This is a relatively well-known Psalm, however if you look deeper, at the specific wording of the Psalm, you can find out a lot about the time in which this was written. I first found out the background behind this Psalm at Spring Harvest at a sermon on “Sinking in the psalms” by Dave Steel.
The first two stanzas says “I lift up my eyes to the mountains where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” What do you think David is says in this lines at Psalms 121? Read on to find out much more about this Psalm and what it can mean to you and your life.
A song of ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
Before we dive deep into the meaning of this Psalm, spend some if you wish to, look at the words of David and try to construct what you think the poem means.
I would like to point out one thing that I personally didn’t know, before writing this post and I think is rather interesting. When it says “a song of ascents”, it says that because the people of Israel would have sung this and other Psalms also titles that, while on their way to Jerusalem (which was on the mountain side).
We are going to break the Psalm down, verse by verse. To start with, verse 1 is a rhetorical question, that still applies to us today. Where does your help come from? But in this case, David is not talking about God, but about idols. At the time when this song poem was written, post of the population of Israel worshipped idols of King David. These idols were often placed on mountains and so this explains why their help comes from the mountain. They think the idols can help them and the idols are on the mountain, so they go (look) to the mountain for answer to their problems (help).
In verse two, David is stating that he has confidence in the creator of the universe. We must not rely on creatures. This is a very literal verse. David’s help comes from the Lord, creator (maker) or heaven and earth. He alone has both the power and the will to assist me. Also we can say that because he has made heaven and earth, he is omnipotent (to have great power and influence).
A few verses down, in verses three and four it says, “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.” In these two verses, David is, in a nutshell, trying to say that God will never rest and it is not one Israelite alone over who God will watch unceasingly, but the whole people of Israel and that the Gods of the people of Jerusalem don’t watch over Israel and will let your foot slip.
There is an example of one of these idols, called Baal, supposedly being lazy or sleeping. This can been seen when Moses teases the prophets of Baal, he tells them to shout louder as he might be asleep. But this is saying the true God doesn’t sleep and he watches over us and keeps us safe. You can read the whole story in 1 Kings, chapter 18.
Finally, we are going to look at the last four verses all together. To start with, verse five is saying that God is always watching over you, even when you sleep, he is always there. When it the David says, “the Lord is your shade”, he actually saying that God is your defence or protection. As well as this, protection was especially needed at that time on the right hand side of the body, as that was the side of the body with no protection (shield). In battle, you would hold you shield in your left hand and your sword in your right hand.
One of the most confusing verses in this Psalm, I think is six, it states, “the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.” You can understand how the sun might harm during the day, but we don’t normally think of the moon being harmful. But again this may be talking about the idols, Baal was a God that slept. So, in this verse, David is saying to the people of Israel, that Baal might protect you by day, but will not by night, as he is sleeping. However, God on the other hand, never sleeps, so will protect you by day and night. This also follows onto verse seven where is says “The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life”.
To finish off the Psalm, David states that God will protect you both now and forevermore. Meaning it will never cease.
If you have enjoyed reading this post, please comment your views down below, share the post and hit the “Follow RCG” button, to read the rest of this series when it comes out! Next weeks post in this series (#3) will be on Psalms 78, Bob Hartman’s (a famous Christian book writer and story-teller) favourite Psalm. If you missed the first post in the series you can find it here or on the ‘Series Links’ page. Also, International Release Times of the post are available here.