Psalm 121 – The Twenty-Four Seven God

Psalm 121 Bible with Lily's 55 Percent Cocoa Almond Dark Chocolate

Today’s Chocolate:  Lily’s 55% Cocoa Almond Dark Chocolate

Today’s PassagePsalm 121

As the saying goes, stop me if you’ve heard this one. It’s “I Lift My Eyes Up,” originally written by Brian Doerksen, whose music was a staple of contemporary worship services from the mid-90s to the early 2000s–including those of my high school youth group. I couldn’t find a streamable official recording, so this one’s a live cover from UK-based Vineyard Music. Doerksen drew inspiration from Psalm 121 for “I Lift My Eyes Up;” it recapitulates the first two verses in particular almost word-for-word. But while Doerksen’s song is as much a prayer for aid as an acknowledgement of God’s power to save, Psalm 121 is pure confidence in God’s protection.

Furthermore, the psalm uses the word “I” only once. Far and away, the emphasis is on the “you” to whom the song directs its attention. It’s a song for the people of Israel to sing to each other: “He who keeps you will not slumber; behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (121:3-4). Are you an ancient Israelite who has forgotten that “The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever?” (121:8). Sing this song with your countrymen, and be reminded as you hear them declaring God’s power to guard his people. And if you already remember that the Lord is your keeper, declare it in song to and with your fellow Israelites. God never sleeps, like a 24/7 helpline for those threatened by evil.

Of course, when a psalm of orientation presents itself, I can’t help but push toward questioning. We know that the psalmist isn’t speaking literally when he says, “[The Lord] will not allow your foot to slip” (121:3); being Jewish isn’t proof against tripping. In what sense, then, does God guard us from stumbling, and does the words of this psalm apply to you and me as well as the children of Israel? Moreover, how do these words sound to a person in a place of disorientation? Some would be encouraged and reminded of God’s providence, but I can’t help thinking that others would say, “I’ve prayed to him, and still the sun smites me by day, and the moon by night. Why hasn’t God come to my rescue?” (121:6). And I wish I had an answer for those people, but all I’ve got is a prayer that God will rescue them, and Psalm 121 will become a song of new orientation for them.

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