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Psalm 121 Commentary

Psalm 121 Commentary

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Published by glennpease
This is the second of 15 Psalms called the songs of degrees in which God is helper and protector.
This is the second of 15 Psalms called the songs of degrees in which God is helper and protector.

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Published by: glennpease on Mar 10, 2010
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Written and edited by Glenn Pease
The object of this commentary is to bring together the comments of a number of authors in one place to make the study of this Psalm easier for the Bible student.Sometimes I do not have the author's name, and if it is known and told to me, I willgive credit where it is due. If there is any author who does not wish his wisdom to beincluded in this study, I will remove it when that author expresses his wish to have itremoved. My e-mail is glenn_p86@yahoo.com
1. Spurgeon, “This bears no other title than "A Song of degrees". It is several stepsin advance of its predecessor, for it tells of the peace of God's house, and theguardian care of the Lord, while Psalm 120 bemoans the departure of peace fromthe good man's abode, and his exposure to the venomous assaults of slanderoustongues. In the first instance his eyes looked around with anguish, but here theylook up with hope. From the constant recurrence of the word keep, we are led toname this song "a Psalm to the keeper of Israel". Were it not placed among thePilgrim Psalms we should regard it as a martial hymn, fitted for the evensong of onewho slept upon the tented field. It is a soldier's song as well as a traveler's hymn.There is an ascent in the psalm itself which rises to the greatest elevation of restfulconfidence.”2. "A Song of Degrees." -- It has been ingeniously pointed out that these "degrees"or "steps" consist in the reiteration of a word or thought occurring in one clause,verse, or stanza, which in the next verse or stanza is used, as it were, as a step (ordegree) by which to ascend to another and higher truth. Thus in our psalm, the ideaof "my help", expressed in Psalms 121:1, is repeated in Psalms 121:2. This has nowbecome a step by which in Psalms 121:3 we reach the higher truth or explanation of "nay help", as: "He that keepeth thee will not slumber," the same idea being withslight modification reembodied in Psalms 121:4. Another "degree" is then reachedin Psalms 121:5, when "He who slumbers not" is designated as Jehovah, the sameidea once more enlarged upon being (the word occurring twice in Ps 121:5) inPsalms 121:6. The last and highest degree of this song is attained in Psalms 121:7,when the truth implied in the word Jehovah unfolds itself in its application to our
preservation, which, with further enlargement, is once more repeated in Psalms121:8. Perhaps some internal connection might be traced between all the fifteenPsalms of Degrees. At any rate, it will not be difficult to trace the same structure if each of the psalms "of Degrees", making allowance for occasional devotions andmodifications. --Alfred Edersheim, in "The Golden Diary", 1877.3. Robert J. Morgan, “Some chapters in the Bible are so special that they’ve beengiven their own title. We call 1 Corinthians 13, The Love Chapter; Hebrews 11 isThe Faith Chapter; Psalm 23 is The Shepherd Psalm; and 1 Corinthians 15 is TheResurrection Chapter of the Bible.In our study through the Psalms today we’recoming to one of the most beautiful and beloved of all the chapters of the Bible— Psalm 121. It has been called, “The Traveler’s Psalm.” He went on to illustrate howpeople have used it for comfort and security in times of travel and facinguncertainty. He wrote, “Haddon W. Robinson recently wrote a devotional for thebooklet, “Our Daily Bread,” in which he said that Psalm 121 was a favorite of hisfather. He wrote, “When my father left the ‘old country’ as a teenager to sail aloneto the United States, he was bidden farewell with this psalm.” When he was headingoff into the World War and at various other critical points of life, the elder Mr.Robinson leaned on this Psalm.That’s a scene that has been repeated many times in Christian history. JamesMontgomery Boice said in his commentary on the Psalms that this was a very dearchapter to him because his mother always gathered the family together and read itbefore they left on trips, or before one of the children in the family left home. Thegreat missionary explorer, David Livingstone, read this Psalm as he worshiped withhis father and sister before setting sail for Africa; and his mother-in-law, MaryMoffat later wrote to him, telling him that Psalm 121 was always on her mind as shethought and prayed for him.” “In verses 1-2, we’re told to keep our eyes on God,and in verses 3-8, we’re told that God keeps His eyes on us.”4. Great Texts, “The very essence of the psalm is simplicity ; here you find no highnights of poetic imagination, no startling metaphors or fresh truth. And yet there isa warm glow in its message, and there is a fragrance in its simple trust, which havemade it one of the best loved of all the psalms, to both Jews and Christiansthroughout the world. It is the song of a man who found life transfigured by athought, a thought born out of his own experience that the God of the everlastinghills was no mere spectator of human struggles, no indolent Deity calming himself tosleep amid the perturbations of a universe and the unheeded cries of his creatures.It is the song of a man who had seen God s rain bow on the dark background of theday s routine, and was assured that all is well. It is the song of a man whoseambitions were of a lowly character, and who was content to go out and in, to meetlife s appointments, if so be that the Lord Himself would be his keeper. And what apower lies secreted in the heart of a song when a man can sing it with the emphasisof experience !”
5. Rich Cathers sees this as a Psalm dealing with fear, and he wrote, “Sometimesfear can paralyze us. We are afraid to even move because of all the things thatcould go wrong. We make up all kinds of excuses why we can’t do anything, mostlybecause of fear: What if I lose my job and we lose the house? What if the person Ilove rejects me? What if you find yourself at an airport and just, for curiosity’ssake, stick your head inside the door of the airplane and just barely get it out beforethe door closes, but your tie might get caught in the door, causing you to be draggedup into the air and halfway across the country, choking and gagging the whole way,until the tie finally rips in half and you plunge 50,000 feet, eventually crashingthrough the roof of a barn and landing softly in a pile of hay, but then the farmermight sue you for property damages, and since you don’t have that kind of money,you’ll have to work on his farm as an indentured servant for the next twelve years.Well, it might happen. Some of our fears are more real than others, but the truth iswe can miss out on a lot of life simply because of fear.6. Warren Wiersbe, “This psalm is special to my family. When our children wereyoung and we were all in the car ready to leave on a trip or a vacation, we oftenread Psalm 121 and then prayed. The children became accustomed to hearing thewords, "I will lift up my eyes to the hills--from whence comes my help? My helpcomes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth" (vv. 1,2). God is our Helper.You don't have to go on a vacation or drive on a busy highway to know that.Where does your help come from? The psalmist lifted his eyes to the hills. The moststable, secure thing the Jews knew were the mountains around Jerusalem. Then thepsalmist lifted his eyes higher and said, "o, I don't get my help from the hills. I getmy help from the heavens. God is my Helper." Whatever your need or task is today,your help will come from the Lord, the Creator of the heavens and the earth. A Godbig enough to make this world and keep it going is big enough to help you with yourproblems today.”7. James Limburg gives us a picture of how this Psalm is used in the traditions of hisdenomination. He writes, “There are no references or allusions to Psalm 121 in theew Testament. evertheless, it remains one of the more popular psalms inChristian liturgy, hymnody, and piety. In the Lutheran tradition, for example, thispsalm has found a place in services at both the beginning and the end of life. In thebaptismal service of the old Evangelical Lutheran Church, as the child or adult wasbrought to the font, the pastor said, “The Lord preserve thy coming in and thygoing out from this time forth and forevermore,” a paraphrase of Psalm 121:8.1Contemporary services for comforting the bereaved and for the burial of the deadmake use of Psalm 121.2 The Psalm is suggested for use in ministering to those whoare addicted, and the last verse is part of an order for the blessing of a dwelling. Inthe course of the church year, Psalm 121 is assigned as one of the readings for the22nd Sunday after Pentecost. Hymn paraphrases include John Campbell’s, “Untothe Hills,” Ernst W. Olson’s, “Mine eyes unto the mountains I lift,” and JohnYlvisaker’s setting of this psalm to the traditional American folk tune, “Wayfaringstranger.” Among memorable musical settings we may mention Mendelssohn’s,

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