A Song of Ascents
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
from where will my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 He who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time on and for evermore.
Psalm 121 belongs to a category of psalms called Songs of Ascents. Remember all psalms are songs—they were meant to be sung, not read, and this particular kind of song would have been sung on a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. All the members of Israel were supposed to make the journey, or pilgrimage, to Jerusalem at least three times a year and offer a sacrifice in the Temple. Jerusalem literally sits on top of a hill, which explains why the psalms lifts up his eyes. He’s walking up toward the Holy City, and his eyes can’t help but move up.
The psalmist uses the word “keep” six times. The word in Hebrew is shamar, meaning to keep, guard, or protect. Why give thanks to God? Because God is your keeper, your guard in your waking and sleeping, your protector in life and death. God is not far away. God is not a million miles up in the air, above the clouds. No. God is as close as your shadow (v. 5). This God can be trusted to keep you, because this God will always be close by.
God, you are never far away. We offer our thanks and praise to you, the God who is always as close as our shadow. We marvel at the ways you show up, keeping us, guarding us, and protecting us. May we always feel your presence and praise you for it. Amen.