The resolution of a godly man, 1,2. The safety and prosperity of such, as they and theirs shall be under the continual protection of God, 3-8.
NOTES ON PSALM CXXI
This appears to be a prayer of the Jews in their captivity, who are solicitous for their restoration. It is in the form of a dialogue.
Ver. 1,2. The person who worships God speaks the two first verses, "I will lift up mine eyes-my help 121:1,2.
Ver. 3. The ministering priest answers him, "He will not suffer thy foot to be moved." "He that keepeth thee will not slumber," Psalms 121:3.
To which the worshipper answers, that he knows that "he who keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep," Psalms 121:4; but he seems to express a doubt whether he shall be an object of the Divine attention.
Ver. 5, and, to the conclusion of the Psalm, gives him the most positive assurances of God's favour and protection.
Unto the hills
Jerusalem was built upon a mountain; and Judea was a mountainous country; and the Jews, in their several dispersions, turned towards Jerusalem when they offered up their prayers to God.
My help cometh from the Lord
There is no help for me but in my God; and I expect it from no other quarter.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved
The foundation, God's infinite power and goodness, on which thou standest, cannot be moved; and whilst thou standest on this basis, thy foot cannot be moved.
He that keepeth Israel
The Divine Being represents himself as a watchman, who takes care of the city and its inhabitants during the night-watches; and who is never overtaken with slumbering or sleepiness. There is a thought in the Antigone of Sophocles, that seems the counterpart of this of the psalmist,
τανσανζευδυναμιντιςανδρων υπερβασιακατασχοι τανουθυπνοςαι--- πειποθοπαντογηρως ακαματοιτεθεων μηνες Antig. ver. 613, Edit. Johnson.
Shall men below control great Jove above, Whose eyes by all-subduing sleep Are never closed, as feeble mortals' are; But still their watchful vigil keep Through the long circle of th' eternal year? FRANKLIN.
The sun shall not smite thee by day
Thus expressed by the Chaldee: "The morning spectres shall not smite thee by day, during the government of the sun; nor the nocturnal spectres by night, during the government of the moon." I believe the psalmist simply means, they shall not be injured by heat nor cold; by a sun-stroke by day, nor a frost-bite by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil
Spiritual and corporeal, natural and moral.
He shall preserve thy soul.
Take care of thy life, and take care of thy soul.
Thy going out and thy coming in
Night and day-in all thy business and undertakings; and this through the whole course of thy life: for evermore.
ANALYSIS OF THE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FIRST PSALM
The scope of this Psalm is to show that God alone is the refuge of the distressed.
I. While some are looking for earthly comfort and support, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,"
II. Faith sees God, the only helper; and says, "My help is the Lord."
And the first reason for this is given: God's omnipotence and sufficiency. "The Lord that made heaven and earth," and is consequently the author and dispenser of all spiritual and temporal blessings.
And the second reason is, his grace and goodness; "he will not suffer thy foot to be moved."
A third reason is, his watchful care: "He that keepeth thee will not slumber."
III. The end which God proposes in his watching,-to keep them.
1. He is the "Keeper of Israel." He guards his Church; he is as a wall of fire about it.
2. He is a shade. This certainly refers to that kind of umbraculum, or parasol, which was in very ancient use in the eastern countries. The sense of the passage is, Neither the day of prosperity nor the night of adversity shall hurt thee; nor the heat of persecution, nor the coldness of friends or relatives: all these shall work for thy good.
3. "He shall preserve thee from all evil;"-and,
4. Especially from every thing that might hurt thy soul: "He shall preserve thy soul."
The psalmist concludes with this encouraging assurance.
1. "The Lord shall preserve thy going out." We are always beginning or ending some action, going abroad or returning home; and we need the protecting care of God in all.
2. "From this time forth." Now that thou hast put thy whole trust and confidence in God, he will be thy continual portion and defence in all places, in all times, in all actions; in life, in prosperity, in adversity, in death, in time, and in eternity.