1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; 4indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; 8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
(Psalm 121 NRSV)
Key Observation: As Creator, the Lord serves as eternal guardian over all aspects of our lives.
How many of us have ever felt uneasy about a long journey? Before considering a trip, we instinctively ask, “Is it safe to travel there?” Psalm 121 affirms the security that God’s people enjoy in him. It unfolds in two parts: the psalmist’s question and statement of trust (vv. 1–2) and the community’s affirmation of God’s ever-present help and security (vv. 3–8).
Verse 1 opens memorably with the psalmist assessing the road ahead. The pilgrim spies a range of mountains and wonders, “Where does my help come from?” These may be the mountains in distant Jerusalem or they may be mountains that the psalmist must climb on the way to worship the Lord. The imagery suggests a couple of options for readers. Mountains were associated with the realms of the gods and were also places of danger for travelers. The psalmist desires security for the journey.
In verse 2, the psalmist answers himself by affirming that the Lord is his help. The Lord is both Helper and the Creator of heaven and earth. This is significant. If one seeks security and help, one must be able to have full confidence in the helper. God is not some distant Creator who stands aloof from the affairs of everyday life. He demonstrated power and might in his creation, but Psalm 121 declares the implications of this for everyday life. In particular, the psalm describes God’s ability to sustain his people during their journeys.
The perspective shifts between verses 1–2 and 3–8. The psalm moves from first person (I, my) perspective in verses 1–2 to third person statements in verses 3–8. Verses 3–8 contain the words of an outside authority who speaks truth into the psalmist’s life, affirming his security in the Lord. Who is this speaker? It could be a priest offering a blessing or a fellow pilgrim. In either case, the intention of verses 3–8 is to provide certainty of God’s protection.
Verses 3–8 unfold progressively through three pairs of verses that work together to describe the Lord as the eternal keeper/protector of his people. God is active. Notice the recurring language of the words watch/keep (vv. 3–5, 7–8). Verses 3–4 affirm that God’s protection can be counted on because the Lord never sleeps. All of us have to sleep at times. But God never does. To say it another way, we can sleep in peace because God always watches over us. Verses 5–6 assert God’s protection. Our guardian is our perpetual shade from all harm. Psalm 121 reaches its climax in verses 7–8, which tell us that God’s protection is valid for all life at all times in all places. This is good news for us. We may recall Jesus’ similar promise: “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20b).
- How does Psalm 121 describe the Lord? How does this description provide security and assurance?
- How have you experienced or found security through your faith in the Lord?
Are you interested in learning more about the Psalms? Consider taking a deep dive into the book with a dynamic teacher, Brian Russell. The book of Psalms is often quoted and clichéd, but much less often contextualized. When we understand the Psalter relative to the circumstances in which it was written, we find a rich resource for God’s people. Through these prayers, God both speaks to us and models how we might speak back to Him. At its core, the book of Psalms is an instructional guide to a moment-by-moment walk with God through the world. Get the book and accompanying videos in our store here.
In these pages you’ll:
- Discover how the psalms of the Bible can translate to your daily life
- Allow the psalms to help you find words to express yourself to God when you are unsure of how to pray
- Learn the historical context in which the psalms were written, adding to their richness
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