The beautiful and beloved Psalm 121 offers deep comfort and assurance. It is part of the collection of Song of Ascents, hymns sung as travelers made their way on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Remembering the Lord who travels with them on the way to Temple continues as a powerful metaphor for the God who travels with us every step of the way in all of life’s journey.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
The One who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
When I was a girl, sometimes our church would sing a old favorite of the old timers: “There’s an eye watching you; there’s an all seeing eye watching you…” It gave me the willies. I imagined a judgmental eye watching my every move, just waiting for me to make a mistake.
Of course, that was not the intent of the hymn and the old timers got that. They took comfort in the image of God’s wakefulness and constant presence much as Israel must have taken comfort in Psalm 121.
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 poetry of this psalm is gorgeous. Psalm 121, as short and powerful as it is, might be right up there with Psalm 23 as one incorporated into the memories of people of faith for all these centuries. It is easily memorized and invites recitation as one is settling into sleep or trying to find one’s footing in a difficult situation.
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 on and forevermore.
Clinton McCann, in his commentary on The Psalms, reflected on Jesus’ life, a journey with God that eventually led him to a cross. “The good news,” McCann reminds us, “is that God was there too, keeping his life. As we follow Jesus on that way, God is our keeper as well.”
J. Clinton McCann Jr. “The Psalms,” The New Interpreter’s Bible, volume IV (Nashville: Abingon Press, 1996) page 1182.