Discouraged, Overwhelmed, and confused…
The news reports, particularly over the last month, have been discouraging. Who would believe that angry mobs would unabashedly threaten our governmental structure? Who would believe that our Supreme Court would actually yield to public pressure rather than uphold our Constitution?
This social confusion and unrest are exacerbated by personal problems. I am personally aware of several people/families who feel overwhelmed and confused. It seems as if they have used up all their options and have no recourse. All attempts to defuse or remedy their anxiety have proved unfruitful and frustrating.
This insecurity reminds me of the author of Psalm 121. On his uphill trek to worship in Jerusalem, he may have paused to survey his situation. Looking up, he observed the high hills surrounding Jerusalem. Later he wrote:
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
What did he see or expect to see in these hills? The answer is obscure and there are at least a couple of possibilities. The hills could refer to “high places,” where idolatry was practiced, and pagan deities worshiped. Could the songwriter expect help from the gods of other nations? Temptation to idolatry plagued God’s people. On the other hand, these hills with their dens and caves would also provide secure hiding places for raiders and bandits, who could appear without warning and seize and plunder unsuspecting sojourners.
The ambiguity of this line may suggest the bewilderment of the author. We can easily identify with this. How many times have we been in very difficult, discouraging, and disheartening situations? Faced with no good options and at the end of ourselves, we cry out to God. I once noticed a sign in the office of a friend: “When All Else Fails – Pray.”
Shame on us that it takes chaos and confusion to drive us to prayer. Regardless, we can be certain that our God will always hear our prayers. Notice the confidence of the author. He answers his question: My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
The songwriter boldly asserts: “My help comes from the LORD.” This is the covenant name of God, which always indicates his absolute independence and almighty power. This name further suggests and highlights his steadfast love or loyal commitment to his people. The writer declares his confident expectation that the LORD and he alone will help him – and us.
Think about it. Our help/assistance comes from the one who made the heavens and the earth! Our aid comes from the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth. He spoke and, by the word of his power, the realm in which we now feel insecure, came into being. Not only did our LORD create the heaven and the earth, but he also governs and controls all that he has made.
Every threat on every journey occurs where our LORD is the Supreme Ruler. Note that the verb “to keep” is used 6 times in verses 3 – 8. Future dangers are unseen by us, but our security is certain. The LORD is our keeper, that is, he is actively and carefully caring, protecting, guarding, and providing for us. That is what a “keeper” does!
Further, notice, that although these are statements made to the people of God, they have a pointed and personal application. These are promises meant to encourage each of us, personally! So, not only is the LORD our keeper – the LORD is my keeper!
Read the remainder of the Psalm and consider his promises and protection made to you. Notice also what is said about the nature of the LORD, your keeper.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”
Here are some I came up with:
• The LORD will not let you stumble or fall.
• The LORD will not get tired of keeping you – he never tires; he never sleeps.
• The LORD is your protector – he is a shield against known (sun) and unknown (moon) threats.
• The LORD will protect you from all harm (evil).
• The Lord will watch over you in the busyness of your life.
• The LORD will protect you from now on – forever.
This puts how I view the discouraging headlines and news articles from a completely different perspective. My circumstances may be dire and discouraging, but now I am reminded that I am not alone, nor unforgotten. When I feel alone and threatened, Psalm 121 reminds me that the One who created heaven and earth is giving attention to my every need. His name, in English, is LORD, which reminds me of his personal commitment to loyally love me. He not only has the ability, but also the desire to tend to my best interests – my ultimate welfare.
How can I be sure of such love and commitment? The Bible tells me so:
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31–32, ESV)