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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
Psalms 121



Verses 1-8


THE preceding psalm is one of complaint; the present, one of comfort and consolation. The pilgrim lifts up his eyes to the hills, and is satisfied that help is coming to him. He then proceeds to cheer himself with assurances of God's sleepless care and protection. Metrically, the psalm falls into four stanzas of four lines each.

Psalms 121:1

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills. The "holy hills," that stand round about Jerusalem, are intended (Psalms 87:1; Psalms 125:2). There God had "promised his blessing, even life forevermore" (Psalms 133:3). From whence cometh my help. Most modern critics regard this clause as interrogative, and translate, "Whence is it that my help shall come?" But "the question is only asked to give more effect to the answer" (Cheyne).

Psalms 121:2

My help cometh from the Lord; literally, my help is from the Lord. He alone has both the power and the will to assist me. Which made heaven and earth; i.e. "which is omnipotent."

Psalms 121:3

He will not suffer thy foot to be moved. The psalmist addresses himself with consolatory assurances. God will not allow any evil to approach him, so as to do him hurt. He that keepeth thee will not slumber. God does not sleep—his vigilance is unceasing (comp. Isaiah 27:3).

Psalms 121:4

Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The assurance rises from the particular to the general. It is not one Israelite alone over whom God will watch unceasingly, but the whole people of Israel.

Psalms 121:5

The Lord is thy Keeper; the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. "Thy shade" means "thy protection." "thy defense." Protection was especially needed on the right hand, as the side which no shield guarded. Latin writers call the right side "latus aperture."

Psalms 121:6

The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. These were the chief dangers of travelers, whether pilgrims or others. Coup de soleil was feared by day, and the deleterious influence of the moon's rays by night. This last has sometimes been doubted, but the observation of modern travelers seems to show that bad effects actually fellow on sleeping in the moonlight in hot countries.

Psalms 121:7

The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil; or, "keep thee." The same verb is used throughout. He shall preserve thy soul; or, keep thy soul.

Psalms 121:8

The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in (comp. Deuteronomy 28:6; 1 Samuel 29:6; 2 Samuel 3:25; 1 Kings 3:7; 2 Kings 19:27). The phrase is an equivalent of "The Lord shall preserve thee in all thy ways" (Psalms 91:11). From this time forth, and even forevermore; i.e. so long as thou hast "goings out" and "comings in." But the phrase used rather implies that these will never cease.


Psalms 121:1-8

God our Guide: a New Year's psalm.

In whatever special circumstances, or for whatever particular occasion, this psalm may have been written, it is certain that it is admirably suited to suggest New Year's thoughts to our minds. We shall best appreciate it if we consider—

I. THE GREATNESS OF OUR NEED. We have sometimes to face the future, and then we confront:

1. Certainties; duties, difficulties, vexations, trials, temptations, opportunities.

2. Uncertainties; possibly some very great joy, or some overwhelming sorrow, or some very sore perplexity, or even the last experience of death.

II. THE INSUFFICIENCY OF HUMAN HELP. We naturally and rightly look to our kindred and to our friends for sympathy and succor. But:

1. They do not remain with us; parents die; brothers and sisters are scattered far and wide; friends become estranged.

2. They cannot render us all the help we need. Oar wants go so far, and strike so deep, that human sympathy does not avail; it falls short; we need more than it can bring. We must not only look around, but above, must "lift up our eyes to the hills, from whence cometh our help," for our "help cometh from the Lord" (Psalms 121:1, Psalms 121:2).


1. With him is all power. He who "made heaven and earth" (Psalms 121:2) can do anything, everything, for us. There can come no difficulty, no entanglement, from which he cannot deliver us; there can come no sorrow in which he will not be able to support us.

2. We can count on the constancy of his care. He "will not slumber," etc. (Psalms 121:3, Psalms 121:4). Not for one small moment will he forget us; day and night we shall be the objects of his watchful love.

3. He will be present to defend us everywhere. He will be our Keeper, our Shade upon our right hand (Psalms 121:5). His gracious power will overshadow us at every step we take. We cannot think o, any place, however remote, or obscure, or humble, where he will not be with his defending, delivering hand.

4. He will guard us from all forms of evil. Evil takes many forms; it comes to us in every guise. Now it is prosperity, and now adversity; it may be an intoxicating approval and adulation, or it may be a crushing depreciation and desertion; it may be a strong and sudden assault on our integrity, or it may be the more perilous approach of that which very gradually undermines or disintegrates. But whatever be its form, our God can "keep" us true, pure, holy. The sun shall not smite by day, nor the moon by night; "the Lord will preserve us from all evil" (Psalms 121:6, Psalms 121:7).

5. He will preserve us, ourselves; not only our home, our fortune, our credit, our reputation, but ourselves: "He shall preserve thy soul." He will "not suffer thy foot to be moved" (Psalms 121:3); he will uphold us in the path of righteousness; and if we have to walk "in slippery places," yet his right hand will hold us, and our soul will not be stained with the sin which injures and defiles.

6. He will attend us to the close of life (Psalms 121:8). "This God is our God forever and ever, he will be our guide even unto death" (Psalms 48:14).


Psalms 121:1-8

Kept from all evil.

This is what the writer of this precious psalm looks for from God (see the first two verses), and this is what the psalm promises, and that with the utmost particularity. There shall not be even a slip of the foot, a thing so common in mountainous lands, and often so perilous, and the keeping shall be night and day alike, and close at hand (Psalms 121:5). The Lord himself shall see to if, whether during the heat of the day or the chill of the night, it matters not. The Lord shall keep thee inwardly and outwardly soul and body alike, from all evil and in all thy ways. "But"—so ask not a few—"is all that true? Are we so kept as this psalm promises—not the mere godless crowd, but the company of God's faithful ones: does the Lord keep them, as is here said, 'from all evil'?" And then there are brought forward the long array of facts which seem to make against the truth of this word. Disease, accident, death, the overwhelming by earthquakes, lightning, flood, storm; by the ferocity or the folly of men, and by any of the ten thousand ills which flesh is heir to. As we contemplate the awful number of victims to such causes as we have named, and the yet worse ruin which comes from moral causes, it is not to be wondered at that some regard this psalm as rather a pious imagination than the declaration of actual fact. What are we to say? Are we to give up our faith in the blessed guardianship of God, and to consign to the category of credulity the trust which this psalm encourages? We will not do that, but we will reply—

I. THE PROMISE IS NOT FOR EVERY COMMUNITY, BUT FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD. The band of pilgrims who set out from Babylon to return to their native land and to re-establish the worship of God were a special and a holy company, and God did keep them as they journeyed on along the weary wilderness-ways. We must come within the circle of the covenanted people of God ere we can lay claim to the fulfillment of a psalm like this. It is not for the godless, but for the regenerated people of God. For them—

II. THE GENERAL RULE OF GOD'S PROVIDENTIAL CARE IS AS HERE SET FORTH. Not the universal, but the general rule. There have been and there are exceptions, but taking the history of God's people in all ages, and looking at their average experience, may we not cry—It is well with the righteous; the Lord is their Keeper? God's people are, after all, the happiest people under the sun.


1. We think so much of the keeping of the body, and of a man's outward circumstances. But in comparison with the soul's well-being, God counts these things as of no importance. Hence God may preserve a man's soul when he lets his outward affairs go all to ruin; for the sake of his soul this may be needed. But if his soul has been kept, has not God been true to his word?

2. God takes eternity into view; we think only of the present. If, then, a man be eternally saved, does the fact that during a period unspeakably short in comparison with eternity the man's outward life was full of trouble invalidate the promise of this psalm and prove it false?

3. Further, we see only the surface of things; God looks at the reality. If, then, what we call disaster, and think to be so, be really amongst "all things which work together for [not merely precede, but produce the] man's good" as is so often the case (see 2 Corinthians 4:17), then is God's permission or sending of that disaster a falsifying of the promise of this psalm.

IV. THE PROMISE MAY BE TRUE TO THE HEART WHEN ITS FULFILLMENT IS NOT APPARENT TO THE EYE. What is the value of all God's providential mercies, his blessed keeping of us in health and external well-being—what is the value of it except for the effect it has upon our minds? It is the inward happiness and peace and joy which these things impart which gives them their value. Otherwise they are of no good at all, any more than the strains of sweetest music are to the deaf, or the most beautiful scenery to the blind. But if God be able—as he is—to impart that same and even greater inward happiness, peace, and joy by other means, and does so, as, blessed be his Name! he so often does, then again we ask—Has not God been true to his word? is not this psalm actual fact? Therefore we rest assured that the Lord will keep us flora all evil, he will keep our soul.—S.C.

Psalms 121:8

The sure keeping of God.

It has been remarked by a learned Bible scholar that part of the common complaints which are often brought against our English Bible is really owing to the likes and dislikes as to the usage of words in which we English people allow ourselves. It is constantly complained of that where, in the original Scriptures, the sacred writers employ only one word, our translators have put for that one word, two, three, four, five, or even several more different English words, thus conveying to our minds several ideas, where it was the intention of the Scriptures to convey only one. No doubt our translators did their best to find synonyms—words, that is, which though, different in sound, have the same sense—still the senses so given are only similar, and may not be seen by ordinary readers to be so similar as it was thought they were. Hence such difference of rendering is often misleading, and rather a hiding than a setting forth of the Scripture's true meaning. Now, in this beautiful psalm we have a notable instance of such different rendering. We do not see that the sense is obscured in this instance, but we think the emphasis and force are lessened. The one prominent word in the psalm is "keep:" the whole psalm is about the Lord God's sure keeping of his people, and that this might be impressed on the mind, the writer six times over in the last five verses of the psalm repeats this word "keep." Now in the three former verses out of these five our version adheres to the word "keep," but in the last two it changes over to the less forcible word "preserve." Our English dislike of using the same word repeatedly accounts for this change, and causes the loss of impressiveness which the repeated reverberations of the one emphatic word "keep" were intended to produce. But to pass on to what is of more importance, the truth itself of God's sure keeping, let us—


1. It referred to Israel's journeyings from Babylon to Judah, or from wherever their abode might be, up to the great festivals. Now, even in this literal sense, the promise was no mean one. For those olden days were not days of settled law and order, in which life and property were secure, and evil-doers could scarce hope to escape punishment. But the very reverse was the truth. Might stood for right, and hence the "going out and coming in" of Israel in those days was ever attended with much peril.

2. And for ourselves the promise holds good. God has made our journeyings safe by means of what we call the inventions of science and the resources of civilization. They are but God's instruments for our good. And when some terrible catastrophe occurs, as from time to time is the case, still, if we be of God's Israel, we are kept: "He shall preserve thy soul." Our real self is not harmed, the Lord is our Keeper, as he said.

II. AS APPLYING TO THE WHOLE OF OUR ACTIVE LIFE. Such is a frequent meaning of the expression, "going out and coming in" (see Deuteronomy 28:6, Deuteronomy 28:19; Deuteronomy 23:20; Joshua 1:7; 1 Samuel 29:6). The general conduct and occupation of a man in his varied affairs are what is meant in all these passages. And how we need to be kept amid our daily work and business! How "the cares of this world" need to be guarded against, and "the deceitfulness of riches" also! How business life tends to absorb all time, all thought, all energy, so that scarce any are left for God! Hence blessed are they who are in God's holy keeping in all the goings out and comings in of daily life!

III. TO OUR EXPERIENCES OF SORROW AND OF GLADNESS. "Going out" was a synonym for sorrow; "coming in," for gladness and joy. For Israel was a people that had known what it was to go out to drear and dreadful exile, and that more than once. Hence whilst the idea of "going out" suggested only what was sad, that of "coming in," the return from exile, was full of joy. "The redeemed of the Lord shall come with joy and singing," etc. And in the New Jerusalem, one of its sweetest promises was that its people should "go no more out forever." Sorrow has its snares, and so has joy. We need to be kept of God.

IV. TO THE MORNING AND EVENING OF LIFE. "Man goeth forth to his work and to his labor until the evening;" then he cometh in for rest. And if we truly desire it, the Lord will keep our going out and our coming in, in this sense also. "Our help cometh from the Lord."—S.C.


Psalms 121:1, Psalms 121:2

Looking up.

"Shall I lift up mine eyes unto the hills? Whence should my help come?" The precise associations of the psalm cannot be fixed with any certainty. Perhaps it is best regarded as a psalm of the Exile. It might have been written by a Daniel, as he sat at his open window, and looked away over the broad, fiat plains of Babylon toward the distant mountain-land of Israel. The writer is oppressed with the burdens and sorrows of exile; he remembers Zion, and he sings his soul to quietness and peace by looking away from present cares to the high hills of God, and cheers his drooping spirit by remembering how, amid all the earth-changes, the everlasting hills abide. What a holy power upon us the mountains have! The grand, calm, strong, high things—they seem to be so near God; they seem to be so full of God; they bring us so near him, and fill us so full of him. One thing about them is suggested by our text—they make us look up. And is not that just what we need? Oh, to lose the downward look which has so grown upon us by the pressure of life-cares! The voice calls continually, "Lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh!"

I. WORLD-DRAWN, WE LOOK DOWN, AND SO ARE WEAK. We are in the world—in a thousand subtle ways we are kin with the world, subject to its influences, caught by its whirl of excitement, absorbed by its pressing claims, and easily we become of the world as well as in it. But everything the world presents to us is below us, beneath us; and it so keeps us looking down that the habit of down-looking grows upon us, and we are almost unable to look up. How powerfully we are all drawn by world-interests! Business man is world-absorbed. Domestic woman is world-absorbed. The influence of the world begets a downward look, a sort of set of the eyes and heart downwards. The world-thoughts abide with us, and even when the sabbath day brings God and heaven near, we find it very hard to get our eyes lifted up. Even in the sanctuary they drop on bills and stock and trade. To succeed in earthly things we must engage the whole heart and powers in them. It seems to be the one universal power that this sin-smitten world possesses over its creatures—it bends their shoulders, it bows their heads, it gives, it keeps, the downward look. And what do we see when we look down? Much of self, of man, and of things. The hurry and bustle of thousands who are hasting to be rich. And the shadow of God's curse on sin resting everywhere. It is this down-looking that makes us so weak.

II. GOD-DRAWN, WE LOOK UP, AND SO GROW STRONG. For to men in this world God's voice is ever calling. It sounds from the bright bands of the morning, from the high silver-tinted clouds of noonday, from the splendor and glory of the far-off sunset, from the lofty trees and the hill-tops, and the soaring birds of song, and the winds that roam free, and the "jewel-powdered skies" of night. Would we but stop and hush awhile, we might hear it always near us, saying, "Look up! Look up!" God has often refreshed his fainting servants with the sight of his everlasting hills. Moses was sent to feel the inspirations of Sinai. Elijah was calmed, and made himself again, by the soothing influences of Horeb, the mount of God. Our Lord sought seclusion among the hills of Eastern Galilee, and entered into the Divine glory on a spur of Hermon. And the mountains still soothe and calm God's people. They teach us to look up.

1. Looking up, you find nothing of man's—it is all of God up above.

2. Looking up, you feel how pure God's snow is, and think how much is in the promise, "They shall walk with me in white."

3. Looking up, you see how earth-clouds are glorified.

4. Looking up, listen; you may hear the voices of the hills saying, "Be still! Hush the life-fever! Wait! In silence God doth speak."

5. Look up and listen, and again the voices of the hills will say, "The mists and the storms are all outside us; they are not us." Look up, and grow strong. Look up; you will feel the heaven-breath upon your face. Look up; your brow will soon lose those wreathings of anxiety and care. Look up, and you shall prove how God "wipes away all tears from our eyes."—R.T.

Psalms 121:1, Psalms 121:2

Not mountains, but God.

"From whence shall my help come?" This psalm is best taken as expressing the pious confidence of an individual believer, who addresses his inner self in words of comfort which are framed as if proceeding from another person. The psalmist is, as it were, holding a colloquy with himself. It is not that he expects help from the mountains—his hope is fixed on him who made the mountains. This comes out plainly in Perowne's rendering, "Whence should my help come? My help (cometh) from Jehovah, the Maker of heaven and earth."

I. THE MOUNTAINS CANNOT GIVE US HELP AND SAFETY. Illustrate from the times of Lot. He fled to the mountains; but God preserved him, not the mountain. From the times of David's persecution, he fled to the mountain country of Judaea and the south; but God preserved him, not the hills. Covenanters and others found safety in the rocks and mountains in days of religious persecution; but their God was their real defense. So let mountains stand for the supreme self-efforts a man may make in his times of distress; he must be brought to the assured conviction that they cannot bring him safety. Beyond them he must look. Only when he looks beyond them do they become his security; for then God makes them such. "Some trust in horses, and some in chariots," and some in mountains; "but we will trust in the Name of the Lord."

II. THE MOUNTAINS CAN DIRECT US WHERE TO FIND HELP AND SAFETY. They appeal to both poetic and religious feeling. Buchanan, writing with the Cuchullin hills all about him, says—

"Lord, art thou here? Far from the busy crowd,

Brooding in melancholy solitude?"

Moses was helped to realize the power of Jehovah by the daily impressions of the huge, craggy, awful mountain forms of Sinai. In quite an instinctive way men in all ages and in every land have inclined to build their altars on high hills, as if thus they did get nearer God. And it is the fact for most thoughtfully disposed persons, that more help is gained for pious meditation from mountain districts than from the changeableness of the sea, or the varying but ever-gentle beauty of the landscapes. Mountains have a peculiar power to solemnize and to impress us all; and precisely what they bring to us is that sense of God which assures of his love, and help, and lead.—R.T.

Psalms 121:4

The ever-watchful Watchman.

"Shall neither slumber nor sleep." The words "slumber" and "sleep" are not climactic. Indeed, the Hebrew word for "slumber" is the stronger term of the two. There is no more in the setting of the two terms than poetical repetition. The one peril of the night-watchman is that he might be overcome with sleep. The one duty of the watchman is to keep ever, through his watching-time, awake and alert. Yet at the best no absolute security can be placed in any human watchman. A man may be overpowered with sleep, and be physically unable to resist its advances. Absolute security of defense lies in God, and we may fully trust in him. It is inconceivable that we can be placed in any circumstances or conditions which are unknown to him. Illustrations may be taken from the wilderness-journey of Israel. The pillar-cloud of the Divine presence was always there, night and day; and never anything could happen to Israel that was not divinely permitted. Or illustrate from the sick-bed of the sufferer. Worn out, the nurse may fall asleep, but the eye of the God of all consolation is never dimmed (see Psalms 139:1-24.).

I. THE EVER-WATCHFUL WATCHMAN SEES. This is more necessary in a watchman than keeping awake; he must be quick to observe, attentive, noticing everything. "All things are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." God's seeing includes what is by man seeable and by man unseeable; it includes what is and what is to be. "In every place, beholding the evil and the good."

II. THE EVER-WATCHFUL WATCHMAN UNDERSTANDS. He not only sees things, but sees the significance of things. Estimates the importance of what he sees. Recognizes the relation of what he sees to his people. Makes what he sees the ground of his prompt and gracious action in their behalf.

III. THE EVER-WATCHFUL WATCHMAN HELPS. By his merciful defendings: "No plague shall come nigh thy dwelling." By his wise upholdings: "Will not suffer thy foot to be moved." By his wonderful overrulings, which constantly turn seeming evil into real and permanent good. If our life is thus within the constant Divine inspection, we may put away all fears, and simply "seek the kingdom of God, and his righteousness."—R.T.

Psalms 121:6

Types of peril by day and by night.

The sun and the moon. To understand these figures, it is necessary to keep in mind, not only what the sun and moon actually are in Eastern countries, but also the sentiments which have gathered about them in those lands.

I. THE SUN IS THE TYPE OF THE OPEN PERILS OF THE GODLY LIFE. The sun strikes openly, and is especially perilous when it strikes on the lower part of the back of the head. Men know this, and are duly warned to take all precautions. And so in life there are various temptations and dangers, which we all know about, which every man knows may come into his personal experience, and concerning which we all, in various ways and degrees, take precautions. Yet even in respect of these we need the assurance of an outside and Divine protection. So strange is the frailty of human nature, that men are over-mastered by the very things they know well, are warned against, and even think themselves strong to resist. It needs to be always kept in mind that the power of temptation depends on the physical, mental, or spiritual condition in which we are found when it assails us. And we need the assurance of God's defense even against open and well-known evils, because he only can know the particular peril which lies in their relativity to us at any given time. Illustrate by the fact that the sunstroke is only an occasional peril. The sun strikes the man who is in a physical condition to receive the stroke. But the man does not know the peril of his physical condition. God knows, and can help him to defend himself from the peril.

II. THE MOON IS THE TYPE OF THE SECRET PERILS OF THE GODLY LIFE. In the cloudless skies of the East, where the moon shines with such exceeding clearness, its effects upon the human frame have been found most injurious. It has been proved, beyond a doubt, that the moon smites as well as the sun, causing blindness for a time, and even the distortion of the features. The Arabs universally believe that the beams of the moon are noxious to the human body; and therefore they carefully cover over their heads when they sleep in the open air. Meat, when exposed to the moonbeams, becomes quickly tainted. Mr. Martin says, "Of the effects of the moon on animal life very many instances could be cited. I have seen in Africa the newly littered young perish in a few hours, if exposed to the rays of the full moon. Fish become rapidly putrid, and meat, if left exposed, incurable or unpreservable by salt. The mariner, heedlessly sleeping on deck, becomes afflicted with nyctolopia, or night-blindness; at times the face is hideously swollen, if exposed during sleep to the moon's rays; the maniac's paroxysms are renewed with fearful vigor at the full and change, and the cold, damp chill of the ague supervenes on the ascendency of this apparently mild yet powerful luminary. Let her influence over this earth be studied; it is more powerful than is generally known." The moon may very well be taken as the type of the secret, subtle, insidious perils of the godly life; and these are chiefly to be dreaded. As there are poison-germs in the natural atmosphere, which generate disease in us when our vitality and resisting power are low, so there are poison-germs in the moral atmosphere of our everyday associations, which only cultured spiritual life can enable us to resist. There are enervating influences, suggestive examples. Little slips into inexactness or untruthfulness. A thousand things in common life, that seem to have no more Power of mischief in them than have the moonbeams. What, then, would be any man's hope of preserving moral health and safety, if we might not cherish the assurance of the psalmist, that God understands all secret perils that gather about us, and will not let the moon smite us by night? "The darkness and the light are both alike to him."—R.T.

Psalms 121:7

Evil as God sees it.

"All evil." All kinds of evil. We may not think that God estimates evil precisely as we do. In this "God's thoughts are not as our thoughts." One important distinction may be Pointed out here. We think evil to be that which injuriously affects our circumstances; God sees evil as that which injuriously affects us. Consequently, some of the things which we call evil God does not so call, because their influence on us is good. And if this be so, the mere change of our circumstances is not the thing for us chiefly to desire; we should rather seek the Divine overruling, which includes defense from what God sees to be evil, and involves making "all things work together for good."

I. GOD MISSES WHAT MAN SEES. For man evil is calamity. This is true in the physical sphere. Disaster, disease, disappointment, defeat, occupy man's thoughts, and are, properly enough, from his point of view, classed as evils. But it is true also in the moral sphere, it is the calamity side of evil which absorbs man's attention. Drunkenness ruining a life is evil. Dishonesty found out is evil. Quarrelsomeness breaking friendship is evil. It is only as man's spiritual nature is quickened that moral evil, as distinct from moral calamity, is apprehended. But God does not call calamity evil. It has, indeed, no moral quality that he can recognize. It is only an agency for securing evil or good. It is a revelation to us to discover that God's supreme interest is not in eyelets, as ours is. He is supremely concerned about us.

II. GOD SEES WHAT MAN MISSES. The moral possibilities that are in all events. Man is profoundly interested in what happens, and is wont to stop there, and miss the meaning of what happens. God always sees in events that happen persons acting; and in their motives and moods and wills he sees evil or good. The spiritually awakened man sees evil as God sees it; and, therefore, when he prays to be kept from all evil, he means kept from himself—from the evil that is in him. If he were but free from the answering of his moral evil, nothing that could happen would be a real calamity.—R.T.

Psalms 121:7

The safety of our life.

"He shall keep thy soul." The term "soul" stands often in the Scriptures of both the Old and New Testaments for the animal life; but we use it for that spiritual being which man is, as distinguished from that bodily form which man has. Taking the first idea, it may be shown that God's care of our natural life involves and includes all due provision for the thousandfold needs of that life. The greater includes the less. The daily renewed gift of life carries with it the gift of all the life will need day by day. This may be applied to the national life of Israel. The restored exiles may well gain and keep full confidence in God, seeing that he had kept their national life through such anxious and imperiling times. He had kept it; they might be sure that he would keep it. And this assurance carried with it the confidence that God's defense and blessing were still upon the restored nation. If God keeps us in being, and gives us new days, then we may confidently hold him to his promise, "As thy day so shall thy strength be." He is able and willing to make "all grace abound" unto "all-sufficiency." Taking the second idea, we come upon God's continued interest in, and care for, the new life he has quickened in our souls. His concern for the material life does but illustrate his care for the spiritual life ("This is the will of God, even our sanctification"). "Soul-keeping is the soul of keeping. If the soul be kept, all is kept. The preservation of the greater includes that of the less, so far as it is essential to the main design; the kernel shall be preserved, and in order thereto the shell shall be preserved also. Our soul is kept from the dominion of sin, the infection of error, the crush of despondency, the puffing up of pride—kept from the world, the flesh, and the devil; kept for holier and greater things, kept in the love of God, kept unto the eternal kingdom and glory." But we need not miss the important fact that God's soul-keeping runs along with, and works through, our own soul-keeping. "Keep thy heart with all keepings, for out of it are the issues of life."—R.T.

Psalms 121:8

The safety of our days.

"The Lord shall keep thy going out and thy coming in." This expression is evidently borrowed from the blessing on obedience given in Deuteronomy 28:6, "Blessed shall thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shall thou be when thou goest out." Clearly it is but a poetical way of saying, that the defense and guidance and benediction of Jehovah shall rest on the godly man in all the actions and relations of his everyday life. The protection vouchsafed extends to all a man is and all a man does. It might seem as if the salvation of the soul from spiritual death were all we need be anxious about; but God never urges this point upon us. His salvation is not so limited, lie saves the whole man, and bears as real a relation to man's temporal as to his spiritual needs. "With his dear Son he freely gives us all things." The true saving of a man for the life that now is involves the saving of the man for the life that is to come.

I. THE "GOING OUT" OF LIFE MAY INDICATE ITS ACTIVITIES AND ENTERPRISES. We go out in the morning refreshed, vigorous, full of conscious power, and in some peril of stir-reliance. "The Lord shall preserve thy going out." Keeping thee from whatever form of temptation and moral evil may come through the putting forth of human energy in the daily duties of life. Man's enterprise may bring him into situations of bodily danger. God will keep him then. But the very force he puts into life may unduly magnify self; and it is much more to say that God will keep him from ensnaring self.

II. THE "COMING IN" OF LIFE MAY INDICATE ITS PASSIVITIES AND QUIET RELATION-strips. We come in tired. We come in to rest, enjoy; we come in to home relationships and quiet occupations; and we seldom suspect that there is a possible exaggerating of self in our times of passivity, as truly as in our times of activity. There are luxuries, listlessnesses, selfishnesses, of our very resting-times; rod we need God for our coming in lest the self or self-indulgence should gain undue power over us.—R.T.


Psalms 121:1-8

The Source of help.

"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills," etc.


II. WE MUST LIFT OURSELVES UP IN THE WHOLE POWER OF OUR BEING TO REALIZE GOD'S NEARNESS TO HELP US. He dwelt in the mountain-group of Zion at Jerusalem, and in the other mountains of Israel. We have been taught to realize that God is Spirit, and dwells near us, as well as in the far-off mountains and in distant worlds. But we can see him only from the heights of the soul.

III. THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE IS THE PROVIDENCE OF THIS WORLD. (Psalms 121:2.) The Being who framed man's wonderful nature would naturally provide for its great wants—the wants he had himself created. "Your Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things."

IV. THE CREATOR WOULD NOT ONLY HAVE THE POWER, BUT THE DESIRE, THE DISPOSITION, TO HELP THE CHILD OF HIS LOVE. (Psalms 121:3-6.) "He that keepeth thee will not slumber." God's care for us will not suffer him to sleep or become indifferent to us.

V. GOD'S ETERNAL CARE IS TO KEEP THE SOUL FROM EVILFROM ALL REAL EVIL. Many calamitous, or what appear calamitous, events to us are not evils in the sight of tied, but, under his control, issue in our eternal good.—S.


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 121:4". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.

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