Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross
Fifteen consecutive psalms (120-134) are so-called “Psalms of Ascent.” They were given this name because they were songs designated for the Israelites to sing on their way to worship in Jerusalem. Moses had instructed them at the giving of the Old Law, “For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders, and no man shall covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before the Lord your God” (Ex. 34:34). You can imagine how especially those who came a long distance to Jerusalem (it’s over 100 miles from Mt. Hermon and Beersheba, for example) might benefit from a reminder of why they were making this lengthy journey. As most would walk, this would help pass the time while preparing their minds. This is not a bad idea for us even on a 10 or 20 minute drive to the church building on Sunday morning.
There is quite a bit of uneven terrain, mountains and valleys, in the area around Jerusalem, and the temple required a steep climb as there were three valleys surrounding Mount Zion and the temple complex. So, people coming from every direction would have to “go up to Jerusalem” (Zech. 14:17; John 2:13; 5:1). But, it was more than a physical ascent, this trip to the temple. It was more significantly a spiritual ascent, an effort to get closer to God. While we can and should draw near to God daily in our personal devotion, there is still great significance and benefit when we join each other in the presence of God to worship Him and fellowship with Him and each other (Heb. 10:24-25). Each time, this should be an ascent for us!
Notice the repetitive use of “will” in Psalm 121. The word is used eight times in these eight verses. The word points to the future and indicates either anticipation or trust. The writer is confident, especially of what he expects God will do. Such assurance had to take his heart higher!
I WILL LIFT UP MY EYES TO HIM (1)
He starts with what he will do. The writer will look up to God, seeking help and strength. A heart ready to worship is one who sees things as they really are. I am spiritually destitute and needy, and I depend on God for everything. When that is my mindset, I am prepared to praise, thank, and petition Him!
GOD WILL HELP ME (1-2)
Whatever problems, distractions, struggles, and temptations are weighing me down and wearing me down, God will help me! His power is proven. Just look at the creation (2). He has not lost an ounce of strength from that moment to now.
GOD WILL NOT LET ME FALL (3)
The terrain around Jerusalem is often rocky and uneven. I suppose it is easy for anyone’s foot to slip on those roads up to the holy city. But, spiritually, it is a different matter. If I fall, it will not be God’s fault (John 10:27-29). If I hold to God’s unchanging hand, I will successfully complete my journey.
GOD WILL NOT FALL ASLEEP ON THE JOB (3-4)
Night and day, moment by moment, God is alert. He sees everything I do and everything that is done to me. How comforting to know that the All-seeing eye never droops or closes. He does not nod off, even for a moment.
GOD WILL GUARD AND PROTECT ME (5-8)
Half of this psalm is devoted to this idea. God is not just passively involved, watching me. He is actively involved, keeping me (5,7), providing me shade (5-6), protecting me (7), and guarding me (8). Our God is not inanimate! He is involved! It is why we pray. It is why we trust in His providence. It is why we serve and obey Him. As we love to sing, “There is a God! He is alive. In Him we live and we survive.” The writer of Hebrews quotes three Old Testament passages (Deut. 31:6; Josh. 1:5; Psa. 118:6) to convey two promises: “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (13:5-6).
When you enter to worship, enter with the heart and faith of the righteous pilgrims on their way to the temple for one of the annual festivals. Come with your heart ready, and come with a heart full of faith and trust in the object of your worship. You will leave rejuvenated and resolved.