Who do you ask for help? Your parents? Your friends? Someone in church? Google? This psalm tells us in verse 2, ‘My help comes from the Lord.’ He is the source of help, the Lord. As the psalmist makes his way to Jerusalem, he looks up to the hills where Jerusalem is and where the temple in the Old Testament was and he reminds himself that his help is in the Lord.
What can we say about the Lord’s help? Well, it says six times in this psalm that the Lord will keep us or he is our keeper. We need to know what to do with that though. If we read that literally to mean physical protection, we will be hardened against God and we will treat him like a liar. Hard things happen in life and God doesn’t stop the gunman from pulling the trigger, or the deadly illnesses from coming and taking us, or the relationship from breaking down. ‘What’s the script, God? I thought you would protect me!’
Jesus prayed this psalm, Jesus sang this psalm. How was he able to say these verses in Psalm 121 when he knew about his own sufferings, when he saw the sufferings of those around him, when he told his followers they would suffer?
- ‘Do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul.’ (Matthew 10:28) How can he promise this unless God keeps a soul?
- ‘Pray that your faith may not fail.’ (Luke 22:31-32)
- ‘… unspoiled, unfading, kept in heaven for you.’ (1 Peter 1:3-4)
You may feel weak, needy, helpless because of your sin, you may fear your faith will fail but God will keep you close. How will he keep us close?
1. The Lord’s keeping is constant
‘He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.’ (Psalm 121:3-4)
We’ll come back to the first line in verse three but we see that ‘he who keeps you will not slumber, he who keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.’
He’s like a coach keeping an eye on the training session ensuring that everything is going as it should be.
He’s like a gardener keeping close watch over their garden to ensure that their plants/fruit/veg has the perfect growing conditions and is growing as it should.
He’s like a parent watching over their newborn baby with care and caution and delight.
The only difference, of course, is that God doesn’t take his eyes off the ball. The coach’s mind might drift and wander to other things. The gardener has to step away and do other things in their life. The parent has to sleep.
But not God. God doesn’t have to sleep, his mind never wanders. God has got his eye on you and on this world and he never, for a second, takes his eyes off you. This psalm says, ‘God’s got you!’
You may feel weary and broken, you may feel depressed and depleted, you may feel like you’re at the end of the rope and think, ‘Where is God?”. God is in control and he has his eye on you. He keeps you when the unwanted health diagnosis comes in, when you live through the darkness of depression, when your relationship breaks down.
What else is constant about his care? ‘The sun shall not strike you by day or the moon by night.’ (Psalm 121:6) There is this recognition that the sun could be shining, the moon might be glowing, at any and all times of the day God will keep you. You could be going to sleep, you could be in the midst of sleep, God doesn’t stop watching over you then. Isn’t it amazing that when we sleep God is still keeping his watchful eye on you? Isn’t it amazing that when we rest, God is at work? Even when you’re asleep he takes care of you.
Lastly on this point, when will God stop being watchful? Being caring? Keeping you? Never. ‘The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.’ (Psalm 121:8) Not from this time on as long as I can be bothered. Not from this time on until I lose my patience with you. Not from this time until I find someone better, more important, more intelligent, more likeable, more holy. No, if you are a Christian this morning, God is never going to stop keeping his eye on you. You might doubt his patience to bear with you, he will bear with you. You might doubt whether he really cares enough to stick around, he cares enough to stick around! And that promise does not have an expiration date on it.
As you parent, as you work, as you serve your neighbours, as you go about the smallst and most mundane tasks in life God has his watchful, caring, keeping eye on you.
Where does your help come from? At all times, in every season, in every circumstance, the Lord! Look to him for your help. The Lord keeps you. He doesn’t have limits. He doesn’t take his eye off the ball, he doesn’t slumber or sleep. It may be night time, it may be day time. It may be today, it may be 20 years from now, he will keep you. How can you carry on as a Christian today? Because the Lord keeps you.
2. The Lord’s keeping is comforting
Whenever we do something for the first time, we maybe unsure of ourselves and so we try to get reassurances from a book or a video on YouTube or a friend we know to make sure we’re doing the right thing and we’re on the right path. We need similar assurances as Christians. Not necessarily that we are doing the right thing, though God’s word reminds us how we ought to live, but rather that God isn’t going to drop us, that God isn’t going to give up on us.
We’ve all at times wondered if the promises of God are for us. Is there really no condemnation for me? Is God really patient towards me? Do I really have peace with God? And the underlying thought is. ‘Have I undone it all?’
There are promises in this psalm which tell us that if we are his people he will keep us. Verse three tell us He he will not let your foot be moved. On a dangerous road like the psalmist was likely to have been walking towards Jerusalem, the city of God, a wrong step could be fatal, God promises not to let the foot of his people to be moved.
Maybe you’ve been hill walking and the path is really narrow and you need to be careful otherwise you could fall. It was like this for the psalmist as he walked this road, it’s like that in a spiritual sense for us today. One wrong footing and we can begin walking away from God. We have the outside danger of the Devil who Peter tells us ‘… prowls around like a lion seeking someone to devour.’ (1 Peter 5:8) We have the world trying to tempt us with so many things that would lead us away from God, we have ourselves as we often are aware of our sin which can easily develop into patterns of behaviour and habits if unchecked.
There are so many dangers in the Christian life. We are, as the hymn says we are ‘prone to wander, prone to leave the God we love’. It isn’t plain sailing, a piece of cake, it isn’t easy. But, friends, there is one with his watchful eye on us, who is making sure our foot will not be moved, that it will not slip. You might feel your weakness and vulnerability spiritually speaking, yet the God of all the universe keeps his eye on you.
There is another image used. Instead of feet slipping, it’s sun melting! ‘The sun shall not strike you by day. Nor the moon by night.’ (Psalm 121:6)
It’s not immediately clear what the reference is to the moon, but what is clear is the reference to the sun. We need umbrellas in this country for the rain but in hotter climates, its not uncommon for an umbrella to be used in the sun. Why? To protect them from the sun.
As they pass uncertain paths they knew he would be with them. As they travelled down the Jordan Valley southwards and then turned west to ascend the steep roadway to Jerusalem, the sun would be on their left side. The Lord then was likened to the shade on their right hand where comfort and protection was felt. The psalmist making this pilgrimage to Jerusalem would have been exposed to extreme heat from the sun without much cover. God says in verse 5 that he will provide shade! ‘As the sun is melting away, I will be your shade, I will be your protection.’
Again, this idea that the walk, the pilgrimage was dangerous. Not just in terms of feet slipping, but in terms of the sun being so strong. As the devil fires his attacks at you, the Lord is the one protecting you, being a shield about you, being a shelter, being a refuge, being kept safe in him. It’s not that we won’t be attacked spiritually by Satan, we will, but we will be protected from the full extent of it. If he didn’t, we would fall away.
Be reassured, if you love Jesus, though you are weak, though you battle against sin, the Lord is your keeper. He keeps your feet from falling, he is your shade protecting you, he is your keeper.
3. The Lord’s keeping is a journey
The psalmist is making that journey towards the city of Jerusalem, where the temple of God was, on his way to worship. Why does he lift his eyes to the hills looking to Jerusalem – to God’s city where the temple was. That is his direction of travel, thats where he is journeying to, that’s where he is aiming for. Jerusalem was the hub of spiritual life for the people of God. It’s where the temple was, it’s where God lived by his Spirit in the temple.
As Christians, we ultimately travel, not towards modern-day Jerusalem but towards the New Jerusalem. And the best part about the New Jerusalem is that God is there! (See Revelation 21:9-27)
But for now we travel. For Christians, that is our direction of travel. We’re on a journey aiming for that heavenly city, that New Jerusalem. In short, towards God. Where is your direction of travel? Are you travelling towards God or away from him?
If you’re travelling away from him, you ultimately travel alone, God is not there. You have no keeper. You have no helper. You are like a sailor without a navigation system, a mountaineer with no map and your end destination is not the New Jerusalem where peace will reign, but a place where there will be a marked absence of peace. There will be an absence of light, there will be an absence of hope.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. In this world you will have trouble, but you don’t need to walk it alone, the Lord is here right now saying to you, ‘Journey towards me, journey towards the New Jerusalem. The way is hard, narrow, dangerous, but I will be with you. I will be your keeper.’
Why don’t you begin your journey towards God today? Ask him to forgive your sins because of what Jesus has done and live your life for him. Know the care and keeping of God today and forever! Put your trust in him. Say with the Psalmist, “My help comes from the Lord!’
What about if you are a Christian today and you are journeying towards God, what does it have to say to you? It says that we can trust God with our lives. As we face the hard things in life let’s remember, God is the creator of the world, nothing is too hard for him, he can keep you even when you face the hardships of life. He never takes his eye off the ball for a second but has his eye on you the whole time, and his heart towards you is good – overflowing with grace and mercy to keep you. Your life may be hard, it may be very hard, but God promises to those whose faith is in him, he will keep you. There won’t be a single circumstance, season, time, or day where God will not be keeping his eye on you. Do not give in to self-reliance, you are awake only so many hours of the day, you’re capable of making mistakes, getting it wrong, but not God.
As you fight your sin, he is your keeper, as you feel discouraged, he is your keeper, as you go to work, he is your keeper, as you parent, he is your keeper. As you go through ordinary life you will experience hard times spiritually, but when our trust is not in ourself but is in God he promises you, reassures you, he is your keeper, he is your help and he always will be. You may be weak, but he is strong, you may take your eye off the ball but God never does.