Psalm 121 My Help Comes from the Lord

Psalm 121            My Help Comes from the Lord                  WC McCarter

I would like to work our way through Psalm 121 and see the psalm in its original context and meaning.  After that, I would like for us to think about these themes and principles for our own day, in our own situations.

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Song of Ascents Background (Heading)
There are several psalms labeled “Songs of Ascents” which have been grouped together in Psalms 120-134.  These psalms were most likely sung by pilgrims making their way up to Jerusalem for holidays and other pilgrimages.  As they traveled through long, dusty, rocky, winding roads, they would sing these words of worship and confidence in the Lord.

Question (1)
One man says to another, or even to his own soul, that he looks unto the hills with the question, From where does my help come?  In those ancient times, a pilgrim could lift up his head, set his eyes on the mountains, and see some illegitimate resources—temples/altars to false gods.  He could look up and see the things of the world and consider who he should trust.  In chapter 18, Ezekiel references these false gods that set on the hilltops surrounding the area.  God was looking for godly men and women who had not eaten on the mountains or turned their eyes toward the idols.

Not only did the mountains represent idols and the temptation to turn to away from God and trust in them, the hills also represented danger.  Imagine traveling in those ancient times on narrow roads surrounded by hills, going long stretches of time without seeing any other travelers.  You would not know what was lurking up there.  There could be wild animals or robbers who set out to injure and raid pilgrims.  You would be looking for supernatural help.

Answer (2)
Thus, in verse two, the man is answered by a fellow traveler, or he voices an answer to his own question as he preaches to his soul.  What is the answer?  “My help comes from the Lord who is the Maker of heaven and earth.”  The Lord is the true and living God as opposed to the dead, false gods made of created elements.  God created the things from which the idols were made.  There is no help from false gods.  Also, the hills were created by God and tings even more majestic.  He is the Creator of all things—great and small, the things we can see and the things we cannot see.  If your help comes from Him, then you have nothing to fear.  He is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-resourceful, merciful, forgiving, and loving.  There is none as impressive as our God.  There is none who can do what He can do.  There is none who has promised all the good that He has promised to us.

Our Keeper (3-5)
I was intrigued to learn in my study that Baal was a “seasonal god” who would have to be roused from sleep after a period of hibernation.  How silly are these notions.  A guard’s chief duty is to stay awake!  Our God neither sleeps nor slumbers.  He does not have a body that grows weary that He would need rest.  He does not have eyes that may get heavy and need to shut.  He is Almighty God.  He will not allow your foot to be moved, and He can ensure it because there is never even the slightest moment when He is not keeping watch over us.  Verse five says the Lord is our Keeper (Protector or Guard).  He is on our side.

The idea at the end of verse five transitions us to the last section—God is the shade at our right hand.  There is nothing that we cannot fend off.

Our Preserver (6-8)
As we can imagine, the sun is a constant danger in the Middle East.  It can dehydrate, burn, and more.  It causes folks to pass out or even to die.  It takes a toll on the bodies of those who are out in its light for too long.  Think of a traveler out on the roads in the sun’s rays for hours at a time.  The moon was thought in those days, and even in ours, to cause people to act crazy.  Of course, these may be taken metaphorically as dangers from which the Lord shades His people.  As our shade, the Lord protects us from the sun and moon—from all potential dangers.  He protects us at all times, day and night.

If God can protect us from the most powerful forces on earth, then He can surely protect us from anything.  Many things are unknown to us, but God knows them all.  He will preserve us from all evil.  He will preserve our souls.  He will complete the good work that He has started in us.

Conclusion and Christian Application
Now, I have talked with several of you just this week who are going through a variety of different circumstances.  Some of you are struggling because of your own weaknesses or because of the weaknesses of others.  You can turn your eyes up and look to the world today to find some kind of answer, or you can look beyond the hills and even the heavens to the Creator of heaven and earth.

(1) Nowhere does this psalm promise that we will live easy lives.  In fact, God allows us to go through physical challenges sometimes in order to preserve our souls.  He wishes to strengthen our faith.  He wishes to keep us in a relationship with Him rather than the things of the world.  Those things are passing, but the Lord’s promises endure forever.

(2) If you put your trust in the Lord and set your eyes upon Him, then you are guarded from the time you leave your house in the morning until you come home at night, from the time you lay your head on your pillow to sleep until you wake up.  The Lord God is your guard.