December 1 – Psalm 121


Passage Intro

For the four Sundays of Advent this year we’ll be looking at four special psalms called Songs of Ascents. In the Jewish calendar there were three religious holidays that necessitated traveling to Jerusalem, and the Songs of Ascents are psalms that were recited by Jewish pilgrims as they traveled. As you can imagine, that journey wasn’t an easy one, particularly through the arid mountains leading up to Jerusalem. Pilgrims were at the mercy of the elements, facing desert heat, wild animals, possible robbers, and carrying all their food, water, and belongings with them. One accident could leave you with no food, or an injured family member, or worse. This psalm captures that feeling of helplessness in the face of a trying environment, counseling the reader on what to do with those feelings.

In fact, it’s really interesting, you can’t read this psalm without confessing that you need help. Verse 1, “I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come?” assumes you need help. The default point of view is one of need; as we relate to God through this psalm, we should remember this point of view. We are in need, and God is our Keeper, the supplier of our need. That word “keeper” means something like guard or watchman; thus when the psalmist says that God doesn’t sleep they’re connecting that to him always being on guard.

Now, this idea of divine protection is comforting on many levels, but when we get to verse 7 we really should stop and ask ourselves if this is real. Will God really keep us from ALL evil? Because you’ve probably suffered under something you would call evil. And will God only keep our lives for our natural lifespan, as if he will only hang on as long as our body keeps running? This core of the psalm begs an eternal fix; if God is going to keep us from all evil, then he’s going to have to undo a lot of evil that has been done to us, and if he is going to “keep us…forevermore” (v.8) then we’re going to need something more than just divine protection.

For this psalm to be fulfilled it necessitates Emmanuel, “God with us.” To keep you forever, God came in the flesh. We call Jesus, “God with us” not just because he came among us but because he came as us, as a human bound and hindered like every other human. Think about this psalm in the context of the incarnation. Jesus came to a place where he needed shelter and protection, and he suffered evil and death. He was with us in every capacity. And why did he come? We see that in this psalm, because we needed deliverance and we were helpless. Jesus helps us see that God’s sovereign control of our lives isn’t a impersonal force, but a person who wants to be with us and will do whatever it takes to keep us.

Questions for Discussion

• Can someone read Psalm 121 for us?

• What stood out to you from this psalm?

• How does this psalm describe God?

• What do you think it means that the Lord “keeps” you?

• Why do you think the psalmist is reminding themselves of these truths?

• How is this psalm relevant for you right now?

• How can this psalm counsel you in the ways you relate to God?