1 I lift up my eyes to the hills — from where will my help come?
2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
8 The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.
This past week just flew by! I cannot believe it. In spending time with Psalm 121, I noticed that as the psalm goes on, the voice changes from first person singular (“I”) to a second person singular (“you”). In other words, it begins, “I lift up my eyes to the hills…” but ends with “The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.” Simple enough, right? I mean, it’s easy enough to spot, but I had never noticed it until I began praying it.
It almost seems as if the psalmist is making a shift from a statement of personal faith in God to reassuring someone else in their troubles. It seems to shift from “here are my problems and their solution” to “this is who God is and how God will guard and watch over you.” Or, the shift could be a reminder to the psalmist of the very character of God, i.e. this is how God has helped in the past, is helping now and will help in the future.
It’s so easy to get caught up in our own problems and woes. We spend time playing that little violin and forget that others are also facing problems. As one of my favorite quotes by Philo of Alexandria (Plato?) points out, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” Psalm 121 seems to shift from playing that violin to affirming God’s presence and protection for others facing their own great battles. As the psalm goes on, the focus switches from “how do I get what I need?” to “what does this other person need to hear now?”
In paying attention to the needs of others, we often find that our own needs are met. In helping to heal the wounds of others, our own wounds are healed (check out Henri Nouwen’s The Wounded Healer for more on this!). In stepping back from our own situations, we gain perspective and often find that maybe things aren’t quite as bad as they seem.
I’m not quite sure which psalm I’ll dive into next, but whichever it is, I look forward to hearing how God will speak to me through this ancient book of prayers over the next week.
© 2011. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.