Psalm 121 (NIV)
A song of ascents.
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;
4 indeed, 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 expresses the quiet confidence the psalmist has in God’s protection and provision. This psalm is labeled “A Song of Ascents” – likely a song that the Israelites sang on their pilgrimage from their homes to the various celebrations in Jerusalem.
Notice the overall format of the psalm. The writer asks a question (v. 1), then spends the rest of the psalm answering his question (vv. 2 – 8). The psalmist is not asking a rhetorical question, followed by alternative theories or possible solutions. The psalmist is asking a very practical question, then finding the answer in the Lord.
Notice that the psalmist begins by making a volitional choice to look up for the answer to his question. He does not look inside himself, nor does he look down or around him, to other people or things. The psalmist’s eyes are focused on God.
A.W. Pink, the British theologian and writer, helps explain the phrase “lift my eyes”:
“Faith is to the soul what the eye is to the body: the organ or faculty by which light is admitted and spiritual objects are beheld and known.”
(A.W. Pink, editor. Studies in Scriptures, April 1950, Vol. XXIX, No. 4, p. 16;
found at http://www.chapellibrary.org/files/sis/sis-50-04.pdf)
The psalmist immediately concludes that his help comes from the Lord, “the maker of heaven and earth”, and the creator of him and everything and everyone else.
The psalmist uses the same word “watch” in vv. 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 (Hebrew “shamar“). This watching is not the passive observance of events taking place. Quite the opposite! This watching is an active guarding and protection of the person(s), as a bodyguard watches over a person.
The psalmist is not bragging about God, as in “my dad can beat up your dad.” Rather, the psalmist is expressing his helplessness and humble reliance upon God to protect him.
The psalmist remembers that God does not sleep or get distracted or forget about His own. God watches over His own 24 x 7, against the delirious, scorching heat of the mid-day sun and the ambiguous terrors (the “boogie man” or “monsters”) of the moonlit night.
The psalmist finishes in verses 7 – 8 by remembering that nothing will surprise God and slip in unnoticed to harm us. God protects us in this life and into the next, when those who call upon the name of His Son spend eternity with Him. The psalmist does not imply that our lives will be pain-free on this side of heaven. It merely means that God will redeem whatever happens for His glory and our good.
While this psalm was written for the ancient Israelites to remember that God was watching over them, it has application to us today. The same God, who watched over the ancients who followed Him, is watching over us today.
May we place our hope and confidence in Him and Him alone to protect and provide for us. Jehovah is our defense and our guide through this life, and His Son Jesus is our example and our provision through His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead to eternal life yet to come.
May we look up and focus on Christ, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)