Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Daily reading assignment – Psalms 120-121
Our scripture reading today is from a section of fifteen psalms, Psalms 120-134, titled “A Song of Degrees”. The designation “degrees” might refer to one’s elevation or ascent to higher ground and the psalms in this section are believed by some to have been sung by pilgrims journeying up to Jerusalem for a feast day. Others suggest the “degrees” might be a reference to our modern concept of musical keys or scales. Today’s scripture reading is the first two of the psalms in this section, Psalms 120-121.
The author of Psalm 120 is David and it was apparently written as a reflection on a time of trouble and affliction. The title of Psalm 120 in my Bible is, “David prays against Doeg and reproves his tongue”. Who was Doeg and why did he cause David such distress?
When David fled from king Saul and was hungry, he requested “hallowed bread” of Ahimelech, the high priest, bread dedicated to the LORD, for himself and his men (21:1-6). Doeg, identified as “a certain man of the servants of Saul” (1 Samuel 21:7), overheard the request and took notice it was David.
King Saul, hearing how the high priest gave aid to David and his men, commanded his servants to slay the priest and his household; however, the servants of Saul refused to harm the LORD’s priests (1 Samuel 22:16-17). Doeg, however, had no conscience and rose up and slew eight-five priests (22:18).
With that background, we understand David writing, “In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me” (Psalm 120:1). There is no doubt David was downcast when he learned men who aided him had died for his sake. Doeg perpetuated the lie David was Saul’s enemy and the king made war against David (Psalm 120:2-7).
Some refer to Psalm 121 as the “Pilgrim’s Psalm”, one the saints of God sang on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship and offer sacrifices to the LORD.
I suggest four major points for Psalm 121. The first is the psalmist’s Pledge to seek the LORD: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help [aid]” (121:1).
I am not certain the dangers the psalmist faced; however, I know where he looked for help… “the hills” (121:1). He did not look to himself and live by his wits or to others hoping they might come and save him. His confidence was in the LORD.
The second point is the Promise; the psalmist was confident in the LORD’s care (121:2).
Psalm 121:2 – “My help cometh from the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God], which made [created; fashioned] heaven [sky; sun, stars, moon] and earth [land].”
The psalmist was confident the LORD Who created heaven and earth was more than a spectator or bystander of His creation. He affirmed the LORD would come to his aid in a time of trouble.
The psalmist was confident in the LORD’s Protection (121:3-7). He looked to the LORD as his Deliverer in times of trouble and Keeper Who never slumbers or sleeps (121:3-4).
Psalm 121:3 – “He [the LORD] will not suffer thy foot [walk] to be moved [waver; shake]: he that keepeth [guard; watch; preserve] thee will not slumber [sleep].”
Psalm 121:4 – “Behold, He [the LORD] that keepeth [guard; watch; preserve] Israel [posterity of Jacob] shall neither slumber [sleep; i.e. be drowsy] nor sleep [slack; i.e. grow old].”
The psalmist was confident the LORD was his Protector (121:5). Like a shepherd keeps his sheep from danger, the LORD keeps watch over His people. The LORD is “thy shade”, a place of retreat, refreshing and where one’s strength is revived.
The LORD is also Guardian of His people (121:7) and protects them from “all evil” (121:7).
Psalm 121:7 – “The LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] shall preserve [guard; watch] thee from all evil [wickedness; bad; calamity]: He shall preserve [guard; watch] thy soul [life; person].”
That does not mean “bad things” do not happen to God’s people; however, it does mean God is able to turn “bad things” into good for those who love Him and place their trust in Him (Romans 8:28-29). David writes the same when he assures us:
Psalm 91:9-10 – “Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; 10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.”
Finally, we note the LORD is a Perpetual Shepherd (Psalm 121:8).
Psalm 121:8 – “The LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal, Self-Existent God] shall preserve [guard; watch] thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore [perpetually].”
Like a shepherd keeps watch over his sheep, the psalmist assures us “the LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in” (121:8a)
What a comforting truth! There is no place beyond the LORD’s watch.
The LORD keeps us when we rise in the morning until we lay our head on the pillow in the evening. The LORD keeps us when we are young and strong and when we grow old and frail. The LORD is with us in health and sickness! When we travel afar and when our steps lead home, the LORD is with us. He is with us in our down sittings and our uprisings.
My friend, if you are believer you are a child of the King, forever secure in the LORD. You can be assured, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever” (Psalm 23:6).
Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith