1 I WILL lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
2 My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not
4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil; he shall preserve thy soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve thy going out, and thy coming in, From this time forth, and even for evermore.—PSALM CXXI.
In this, the second of the fifteen Psalms ' of Degrees,' (Ps. cxx.-cxxxiv.), the peculiar characteristic of the series is very fully marked. For the common title which they bear is not due to their being the songs of those who returned from Babel (compare the somewhat similar expression in Ezra vii. 9), nor to their being festive pilgrim songs for the journey to Jerusalem; nor is it derived from the fifteen steps which in the Temple led up to 'the court of the women.' Their designation must be due to some internal connexion of thought binding them together, and marking them out as in some sense 'degrees,' or steps leading upwards. It has been ingeniously pointed out that these steps consist in the reiteration of a word or thought occurring in one clause, verse, or stanza, which in the next verse or stanza is used, as it were, as a step (or degree) by which to ascend to another and higher truth. Thus in our Psalm, the idea of 'my help', expressed in ver. 1, is repeated in ver. 2. This has now become a step by which, in ver. 3, we reach the higher truth or explanation of ' my help,' as: 'He that keepeth thee will not slumber: the same idea being with slight modification re-embodied in ver. 4. Another 'degree' is then reached in ver. 5, when 'he who slumbers not' is designated as Jehovah, the same idea being once more enlarged upon (the zvord occurring twice in ver. 5) in ver. 6. The last and highest degree of this song is attained in ver. 7, when the truth implied in the word Jehovah unfolds itself in its application to our preservation, which, with further enlargement, is once more repeated in ver. 8. Perhaps some internal connexion might even be traced between all the f1fteen Psalms of Degrees. At any rate, it will not be difficult to trace the same structure in each of the Psalms 'of Degrees,' making allowance for occasional deviations and modifications.
Thus we can follow the spiritual outline of this Psalm, and see how its truths and promises are grouped around it. The first spiritual fact grasped directly by faith is ' my help,' the last presents its full unfolding, as: 'Jehovah shall preserve thy going out, and thy coming in, from this time forth, and even for evermore.' But who is 'my help,' or, as ver. 1 has been rendered, 'Whence shall come my help?' In reply, two facts are brought forward, as implied in this designation, viz., ' He that keepeth thee', and this is truly my help; and again, He 'will not slumber,' and this is truly my help. But who is this Keeper of the spiritual Israel who slumbereth not from weariness, and sleepeth not from necessity of nature, as human helpers do (these two ideas being conveyed in the original)? The soul joyously answers, It is Jehovah; and, rising to this height, realizes all that He now is, and all that He promises to be from henceforth and for ever, our chief want and delight being here summed up in the idea of preservation. As one of the Fathers remarks: 'The Lord will preserve their "going out," when those who go out of the body safely rest, separated from the ungodly by a great gulf. The Lord will preserve their "coming in," bringing them into that eternal and blessed kingdom.' Therefore, whether as to its distinctness of progression, or its wide sweep, this is a most precious Psalm, containing every needed promise for body and soul, for the life that now is, and for that which is to come. But in order to avail ourselves thereof we must be spiritually-minded. These, as indeed all, promises are given to faith and prayer: to faith, to possess them; to prayer, to realize them. The general tenor of this Psalm is to present the believer in the attitude of intense expectancy, and God as giving far beyond what he could ask, or even hope for. It contains only tivo verses of prayer, and six of promise; and while the prayer is couched in general terms, the promises are most definite and specific, and embrace every possible contingency. The points most clearly brought out in this supplication, or in the spiritual attitude heavenwards here assumed, are the unity and concentration of all hope in Jehovah as the covenant-God in Christ. On the one hand, it is as if one said, ' I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me;' or,' To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.' On the other hand, it goes beyond this partly negative element, this despair of faith; for it breathes a certain and well-assured hope. But how full is the response in the promises, which, like a rich stream, pour forth their blessed waters from the throne of God and of the Lamb! Without doubt or hesitation, in the clearest terms, and in the firmest tones of unquestioned and absolute certainty, God is presented in His covenant relationship to His people, alike for safety, for care, and for comfort. I ask no more than the assurance of this Psalm for the deepest calm at all times, and for the most intense spiritual confidence and joy. And, blessed be God, I need no more than faith—the faith of a child and the prayer of a child—to call all these blessings mine. What richer morning-feast for our souls than to feed on this manna, and to drink these waters?
Truly, most wretched were our condition, if the Spirit of truth, convincing only of sin and misery, left us, with eyes opened, to gaze on the universal desolation and helplessness around. But there are hills above this valley of vision, and how beautiful on these mountains are the feet of Him who bringeth good tidings! And ever since we heard that voice, our eyes are lifted to the hills, from whence cometh our help. If He gave His Son for us, will He not with Him freely give us all things? Grace, redeeming grace, is the foundation and the pledge of every blessing. I cannot doubt His willingness; I dare not question the power of Him who 'made heaven and earth.' The stars in their courses fought against Sisera; the son and moon decided the victory in favour of Joshua and IsraeL All are His messengers, and do His bidding. The question of a miracle often resolves itself into one of the time which its accomplishment occupies, or the partial view we may have of the tools which the heavenly Workman uses. He works with, or even without them, as it would seem to man, though not perhaps in reality, for He is the God of order. Only let me hold fast these two truths,— that help cometh from the Lord, and therefore let me pray; and that my help cometh from the Lord, and therefore let me believe.
And now, what does the Lord say in reply to my believing prayer, and that, mark, before He sends deliverance? He strengthens me inwardly with these assurances, which His blessed Spirit carries home to my heart. He tells me what He will not allow, and what He will not do (ver. 3). He will not allow my foot to be moved. I am safe against all assaults of the world and the devil, and under the felt weakness and instability of my own members. Enlarge the application of this as widely as you may, for time or for eternity. All that comes fairly within the scope of this or the following assurances is conveyed to me. Again, He will not slumber: a keeper, and an ever watchful keeper, anticipating every possible danger to body or soul; now giving charge to His angels, and then sending forth His own Spirit. And as if this were not enough, He points us to numberless instances of it in the past, as well as to the present experience of His people, at the same time appealing to His own character to prove the manifest impossibility of desertion or unfaithfulness. 'Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.' He next tells us, in so many words, what He is, in
His covenant relation: 'The Lord is thy keeper'—thy keeper, not only Israel's. In His administration of grace, both safety and comfort are combined: 'The Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.' Day and night, joy and sorrow, health and sickness, life and death, have their terrors, and that ofttimes where least we should have expected them. But in every case we are equally safe (ver. 6). Best of all, there is spiritual security, and that not from the absence of evil, nor the reliableness of our will, but from the gracious and personal interposition of the Lord (ver. 7). Coming or going, travelling or staying, sowing or reaping, working or resting, doing or suffering, the Lord will still preserve thee, to the praise of His own power, and in virtue of His own sovereign love, from henceforth, ' and even for evermore! Amen, so be it, Lord; and on this covenant I will place myself absolutely in Thy keeping.
1. An excellent travelling-song this, when I go abroad from home, or prepare for any work. Let me remember that there are not only difficulties which I cannot overcome, but perils which I can neither foresee nor avert. Above all, there are untold dangers to my soul. Let me hold fast by ver. 7. A sovereign comfort and remedy this. Let it be also a supreme guide and directory to me this day, and from this time forth, for evermore.
2. I require to remember that 'my help cometh from the Lord,' not only when seemingly there is no outward help from men or otherwise, but also and especially when all seems to go well with me,—when abundance of friends and help are at hand. For then, surely, am I most in danger of making an arm of flesh my trust, and thus reaping its curse; or of saying to my soul, ' Take thine ease,' and finding the destruction which attends such folly.
3. By faith, and ever by faith, my soul. Far, far rather would I owe preservation and deliverance to the Lord than to any or all of His creatures. I would choose, so long as I am on earth, faith rather than sight; faith, because it binds me to my Lord, and keeps me ever dependent upon Him.
A SURE stronghold our God is He,
A trusty shield and weapon;
Our Help He'll be, and set us free
From every ill can happen.
That old malicious foe
Intends us deadly woe;
Arm'd with the strength of hell
And deepest craft as well,
On earth is not his fellow.
Through our own force we nothing can,
Straight were we lost for ever;
But for us fights the proper Man,
By God sent to deliver.
Ask ye who this may be?
Christ Jesus named is He,
Of Sabaoth the Lord;
Sole God to be adored;
'Tis He must win the battle.