Sunday, September 7, 2008

pSunday Psalms: PSALM 121


Psalm 121 is the best known psalm in the collection of Psalms of Ascents. It is a song about traveling and trust.

Many have memorized the familiar strains of verse one in the KJV, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help…” These words are more accurately translated in newer versions with a question mark after the second line. The pilgrim’s help does NOT come from the hills. The high places are the abode of false gods. However, the one living and true God made, not only the mountains, but also the skies and land—all creation. Thus, the hills are not so much a symbol of God’s power in this psalm as a picture of how the greatest metaphors of might in creation are as nothing in the light of the Creator’s greatness. Nothing, no one in the universe can help us like the living God.

The main structural feature of Ps 121 is the change of pronouns, from first person in verses 1-2, to second person in the rest of the psalm.
  • The pilgrim himself speaks in the first two verses.
  • The community of faith that supports the pilgrim in his journey answers him in verses 3-8.
Picture, if you will, a man standing with his bags packed, prepared to set off down the road. Gathered around him are his family and friends. They have come together to wish him Godspeed and to assure him of their confidence in the Lord’s blessing on his journey. First, the pilgrim addresses his friends, expressing his own faith in God’s help. Then, in a refrain of agreement, his brothers and sisters express their faith that the Lord will indeed continually care for him and protect him from the dangers that often beset travelers.

What do we learn from this psalm?
  • The journey requires faith in a God who is bigger than the creation in which we find ourselves, with all its mysteries and challenges.
  • The faith we hold is both personal and communal. We must be able to speak our faith to one another in ways that support and encourage one another on the journey.
We do not travel alone. Our God keeps us. Our friends support us.
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face;

the rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Traditional Gaelic Blessing

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