Meditations on the Psalms #281

Psalm 121 Part 1

This psalm is a liturgical blessing for the journey of life. It is a sweet outpouring of quiet trust. For the background of this psalm read about Sennacharib’s boastful insolence and Hezekiah’s trustful reaction in 2Kings.18 &19:14-19, 2Chron.32:9-20 and Isa.36:9-37:20. Hezekiah did not meet Sennacherib’s demand with a military response, but with a spiritual commitment to his covenant Lord.  
The structure of the psalm is elegantly simple: vs1-2 the pronouns are in the 1st person and are a traveller’s question and confession. Vs3-8 is a priestly blessing. Here the pronouns shift to the 2ndperson.

We can all relate to the opening question. Where can I get help? Whatever the journey, such a question is natural; whether one is thinking of a geographic journey through dangerous territory, a lifelong journey through many ups and downs, or a spiritual journey of discovery. Life is full of many dangers. The physical: disease, injury, accident, war, infirmity, or natural disasters. The economic: recession, depression, unemployment, outsourcing, downsizing, insolvency, debt, or theft. The spiritual: doubt, sin, evil, corruption, fundamentalism, extremism, or false teaching. What more natural question to ask than, “Where can I get help?”

The psalmist answers his own question with a confession of faith: “My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.” 
Modern translations obscure the poetic, chiastic structure of the sentence. The word “my-help” is the last word of verse 1 and the first word of verse 2. 

The verse is a chiasm: 
A         creation (hills)
B         whence comes my help
B’        my help is from the Lord
A’         creation (heaven and earth)

The psalmist does not look to nature for help! Those hills, after all, might be hiding some threat, some predator. In Hezekiah’s day, they were covered with troops and the situation looked hopeless. The psalmist’s help comes from the very one who made the hills, the heavens, and the earth: Yahweh, the covenant promise-keeping God! The hills may contain some threat, but they also by their very existence bear witness to the creator. What are your threats and fears? Then remember your help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth!  

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