1 A Song of degrees. I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. We move up the first of the steps. How can an honest lover of truth deal with these people? They cannot. These people are too clever to be caught, and they have lies on their side. They deal in half-truths, fear and doubt, anything that will keep an issue on the boil. We cannot deal with them because they will change their position to suit the state of play. So skillful are they that any victory we have over them will be quickly countered with an attack from another direction. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish who the combatants are, for the generals rarely fight up front. It is not the final victory they are fighting for, but the war itself. They love the fighting and they hate peace. You do not get your own way in an environment of peace. You cannot manipulate people to suit yourself. God is the only one who can deal with them. Shallow people take their side, because they cannot work out the argument. The shallow ones are not the enemy because they are victims as well.
2 My help [cometh] from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. There should be no doubt that God can handle them for he made heaven and earth. We cannot do anything about them. This seems foreign to most of us who are used to fighting our own battles, but there are no rules in this war, even defeat is a victory, because all they want is to disrupt the peace.
3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. The Hebrew negative is here subjective, that is, “I trust he will not suffer thy foot to be moved and that he that keeps thee will not slumber.” They will have their success, and many will suffer despair, but they will not cause the faithful to budge, because God will prevent them. The number of times they have the ascendancy suggests God does not care, but this is far from the truth. The question is, will the faithful wait, or take matters into their own hands and offend themselves. My help cometh from Yahweh, says the Psalmist.
4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Hebrew negative here is different. It is objective and asserting as a fact, “He that keepeth Israel shall never slumber nor sleep.” It is a question of whether we believe that Yahweh keeps the Israel of God. The way many react it appears we do not.
5 The LORD [is] thy keeper: the LORD [is] thy shade upon thy right hand. If we insist on the victory now then we ask more than has been promised. The important thing is they will not take anything away from us while ever we trust. It is often argued that in contending earnestly we are required to face the foe with equal force. This advice comes from those who do not mind the loss of peace. In fact it inspires them like nothing else, and they feel virtuous for going out and taking risks. The faithful will always fight error, but will regret deeply the disruption to peace, because it is peace they love. These people are always labeled soft, and are openly ridiculed by the other. Mark the man who criticizes them, for he is the problem, and not the solution.
6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. This figure suggests the paranoia with which we try to shield ourselves from danger, as if all forces are against us. Any challenge is met with an over-reaction that betrays the confidence we should have in God. Whoever has been afraid the sun might smite them if they venture out? Who would stay home at night for fear of becoming lunatic? We find the most-feeble reasons for banding together for defense. These are hysterical, superstitious reasons, and those who do it are shallow.
7 The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The “evil” is given as the reason we should be most concerned. Fear is an important element in undermining peace. Convince people they are under threat and you have them defending against their own shadow. He shall preserve our life and that is all that should matter. The expression “preserve thy soul” has an echo in Matthew chapter 10:28 where the Lord advises “fear not them which kill the body, but cannot kill the soul:” It has in mind the final victory, they cannot threaten that. Evil might threaten the tranquillity now, but in the end, provided we do not retaliate in kind, our hope is sure.
8 The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore. What more should we require than this? He will not only prevent the immediate danger from overwhelming us, but will preserve our going out and coming in. Some will say we are at greatest risk when we do this, and others will say, no it is when we do that, and everyone will be terrified of what happens next. It speaks of our going out and our coming in for evermore, so what are we afraid about?
Whence then is all this anxiety. We spend much of our time defending the faith against Phantoms. There were many examples in the life of David of conflict among brethren, but none so threatening as the bringing up of the Ark to Jerusalem. He was to change the customs that Moses delivered them, and the most hostile forces were at work to prevent him. He knew it was the mind of God to choose Jerusalem.
It was the city ruled over by the King of Righteousness and the King of Peace, the Priest of the Most High God, Melchizedek. It was the place of Mt. Moriah where Abraham offered his son Isaac. It was on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebuzite that the plague was stayed and life granted to the people by the mercy of God. It was where he had himself impaled the head of Goliath, even though the city was in the hands of his enemies, the Jebuzites. He knew it was the city of peace, and accepted the need in the community of peace for the truth to survive.
In Psalm 121 if we cannot feel the ascending we are not listening to the words. This is a step in the right direction. We are now moving forward to something great.