Psalm 121/Jehovah Keeps

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The Thirteenth Decade of Psalms


This psalm is a brief word of great encouragement. God’s providential care is true help, and it is a help that is promised to everyone who has the faith to receive it. And who has the faith to receive it? Anyone who lifts up his eyes to the hills, looking there for God to undertake on his behalf.

Every time God is named in this psalm, He is called by His personal name YHWH, or Jehovah—the covenant name of Israel’s covenant God. He is the personal God.  

The Text

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, From whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: He that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is thy keeper: The Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: He shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore” (Psalm 121:1–8).

Summary of the Text

This is likely a psalm for the pilgrim, for someone traveling up to Jerusalem, or perhaps a soldier on a campaign. The imagery indicates the circumstances of some kind of traveler. Regardless, the psalmist is experiencing some difficulty, and he looks up to the mountains for his help (v. 1). This is a metaphor for where his help really comes from, which is from the Lord (v. 2). This Lord is the one who made everything. He is the Creator God. He is the one who made heaven and earth. This Lord never sleeps (v. 3), and so He will not permit the psalmist’s foot to be moved—which, in mountainous country, could be disastrous. The promise is then repeated, and it is for the individual as well as for the nation. The one who keeps all of Israel never slumbers or sleeps (v. 4). The Lord is your keeper. The Lord is your right-hand shade (v. 5). You will be protected from both sun and moon (v. 6). Again, the Lord will keep you from all evil. He will preserve your soul (v. 7). This covenant-keeping God is going to be keeping you, watching over you, in every circumstance—in your going out and coming in (v. 8). This is a constant thing; it is a forever commitment.

Jehovah Keeps

If there is one thing that we must take away from this psalm, it is the fact that Jehovah keeps. He will watch over every footfall; the one who keeps you will not slumber (v. 3). He not only keeps the individual believer He also keeps Israel (v. 4). The psalmist moves on to identify the Lord in these terms; the Lord is your keeper (v. 5). The Lord will preserve you (same word, keep) from all evil (v. 7). The Lord shall preserve (that is, keep) your soul (v. 7). The Lord shall preserve your going out and coming in (v. 8). He keeps your going out and He keeps your coming in. Try to find out anything about you or your life that He doesn’t keep. Jehovah keeps.

Night and Day

So Jehovah keeps you, and He keeps you in every circumstance. He protects you from both the sun and moon (v. 6), and you know that anything that happens to you will either happen during the day or in the night. He will prevent sunstroke. He will guard you against being moonstruck. He will keep you during the prosperity of daylight, and through the adversity of night. He will protect you from the sweltering heat, and He will guard you from the biting cold. He is your keeper in open battle, and He is your keeper against the night riders.

Going Out and Coming In

You go out in the morning to your labors. You come in at evening in order to rest from your labors, and God keeps you both coming and going (v. 8). He keeps you while abroad and He keeps you at home. And you young people—you who are most eager to be “going out” into your lives, consider this. Those of you approaching the end of your lives—you are coming in. When you go out, Jehovah keeps the door. When you are coming back home for refuge, Jehovah welcomes you. And on top of everything else, He keeps you on the journey. He says farewell when you go, He says welcome when you come back, and He keeps you throughout your journey. He accompanies us always, not in the sense of tagging along, but in the sense of being our constant keeper.

The Names of God are Promises

In v. 5, we are told that the Lord is our keeper. Consider this as a name, or even as a title. And then remember that all of God’s names should be considered by us as virtual promises. If we call Him Savior, which we do by faith, this is His promise to save. If we call Him Lord, in faith, this is His promise to rule. If we call Him our Shade in faith, this is His promise to shield us. If we call Him Keeper, again in faith, this is His promise to keep. And Jehovah is your keeper.

This is the kind of faith that caused Stonewall Jackson to say that he felt as safe in battle as in bed.

A Covenant Keeping God

God is a covenant-keeping God. “Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations” (Deut. 7:9). And every time Scripture mentions how God keeps covenant, it also says that He keeps covenant and mercy (hesed). See also Neh. 9:32 and Dan. 9:4.

And because God keeps covenant, this is the reason He keeps you. You may therefore look up to the mountains for your help, where you can see the castle-keep that Christ Himself built. And every block of granite in that fortress is three feet thick, and each one of them is one of God’s great and precious promises (2 Pet. 1:4). And all of them together are yes and amen in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). Look down from those castle walls the way the hymn writer encouraged you. You may smile at all your foes. There is a commotion in the camp outside the walls, and they are whooping, say, that their candidate won. That alters what we must deal with, but remember that it alters nothing essential.

So at the conclusion, this is why the psalm can promise that God’s providential care is constant and forever. “From this time forth, and even for evermore.”

You are sheltered forever, and you are sheltered in Christ.

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2 years ago
W. Dean
W. Dean
2 years ago
Reply to  Laurel

Check out Matthew Montgomery’s (from the Evangelical Presbyterian Church) rendition of Ps. 121. It is a performance of 121C from the RPCNA’s Book of Psalms for Worship, but he’s added instrumentation.

Valerie (Kyriosity)
Valerie (Kyriosity)
2 years ago

I can’t believe we’re getting so close to the end of the Psalter. I’ve been listening to Doug Wilson sermons on the Psalms about as long as I’ve been listening to Doug Wilson sermons…back when I had to pay cash money to have CDs shipped to me. I went back and checked when the notes for each decade were posted on the blog, and here’s what I found: Psalms 1–10 — 2004 Psalms 11–20 — 2004 Psalms 21–30 — 2004 (not sure if there were 30 in a row or if the notes just got posted at some point after… Read more »