MUSINGS CONCERNING GOD’S FAITHFULNESS AND DIVINE PROVIDENCE
The Lord Is Thy Keeper
“I WILL lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: HE SHALL PRESERVE THY SOUL. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.” (Psalm 121:1-8)
The hundred and twenty first Psalm is another portion of the scriptures which epitomizes the abundant grace that God bestows on the believer. It declares that He is such a Champion of His purchased flock that, if properly understood, He is all they shall ever need. When Jehovah is thy keeper what spiritual minded person could entertain anything more. How can we add to such marvels as are herein described. To suggest that additions are possible is to insult the glory of all eternity. To turn away from the Holy announcement because of the grand vastness it defines is to be guilty of unbelief, mistrust, and infidelity. Should it be dismissed as not a reasonable conviction in our day is nothing short of rank heresy and blasphemy.
This song will do two wonderful and necessary things: (1) It reveals to the children of God that He is so intricately welded to His people that only Holy Spirit revelation can adequately explore and explain the unsearchable love and attachment He continually has for them; (2) The negative side is that man being what he is, even in a redeemed state is so utterly dragged down by the rages of his own flesh that receiving and maintaining these truths is entirely impossible without divine reassurance moment by moment.
These verses are so loaded with benevolent sovereignty that it naturally condemns spurious faith and exposes the weakness and shortcomings of the genuine. To forget all other helps, be they ever so convenient and desirable, and cast them aside when adversity inundates our existence is truly a miracle of grace. In fact, if God did not make means of no value, and the arm of the flesh impotent, it would never be the experience of anyone.
If suffering great trials is our present lot, then we are highly favored and will sorely regret the days wherein we roared against Holy providence. It is the mercies of God that He will not allow us to destroy those blessings He has always had in store for His people.
This Psalm is ordered for the believers’ comfort and ordained for satisfaction. “The LORD is thy Keeper.” Our help comes from Jehovah. His omnipotence is in covenant league with His chosen through Christ Jesus. He will not move from His purpose, nor will He permit man to move Him. He never tires of being a loving and faithful Father. He that keeps the elect will not dose off or be remiss. Thy keeper is God the ALMIGHTY and He is as near thy side as thy right hand, though you and I may not apprehend such. He is the God of sun and moon, day and night, and has commanded that they should not smite thee. He shall keep thee from all evil and deliver you from the evil one. He will keep thy soul all in all. This He has made His obligation and God is faithful to His word. When believers go out, they shall be kept. When they come in, the same is true. The length of this promise is as long as eternity. “LORD, I believe, help thou my unbelief.”
“I WILL lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth (Verses 1-2). Many are of the conviction that Verse 1 poses a question, and that Verse 2 gives the answer and corrects any erroneous thoughts and liberates the faithful from all false conclusions regardless of how excellent they appear. Why should one look for help from any created being or power? Lift up the eyes to the peaks ever so high, it is still infinitely below the level of the Divine Creator. Do we lift up the eyes to things created and temporal, or reject such as being totally undesirable and inadequate? If Verse 1 is a question and Verse 2 the answer, a disavowal of created things is an announcement that is properly in order.
Some translate the first verse as follows. “Shall I lift up mine eyes to the hills? Whence should my help come?” Verse 2 answers with these words. “My help cometh from the LORD.”
“We must not rely upon creatures, upon men and means, instruments and second causes, nor make flesh our arm: “Shall I lift up mine eyes to the hills?”(as some read it). “Does my help come from thence? Shall I depend upon the powers of the earth; upon the strength of the hills; upon princes and great men, who, like hills, fill the earth, and mount their heads toward heaven? No; in vain is salvation hoped for from hills and mountains, (Jeremiah 3:23). I never expect help to come from them, my confidence is in God only.” We must lift up our eyes above the hills, so some read it; we must look beyond instruments to God, who makes them that to us which they are. We must see all our help laid up in God, in his power and goodness, his providence and grace; and from him we must expect it to come; My help comes from the Lord; the help I desire is what he sends, and from him I expect it in his own way and time. If he does not help, no creature can help; if he does, no creature can hinder, can hurt.” (Matthew Henry)
“Some earthly power or other is the first refuge which naturally we look to, to see what help may be found there: which, our natural inclination, the psalmist taxeth indirectly in the name of lifting the eyes to the hills, to wit, to the powers of the world, rather than to the heavenly hills of God’s omnipotency.” (David Dickson)
To others Verse 1 is put forth as a statement of enormity and the hills are not to be interpreted as created and earthly, but rather as a spiritual reference to the Holy and mighty attributes of God, making them mountains of eternal help calculated by God for comfort and assurance. “Help comes to saints only from above, they look elsewhere in vain: let us lift up our eyes with hope, expectancy, desire and confidence. Satan will endeavor to keep our eyes upon our sorrows that we may be disquieted and discouraged; be it ours firmly to resolve that we will look out and look up. For there is good cheer for the eyes, and they that lift up their eyes to the eternal hills shall soon have their hearts lifted up also. The purposes of God; the divine attributes; the immutable promises; the covenant, ordered in all things and sure; the providence, predestination, and proved faithfulness of the Lord – these are the hills to which we must lift our eyes, for from these our help must come.” (Charles H. Spurgeon)
The above interpretation as pleasing and reasonable as it sounds is not, however, any more profound and persuasive than is “My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.”
“I WILL lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” This is usually the method of the tried and tested. Though his prayers are many for deliverance and relief from the stress and overwhelming pressure of affliction, we instinctively look away from the One to whom we address our supplications and seek help from inferior means. Were faith crisp and quick to perceive the faithfulness of Jehovah, we would immediately see the folly of such a course, but faith must be exercised and the extent of our loathsome disease exposed. Our own heart will testify of the flagrant remains of the Adamic nature. One can almost hear the cries of the convicted saint as he considers his own mistrust of the Lord. Oh! God grant faith and trust equal to the glory of your indescribable perfections. Why is it so hard to strongly believe with unshakable confidence the promises that are as obvious as the written word? Why do Christians run first here, then there, looking for peace and comfort when truth declares a thousand times a page that no help can be found in men, nations, or any created power? “Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel.” (Jeremiah 3:23)
Even after acknowledging the vanity of such rancid actions, the tenacious propensity to return to “helps” other than God is as much or more lively than before. Oh! Wretched man that I am.
The person who can glibly quote scripture, (and we have all done or seen this) has perhaps not yet been stretched to the point of failing. That time may be coming, and if it does, the conclusion will be unanimously the same – faith is truly a gift of God. To turn away from all other present and available confidences when temporal disaster and humiliation are certain, is a work of God that even baffles the recipient. This marvelous mercy is surely wrought from above. In the final analysis, waiting on God must be maintained and secured by Him or we just will not endure.
It is not the purpose of the Holy Spirit to teach in these verses a despising or rejecting of what men call “legitimate means.” It is, however, powerfully communicated that when God in His providence has decreed means as the way of escape, we must still seek and wait for His leadership and direction in them or we deny His honor and glory in using them. “Unto thee Lift I up mines eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us.” (Psalm 123:1-2)
While confusion rages and perplexities confound, wait on oh tempted believer, God will not disappoint your expectation. He may place you in a furnace of fire no doubt, but wait on because your help is in God – true and faithful is He – men are not. May He grant us mercy that casting aside all misgivings and unbelief we might trust Him.
“My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.” Oh! distracted child of grace, be ye on guard of earthly deliverances. They may give temporary ease from your blighted hopes, but study the whole matter. When Jehovah helps it is complete and He alone is trusted and praised. The momentary deliverance will satisfy for a brief time but it will always be back to collect tenfold for the fleeting favor it granted. It is then that more often than not, we find we have nothing to pay. May we all implore the Lord to intercede for us – pour out our hearts and confess our weakness, fears, unbelief, and failing spirits. In the faithfulness of Jesus let us plead with Him that He would keep us from pursuing the help of vanities. Yes! There is help in them, but it is not of faith, and it is short and expensive, not to mention that God will reveal the dishonor done to His name by actions engaged in by believers as the result of petulant unbelief. May it please God to fix in solid conviction this one verse of this Psalm. “My help cometh from the LORD.”
Ask these questions and perhaps we will clear the room of the choking smoke of fleshly imprudence and satanic slanders against God. (1) What other help is all powerful? God made heaven and earth. (2) What other help has an eternal immeasurable love for the elect? Proven by the sacrifice of His only begotten Son. Not even the angels in heaven could fathom such a thing. (3) What other help is so affectionately consecrated for our protection than an eternal vigil is perfectly maintained by the very God Himself? (4) What other help has the ability to guarantee a glorious and divine outcome regardless of the multiplicity of sins and failures of His people? (5) What other help would remain faithful and unchanging all the while we impeach His perfections, dictate His actions, and bewail His holy providence? The answer to all these questions is there simply are not any – NONE.
May the ever faithful God be pleased to forgive the often insults we cast in His face, and in compassionate mercies reveal Himself to us in the full. “Strengthen us with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith, and let us know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. Let us be filled with all the fullness of God.”
“Effectual aid comes from God and none else (Verses 1-2). He alone is all sufficient. Men and angels, means and instruments, the united powers of earth, and the wisdom of all creatures are as nothing compared with God. We are never safe till, ceasing from man, whose breath is in his nostrils, we look to God alone.” (William S. Plumer)
Is it not truly amazing how we can read explicit definitions of God’s promises, bask in their sacred warmth, and in a flash of time be back in the polluted slime of unbelief. Oh! Wretched creatures that we are. Thanks be to the God of glory that His Son is the sin bearer and that He is the ever-merciful saviour.
“He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:3-4) The benignant mercy of God is often repeated by duplicate promises. One word from the Lord is absolute, surely that should be sufficient for even weak and trembling faith. That God would repeat numerous times the unchangeable perfections of His counsel is a condescending of pity and great grace. His tender compassions go to such a length that one is lost in its enormity. Still, He remembers that we are but dust, so in faithfulness He is obliged to repeat His promises as often as His loved ones are in need of reassurance. “For the confirmation of his own faith and the faith of others, that they may rest on God and depend on him only for relief in their straits, whether they have means of delivery or not, he brings forth six promises: for our faith being weak, hath need to have the promises of God branched into small parts, and multiplied in particulars, that so they may be more easily applied.” (David Dickson)
The perplexing aspect is that we are always prone to doubt the oft reiterated pledges of divine bountifulness. Nonetheless the truth remains the same; “He will not suffer thy foot to be moved:” “For God speaketh once, yea twice, yea man perceiveth it not.” (Job 33:14) “God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God.” (Psalm 62:11) “For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, Saying, surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained to the promise. For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.” (Hebrews 6:13-18)
The truly contemptuous thing is that all the while God is keeping His children, we are not standing with him, but rather brutishly indecent against Him. Only divine mercy can explain why God is pleased to contend with us.
It can be described as nothing more than a faithless scandal how little we trust Him while gazing into the face of promises made impeccable by the blood of deity. “He will not suffer thy foot to be moved.”
“The writer of Proverbs has said it; “For the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.” (Proverbs 3:26) Each verse admonishes the suffering child to remember that come what may, appearances however dark and hopeless, God will keep, yea, He will not permit the elect to be overthrown.
When adversity is so sharp and conditions black and alarming we think we can no longer stand, these verses seem a jeering contradiction. Each day brings more agonizing grief. The silence of God becomes a taunting beyond our ability to understand. We muse and wonder if we have not misapplied the word altogether. Why would God permit us to hope in His word and at the same time continue to disappoint those hopes? Have we misappropriated their meaning? Why leave us in blushing ignorance? What is the reason for glorious advertisements of deliverance, while in reality it is a trying and elongated season of increasing misery? It is here that only God-imparted confidence, faith, and trust can put to rest all evil, and appearances of the same, and cause us to believe without doubt God is true.
It is our conviction that one of the chief causes of agony is an often ignored principle in these teachings. In fact it may be of greater value to understand the negative side than an acceptance of the positive declarations only. The psalmist explains that the Lord will not suffer thy foot to be moved; great, good news; we bask in this truth. Our roaring and murmuring comes from the fact that most of the desire to move the foot is our own. When God will not permit us to work out our own deliverance, we think He has closed the door for a happy issue. We then muster up hard and derogatory thoughts against His procedure, crying unto God as if He had inordinately afflicted us because He refused to patronize our insolent stubbornness. In short, we are seeking to move without God, and He will not allow such. Then, rather than being stricken with shame and contrition, we pout, snort, and carry on as if no one cared for us.
When we pray unto God, we should at the very least believe He will do what He has promised, otherwise, our prayers are mere pretense. We should pray and believe, not pray and fret. A “not moving” means a “standing still” – something that is taxingly hard when we are suffering from fits of self-will. When the all-wise God will not permit our movements any success, we should “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” He is not waiting for us to move here or there so He can bless and instruct us. If anything, it is the opposite. We have been taught correctly when we can trust that God is our only help, and if He does not move us, then let us not attempt to move either. Admittedly, this is hard to receive, who can hear it?
“The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.” (Psalm 121:5-8)
The LORD is thy keeper:” “The LORD is thy keeper.” “What a mint of meaning lies here: the sentence is a mass of bullion, and when coined and stamped with the King’s name it will bear all our expenses between our birthplace on earth and our rest in heaven.” (Charles H. Spurgeon) This verse is not easy to believe when all seems to be against you. Satan’s opportunity in the day of deepest gloom is to sift the saints and provoke them to such a frantic pitch that his presence is felt doubly. His vile suggestions echo on for long periods of time. He stabs at the very heart of our hope, charging that God may be somewhat unfaithful, and maybe even unaware of our sad plight. The Devil will interject the thought that the Bible is nothing more than a sophisticated scheme devised by men to delude the foolish into chasing fanciful rainbows. The poor and beggarly can use God’s sovereignty as an excuse for their miserable poverty. If Satan fails from one advance, he is quick to find another, alleging insinuations with respect to God’s ability, willingness, and even fabrications as to the real definition of the “being” of the Godhead. Great promises are easy enough made, aha! but who can really keep them. Followers of such fantasies are truly empty is the charge of the wicked one. God does not appear to hear you, says he, when you pray, so there is a good possibility He can’t hear you when you murmur, complain, or even curse His name.
The Devil has more evil lies and deceptions than there are grains of sand. He will not stop his derogatory ambush until Jehovah puts forth His all-powerful; ENOUGH: and then the old adversary must depart.
These descriptions may seem to some as not possible, they are, and to those who have felt the infernal filth of the wicked one; “The LORD is thy Keeper” takes on greater dimensions in value and meaning. “It is an absolute promise –“The LORD is thy keeper.” There are no conditions annexed; it honors God for us simply to believe it, and rest on the Lord for the performance of it.” (Samuel Eyles Pierce)
The believer is kept in ways he is not even aware, and will not know of them until he is in the glorious presence of the Godhead. What magnificent things will then be revealed. Faith will become reality in the fullest eternal degree. Until such time as that takes place, may God be pleased to fix our hearts that He is the faithful committed keeper of His people.
Verses 7-8. “It is of importance to mark the reason why the prophet repeats so often what he had so briefly and in one word expressed with sufficient plainness. Such repetition seems at first sight superfluous; but when we consider how difficult it is to correct our distrust, it will be easily perceived that he does not improperly dwell upon the commendation of the divine providence. How few are to be found who yield to God the honour of being a “keeper,” in order to their being thence assured of safety, and led to call upon him in the midst of their perils! On the contrary, even when we seem to have largely experienced what this protection of God implies, we yet instantly tremble at the noise of a leaf falling from a tree, as if God had quite forgotten us. Being then entangled in so many unholy misgivings, and so much inclined to distrust, we are taught from the passage that if a sentence couched in a few words does not suffice us, we should gather together whatever may be found throughout the whole Scriptures concerning the providence of God, until this doctrine – “That God always keeps watch for us” – is deeply rooted in our hearts; so that, depending upon his guardianship alone, we may bid adieu to all the vain confidences of the world.” (John Calvin)
Not one of the Lord’s elect shall ever be lost. None of the redeemed can even be harassed by Satan, enemies of whatever sort, or by the weakness of the flesh, except as God is pleased to allow for their necessary good. “Jehovah will keep thy going out and thy coming in from now even to eternity. This is the third repetition of the phrase, Jehovah will keep, i.e. keep safe, protect, preserve, as if to silence the misgivings of a weak or tempted faith, by the reiterated declaration of this cheering truth.” (J. A. Alexander)
Let each believer ask the Almighty God to rivet a conviction so strong that each would praise His name continuously for such a great mercy. Let each remember that the Lord alone is faithful and that He will keep His people from falling. In Him all things are ordered, whatever they be, and are sure to do as Jehovah has ordained. This He shall do even forever more. Can we always believe this? God, I believe, help thou my unbelief.