God is our Protector and our Deliverer
I'll never forget the days during my youth when my father was asked to speak in the Pocono Mountains. We had no money, but somehow God provided an opportunity for my father to preach God's word in an area unknown to us. We were fortunate enough to go every summer. My family looked forward to this opportunity because it had given us a chance to get away from the city and experience a different environment. The mountains were beautiful and the atmosphere was serene. It was a place of reward for us, and we valued it very much.
Another time in the mountains that I'll never forget is when my husband and I were on a retreat. We faced climbing a mountain with several other Christian sisters and brothers. This was a difficult task for all of us, but we encouraged one another throughout the climb. Some people became exhausted and dehydrated, and they decided to quit. Others became discouraged because they felt that it was too much to bear. Others continued to climb not looking to the left or to the right but instead, they focused on the victory ahead. When we reached the pinnacle of the mountain, we celebrated and reflected on God's promises. He fulfills His promises to keep us throughout our present and future valleys..."In everything give thanks, for this is God's will in Christ Jesus concerning you." 1 Thess. 5:18
Ps. 121 was written to encourage the psalmist during a pilgrimage to the mountains. This Psalm is a song or hymn of ascents: To ascent means to climb to the summit of a mountain. It reminds the reader to continue to strive or persevere through life's most difficult trials. Trials such as the death of a loved one, or other types of grievance like divorce, divisions in the body of Christ, crime or drug-infested areas, abuse, or even natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. To ascent means to soar above that which is trying to prevent you to succeed. I'm not sure what your dark place or valley may be, but all of us have gone through, are presently going through, or will experience some difficulty in life. The psalmist in Ps. 121 is encouraging us to persevere with patience and to hold on to what we believe because tranquility is soon to follow.
Scholars note that for every step closer to Jerusalem there were 15 hymn songs of encouragement. We know that there are 150 total Psalms, but there are 15 songs (10%) in Psalms. My assumption is twofold:
1. Worship through music is vital, but it should not exceed God's word (His voice). Songs that focus on God's majestic power in our lives are worthy of our focus and honors the Lord.
2. God's voice is pleasant to the soul. We must acknowledge Him daily because we can't do without Him. The Word should be trusted in all matters in life because we need God's wisdom and guidance.
We must take comfort in knowing that the Lord is our shield (our protector); He is our deliverer (our salvation) and no matter what may come in our lives, He will sustain us.
"During his journey, the psalmist is experiencing some anxiety. He is in a strange land. He is not only physically exhausted, but he is threatened by the reality of the harm that can come to him in an unknown land. This area is known as a hideout for thieves and for those looking to take advantage of travelers"...they say if you ever go to NY, make sure you go with several people because robbers or con artists can spot tourists from a distance.
"The Psalmist is also experiencing great anticipation." He is looking forward to reaching his destination. The mountain is a place to seek after; it is a place of reward. Hebrews remind us to "run with patience the race that is set before us" (Heb. 12:2). Anticipation brings excitement, but it can also deceive us if we aren't patient. Several men of our time have falsely predicted the coming of Christ. Unfortunately, these predictions have persuaded many to eagerly seek Christ's coming by ridding themselves of all of their possessions. They sold their 401ks from the goodness of their heart. They sold their homes. They emptied their bank accounts and gave their money to various ministries. They persisted without caution and they were shamed. Matthew 24:36 says: "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." These people sought after heaven lacking patience and to their demise, they lost their homes and all their possessions. The mountains are a place of safety; they are places of encouragement; places that we long or hope for, and places where we find refuge, but we must keep the faith and wait patiently on the Lord. He is our hope. He is our mountain. He is our refuge! He is ever-present!
If you are bothered by the present or if you are anxious about the future, hold on to God's unchanging hand. Many bible heroes and modern-day heroes were frustrated too at some point in ministry. They experienced some emotion that welled up within them. These emotions left them thinking they would not make it. So, you are not alone. They were discouraged at times throughout their lives. There's an old song that says: "I'm climbing up, oh the rough side of the mountains..." Some of these heroes experienced depression and some were just "burdened beyond despair" (2 Cor. 1:8). In our humanness, we are capable of despairing in life, but God says: "never will I leave you, nor will I forsake you" (Heb. 13:5). Charles Haddon -Spurgeon, one of the greatest theologians of all times said: "I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to." David said in Ps. 120: 6-7: "Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!" Paul said in 2 Cor. 1:8: "For we do not want you to be ignorant brethren of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired of life." Even Jesus said in Luke 22:42: " if you are willing, remove this cup from me...not my will, but yours, be done...." Not to get away from my point but vs.43 speaks of God's immediate response to His Son: "And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him." God is an immediate God. Yes, "He never sleeps nor slumbers." Even when we feel that God is silent in our lives, don't be fooled, He is at work (Ps. 22). Jeremiah 33:3 says: Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will show you great and mighty things, which you do not know. Whatever we experience in life, don't neglect to call upon the name of the Lord. He is our help in time of trouble.
Returning to Ps. 121; the psalmist personalizes his feelings vs.1; he says "I will"...he is making a conscious decision to look up and to soar pass his reality. His determination is based on what he knows; to trust the Lord and persevere through his anxiety.
Vs. 1b He encourages himself. He asked himself the question: From where does my help come? Answer: My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He recognizes his dependence on the Creator of the Universe. A God who sees all and knows all things and is in all places at the same time. God is our shield and our deliverer in whom we trust. Eph. 6:10 says: Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. The shield is described as a weapon in time of warfare. It protects the body in every area from harm. The believers shield is faith...what is faith? Heb. 11:1 says, Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Our faith is in the Lord. Although we don't see Him, we know that He is with us. "We walk by faith, not by sight." God is our shield and He is also our deliverer: To deliver means to save. God is our salvation. Israel experienced God as their deliverer. God used Joshua to deliver the Israelites from the hand of their enemies and to take them into the land of promise.
In vs. 3, 5-8 As the psalmist is traveling, it appears also that he is traveling with a "group, a friend or even a priest." The bottom line is that he is being encouraged by another who understands his journey. Although God is with us and forever will be with us; we need others to encourage us. We can't make it alone. I'm very thankful for special friends and family members whom God has placed in my life, both young and old. We need accountability (honest people in our lives) and those who will truly pray for us. We also need those who are called to encourage us to press on (Proverbs 27:17). In the midst of any obstacle, God promises protection and deliverance for his people.
There will be anxiety but we must "cast all of our cares on Him because He cares for us," (1 Peter 5:7) and there will be and should be anticipation but not desperation, so "run with patience the race set before you." "The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous can run to it and they will be safe." (Pro. 18:10)
Encourage and Be Encouraged!
Sources used: Expositor's Bible Commentary, Volume 5, Bible Knowledge Commentary, New American Bible Commentary