Reflections on Scripture

by Wayne Bandy

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Scripture Passage

      Psalm - Chapter 121 (Contemporary English Version)
    1. (A song for worship.) I look to the hills! Where will I find help?
    2. It will come from the LORD, who created the heavens and the earth.
    3. The LORD is your protector, and he won't go to sleep or let you stumble.
    4. The protector of Israel doesn't doze or ever get drowsy.
    5. The LORD is your protector, there at your right side to shade you from the sun.
    6. You won't be harmed by the sun during the day or by the moon at night.
    7. The LORD will protect you and keep you safe from all dangers.
    8. The LORD will protect you now and always wherever you go.

Psalms - Chapter 121

Entered: April 06, 2009
Here is a great psalm of comfort if one will accept its tenets. Primarily they are that the Lord is our protector who is always on duty. He will protect us from all harm. These are its main tenets though a few other details are offered such as: He will not allow your foot to slip, the sun will not strike you, the Lord will protect your coming and going both now and forever. What do we make of this when we know that harm does at times come to good and godly people? I personally am not troubled by this seeming inconsistency.  I know, for one thing, that there certainly is no hope of help from any other direction. Those who love me and wish no harm to come to me can do nothing to stop it. Only God is capable of such a thing. I believe that much of the potential harm that might have come my way and didn't was not harm that missed me, but harm that I missed. In other words, I believe the harm that I might have escaped was not diverted from me, but I was diverted from it. This is why we want God to be directing our paths. He knows where the harm lies and can divert us from it.

Okay, that is all fine and good, but what about this psalm stating that "The Lord will protect you from all harm," and the fact that harm does come at times even to those who allow God to direct their paths? Well, we have here first the truth that nothing is beyond God's control to be able to harm us. That is, nothing can harm us that God does not permit. This is troubling to one who is not convinced about God, who has not been devoted to God and seen His care first-hand over time. But the one who has experienced God's care knows that God has a purpose for even those seemingly bad things that come into our lives. Romans 8:28 is true, "We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God." Many a follower of God will testify to the "harm" God allowed into their lives that led to better things. One never gets to the point of welcoming harm, but when it comes we can be assured in the midst of it that God has something good for us at the other end when we emerge from the harm. When understood in this way, harm is no longer harm. It is a pathway to something else - something that is for our good.

What I am saying here is not theoretical ideas that might be possible. They are realities that I have experienced as have many others over the ages. But the unbeliever will not likely "buy" this perspective. That is understandable. The only way to understand them and accept them is to first take the step of faith toward God. Believe that He is and that He cares enough for us that He might actually protect us from harm. No sense can be made of any of this looking from outside faith in.

But I will take my stand with the writer of this psalm and raise my eyes to the One from whom comes my help, the "Maker of heaven and earth." My help comes from the Lord.

Entered: May 28, 2014

Psalms 121 is part of a collection of psalms, 120 to 134, that are called "songs of ascents." These were songs sung by the Israelites as they made their annual pilgrimage or ascent to Jerusalem for the annual feasts. Since Jerusalem was in the hills, the journey was an ascent from most places in Israel. This also gives context to the statement in the first verse, "I raise my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from?" The implied answer is that it comes from the Lord who, in the pilgrims mind, resided in the temple in Jerusalem which was on the mountain.

This One who was their help is "the Maker of heaven and earth." (121:2) He is fully capable of providing whatever help is needed on the journey whether it be from stumbling along the way ("He will not allow your foot to slip") or from the heat of the sun or from the dangers of night. Nothing will get past the Lord who "does not slumber or sleep." (121:4) He "will protect you from all harm." (121:7) For "The LORD will protect your coming and going both now and forever." (121:8) This last statement was assurance for the pilgrims that God guarded their movements at all times and not only on the pilgrimage.

There is an unspoken condition of this protection from the Lord. We must submit our ways to Him as did the pilgrim who was on a journey to worship the Lord and who looked to the Lord for his protection. He is not our protector when we are on a mission to do harm, for instance. He does not necessarily keep us from harm when we foolishly place ourselves in harm's way. There are limitations to God's protection. Furthermore, when we place ourselves in the Lord's care, we must trust that He has our best interest at heart regardless of how circumstances may appear. If seeming harm does get past Him we must trust that He has a good outcome in mind for us if we will trust Him and allow Him to bring it to completion.