He Keeps Us!
“The Lord is your keeper, the Lord is your shelter right by your side.”
Security is one of our deepest needs. The feeling of being safe, secure, established or settled is the motivator for so many of the choices that we make. We all have a “safe place” that we go to when life gets chaotic. This “safe place” could be a physical, literal place (like my bed) or a place that we picture in our minds. Being there, whether literally or mentally, helps us stay calm. The need for this feeling of security increases when we travel. Out on the road there are so many unknowns. I know that after being on the road for a week or so, I begin to long for my bed!
In the book of Psalms there are 15 Psalms that are designated as Psalms of Ascent or Psalms of Degrees (Psalms 120-134). These Psalms were sung by pilgrims on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem as they made their way up (geographically speaking) to the city. One of these Psalms, Psalm 121, addresses this need for security.
The Psalm begins by acknowledging that God is our “help” or “helper” (v1-2). The Hebrew word here is the same word used in Genesis 2 to describe Eve as Adam’s “helper”. Psalm 121:5 gives us the word picture of a shelter or a spot of shade on a sunny day. A pilgrimage to Jerusalem was bound to be VERY hot, with the sun beating down and, for many places along the road, very little shelter or shade. On our pilgrimage through the desert places, God is our shelter or our shade. He is our helper.
The rest of the Psalm focuses on God’s role as one who “watches” over us (v 3-8). The Hebrew word for “watch” (shamar) is actually repeated 6 times in this short chapter. The way that this word is used paints several different word pictures for us:
1) to keep like a garden
2) to tend like a flock of sheep
3) to protect a prized possession
4) to preserve something from harm
As we read down through the Psalm and substitute these descriptions for the word shamar, we get a great picture of God who watches over us.
“3 He will not let your foot slip – the one who attentively tends to you like a shepherd will not slumber; 4 indeed he who tends to you like a gardener, pulling out weeds that might choke, eliminating pests that might destroy and making sure you get enough water and sunlight will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The Lord preserves you from too much sun and heat, the LORD is your shade at your right hand,; 6 the sun will not harm you by day nor the moon by night. 7 The Lord will mount a guard around you to keep you from all harm – he will keep that guard mounted over your life; 8 The LORD will preserve you while you come and go both now and forevermore!”
We don’t know everything about the path that we travel on our earthly pilgrimage but we DO know where it is going and who is going with us, and that is enough!