Tag Archive: Psalm 121


Fifth Sunday in Lent

So far on my Lenten journey, I’ve managed to memorize Psalms 51, 121, and 42, and I’ve read Psalm 46. This past week I worked through Psalm 42, which has been a great exercise for me.

First of all, as I mentioned last week, I love the image of thirsting after God. This longing to spend more time with God has been really present this busy and hectic semester. I’ve truly appreciated the opportunity to sit quietly in contemplative prayer. There, quietly gathered together to focus on God, I’ve been blessed to listen to God and also to have some deeply meaningful reflections with members of the seminary community.

Second, in reflecting on life and situations I’ve been a part of or even witnessed (Haiti and Japan, for example), I have seen suffering. Unfortunately, it is all too often a part of life. Thinking about these times, I’ve come to appreciate this psalm’s questions and honest frustration: “I say to God, my rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I walk about mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?’” The psalmist is freely about to express himself, but he also maintains his faith in God – the God who is the God of his life, his rock, and his help.

In spite of frustrations, pain and suffering, the psalmist is still able to praise God because he remembers God’s goodness and faithfulness. Now this is raw and unapologetic wrestling with the difficult questions of life – naming the problem, the hurt and the pain and asking God point-blank, “where are you?” I think we often feel like we cannot wrestle with God like this – that we cannot ask questions of God or call God to task, but the psalms invite us to pray deeply and honestly, voicing our concerns and airing our frustrations so we can once again praise God. I think we would be wise to learn from these ancient prayers.

In response to this psalm, I would like to tackle Psalm 145, but I am hesitant to do so since it is so full of praise. I think I should like to dwell a bit longer in the penitential and contemplative mood of Lent before springing into Easter joy – at least as far as my psalm choices are concerned! So, instead, I will work on 130, which has long been a favorite:

Psalm 130:
1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.
2 Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?
4 But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.
8 It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

It’s also quite appropriate since I’ve been thinking a lot about being made righteous through the cross of Christ and God’s grace – not through my own actions. Stay tuned to see what I learn from Psalm 130! Peace!

© 2011. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

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Third Sunday in Lent

Psalm 121
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.

Second Sunday in Lent

Round two. Ding ding! We’re now one and a half weeks into our Lenten journey. And I must admit that this past week, I floundered a bit with my Lenten discipline. I didn’t touch Facebook, but I also neglected digging into the Psalms like I was hoping to. I continued praying and living with Psalm 51, which I’m now quite comfortable with, but with midterms, I decided to save the space in my memory for vocabulary terms, dates, religious movements, and themes in Christian mission and the Psalter rather than for memorizing a psalm.

I think that having the Scriptures memorized is incredibly helpful and can give me words when my own seem inadequate or like they come up empty. At the same time, however, “failing” in my memorization for the past week made me feel like I was neglecting my discipline (which I was), but I think I need to be careful not to slip over into equating “succeeding” in this discipline as putting me more in God’s favor or somehow making me more pious. It is a tool to help me on my way – first and foremost to teach me about God and help me to follow God, and secondly, to encourage me to reflect on myself. No memorization or lack of memorization can increase or decrease the amazing gift we have received through what Christ has already accomplished on the cross.

Providentially, Psalm 121 is today’s psalm and it highlights that God alone is our help. The same God who created heaven and earth and who will keep our going out and coming in “from this time on and forevermore.” I pray that reading and contemplating this psalm this week will remind me of the incredible goodness and steadfastness of God’s work and promises – promises which God keeps even when I may fall short. The Lord of all creation keeps our lives, watches over us and “will neither slumber not sleep” out of love for us – God’s children.

Stay tuned next week to see what I learn from a week with Psalm 121!

Psalm 121
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.

Below is a song from Casting Crowns entitled “Praise You in This Storm” which includes the words of Psalm 121:

© 2011. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

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