I hated walking home after Daylight Savings ended. I didn’t live far from where I babysat, but the road wasn’t lit. Not even houses along the way—houses of people I knew, who were friendly—erased the nagging fear that something could happen, I could be hurt, and no one would come to my aid. I’d clutch my bag, walk tall, then sprint until I came into range of the light from our kitchen window.
I’ve always lived in safe places. There’s not much reason for my fear. I can’t help thinking how much worse it would be, if there was. The road traveled by pilgrims to Jerusalem in ancient times was known for its dangers. There were the physical dangers of heat and sunstroke; bandits hiding in wait by the road; night-time, superstitious fears of the moon . . . . How did they do it?
“I lift my eyes to the hills,” wrote the psalmist on his journey to the hills surrounding that holy city. “Where does my help come from?”
“My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”
Psalm 121 is a beautiful psalm, loved by many as the “travelers psalm.” It’s one of 15 “songs of ascent” (Psalms 120-134) sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the three annual pilgrim feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. But all of us can pray this psalm. We all are pilgrims en route to the eternal city, God’s dwelling place. We all face danger on the way, and the answer to our cries for help is the same: “My help comes from the LORD.”
I invite you to meditate on Psalm 121 this week. Though short, this psalm is rich with truths to ponder. Wherever you are in your journey, whatever dangers or weaknesses you face, there is comfort and strength for you here. Here’s a guide for meditation that loosely follows the steps of lectio divina (Read . . . Reflect . . . Respond . . . Rest).
READ: WHAT DOES IT SAY?
Be sure to read Psalm 121 over and over again, especially at first. Pray first – then read and repeat, allowing it to sink in and make a place for itself in your heart.
REFLECT: WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
As you begin to notice patterns or as certain words catch your attention, think deeply about them. Perhaps consider some of these things:
- What kinds of trials are named or alluded to?
- This psalm is personal. Notice all the “mys” and “yous” and “yours”. My what? You(r) what? Make a list.
- How often does the psalm mention the LORD? Note that this all-cap version of the word “Lord” translates the Hebrew YHWH, “I am.” This is the personal, covenant name God gave Israel, by which to know him. Write down every mention along with the phrase that modifies it. What does it say about God?
- Notice how often “keep” is repeated. The Hebrew is smr: “to keep, preserve, protect.” “Keeper” is more properly “watchman” (as in our phrase, night watchman). Look closely at each instance of “keep.” What do you learn?
- What else do you notice? What stands out to you?
Now that you’ve mined all these gems, what do they tell you about God? What is the main point of Psalm 121?
RESPOND: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ME? (LIFT THIS IN PRAYER, AND REST IN GOD’S LOVE)
God’s word does more than reveal truth. He speaks to us, personally, through the inspired words of the Bible. Read Psalm 121 again, prayerfully, and ask the Lord to speak to you. Are you on a dangerous road? Are you exposed in some way? Are you in need of help? How does this psalm speak to you? (I’d love to hear, either in a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Blessings on you as you meditate on Psalm 121!
© 2016 Sarah Christmyer
Read the first post in this series: Lord, Make Haste to Help Me!