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July 18, 2021

Scripture Meditation on Psalm 121

Kenny Stokes (Downtown Campus) | Psalms 121:1-8

Sermon notes follow Scripture.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.—Psalm 121 


I invite you to consider Psalm 121 together with me. 

As I look in your faces now, and these past several weeks, I see a lot. Grief and loss. Sadness and despair. Anxiety and fear. And I see frustration … and even anger. Some of you see things as crystal clear, others see the complexity. Still others are utterly perplexed and don’t know what to think.

But all of us need the Lord’s help, his steadfast love. All need God’s truth, justice—and mercy. All need our heavenly Father’s discipline, truth, correction and forgiveness. All need the healing hand of Christ. All need the reality of the grace of Christ to empower our relationships with one another with the grace we have received from God.

Several of you have asked me, “Are we going to be okay?”

When I was asked to bring a devotional to this prayer service, I thought the best way to shepherd you all, would be to point you to the Lord in hope. That’s what Psalm 121 is about.

This Psalm is entitled “A Song of Ascents.” It was one of the songs that the people of God sang on their ascent to worship in Jerusalem nestled high in the hills. What becomes clear is that the psalm is all about hope—hope for present needs and hope for the future—hope that we’re going to be okay, that God will keep us.

The psalm writer begins the song with, “I lift my eyes to the hills.”

Q: What is he referring to? What does he see when he looks at the hills?

I take it that he sees the trouble that typically accompanies a journey up to Jerusalem in ancient times. Robbery and assault were not uncommon on such a journey. The cracks and crevices of the hills made ambush particularly effective. Perhaps he has memories of being beat up on a previous journey. Or perhaps he just heard the stories of others. I take this opening phrase as an acknowledgement of the ever-present troubles of life that he fears on the road ahead. Life and death are at stake.

He acknowledges his insufficiency, his need for help, asking the question,

From where does my help come?—Psalm 121:1

What is clear is that he is counseling himself on the answer to one of the most basic questions of life: “When I need help, where do I look?”

Q: Where do you look? Where you look when you fear trouble or hurt and have no place else to look will reveal much about you—your values, your loves, your source of hope— and your ‘god.’ It will reveal to you what or whom you worship.

The psalmist wisely answers the question, not with the answers that are sometimes helpful—my self-defense training, my tenacity, my good health, my wisdom, my ability to talk my way out of trouble, my hidden weapon, my money, my friends, my plan for my self-protection, etc.

His help is not in the things that he has or can do. He needs a better help. One that is superior. He lifts his eyes to the hills and sees potential trouble and acknowledges his need for help. At that moment, he lifts his eyes higher than his fears and looks to the Lord in hope.

He answers his own question in verse 2,

My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

The ultimate place to look for help in your life on this earth is not among the things created, but rather to the almighty Creator of all things. The ultimate place to look for help is to the Giver of all the good things of this life—even the Giver of life itself. Namely, the Lord. In other words, I look to God—the God who, in his omnipotent power and sovereign authority, made everything and therefore who rules over all things.

Then, the psalmist directs us to look to the faithfulness and promises of God to us as his own people by using the verb “to keep” six times in verses 3–8. 

Because of this, I think the clearest way to summarize this Psalm is the phrase “The Lord is your keeper” from verse 5. Look at the descriptions of his keeping described here. Mark these in your Bible.

He will not let your foot be moved;
     he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
     will neither slumber nor sleep.Psalm 121:3–4 

In other words, he keeps his covenant people. He is never surprised, never caught off guard—as when threats suddenly arise. He never sleeps, and is always on guard. 

The LORD is your keeper;
     the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
     nor the moon by night.—Psalm 121:5–6

In other words, he keeps you from being overwhelmed by the withering heat and from exposure in the cold deep of night, and keeps you from even your fears of the night and your nightmares.

The LORD will keep you from all evil;
     he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep
     your going out and your coming in
     from this time forth and forevermore.—Psalm 121:7–8

In other words, he keeps his covenant people. He will keep you from stumbling to destruction. He keeps you from all evil—not that bad or evil things won’t happen to us. But when they do, God will judge the evil, he will turn the evil for your good and he will preserve your faith and your life. Like Stephen, some will be killed, but will never perish.”

He will keep your life, now and forever. He is never surprised, never caught off guard—as when threats suddenly arise. He never sleeps and is always on guard.


In Psalm 121 the Lord is simply and profoundly reminding us to hope in Him. He is calling us to trust him and all that he promises to be for us in Christ Jesus. He will not fail us. He will never leave us, nor forsake us. He will not let you slip outside of his grace. He is always on guard; he never slumbers nor sleeps. He will keep us—to the end.

I want to say a word to you if perhaps you are one who is thinking,

“No, Pastor Kenny, you don’t understand.” These pastoral resignations and church conflicts THREATEN my faith! The sins of Christians against one another cause me to doubt everything—Christ, the Bible, the love of God! Is his love real? Is his gospel really the power of God for salvation for all who believe?” 

Listen to me now. 1 Peter 1 helps connect God’s keeping, which we saw in Psalm 121, with our trials. It is our troubles that God uses to purify our faith. It is in the trials that God is at work to refine our faith, such that our unbelief and sin and the idols that constantly contaminate our faith would be removed. And what might remain would be  purer, stronger, deeper, a more durable faith in Christ than you had before. This he will do until we go to glory.

And, these trials will not overcome your faith because 1 Peter 1 says that we are kept by the power of God through faith in Christ. In other words, through all the refining trials and troubles of our lives, the Lord is our keeper. 

Q: “Are we going to be okay? Are the pastors who have left going to be okay? My hope for them, and my hope for you, and my hope for us all is the promise of the Lord’s keeping. That’s my hope for Bethlehem too. There is a lot of hard work ahead for us as a church. Talking. Listening. Heart searching. Repenting. Forgiving. Reconciling. There is hard, humble gospel work to be done.

Please pray for the hard work ahead. We are going to turn again to the Lord for another season of  prayer together. The Lord is our hope—call upon him for help. The Lord is our keeper—pray that as he promises he will keep us by the power of God through faith in Christ that nothing and no one can snatch us away from him. 


Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling
     and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,
to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord,
     be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority,
before all time and now and forever. Amen.—Jude 24–25