1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the mountains: From whence shall my help come? 2 My help cometh from Jehovah, Who 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 Will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 Jehovah is thy keeper: Jehovah is thy shade upon thy right hand. .. 6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, Nor the moon by night. 7 Jehovah will keep thee from all evil; He will keep thy soul. 8 Jehovah will keep thy going out and thy coming in From this time forth and for evermore. (American Standard Version)
To have peace of mind you need a sense of safety. Serenity involves security. Both are from God. True refuge and rest are found in him alone as Augustine memorably stated: “O God, thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless tiIl they rest in thee.”
God’s Word gives many an antidote to fear: many an aid to assurance. Psalm 121 is especially precious. It is the psalm of the divine keeping. In the original the word “keep” is repeated six times in the last five verses. That is for the sake of emphasis. It lovingly impresses the grand truth of God’s loving-care of his own. It comes to banish all creeping shadows of disquiet, doubt, and dread. The message and spirit of this psalter gem are laden with blessing for all who will reach for it.
“I will lift up mine eyes.” But eyes lift from within and the real movement here is, “I lift up my soul” (Ps. 25:1).
But then the eyes; yes, the soul, were downward turned. Truly, a strong earth pull has put weights where wings ought to be! “My soul cleaveth unto the dust” (Is. 119:25) is sadly and typically true.
We have need of the earnest, grace-born resolve, “I will lift lip mine eyes.” Half-heartedness will not do at all! Languor is both reproach and peril. Resolute resolve and earnest effort are imperative.
Our look must not only be raised, but raised high, “to the mountains.” When Jehovah opened the eyes of the prophet’s servant “he saw; and, behold the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17). The Christian soul needs far horizons, and lofty. To find help enough be sure to look high enough!
Help Must COME!
The psalmist, and we, need help: lots of help! “Whence cometh my help?” That is our great problem. Notice, it must come. Our own resources are utterly inadequate. To realize this is urgent, yes, basic.
“My help cometh from Jehovah.” To get the right answers we must go to the right Teacher. With him are all the solutions to all our perplexities. When you find that he is all you have, you will find he is enough; “a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1); nearer than your most pressing problem, greater than your greatest difficulty. Yes, spiritual dangers are everywhere; so is God! Your troubles may wall you round but they cannot roof you in.
We are reminded here of the familiar approach, or “votum” in our worship: “Our help is in the name of Jehovah, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 124:8). See here God’s eternal being and infinite power mustered for your keeping. “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom. 8:31). One with God is an overwhelming majority. Nothing can confront you that God with you cannot manage!
“He will not suffer thy foot to he moved.” The highlands of Palestine had many a dangerous cliff and yawning chasm. A “moved” foot meant a lost footing and often dire danger or death. So we live precariously. Life’s pathway is treacherous and our feet are unsure. “In many things we will stumble” (Jas. 3:2).
But where our God guides, he provides. Our safe-conduct is assured. Note well: he leads us in his way not ours. He directs both our steps and our stops. So first face your God, then your road.
God’s guiding and guarding are constant. “He that keepeth thee will not slumber.” The spirit of slumber is a great evil among men. Sleepy drivers are a menace to themselves and to others. So are drowsy Christians!
We need the admonition, “Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation” (Matt. 26:41). The plea befits us: “Lord, guard me when I’m off my guard.”
Then we may take for ours the assurance: “Behold, he that keepeth Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” The divine presentation is pledged for all God’s covenant people; his Israel. “For Jehovah’s portion is his people; He kept him as the apple of his eye” (Deut. 32:9, 10). What is so tender, so in need of safeguarding, and so finely sheltered as the apple of the eye? So God keeps his people.
That calls us to a keen, warm, God-consciousness and covenant-conciousness. That ministers to a grand assurance. When God keeps all of his people, he keeps each of them. None is ever lost in the crowd. Guarding his entire flock, he guards every single sheep. Let the individual ask: Am I sure I am one of his own?
The watch-care of the faithful covenant, Jehovah is tireless and unsleeping. To the Baal prophets on Carmel, in frenzied appeal to their god, Elijah threw the taunt, “Cry aloud; peradventure he sleepeth and must be awaked” (I Kings 18:27). But, waking or sleeping, your Father keeps unceasing vigil over you. Let that be your conscious, constant, and warm comfort.
“Jehovah is thy keeper.” Then you belong to him. Believing is belonging. So he keeps you: thus our psalm is themed. It is so simple, so central, and so basic! You may, and must, depend upon his keeping care always, and in all ways! Hold that close; and fast!
“Jehovah is thy shade upon they right hand.” When the oriental sun unites man and beast as with burning arrows, shade is most welcome, yes, even life-saving. “The sun beat upon the head of Jonah that he fainted…” (Jonah 4:8).
But if God is thus your protection you have a rich experience of grace. There is the intimacy, for being in his shadow means being near to him. There is refreshing, as the Song of Solomon vividly shows: “I sat down under his shadow with great delight” (2:3). There is also security, as the earnest prayer of Psalm 17:8 expresses it: “Hide me under the shadow of thy wings.” Psalm 90 (Psalter Hymnal) sings it:
Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.
“At Home” With God
What shall we do to have this experience of grace? “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Ps.91:1). Let us make our home in God’s secret place. Do we feel at home there? is that our abode? Then the promise is ours and the experience will come.
“The sun shall not smite thee by day.” The burning of the noontide heat brings physical hardship and danger. It also suggests the spirited perils which waste at the noonday of prosperity which so often slays its ten thousands while adversity slays its thousands.
“Nor the moon by night” points to both physical and spiritual perils of natural night but also to the times when life is dark with adversity and grief.
So we see the wide coverage of our promised protection. As God made the sun to rule the day and the moon to rule the night, so our assurance here is of never-failing protection.
“Jehovah will keep thee from all evil.” How blessedly inclusive! In one tremendous grouping are gathered all ills in their vast multitude and variety. Just as we confess our trust that God will “avert all evil or turn it to my profit.” “If any so-called evil comes, it is good with a veil on” (A. McClaren). “Even that which kills shall not hurt” (Matthew Henry). “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” (Ps. 23:4).
“He will keep my soul.” The soul of all keeping is the keeping of the soul! Men have great concern for safeguarding wealth, preserving health. and saving face. These are not wrong unless misplaced or misproportioned in the scale of values. But the keeping of the soul is so much more momentous. It must be preserved from overt sin, from insidious error, and smothering despondency.
So our heavenly Father is tenderly solicitious about our souls. Eternal destinies are bound up with them. Let no spirit of unconcern be with us. Our prayer must be: “Keep me as the apple of the eye” (Is. 17:8). Thus shall we be along those who by the power of CGod are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Peter 1:5). God’s kept ones!
“Jehovah will keep thy going out and thy coming in.” We seem to stand in a cottage door where the simple lines of motion are two: inward and outward.
Kept from Temptation
We go forth to our wider life contacts in a world which lieth in the evil one. There are abounding temptations to sin in thought, word, and deed. But God preserves his own from falling away.
We come in and rejoice in him who keeps our homes. There is grave danger to our Christian homes; at the radio and TV dial, at the magazine rack and book shelf, in many distractions tending to lovelessness, in a generally downward spiritual gravitation.
Our going out and coming in may not be on downward or merely horizontal lines. It must be upward; life must climb. Watch that altimeter! To move upward, be sure to keep looking upward.
The words here do not definitely speak of our last “going out” from the scenes of earth, nor of that grand “coming in” to the glory that awaits.
But let them have for us their richest suggestion. Awaiting us is our final exodus for we have here no continuing city. Then comes the sublime: “enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matt. 25:21). God’s kept one exults even now, “for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21 ). “And I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah forever” (Ps. 23:6).
So the divine keeping covers all time and all conditions “from this time forth and forevermore.” Just where you are at “this time,” “commit thy way unto Jehovah: trust also in him, and he will bring it to pass” (Ps. 37:5). And that for aye!
The soul pants for finality. As we face destiny, we recoil from the prospect of a dead-end street as properly descriptive or our course, Bu t our psalm points us to a clear and open road “forevermore.”
We shall never be orphans in eternity. Our Father assures us that we shall be at home with him eternally among the many mansions: prepared places for souls prepared and preserved.
This precious psalm bids us live in present is as secure, and our future as sure as the promises of God.
This is our firm faith and our constant comfort. Let it be both vital and vocal.