On this second Lord’s Day of December we take a look at Psalm 121 as we prepare to worship our glorious God and King, the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the second of the “songs of ascent”, the fifteen psalms of 120-134 (See my post from last week explaining the basic idea of these special songs.).
Psalm 121 is very familiar to us, and is used often by God’s people in the context of thoughts of and prayers for safety and protection for loved ones, which is certainly appropriate. But we must place this psalm in the context of worship first of all and see its application to the needs of God’s pilgrim people as they made their way up to Jerusalem and the temple, situated on the hills of southeastern Judea. Let’s read the Word of God here in that light:
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
2 My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.
Now picture the church (Israel) with her covenant children traveling enmasse to see the Lord, traversing all kinds of terrain and with various dangers about her (including pagan enemies), and you will better understand why she lifted up this song to the Lord: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.”
Do you understand better now why she needed and went on to sing confidently of her covenant God’s protecting care? Yes, worshiping pilgrims need protection, the protection of the very Lord they are going to worship! Only He can and does keep Israel safe in this world as she makes her way to stand before Him and bow before Him!
And it is no different for us, God’s NT pilgrim worshipers, as we make our way each Lord’s Day to our places of worship, whether from far or from nearby. And ultimately, as we make our pilgrim journey to the heavenly city and the better country of heaven (Heb.11 & 12). Our spiritual position in this world (and even natural one) is always precarious. We are surrounded by a thousand dangers that threaten our livelihood and that would prevent us from arriving at our worship destination, whether that be the local church with whom I worship today or the full body of Christ in glory in the new heavens and earth. So many people and things that would hinder us and draw us away from our main purpose and goal in life – the worship of the one true and living God, our Father in Jesus Christ!
And as we go on our way, we have fears that we and our covenant children might not make it to the safest place in the world – the presence of our Father in heaven! Maybe we won’t be able to fulfill the purpose for which we were created and now are saved – the everlasting worship of our loving God! What if we don’t make it to Zion, the city of our great King?! What if we don’t get to bask in His beautiful presence and give Him the honor which is due Him?!
Ah, but then we remember that we are never out of our God’s presence and care, never out of His sovereign sight and merciful might. The One we are going to see and worship sits not merely on the hills of Zion, or the U.S. or China; He sits on the hills of the whole earth, even on the “hills” of heaven. And while we need sleep and safety, our great Keeper, Who never slumbers or sleeps, provides us with protection 24/7, day and night. He Who in sovereign love sent His Son to die for us, to rise from the dead and live for us everlastingly, to go up to Zion’s hill in heaven (His ascension) and prepare a place for us, will surely preserve us from all evil and preserve our going out and our coming in, now and to the end. Until we arrive forever in His presence in glory.
And so we pilgrim worshipers confidently sing, even as we look up to those heavenly hills and the God Who sits enthroned above, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills….” Shall we not sing that again today and throughout this week? “My help cometh from the LORD….”
And we may sing as we go today, using this versification from our Psalter (there are others there too). May God give us confident comfort from the truths of Psalm 121. If you visit this link, you may also find piano accompaniment. Here are the lyrics of Psalter #347, titled “The Watchful Care of God”:
1. Unto the hills around do I lift up
My longing eyes;
O whence for me shall my salvation come,
From whence arise?
From God the Lord doth come my certain aid,
From God the Lord Who heaven and earth hath made.
2. He will not suffer that thy foot be moved,
Safe shalt thou be;
No careless slumber shall His eyelids close
Who keepeth thee;
Behold He sleepeth not, He slumbereth ne’er,
Who keepeth Israel in His holy care.
3. Jehovah is Himself thy keeper true;
Thy changeless shade
Jehovah, evermore on thy right hand,
Himself hath made;
And thee no sun by day shall ever smite,
No moon shall harm thee in the silent night.
4. From every evil shall He keep thy soul,
From every sin;
Jehovah shall preserve thy going out,
Thy coming in;
Above thee watching, He Whom we adore
Shall keep thee henceforth, yea, for evermore.