SECURITY OF THOSE WHO TRUST IN GOD
Psalms 121:1-8. I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in, from this time forth, and even for evermore.
A LIFE of faith is generally acknowledged to be that which becomes the Christian: but how much is implied in a life of faith is very little considered. The Divine government is too often supposed to extend to great things only: and the idea of referring to God all the little occurrences of every day, is thought by many to be derogatory to his supreme Majesty. But God is to be seen as much in the fall of a sparrow, as in the fall of the greatest empire: and our dependence upon him should extend to every thing without exception. Should we attempt to draw a line between the events to which his attention may be supposed to be directed, and those which may be left, as the expression is, to chance, we should find ourselves utterly at a loss, and, in fact, should soon prove ourselves to be downright Atheists. The Scriptures admit of no such distinction: they ascribe every thing to God: even the events which in some respect owe their origin to Satan, in other points of view are traced up to God himself as their author [Note: 1 Chronicles 21:1. with 2 Samuel 24:1.]: and one very important use of the Psalms is, to shew us, how much the habit of referring every thing to God characterizes, composes, and elevates the Christian mind.
In the psalm before us we see this truth exemplified in the experience of David: in illustrating which, we shall notice,
I. The resolution he formed—
The first verse of the psalm is somewhat differently rendered in the margin of our Bibles: “Shall I lift up mine eyes unto the hills? Whence should my help come?” This, whilst it affixes an important sense to the passage, gives it peculiar force and beauty. It represents the Psalmist as expressing his conviction of the utter insufficiency of all earthly powers to assist him, and his determination to confide in God alone. And in this view the passage exactly accords with that declaration of the Church in the prophet Jeremiah, “Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel [Note: Jeremiah 3:23.].”
But as it stands in our translation, it is a resolution of David to look unto Jehovah, who dwelleth on Mount Zion, or rather in the highest heavens, and to trust in him as the one only source of all good. Now this was,
1. A wise resolution—
[When our Lord said to his disciples, “Will ye also go away?” Peter replied in the name of all, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” In like manner we must ask, To whom can we go for help, except to the Lord our God? No creature can afford us any effectual aid. The creation itself subsists only through the continued agency of Him who first called it into existence, and in all its parts needs the same superintending care that we ourselves do. Whithersoever we turn our eyes for help, every creature uniformly replies, “It is not in me; neither in me.” To look therefore to Jenovah, is our truest, our only, wisdom.]
2. A pious resolution—
[A man duly sensible of his dependence on God, abhors the idea of trusting in an arm of flesh. He would not so dishonour God; he would not so invade his unalienable prerogative. He loves the very thought of being a pensioner on the Divine bounty. The habit of committing every concern to God, and of receiving every blessing from God, is truly delightful to him. Hence he says with the church of old, “Ashur shall not save us; neither will we ride upon horses; neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy [Note: Hosea 14:3.].” This is the dictate of true piety: and, whilst it ensures to men a constant communication of all necessary good, it renders every blessing ten-fold more sweet, as coming to them through the special intervention of their heavenly Father.]
3. A necessary resolution—
[This state of mind is equally necessary for every child of man. The greatest monarch is as dependent upon God as the lowest person in the universe. No man has any power to secure himself for one single moment: “he is crushed before the moth,” if God give it a commission to destroy him. Pharaoh himself was as open to the assault of all the different plagues, and as incapable of removing any one of them, as any of his subjects were. What peace then can any man enjoy, who has no other than a created arm to rest upon? If we would have any solid comfort in our minds, we must realize a sense of God’s superintending care, and rest in him for a supply of every blessing that we stand in need of.]
Having declared his resolution, the Psalmist informs us of,
II. The encouragement given him to persevere in it—
It is worthy of observation, that, after the two first verses of the psalm, David ceases to speak, and is himself addressed by another, who overheard his resolution. And who is it that thus replies to him? It is no other than God himself; who immediately replies, in order to shew to the whole universe how pleasing and acceptable to him such a resolution is. Nor are such transitions unusual in the Scriptures: but they deserve especial notice, wherever they occur. We may see a precisely similar passage in the book of the prophet Jeremiah; where the Lord, having overheard the confessions of his repenting people, instantly takes up the subject, and for their encouragement addresses them in these gracious terms; “If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord, return unto me; and I will put thine abominations out of my sight; and thou shalt not remove [Note: Jeremiah 3:25; Jeremiah 4:1.].” The declarations which God here made to David, are equally applicable to all, who, like him, are resolved to live in a state of dependence upon God. Let us consider them,
1. In relation to temporal things—
[All the different expressions which are here used, have an evident reference to what was wrought for Israel during the forty years of their sojourning in the wilderness. The roughness of their untrodden path would often occasion “their feet to slip:” the heat of the sun by day, and the influence of the moon, together with the noxious damps, by night, would greatly molest them in their journey: and their danger from savage beasts or venomous reptiles would tend to keep them in continual alarm. But God promises that no evil shall hurt those who trust in him.
He will be to them an ever-watchful helper. Men, be they ever so numerous, may be off their guard: but the Keeper of Israel never will: he never slumbereth nor sleepeth: no enemy can escape his notice; no device be hidden from his view: and his express engagement to his people is, that “no weapon that is formed against them shall prosper [Note: Isaiah 54:17.].”
He will be to them also an ever-present helper. The idea of his being “our shade upon our right hand” is exceeding beautiful: for none but those in hot climates can fully conceive the benefit of a shade to protect them from the intense heat of the sun, which not unfrequently strikes persons dead upon the spot. But the expression of being our shade upon our right hand probably alludes to the situation of the cloud which attended the Israelites through the wilderness, not only to guide them in their journey, but to shade them by day, and to give them light and warmth also by night. And, as the journey of the Israelites was chiefly in a north-east direction, the cloud which afforded them this shade would be on their right hand during the whole of the day. But not to lay any stress on this, the import of the expression obviously is, that, wherever we are open to the assaults of an enemy, God will be ever present to afford us his protection; and that whether we be going out or coming in, we may be assured of his continued and effectual care.
He will yet further be an all-sufficient helper. Neither sun nor moon, (which may represent the greatest of created powers,) nor indeed any other being shall hurt us; for “He will preserve us from all evil,” and that, not for a season only, but “from this time forth, and even for evermore.” To the same effect this truth is largely declared in the book of Job, in reference to every species of calamity, that it shall not befall any one who trusts in God, or, if it befall him, it shall be overruled for his more abundant good [Note: Job 5:19-23.]. We must doubtless take the promise in this latitude; else it would be contrary to fact and experience: but understood with this limitation, it is, and ever shall be, accomplished in every child of God [Note: Isaiah 27:3.].]
2. In relation to the concerns of the soul—
[It is expressly asserted here, that God will “preserve our souls.” We may be assured therefore, that whatever he does for the body that perishes, shall much more be done for our immortal part. Yes, “he will keep the feet of his saints,” nor shall all the powers, whether of earth or hell, be able to cast them down. “Never will he leave us; never, never forsake us.” Our enemies, it is true, will fight against us to the uttermost: but he will suffer none of them ever to “pluck us out of his hand.” To this extent St. Paul avows his confidence in God [Note: Romans 8:35-39. with 2 Timothy 2:18.]: and every believer may justly assure himself, that “nothing in heaven, earth, or hell, shall ever separate him from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”]
1. To those who have no fears—
[Whence proceeds this? If from confidence in the power and veracity of God, it is well: you are then entitled to cast off all fear; for they who fear Him, have nothing else to fear. But if your want of fear arises, as it too generally does, from an ignorance of your danger, or a confidence in yourselves, you have no reason for self-congratulation: since the greater your fancied security is, the more imminent and awful is your danger. Would you be afraid if you were surrounded by armed hosts that were seeking to destroy you? and will you not be afraid, when Satan himself, that roaring lion, is going about day and night seeking the everlasting destruction of your souls? To continue ignorant of your danger is the readiest way to ensure your everlasting ruin. What if some alarm be occasioned by a sight of your danger? Is it not better to dread the pursuer of blood, than to fall into his hands! Will not your security when you have gained the city of refuge, compensate for the terror that drove you thither? Know then, that if you are yet strangers to a salutary fear, you have yet to learn the true import of a scriptural and saving hope.]
2. To those who are too much under the influence of fear—
[You should never forget what an Almighty Friend you have. How many times in this psalm are you reminded, that the Lord, even the Almighty God, is your helper and deliverer! Were he less powerful, or less vigilant, or less worthy of credit, you might well fear. But what ground can he have for fear, who has God himself for his refuge? O! learn to say with David, “The Lord is my strength and my salvation; whom then shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid!” I ask not from whence your dangers or your fears arise: for, if they were a thousand times greater and better founded than they are, this one answer were sufficient to remove them all, “If God be for you; who can be against you?” Only rely on God, and you are safe. See how tenderly he chides your unbelieving fears [Note: Isaiah 40:27-31.]. If under any circumstances you are tempted to indulge an unbelieving fear, check yourselves instantly, as David did; and say with him, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God [Note: Psalms 42:11.].”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 121". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany