Prayer and psalm 121
by Joseph Jagde
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Psalm 121 reads as follows from the Oxford Annotated Bible:
I lift my eyes up to the hills- From where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth,
He will not let your foot be moved: He who keep Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep The Lord is your keeper: The Lord is your shade at 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 and your coming in From this time on and forevermore.
The psalmist isnít necessarily in great distress in this particular psalm as depicted in other psalms.
There is a recognized need for help even without acute distresses. As the psalmist overlooks the great mountains and distant sights, the vastness of the swells of the land, it is rather inevitable that there will be the necessity for help as time goes on.
The various forces out there, are just much larger, much vaster and uncontained, and the positioning of the psalmist relative to this is that the is always going to need help in the matter of proportion. For example, this psalm mentions the sun and its encroaching power, and the psalmist is always going to be small in relation to the mighty sun and itís affects as well as the other mighty elements of nature. The harm of the moon here, might refer to the ability of enemies to see to a camp at night under the moonlight.
These truths go for anybody. That I need help is an equation that is inescapable. Ií m not getting big enough to where I can overshadow the truth of this. It is proportionate to the way things are. Iím never going to be able to usurp all incoming and oncoming variables no matter what I can achieve. Iím not going to be able to leap past the need for help and this is the case even if everything is lining up perfectly. Iím always going to need help. The psalmist recognizes this proportionality, as he looks past mountain to mountain and beyond and sees the vastness of which he is a very small part and in this particular case perhaps a solitary sojourner through desert like conditions under extreme heat.
The inquiry is also a bit quizzical as well. There is a whole lot out there that the psalmist can begin to clearly identify, vast mountain ranges, barely negotiable terrain for miles on end, and perhaps after that distant seas.
And then there are situations and uncertainties with an unknown genesis and of which he could only be more so an observer yet he would to an extent come under the effects of his surroundings.
Even today in modern society with itís comforts and technological advantages, once these props are taken away the situation becomes a little threadbare as there is little else out there that can be depended on as identifying itself as help. It can be exciting to be hiking, or traversing little known landscapes, but what exactly would be considered help here?
Within all this, it is certain that the psalmist does see mountains, the great sun, the moon, distant stars in the night and he can identify all this as what it is, but what if anything out there identifies as help?
It is interesting to see the popularity of the DaVinci Code as a book of spiritual mystery from prior centuries.
There are deep secrets in the psalms that have pertinence today.
The psalmist describes his helper as the keeper of Jerusalem. Within this vast landscape described in verse 1, at first glance devoid of help, it is the keeper of Jerusalem who watches this small individual sojourner across desert like conditions. Not only in these conditions, but in any imaginable conditions the keeper of Jerusalem is also by his side.
Jerusalem in this case is not necessarily a physical representation but a spiritual representation of the Lordís people and has gradations across generations of people starting from the beginning and continuing to that unknown vastness that is the future spoken of to Abraham by the Lord.
The mystery of this psalm, is that one person with his own eyes in looking yonder into the mysteries of nature, mysteries that are still greatly unknown today in many ways, yet it is the keeper of Jerusalem who goes into those very solitary situations and moments, where there may seem to be seemingly no one and nobody either close or far away, yet the keeper of the great city of God, is right there by his side in this vast aloneness mentioned in verse one of this psalm.
That great power of the Lord extends to the one individual, the power which holds things together through the centuries and in moments of history is extended to one person. It seems like the Red Sea crossing was to save a nation of people and it was a crossing that involved a nation of people. But within this, the Keeper of Jerusalem was also doing this for one solitary individual; it was as if one individual was led across the Red Sea saved from the onslaught of the pursuing Egyptians.
It is ironic, for this psalmist for whom help seemed so distant, that the help was continually at his very side. The psalmist or whom the psalmist speaks of seems to be willing to test the Lordís help and traverse into territory that others may have feared. He goes forward into that help.
The mystery of the psalm is that the keeper of Jerusalem throughout all of history, is the keeper of one individual in one moment of time and also forever for this one person and this psalm, alludes to salvation for this one individual in the final verse which says, ď The Lord will keep your coming and going from this time on and forever more.
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