PSALM ONE HUNDRED TWENTY ONE
Outline
  1. The Comfort of Divine Protection (vv.1-4)
  2. What God does for Israel He does for the Individual (vv.5-8)
TITLE A Song of Ascents ( ryvi [ n.m.s., shir, song], tAl[]M;l; [prep.w/n.f.p. hl'[]m; ma-alah, that which ascends]).

INTRODUCTION:

  1. This "Song (shir) of Ascents" is the only one inscribed with the preposition (lamedh) rather than the prefixed definite article.
  2. The most prominent feature of the psalm is its step-like movement.
  3. Protection and help are the primary considerations of the weary traveler who is making his way back to his native soil, the land of Israel.
  4. The words "help", "keep", and "keeper" occur throughout the psalm.
 
The Comfort of Divine Protection (vv.1-4)
The Query and the Answer (vv.1,2)

VERSE 1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains ( aF'a, [Qal.impf.1.c.s. afn nasha, lift] yn:y[e [n.f.dual.w/1.c.s.sf., ayin, eye] ~yrIh'h,-la, [prep. + def.art.w/n.m.p., har, mountain, hill, hill country]);

From whence shall my help come ( !yIa;me [prep.w/adverb of query, ayin, where?] aboy" [Qal.impf.3.m.s., bo, come] `yrIz>[, [n.m.s.w/1.c.s.sf. rz<[e ezer, help])?

VERSE 2 My help comes from the LORD ( yrIz>[, [n.m.s.w/1c.s.sf., ezer, help] ~[im [prep.w/prep., "comes from"] hw"hy> [pr.n.]),

Who made heaven and earth ( hfe[o [Qal.pf.3.m.s., ashah, make] ~yIm;v' [n.m.p., shamayim, heaven] `#r,a'w" [conj.w/n.f.s., erets, earth]).

ANALYSIS: VERSES 1,2

  1. The "mountains" towards which the psalmist raises his eyes are not just any mountains/hills.
  2. In Ezekiel these mountains/hills are the object of the prophetís words related to the last days when Israel will make her final return from her long exile among the nations (Ezek.36:1,4,8).
  3. Within the territory of Israel is a special hill country that is designated holy above the rest of the holy land (cf. Ps.87:1; cp. Ps.42:6; 68:15,16).
  4. The mountains are the stimulus for his occupation with the One who is willing and able to protect and help the believer who desires to serve God in the land of promise.
  5. The mountains are his sight-point for his confession of trust and faith.
  6. In v.1b he asks a question, and in v.2 he supplies the answer.
  7. The high places of the land draw his attention even higher to the One who is able to preserve his vital interests as a positive, believing Jew in the age of Israel.
  8. "From where shall my help come?" quickly gives way to the faith answer: "My help (ezer) comes from Yahweh, who made heaven and earth".
  9. His faith in the doctrine of origins causes him to look beyond the mountains and beyond the universe to its Maker (Heb.11:3).
  10. The creation, with its vastness, design, and complexity, encourages trust in the Creator.
  11. This doctrine is often appealed to in Scripture to encourage trust in God.
  12. If God is behind the big thing, then He certainly can accomplish lesser things on behalf of those who fear Him.
  13. With God there is both the ability and the willingness to help His people, regardless of the nature of the need.
  14. The problem is not with God, but with us.
  15. Are we willing to look to Him whatever our need may be?
  16. For the psalmist, he looks to no other quarter than that of Yahweh, the first cause of all things (Aristotle called God the "Unmoved Mover").
  17. With God there is living help, which is primary, personal, wise, and immeasurable.
  18. Godís help is not preconditioned by the depth of our poverty.
  19. It is for all who will call upon Him from a sincere heart in time of need.
  20. No matter the circumstance or how we got into it, God will come to our aid if we will look to Him.
  21. The positive Jew has but to look to Him, no matter what the immediate threat is to his longing to be a participant in the blessings of Abraham.
 
Self-Reassurance (vv.3,4)

VERSE 3 He will not allow your foot to slip ( !TeyI-la; [neg. + Qal.impf.3.m.s., nathan, give; allow; the negative used here means that this statement should be taken as a wish rather than an assertion, and so for the next line, the corrected translation is: "May He not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you may He not slumber"] ^l,g>r; [n.f.s.w/2.m.s.sf., regel, foot] jAMl; [prep.w/n.m.s. jAm mot, shaking/tottering]);

He who keeps you will not slumber ( `^r,m.vo [Qal.pt.m.s.w/2.m.s.sf., shamar, keep] ~Wny"-la; [neg. + Qal.impf.3.m.s. ~wn num, slumber]).

VERSE 4 Behold, He who keeps Israel ( hNEhi [interj.] rmeAv [Qal.pt.m.s., shamar, keep] `laer'f.yI [pr.n.])

Will neither slumber nor sleep ( ~Wny"-al [neg. + Qal.impf.3.m.s., num, slumber, doze] al{ [neg.] !v'yyI [Qal.impf.3.m.s. !vy yashan, sleep]).

ANALYSIS: VERSES 3,4

  1. In v.3 (and vv.5-8) the psalmist counsels himself.
  2. "Your"/"You" is a singular.
  3. In these verses he talks to himself, comforting himself that God will be there for him in every circumstance.
  4. In other words, the dialogue is internal (as in Ps.42:5).
  5. The negative in v.3a,b ("not") is one that is normally used for requests and commands.
  6. This verse should not be taken as a statement, but as a wish.
  7. He says to himself: "May He not allow your foot to be moved, may He who keeps you not slumber".
  8. What this means is that God will not allow the adjusted believer to be frustrated in his desire to accomplish Ph2 sanctification.
  9. Circumstances and people will not be allowed to keep him from doing Godís will and inheriting Ph2 and Ph3 blessing.
  10. As he sets out to accomplish any assignment, small or great, God will be there for him.
  11. The desire to return to his homeland and serve God there will not be frustrated.
  12. His wish is answered by the confident assertion of v.4.
  13. From BD he knows that the One "who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep".
  14. What is true for corporate Israel through the ages is equally true for the individual Jew who trusts in God according to truth.
  15. Believing Israelís privilege is made true for the individual Israelite: a protection as vital and complete as that of any single individual Israelite.
  16. For those who are positive, God provides a special help and protection that is tailor-made to each individual.
  17. The protector/keeper of Israel never "sleeps" nor "slumbers" (nods off).
  18. Because God is Omniscient and zealous for His Word, He cannot overlook anything that is vital to the individual or corporate benefit of the chosen people.
  19. The eyes of His providence are ever open to the needs of those He has bound Himself to.
 
What is Good for the Race is Good for the Individual (vv.5-8)

VERSE 5 The LORD is your keeper ( hw"hy> [pr.n.] ^r,m.vo [Qal.pt.m.s.w/2.m.s.sf., shamar, keep]);

The LORD is your shade on your right hand ( hw"hy> [pr.n.] ^L.ci [n.m.s.w/2.m.s.sf. lce tsel, shadow; "shade" {as protection; only time w/Yahweh}] dy:-l[; [prep + n.f.s., yadh, hand] `^n<ymiy> [n.f.s.w/2.m.s.sf., yamin, right hand]).

VERSE 6 The sun will not smite you by day ( vm,V,h; [def.art.w/n.m.s., shemesh, sun] hK'K,y:-al{ [neg. + Hiphil.impf.3.m.s.w/2.m.s.sf. hkn nakhah, strike] ~m'Ay [adv., by day]),

Nor the moon by night ( x;rey"w [conj.w/>n.m.s. x;rey" yareach, moon] `hl'y>L'B; [adv.]).

VERSE 7 The LORD will protect you from all evil ( hw"hy> [pr.n.] ^r>m'v.yI [Qal.impf.3.m.s.w/2.m.s.sf., shamar, keep, guard, protect] [r'-lK'mi [prep.w/n.m.s.cstr. + adj.m.s., ra, evil]);

He will keep your soul ( rmov.yI [Qal.impf.3.m.s., shamar, guard] `^v,p.n:-ta, [dir.obj. + n.f.s.w/2.m.s.sf., nephesh, soul]).

VERSE 8 The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in ( hw"hy> [pr.n.] ^t.ace-rm'v.yI [Qal.impf.3.m.s., shamar, guard, Qal.infin.cstr.w/2.m.s.sf. acy yatsa, go out] ^a,AbW [conj.w/Qal.infin.cstr.w/2.m.s.sf., bo, come])

From this time forth and forever ( hT'[;me [prep.w/adv. of time, now] `~l'A[-d[;w> [conj.w/adv., until, + n.m.s., ever]).

ANALYSIS: VERSES 5-8

  1. The psalmist continues with the internal dialogue he began in v.3.
  2. He speaks from the doctrine within.
  3. The "your"/"you" is singular.
  4. He tells himself, "The LORD is your keeper"/guardian (shomer, from the Qal participle of shamar, to keep, guard).
  5. It begins where he starts out on his journey, looking at the hills where there is potential danger.
  6. The Lord is closer than the dangers, as suggested by the "on your right hand".
  7. The word "shade" suggests protection as refreshing as it is complete.
  8. Whatever God uses to help and protect His own, visible and invisible, is within His limitless providence.
  9. Divine protection is personal, wise, and limitless.
  10. It avails against the known and the unknown, against the perils of the day and the night (v.6).
  11. The returning pilgrim is protected from the sunstroke of the day and the extreme cold of the night (cp. Gen.31:40; Jer.36:30).
  12. Such temperature extremes prevail in the lands of the Bible.
  13. He tells himself that the Lord "will protect" (shamar) him "from all evil" (v.7a).
  14. Nothing that is considered "evil"/bad is too great for God to protect against for those who trust in Him (cf. Ps.91).
  15. "He will keep your soul"/life (v.7b) is Godís promise to those who adhere to BD and qualify for the blessings of Ph2 and Ph3.
  16. God preserves our most important possession - our souls.
  17. This we call the doctrine of eternal security.
  18. BD in the soul is another way in which He "guards" the soul from the debilitating effects of the OSN (fear, lust, MAS, human viewpoint).
  19. He also keeps us alive so we can finish our course with honor.
  20. In the final verse the psalmist anticipates his settled life in the land of promise.
  21. He has a home life and an occupation, as suggested by the words "your going out and your coming in" (v.8a).
  22. He lives his life in the geographical, operational, and viewpoint will of God.
  23. The statement of v.8a comes from the promise of Deut.28:6 "Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out".
  24. His confidence is that the Lord "guards" or watches over him with a special providence in all his ventures and enterprises.
  25. The songís final verse could hardly be stronger or more sweeping.
  26. He has the assurance from BD that God will be there for him "from this time forth and forever".
  27. There is no end to his journey, and it takes up where this life ends.
  28. His journey is like God, who is "my portion forever" (Ps.73:26).
  29. There is no end in sight for Godís guardianship over those who are His.
  30. Those who are adjusted to truth have the +H and peace that comes from knowing that the eternal God watches over them each and every moment.
  31. They have confidence for time and for eternity.
END: PSALM CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TWENTY ONE
JACK M. BALLINGER
OCTOBER, 1997
 

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