Psalm 121:1-8 My Help
My dad has a farm where he raises cattle. At various times he employs people to help him with the work. Just like many other farmers in the area, he hires “the help” to assist in doing the work. The farmer may not get all of the work done in time and so he needs help. Perhaps the job takes more than one person to accomplish. So the farmer hires the help to get things done. In this psalm, the writer begins by reflecting on the fact that as he looks to the mountain, he wonders where his help will come from. It is a question that he will answer through the rest of the psalm. So let’s begin with the question posed here this morning:
“I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from?” (Psalm 121:1, HCSB)
Where does my help come from? The psalmist asks this question as he travels. This psalm is identified as a “song of ascents.” This “song of ascents” refers to the road that people would take that they go to worship in Jerusalem. These psalms were sung by pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem which was located in a mountainous area. These pilgrims had to ‘ascend’ to get there.1
So perhaps this writer (who probably was a farmer) goes to worship and he reflects on the fact that he needs help. At the same time, this verse reminds us of the disciples meeting Jesus on the mountain in His glory. Before the disciples have to descend with Jesus into the abyss of human guilt, evil, and hate, Jesus leads them up on a high mountain, from which their help is to come.2
Here we see the characteristics of the “Great Helper” God:
FIVE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE GREAT HELPER GOD 3
1. He is the great helper because He knows where I am because He created the land I walk on. (Psalm 121:2)
“My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:2, HCSB)
When you hire help on the farm, they eventually get to know the land. They find the shortcuts and look for the best ways to navigate the land to do the work. They discover and use the right tools to help them work the land and raise the animals under their care. In the same way, God, the “Great Helper” already knows the lay of the land. He can help you because He knows every coordinate on this Earth.
2. He is the great helper because He is always awake to protect me (Psalm 121:3-4).
“He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber. Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep.” (Psalm 121:3–4, HCSB)
Part of the job of the help is to protect the crop and the animals under their care. Whether they are chickens, horses, cattle, or sheep, the help needs to awake to watch over them. Sometimes, the help sleeps. They can’t be dependable all the time. God, on the other hand, doesn’t need sleep. He is awake all of the time. That means as the “Great Helper” God can be there to protect you, no matter what kind of danger you may encounter.
John Piper reminds us something important about sleep:
Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God. God doesn’t sleep, but we will. For we are not God. Once a day God sends us to bed like patients with a sickness. The sickness is a chronic tendency to think we are in control and that our work is indispensable. To cure us of this disease, God turns us into helpless sacks of sand once a day. How humiliating to the self-made corporate executive that he has to give up all control and become as limp as a suckling infant every day.
Sleep is a parable that God is God and we are mere men. God handles the world quite nicely while a hemisphere sleeps. Sleep is like a broken record that comes around with the same message every day: Man is not sovereign.… Man is not sovereign.… Man is not sovereign. Don’t let the lesson be lost on you. God wants to be trusted as the Great Worker who never tires and never sleeps. He is not nearly so impressed with our late nights and early mornings as he is with the peaceful trust that casts all anxieties on him and sleeps.4
Are you worried about making mistakes, disappointing your boss, or letting your family down?5Trust in the “Great Helper” God.
3. He is the great helper because He is always close by (Psalm 121:5-6).
“The Lord protects you; the Lord is a shelter right by your side. The sun will not strike you by day or the moon by night.” (Psalm 121:5–6, HCSB)
Sometimes the help is too far away. When you call out to him or her, it may take some time to reach them. The help goes home and comes back. The help is far away working on something else that needs help. That help can’t be at two places at once. Not so with God. As the “Great Helper,” He is there all the time – right by your side. All you have to do is call to Him. He will be there to shield you from harm.
God does not promise that we will never have problems; He does promise to be with us in our problems, and He assures us that nothing can touch our souls and separate us from His love (Rom. 8:37–39). Moreover, since God guards us, we know that our eternal destiny is held securely in His hand. All must pass before Him before it comes to us. When He allows it to come to us, it is for our ultimate good.6
4. He is the great helper because He will never harm you (Psalm 121:7).
“The Lord will protect you from all harm; He will protect your life.” (Psalm 121:7, HCSB)
The help never harms the farmer. The help should also do what is best for the farmer. It would be crazy for the help to put the farmer in danger. In the same way, God as the “Great Helper” will never harm you. God will protect you from harm from others. He will never inflict harm on people He has called to help.
5. He is the great helper because He will never quit on you (Psalm 121:8).
“The Lord will protect your coming and going both now and forever.” (Psalm 121:8, HCSB)
Sometimes on the farm, the help quits. S/he gets into a disagreement and doesn’t want to work anymore. Perhaps they get a higher paying job. They find a new employer. The help never stays forever. Not so with God. As the “Great Helper,” God protects you in life and He provides for your eternal life. He is there with you now and forever.
Are you already starting to agonize over next month’s deadline, next year’s taxes, the college tuition that has to be paid ten years from now, or funding your own retirement in thirty years? Are you taking all of that on when your head hits the pillow at night?7
God never quits as your Help. Even in eternity, He is providing for you. God helps for now and forever.
Prayer: God, my “Great Help” in my time of need (which is more often these days). Thank You for how You protect me, provide help for me, and are there beside me today, tomorrow, and forever.
1 Roger Ellsworth, Opening up Psalms, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2006), 55.
2 O. C. Jr. Dean, “Translator’s Preface,” in God Is on the Cross: Reflections on Lent and Easter, ed. Jana Riess, trans. O. C. Dean Jr. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2012), 84.
3 Jim Erwin, “My Help,” Psalm 121:1-8, Lectionary Reflections Year C (2015-2016), Logos Bible Software, 11 April 2016, Internet, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2016/04/11/my-help/, accessed on 10 March 2017.
4 John Piper, Taste and See: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2005), 336.
5 David C Cook, Good Night, God: Night Time Devotions to End Your Day God’s Way (Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2014).
6 Donald Williams and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Psalms 73–150, vol. 14, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1989), 390–391.
7 David C Cook, Good Night, God: Night Time Devotions to End Your Day God’s Way (Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2014).