of that which is enduring and permanent. We may go away for many years, and when we return we would find many changes. However, the one area where there would be no change, would be with the hills. The Clisham and Muirneag and Mealaishal would be just the same, “As round about Jerusalem the mountains stand always”Ps125. However, as we said, the psalmist is looking way beyond the hills. He is looking even beyond the heavens and the earth, to the One who made heaven and earth. The Psalmist considers the wisdom that planned such an awesome universe-he considers the power that brought into being everything that was purposed and planned. The psalmist could see that this all wise, all powerful God was his God, and so he knew where his help was to come from. The wonderful thing is that nothing has changed, and what God was then to his servant, He is still the same to all His people today. He is your help and my help.
This psalm is very personal because the “your” of verse 3 is singular. That means you and me-it is very personal. So here we are promised stability and keeping. Is it not the case that we constantly pray to be kept? We are afraid that one day we are going to go under. One day the enemies of our soul will cause utter havoc. One day we are going to be caught out. One day we will fall where there will be no recovery. However this psalm gives a wonderful promise that we are being kept securely by the One who never slumbers nor sleeps. The watchman had to remain vigilant at all times. Not an easy thing to do through the night when the eyes become heavy with sleep. The watchman’s role was critical as he had to stay alert, day and night, and be aware of the slightest hint of danger. That is why the death penalty was often the sentence given to a sleeping watchman. The safety of the city depended on his vigilance. For us the wonderful thing is that we are under the protection and care of the Heavenly Watchman. Just as the Lord was with the Israelites in the wilderness as a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, so He is with us day and night. Nothing can get to us apart from what the Lord permits. Our Heavenly Watchman misses nothing. He is alert and watching day and night. Not one plan, aim or strategy designed to harm us, but is observed by Him. He misses nothing. He is the Watchman who knows exactly what to do and when to do it. Little do we realise just how protective the Lord is of us.
We have the Lord not only as our keeper, but also our shade. In the intense heat of the near eastern countries, a shade from the burning sun was essential. So the Lord promises to be a shade for His people. In the heat of the trials, temptations and difficulties that come our way, the Lord will provide shade and shelter. When the psalmist talks about the sun and moon he is using a familiar Hebrew way of saying something. These are two opposites-and with the two opposites you take everything in between. So the psalmist is looking at every possibility that could happen, anywhere at any time, night or day: and stating that the Lord keeps, shades, shelters, protects, holds and helps 24/7, as we say.
Now in the final 2 verses we are again reminded of the Lord’s keeping. “He will keep you from all evil.” He will keep you during evil times; keep you from evil; keep evil from you; keep you from evil influences. It doesn’t mean that we will have a totally cushioned life, but we will be armed and protected for the spiritual battles ahead. The promises in this psalm are so all encompassing. “He will keep your life.” That means the whole person-body, mind and soul. As the keeper of your life, He restores when we wander and refreshes when we are weary. “The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in.” Here we have again the two extremes, like the sun and moon. This then covers every area and aspect of our lives-work: home, relationships, leisure, day, night, travel and your homecoming. Indeed, it covers your beginning in this world until you reach the heavenly shore. Covers our every dawn and every sunset. The beauty of this psalm is that it covers our past, deals with our present and trusts God for our future.” From this time forth and forevermore.” God will keep us, not just to the end of time, but time without end.
I pray that we will always experience the blessings of this psalm.
Love and prayers, Kenny.