Providence: God Guards You From Every Evil (Part 3)
Psalm 121 (ESV)1I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
3He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 4Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
5The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. 6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
7The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 8The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
The moment we say no to the world and yes to God, all our problems are solved, all our questions answered, all our troubles over. If this is what you believe about Christianity then you are wrong. We live in the same world as people who do not love Jesus, and are subject to the same perils that face them.
Psalm 121 is a quiet voice gently and kindly telling us that we are, perhaps, wrong in the way that we are going about the Christian life, and then, very simply, showing us the right way. For many, the first great surprise of the Christian life is in the form of troubles we meet. Psalm 121 helps us deal with this discovery.
Travelers’ Advisory Three possibilities for harm to travelers are referred to in the psalm. A person traveling on foot can at any moment step on a loose stone and sprain there ankle. A person traveling on foot under protracted exposure to the sun, can become faint with sunstroke. And a person traveling under pressure and anxiety can become emotionally ill. In reference to these hazards the psalm says, “He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber…. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day.” Any Christian who is honest is challenged by this truth. We have all sprained our ankles and been stuck in perils that have affected us. This psalm is not saying that we will not face any adversity, it’s saying that the evil of this world and the adversity we encounter will have no power over us because it has no power of God.
Help Form the Hills: A person of faith encounters trouble and cries out help. A look to the hills for help ends in disappointment. For all their majesty and beauty, for all their quiet strength and firmness, they are finally just hills. Psalm 121 rejects a worship of nature, a religion of stars and flowers, a religion that makes the best of what it finds on the hills; instead it looks to the Lord who made heaven and earth. The Creator is Lord over time: he guards you when you leave and when you return, in your beginnings and in the end. God guards you from every evil.
The promise of the psalm is not that we shall never stub our toes but that no injury, no accident, no distress will ever have evil power over us, that is, will be able to separate us from God’s purposes in us. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limits because He has no limits; He’ll always be there to help you come through it.
Three times in Psalm 121 God is referred to by the personal name Yahweh, translated as LORD. Eight times he is described as the guardian, or as the one who guards. He is not an impersonal executive giving orders from on high; he is present help every step of the way we travel. All the water in all the oceans cannot sink a ship unless it gets inside. Nor can all the trouble in the world harm us unless it gets within us. From the point of our repentance God guards us from every evil.
The only serious mistake that we can make when illness comes, when anxiety threatens, when conflict disturbs our relationships with others is to conclude that God had gotten bored looking after us and has shifted his attention to a more exciting Christian, or that he is disgusted with our meandering obedience. Psalm 121 prevents this mistake: the mistake of supposing that God’s interest in us waxes and wanes in response to our spiritual temperature.
We know that God created the universe and has accomplished our eternal salvation. But we can’t believe that he cares to watch the soap opera of our daily lives. But Psalm 121 says that the same faith that works in the large things works in the small. As the psalmist says; “The LORD is your keeper….The LORD will keep you from all evil…The LORD will keep…”
Traveling Companion: The Christian life is not a quiet escape to a garden where we can walk and talk uninterruptedly with our Lord. The Christian life is simply, going to God. We will face dangers, and troubles, just like those who do not call Christ their Savior, or fall at the feet of God their King. The difference is that each step we walk, each breath we take, we know we are preserved by God, we know we are accompanied by God, we know we are ruled by God; and therefore no matter what doubts we endure or what accidents we experience, the Lord will guard us from every evil, He guards our very life.
Faith is the solid, massive, secure experience of God, who keeps all evil from getting inside us, who guards our life, who guards us when we leave and when we return, who guards us now and guards us always.
(This post is a summary and partial abridgement of Eugene Peterson’s book “A Long Obedience In The Same Direction.” It is based solely on Peterson’s work and any help that this content gives should be credited to God’s grace through Peterson’s effort. In other words, give God glory, thank Eugene Peterson and consider buying the book.)