Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Oct 6 2019 - Psalm 121 – I lift up my eyes to the hills

Psalms 120-134 are entitled psalms or songs of ascents. They were psalms that were traditionally sung or chanted as the Israelites travelled "up" to Jerusalem from the various parts of the Promised Land at the time of the major festivals. They were psalms written for and used by a pilgrim people.

There were three major festivals in the year. Passover celebrated God's rescue of his ancient people from slavery in Egypt. Harvest celebrated God's goodness in giving them a land flowing with milk and honey. Tabernacles celebrated the way in which God had provided for his people during forty years wandering in the wilderness, caused by their own rebellion. Each of these festivals was designed to remind God's people of his saving goodness and mercy and to fill them with thankfulness and praise. So they would sing these psalms as they made their way to Jerusalem.

The journey was no easy one. For many it would involve travelling through barren and mountainous regions where gangs of thieves might hang out waiting for the unwary traveller – remember Jesus' parable of the "Good Samaritan". Looking up at the threatening mountains around them, travellers might have wondered whether they were going to arrive safely at the City of God. They would have asked who would protect them in their journey. And the answer would have come immediately in the words of this psalm, "My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth" (v. 2).

What a tremendous encouragement and reassurance to know that the mighty and living God who created heaven and earth (and everything in them), watches over and protects his people. This is the theme of this wonderful psalm which must have been sung with conviction as the pilgrims made their way to Zion. Note the repeated assertion that the Lord watches over his people (vv. 3, 4, 5, 7, 8). The pilgrims would have to camp down at night during their journey. Perhaps that was when they would feel most vulnerable. This psalm reminds them that the God who redeemed them, the God of Israel, neither slumbers nor sleeps. He lovingly watches over his people in the darkness of night as well as in the bright light of day – nor does he take a nap during the heat of the day.

This psalm rejoices in the assurance that the Lord will keep his people from all harm. One writer says verses 7-8 amount to "A comprehensive insurance policy, securely underwritten."  But we know that those who trust in the living God, whether Israelites travelling up to Jerusalem in Old Testament times or Christians going about their ordinary tasks today, are not immune from the troubles faced by others. We also suffer from accidents, sickness, attacks by others and, at last, death. Does this psalm then amount to no more than singing in the dark to keep our spirits up?

Not at all. God's watching over us began before we were even conscious of his care. He sent his Son into the world to be our Saviour when we were rebels against him. Jesus not only shed his blood for us to make us his own, he also declares that none of those who believe in him will be snatched from his hand – not one will be lost. Moreover, he has sent his Spirit into our hearts to be our companion and guide on the path of our pilgrim journey to glory:

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home. 

Jesus death and resurrection is God's secure underwriting of his promise of care for us – now and for evermore.

Father God, we thank you that you watch over us with loving care far exceeding that of any earthly parent. Lord Jesus, we thank you that you have purchased us through your precious blood and will not permit any power to snatch us from your hand. By your Spirit, fill us with songs of joyful praise as we travel towards our eternal home. And help us to gather many more pilgrims along the way, pilgrims who will rejoice with us over your unfailing love and care. 

Peter Misselbrook