I used to be a regular consumer of cable news. Wars, crime, tragedy, political outrage, frightening weather phenomena: all these and more, I consumed in heaping doses from the news. Turning on the TV isn’t necessary anymore to maintain the diet of alarm, is it? Now it comes—personalized even more—through my Facebook feed. From angry people marching in the streets to the monster storm that is always headed our way, the latest news is delivered minute-by-minute to my phone for immediate perusal. This is the reality of the world in which I live. If I am uninformed, I am either unable to accurately assess the risks to my family or I am living in denial.
Where Our Help Comes From
Psalm 121 begins with a cry of distress. ‘I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?’ I used to read this as if the psalmist was finding comfort from the evidence of his Creator in the hills—actually, mountains—which he beheld, until our pastor taught through the Psalms of Ascent. These Psalms were traditionally sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem, going up to the holy city from their hometowns for the feasts appointed by the Lord. The road to Jerusalem led upwards through the mountains, and in many places the way was narrow and dark, offering opportunities for bandits hiding in ambush, waiting for their prey: the pilgrims. Looking ahead to those mountains inspired alarm for many a weary traveler.
The psalmist does not hold his gaze on the fearful mountains, however. In the very next verse he lifts his eyes higher, to the Maker of every mountain. ‘My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.’ Raising his eyes does not eliminate the risk of attack which lies ahead, nor does it deny the potential for danger. Yet, as we read through the rest of the psalm, he reminds himself of Who the Lord is and he is encouraged. As he meditates upon the Lord, his faith is fortified for the journey.
Cable News and Facebook are available 24/7 to encourage me to fear, but to say that these are my only causes for alarm would be disingenuous. Much of what I watch never comes near enough to touch me. There are many other things, not only close enough to touch, but closer still, inside my own heart, that are quite enough to harm me, to cause me to stumble, and to draw my eyes away from my true source of help. Yet as the psalmist reminds me, the Lord, ‘will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.’
The Lord Who Keeps Us
‘The Lord is [my] keeper,’ therefore, if I am in Christ, I cannot slip through his hands and fall out of salvation. The immeasurably great power by which he saved me is the very power by which he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:19-20), so his grip on me is secure. And not only am I unable to commit any sin that will cause him to abandon me, by his Spirit he is gradually working in me to put off the old self which belongs to my former manner of life . . . he is renewing my mind, and he is causing me to put on the new self, created after his own likeness in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:22-24).
This pilgrimage may be uphill and difficult, but I will not perish on the road before I make my destination because, ‘the Lord is [my] shade at [my] right hand. The sun shall not strike [me] by day, nor the moon by night.’ I’m not saying that the way will be untroubled by grief or pain, or even tragedy. Living in this fallen world means that evil not only exists, it is close enough to reach out and touch me. As my pastor reminded us in his sermon, all the water in the ocean cannot harm a ship unless it gets inside the ship. So, when the psalmist declares that ‘The Lord will keep you from all evil,’ he means that all the evil in the world—even when it does reach out and touch me—cannot get inside me. It cannot destroy me. To affirm this gospel truth is not to deny the presence of evil, it is to deny its power over me. It is to believe God’s promise that no amount of evil can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, because ‘The Lord will keep [my] life.’
Psalm 121 ends with the promise that ‘The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.’ On that day when I shall see him face to face at long last, from which moment forevermore there will be no more fears to gnaw at my heart. I will be rendered fearless by my complete transformation in glory, as 1 John 3:2 so magnificently promises: ‘but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.’ On that day, the mountains of fear shall be cast into the sea, and I will lift my eyes to gaze with undiminished joy into his.
Barbaranne reads, writes, cooks, runs, and shoots an occasional photo in Texas. She and her husband Jim are the parents of five of the neatest people they know and grandparents to the first two of (hopefully) many grandchildren. She has been blogging at Grateful ever since she accidentally signed up for a blog while attempting to comment on a friend’s blog post and figured, “Why not?” Barbaranne and Jim are members of Christ Presbyterian Church in New Braunfels, Texas, where she leads a Bible study for women in the hope that she and they may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.
 Wendell Stolzfus, formerly pastor of Covenant OPC, in Reading, PA