“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. 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.”(Psalm 121 ESV)
Where Does Our Help Come From?
I picture the weary singer of this Psalm; his words imply he’s in some sort of distressing or perilous situation, perhaps travelling towards Jerusalem through the heat, dust and danger. He knows that whilst the city is his goal, and is not too far now, his hope is not in the city itself, or even in the high mountains that surround it like a garrison. His help and refuge is found in God, the Creator of those very mountains and of all heaven and earth.
You can tell by the wording that the psalmist is not merely reciting religious rote. He knows, with complete confidence that what he is singing is true. Several times he uses the word ‘keep,’ and then the phrase: “the Lord is your Keeper.” The implications of the word are so powerfully intimate, fiercely protective.
The Lord is Your Keeper (Guardian)
In English, the term ‘keeper’ doesn’t have much impact. When I first stated reading my Bible around 45 years ago, I used to puzzle over this word. In the original Greek however, ‘keep’ is phroureo, the same word used in 1 Peter 1:4-5, where Peter writes regarding our inheritance that is ‘kept’ in heaven. It is a military term, meaning: to guard. It is a powerful word; meaning, to establish a military outpost; to hem in and protect with a garrison; to establish a fortress. And this same word is used in Psalm 121 to describe the way we are kept by The Lord of Hosts!
The Psalmist goes on to explain some of the ways in which the Lord keeps / guards us, which we’ll look at in the next couple of blog posts, starting with how the Lord “never slumbers or sleeps.”
He Never Slumbers or Sleeps
“He the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you! ”(Psalm 121:3-4 NLT)
When my oldest son Rory was a few weeks old, he had croup. I was literally afraid for his life. I tried to sit up and watch him all night, listening to each ragged breath, terrified he wouldn’t take his next. Of course, being only human, I couldn’t do it. I drifted off a few times and woke up with my heart pounding. Thankfully he made it through unscathed.
God has no need of sleep. He doesn’t even doze off occasionally (slumber). As a loving Father, he watches over you constantly. Not in a fearful way; God isn’t a fretful, worrying parent, but he IS a loving one. He knows every hair on your head, (Luke 12:7) he knows every word you are about to speak, before even you do. (Psalm 139:2-4) He knows all your thoughts. (Even the unsavoury ones!) And he loves you beyond measure. Psalm 103:11 says that his unfailing love toward you is as high as the height of the heavens above the earth!
You can safely fall asleep, knowing that your life is in the hands of One who never takes his eyes off you, even for a second, and who continues to minister to you, in body and soul, even as you sleep.
“I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety.”Psalm 16:7-9 (NLT)
You can sleep, and rest-easy because God never does. And if you suffer sleepless nights, your Guardian is still with you, giving all the energy and grace you need. Like the psalmist, lift your eyes to him.
(Coming up next, part 2: He keeps watch over you. )