Ep. 14: Looking for Hope in All the Right Places - Psalm 121
May 4, 2020 Speaker: Jeff Brewer
Topic: Encouragement Passage: Psalms 121:1–121:6
Hello, Hope Fellowship! Welcome to our podcast “Full of Hope: Encouraging One Another with the Word of God,” where we seek to regularly equip the people of Hope Fellowship with truth from Scripture in order to help us cling to our Savior during troubled times.
Today, we’re going to look at Psalm 121, a Psalm that is part of a group of Psalms called “Songs of Ascent,” which were used by Jews making their way up to Jerusalem for worship in the temple.
Verse 1 begins with a question: “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?” In 2 Kings 6, when Elisha and his servant are in Samaria, they arise early in the morning and find that they are surrounded by enemies. Elisha’s servant panics, but Elisha calmly says, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And he prays for the Lord to open his eyes and see the angelic army all around who will protect them.
In Psalm 121, when the psalmist looks to the hills, a place where enemies might potentially come—he reminds himself who his help is. It is the Lord who made heaven and earth. The same one who protected Elisha with his angelic host gives help to all who look to him.
We can say, “My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth,” because he has done an even greater thing than delivering us from earthly enemies—he has delivered us from the ultimate enemy of sin and death through Christ’s death on the cross. We need to remind ourselves when we fear what might come to pass that we can’t see—my help comes from the Lord.
The psalmist goes on, “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.”
Today as I sat in my office and my eyes grew tired (it was after lunch, after all!), the words crossed my mind that Jesus said to his disciples, “Could you not watch and pray with me for one hour?” I laughed at myself and was reminded of how easily I get tired, but that I have a God who cares for me who will not slumber or sleep. We have a God who never “zones out” and misses an opportunity, or who isn’t productive in sustaining the universe. In fact, Jesus, in his human flesh, was surely exhausted like his disciples were—and he had the unimaginable burden of the cross that was looming before him—and yet he still endured to the end.
The psalmist tells us the truth in 121:5, “The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.” Because God never slumbers or sleeps, we can rest. Reportedly, Alexander the Great was once asked how he could sleep in the middle of danger and he said that he knew Paramenio, his faithful guard, was watching.1 When we read that the Lord is our keeper, we need to hear that he is our protector who will always be on the job. He is our shade on our right hand and the sun shall not strike at day or by night. This phrase was a idiom that communicated that no matter the time of day, since God was protecting us, we need not fear.
Which is how the Psalm ends: “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.”
If you look at the history of the Israelites, this Psalm can’t possibly mean that unexpected disasters or harm never came to them, but that the Lord protects our life in the midst of evil.
Like me, you’re probably very aware when you go out and come back to your car after being at the supermarket how risky this once mundane task now seems. We’re hyper aware of the germs that could be on our hands or on our face mask. We wonder if this is the time when we were unknowingly exposed.
The Lord protects us when we go out and when we come back. He protects our life—like we sing, “From life’s first cry, to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.” We can take comfort that our God always watches over us as our never-slumbering, always-alert God. We can trust him no matter what our day holds.
And so, Hope Fellowship: remember, we have hope in Christ. Let’s encourage ourselves with this hope and by making that hope known in a struggling world. See you next time.
Music by Joseph McDade. https://josephmcdade.com. Used with permission.