Bible Commentaries
Psalms 121

Sermon Bible CommentarySermon Bible Commentary

Verse 1

Psalms 121:1

In these first words of one of the greatest Psalms of David, the nobleness which we immediately feel seems to lie in this, that David will seek help only from the highest source. Nothing less than God's help can really meet his needs. He will not peer into the valleys, he will not turn to fellow-men, to nature, to work, to pleasure, as if they had the relief he needed. "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, who hath made heaven and earth." It is the duty of every man to seek help from the Highest in every department of his life.

I. Take, first, the everlasting struggle with temptation. How perfectly clear it is that any man who undertakes that struggle may look either to the valleys or to the hills for help, may call the lower or the higher powers to his aid. The fear of pain, the fear of disgrace, the fear of discomfort, and the shame that comes with the loftiest companionship we may have to appeal to them all in the hours, which come so often in our lives, when we are very weak. But, after all, the appeal to these helpers is not the final cry of the soul. Obedience to God is the only final and infallible help of the soul in its struggle with temptation.

II. Not merely in temptation, but in sorrow, a man may seek the assistance of the Highest or of some other power which is far lower. The real relief, the only final comfort, is God; and He relieves the soul always in its suffering, not from its suffering; nay, He relieves the soul by its suffering, by the new knowledge and possession of Himself which would come only through that atmosphere of pain.

III. Our truth is nowhere more true than in the region of doubt and perplexity of mind.

IV. The text is true with reference to man's escape from sin. The best spiritual ambition seeks directly holiness. It seeks pardon as a means to holiness. So it lifts its eyes up at once to the very highest hills.

Phillips Brooks, The Candle of the Lord, p. 270.

Reference: Psalms 121:1 . C. A. Fowler, Parochial Sermons, p. 223.

Verses 1-2

Psalms 121:1-2

To the mind of the Jewish poet the everlasting hills of his native land were as shadows of the Infinite. The security which these mountain-ranges afforded to Palestine, forming as they did so remarkable a barrier to the land on every side except towards the sea, suggested to the writer of the Psalm an emblem of the Divine protection.

I. Here we have the grand distinction between the faith of the Jew and that of the heathen. The Jew knew that "the gods of the heathen are but idols, but it is the Lord that made the heavens." The whole Bible is merely the unfolding of that truth with which its first chapter so simply yet so sublimely opens.

II. This belief in God as the Creator and Preserver of all things applies in particular to man as the chiefest and best of God's works (Psalm viii.).

III. This faith in God as man's Creator and Preserver led the writers of these Psalms to trust their souls to Him as well as their bodies; led them to look to Him as their Saviour, not only from earthly troubles and dangers, but also from those spiritual troubles which are man's heaviest trials.

IV. There is yet a further growth which we can trace from this faith in God as the Creator and Preserver I mean the belief of the psalmists in a life beyond the grave.

G. Forbes, The Voice of God in the Psalms, p. 94.

Reference: Psalms 121:1 , Psalms 121:2 . R. Tuck, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 154.

Verses 1-8

Psalms 121:0

There is an affinity between souls and hills, especially for those who have become acquainted with their own solemn depths and sublime heights. In man's earthly estate wonderful heights are laid low. He has descended from the eternal hills. Being away from his home and half a stranger to himself, the broken conformations of the outward world, the deep, dark, mist-shrouded valleys, the bold, aspiring, light-seeking mountains, deeply affect him. Man in trouble instinctively looks to the hills; he feels the attraction of the Fatherland, and knows there is help for him there.

I. "I will lift up mine eyes." Our eyes travel where our feet cannot climb, lay hold of what our hands cannot reach; but the eyes that the. psalmist speaks of are the eyes of the soul, and the hills to which he looks are the hills of help for the soul.

II. The help of the hills is representative of the help of other heights. They receive whatever help they furnish. They stand for the "hill of the Lord," for the "Maker of heaven and earth." The Maker only can help that which is made.

III. From the hill of the Lord we receive help for the valley. The hill of the Lord is to the pilgrim who looks up what the compass is to the mariner, who finds his course by it through the troubled waters of the pathless sea.

IV. "Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." The clouds may shut out the light of the sky even by day, and under a cloudless sky the sun early leaves the valleys; and though over the hill-tops the light long lingers, and the day seems loath to depart, the night closes in: but from Mount Zion the light is never withdrawn.

V. The habit of looking up will teach us: (1) to understand the use of trouble in this valley; (2) that we are to be withdrawn from the earthly valley.

W. Pulsford, Trinity Church Sermons, p. 50.

References: Psalms 121:0 S. Cox, The Pilgrim Psalms, p. 24; M. R. Vincent, Gates into the Psalm Country, p. 265; Expository Sermons and Outlines on the Old Testament, p. 242.

Verse 2

Psalms 121:2

This expression of dependence upon God is not merely a formal act of piety, but the utterance of a truth which is seen to be more profoundly true for all of us the more we think of it.

I. It is plain that in all man's great discoveries he only observes the energies of nature, which are not his own, but are really the energies of God; and in his inventions he follows up hints which are given him by nature itself, so that he is bound to acknowledge God in every step of his advancement. The law of man's development is an ever-closer union of the finite with the Infinite, and this is its true glory. It is, in a lower sense, the ever-advancing incarnation of the Word of His power and the "taking of manhood into God."

II. That which is true of outward and material things is also the law of our salvation from sin and death. Man works out his salvation by union with God, who "worketh in him to will and to do of His good pleasure." The finite gains the victory only by closest union with the infinite Spirit. The one all-embracing condition of salvation is faith in Christ; that is, union of heart, and soul, and mind with the Power which alone can, and which certainly will, carry us from this world of sin and death to everlasting life.

III. If you have taken hold of this Power, remember that it has also taken hold of you, and will hold you in its grasp for ever as it holds the stars in their places. It is a Power which can transform you into something Divine. It is the Power which converts carbon into the diamond, a little earth and gas into the cedar of Lebanon, an invisible germ into the most perfect form of beauty. And it is set on converting us into something far more glorious than these things: into sharers of His own glory for ever in the person of Christ.

E. White, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx., p. 149.

Verse 3

Psalms 121:3

There are times of every man's life, moods of every man's mind, in which nothing is more acceptable than the remembrance of some of those fundamental truths of religion from which we often turn aside as elementary or commonplace. Such a truth, so certain, so fundamental, so comforting, is that of the never-failing providence of God, a truth, or rather a fact, which has been the unceasing support of all God's servants in every age, and on the belief of which depend all our happiness in life, all our hope in danger and difficulty, all our strength and consolation in times of suffering and distress.

I. The providence of God must be either minute and universal or nominal and nugatory. If God does anything, He must do all things. The very greatness of God, the difference between Him and His creatures in point of knowledge and power, is shown in nothing more infallibly than in this, that He is able to combine universal dominion with particular superintendence, the irresistible control of empires and of worlds with the most minute direction of individual interests, the tenderest concern for individual feeling. What then does this teach us? How shall we avail ourselves of the truth thus disclosed?

II. Let each one say to himself it is not the language of self-exaltation God careth for me. The Lord thinketh upon me. I am of value in the sight of God, not for what I am without Him, but for that of which He has made me capable, and for the sake of Him who bought me with His most precious blood. It was not by chance, but by the will and operation of God, that the time, and the place, and the circumstances of my being were all ordained.

III. Recollect that from the watchful eye of that Providence which orders all things we cannot escape if we would. Either in love and tender compassion, or else (according to the fearful words of the prophet) with fury poured out, God must rule over us. It is not a matter of choice whether we will be under Him or whether we will be our own masters. His we are. "Whither shall I go then from Thy Spirit, or whither shall I go then from Thy presence?"

C. J. Vaughan, Harrow Sermons, 2nd series, p. 164.

Verse 8

Psalms 121:8

I. It was help, and only help, which the speaker looked for from God. And help is not that which dispenses with exertion on our part, but rather that which supposes such exertion. Helping a man is not doing everything for him and leaving him nothing to do for himself, but rather the assisting him in his efforts, making those efforts effectual when perhaps without that aid they would be insufficient and frustrated.

II. "Who made heaven and earth." This is turning creation to account. There is not an impress of power in the visible universe but is a message to the Christian, telling him not to be afraid.

III. "He will not suffer thy foot to be moved." In the first verse we have the psalmist leaning or waiting upon God; in the third we have his strength renewed through fresh assurance of Divine favour and support. Were there no more watchful eye upon our path than our own, we should often be in such slippery places that no effort might avail to keep ourselves from falling; but there is an eye upon us that is never closed.

IV. "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." Then there is a blessed company who share with me this unwearied protection, "partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light."

V. "The Lord is thy Keeper." This indicates, indeed, the presence and activity of enemies, who, like wolves, may prowl about the flock, but indicates also the security of those within the fold. If we refuse to stay in the fold, and wilfully wander into the wilderness, we must expect to be harassed and torn; but God will never fail to keep us so long as we fail not to strive to keep ourselves.

VI. The last verse is a promise that we shall be kept in all our ways; that in all our business, in all our movements, amid all the changes and chances of our mortal life, we shall evermore be defended by that ready help which issues from an eye that cannot close and an arm that cannot fail.

"Even for evermore." There is a "going out" from this world; there is a "coming in" to the next world. Our "going out" through the dark valley shall be under the guidance of that blessed Shepherd whose rod and whose staff shall never fail to comfort the believer; our "coming in" to the heavenly city shall be as heirs with that glorious Redeemer who must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet.

H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2241.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Psalms 121". "Sermon Bible Commentary".