A Reflection on Psalm 121

The first reading today is from Psalm 121.

I’m a big fan of questions. I like asking questions, love answering questions, and I enjoy starting my sermons out with questions. Questions help frame a conversation. They guide me, letting me explore all the possibilities such a question comes up with. A question enhances my creativity. And that’s what Psalm 121 does today when it begins with a question. The author asks, “Where will my help come from?” The author is posing a question and, in the next 7 verses, will explore possible answers.

The author of this psalm first looks to the hills for help. Hills might be a strange place to look for help but, when we’re in need, looking upwards is a normal response. We might feel we are trapped in a valley, surrounded on all sides by what is afflicting or bothering us. We look for a way out, so we look up, towards the hills that around us. Cities, castles, and fortifications were usually built on hills, providing some protection and defense during a military attack. A hill is a safer space than a valley so that’s where the author first looks.

But hills, the places where people live, build cities, and towers, is not where the author finds final strength. A hill cannot overpower or protect from the God that created it. The author turns to the ultimate creator, God, for protection. The psalm assures us that we are seen, noticed, and protected by the God who created all hills and all seas. In verses 3-8, the word “keep” is used six times. It’s used in this case to mean “watch over,” like a guard protecting a city a night. God isn’t just protecting us, God is watching us, guiding us, through trouble and strife. And this guidance does not happen only once. God continues this process, over and over again, through this life and into the next. 

Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for 7/10/2016.