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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Greenberg

Psalm 121: SomeONE to Watch Over Us

Psalm 121 is a stirring declaration of trust and dependence on ADONAI. It is another “shir hamaalot”, a “song of ascent”, intended to be recited or sung as the processional of worshipers ascended the slopes of Mount Moriah to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem.

Essa eynay el-heharim meayin yavo ezri,”; “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains- from where does my help come?”. In the Scriptures, the mountains represent the heights of God’s Presence. Multiple passages, such as as Habbakkuk 3, refer to being above the fray of life with ADONAI on His high places. (It should be noted that this is in contradistinction to the “bamot”, “high places”, pagan shrines banned in Torah as substitute shrines thought to bring one closer to God by elevation, and, which became locations for worship of idols.) The psalmist is saying that, when life’s stresses and strains assault, he turns to the Presence and worship of the Most High. He finds that help comes from the Lord, Himself. As Isaiah 41:10 states, “Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Surely I will help you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Verse 2: “Ezri meim ADONAI oseh shamayim vaaretz,”, “My help comes from ADONAI, Maker of heaven and earth.” Look what Elohim has already done; He is certainly capable of meeting our needs and problems. “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in Glory through Messiah Yeshua.” (Philippians 4:19).

Verses 3-4

Al-yitten lamot ragleka al yanum shomerka. Hinneh loyanum v’lo yiyshanshomer Yisrael. He will not let your foot slip. Your Keeper will not slumber. Behold, the Keeper of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.” “Yanum” is the imperfect tense of “num” to slumber or be drowsy. The sense is getting tired on the job and becoming careless. “Yiyshan” is the imperfect tense of “Yashen” to “fall asleep”. This verb conveys the the effect of aging. With the imperfect tense’s nuance of continuous action combined with the open-endedness of the negative “lo” used here, the text says that God will never lose track of His protectorate. There is total security in ADONAI. “Shomer” is the participle of “shamar”, to keep or guard. Elohim guards His people jealously, zealously.

Verse 5

ADONAI shomreka. ADONAI tzilkaal-yad y’mineka.ADONAI is your Keeper. ADONAI is your shadow at your right hand.” Not only does ADONAI guard His children jealously, He is their shadow. In the Scriptures, the right hand is the side of intimacy and trusted honor. God is as close and inseparable as one’s shadow.

Verses 6-7

It goes on to state the obvious result of the protectivity: “The sun will not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. ADONAI will protect you from all evil. He will guard your life.” “Nephesh” is the word here translated “life”. Generally, this word carries the sense of “soul”. It refers to more than mere existence; it connotes the maintenance and protection of the individual’s unique identity.

Verse 8

Adonai yishmar-tzetka uvoreka meattah v’ad-olam”. ADONAI will watch over your coming and your going from this time forth and forevermore.” ”Yishmar” is the imperfect tense of “shamar”. Again, its use implies continuous action, continuous protection and watchfulness, further strengthened by the statement “from this time forth and forevermore.” In Matthew 28:20, Yeshua closes His Great Commission to His talmidim (disciples) by saying, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of forever.” It happens that He has been saying this same thing, promising this same thing, for a very, very, long time!

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