Psalm 121 is an interesting Psalm. It seems as though those on pilgrimage to Jerusalem would sing this Psalm (and other such Psalms) on their journey. One commentator refers to this Psalm as an everyday Psalm as it contains the need for protection as well as displaying the comforting assurance of an unshaken trust in the Lord. As you read verse 1, you almost feel as though the Psalmist could not find God … but the reality is that he knows exactly where God is! Look at his question:
Ps 121:1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from?
Pagan religions would place their idols at various levels on the mountains or hills. When they experienced problems and difficulties or crises, they would stop what they were doing and look up into the mountain or hill … to where their idol was situated … supposedly the idol was eying the to give “encouragement or strength”. To the Jew this was impossible because all the idols were made from wood, steel, bronze or silver. They were dead pieces of elements carved and shaped into the god of choice (idol). So the Psalmist looks up to the mountain or hill at his time of need and asks … “where does my help come from?” The pagan looked to the mountain and hills … to the place where his idol was stationed for help … but the Psalmist says that he looks there too but cannot see or find his God amongst the pantheon of gods (idols). There is no piece of wood, stone or metal, irrespective of the shape, up in that mountain or hill that could give him any help, comfort, protection or provision. His question seems to be a rhetorical question because he provides the answer in verse 2. Right here you see the amazing confidence he has in the One, True, Living God! He says:
Ps 121:2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
His God is not an idol fabricated from wood, stone, steel, bronze or silver. Rather, his God is the one who created all the wood, silver, bronze, steel and stone. He is literally saying, “My God made heaven and earth. My God made (created) all the wood and stone, silver and bronze, steel and stone that your lifeless idols are made out of. My God is not some dead piece of the elements. My God is Spirit who can’t be seen with the naked eye. You can’t touch Him or hold onto Him. He is not created like you created your so called gods. Every few years you have to make another idol to replace the wooden one that rotted or the steel one that rusted or the stone one that cracked … but my God is from eternity past to eternity future. You look to a lifeless piece of wood or stone in your need. I look to the unseen Creator God in my need. There is no contest. You have no god other than in your imagination …. whilst I have a real God who loves and cares and protects and provides.”
We read in Exodus of how God prohibits the use of idols in worship.
Ex 20:4 You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Yet in the face of this commandment, people today, in the name of Christianity, make and use idols for churches and to aid in their worship … though it’s prohibited! Statues, crucifixes and crosses that are placed in places of worship and used to aid worshippers in worship, are actually worshipped. Although they say this is not true, they do bow down towards these statues and even genuflect as if these lifeless, dead, created items have divine value and ability. Yet Jesus who is God the Son and comes from the Father says:
Jn 4:24 “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
The rest of the Psalm is almost as humorous as it is serious! Although those who sing this Psalm on their pilgrimage are confident that God will protect them from harm and danger, from criminals and bandits, from the harsh elements of the Middle East sun, from the harsh terrane and from wild animals as they sleep in the open at night … the Psalmist exposes the comparison between the true God and inanimate objects (idols). God won’t permit their foot to slip. He watches and does not sleep … he is always awake and on guard duty! He protects from all harm, be it the weather, the animals prowling at night … all movement will be protected. He is not like those idols that cannot see, hear or speak. They cannot provide help or protection. They are nothing but dead idols.
Ps 121:3 He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The LORD watches over you—the LORD is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; 8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
What a comforting and encouraging Psalm. God is always with His people, every day, everywhere and all the time. The fact that He is always watching and seeing and knowing ought not to be a challenge to us if we are walking is holiness and dependency.
Dear God, thank You for being ever present, all seeing and all knowing. Thank You that I am never outside Your gaze. Help me never to be afraid of anyone’s idols for I know they are worthless, useless and lifeless. Help me, Lord, to focus on trusting and depending on You for protection, spiritual growth and dedicated obedience. Amen.