Psalms 120–121: I Cried & He Answered

Read the Bible in 2011Week 42: Wednesday

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1–2

Wednesday’s Bible reading is Psalms 120–121.

These two psalms are in Book V of the Psalms, and are the first psalms is the group of Psalms 120–134, known as the ‘Songs of Ascents’.1 M’Caw and Motyer comment:

These fifteen psalms are each entitled ‘A Songs of ascents’ (AV ‘degrees’. The significance of the phrase is uncertain. Different explanations have been suggested…

Not wholly satisfactory, but on the balance the best suggestion is that these psalms were used by worshippers going up to Zion for the three great festivals of the Jewish year [cf. Exodus 23:14–17, Deuteronomy 16:1–17: the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and Feast of Booths]….

…It can be divided into five groups each consisting of three psalms. The first two groups deal with external pressures on the godly soul, expectant trust in the intervention of God, and the realization of the tremendous stability, power, and righteousness in Him; and the choice of Zion as the hinge on which turn the Lord’s purposes for men. The third group has more in common with the Wisdom literature; the viewpoint is much more general, outward, and philosophical; there is no mention of divine mercy, redemption or forgiveness, nor of prayer, the services in the sanctuary, nor the house of David; the emphasis on home and family life is peculiar to this group. The fourth group is intensely personal and devotional; the theme is the discipline of patience. The last group is dominated by the concepts of divine choice; the covenant, the community, and the sanctuary; these is a very real sense of the inheritance of the past.”2

The psalms for today’s reading are very short and M’Caw and Motyer’s description is quite apt: “The first two groups deal with external pressures on the godly soul, expectant trust in the intervention of God, and the realization of the tremendous stability, power, and righteousness in Him.” In Psalm 120 the misery under which the psalmist lives is quite evident. He has been the target of lies and deceit. There is a reference in this psalm to Mesech and Kedar; M’Caw and Motyer write:

“Since the former [Mesech] lived between the Black and Caspian Seas, and the latter [Kedar] were Arabian nomads, we have here a metaphor for uncongenial surroundings and not a factual statement of the psalmist’s home.3

In Psalm 121 the psalmist speaks of his help coming from the Lord and assures God’s people that God doesn’t slumber or sleep and that He is our keeper and our guard.

I frequently find reassurance of God’s love for me in the timing of the Bible passages I read. This past winter God used the Thursday readings from Job to hold me together and give me strength to go on as I found an echo of my life week after week in Job’s experiences. Today’s reading of these psalms wasn’t random—I’m going by a Bible reading plan I didn’t even create, but I found in them an assurance of God’s love for me and of His understanding of my weariness and faltering.

You see, yesterday was a horrible day for me; there is a wearing down of my soul to the bone as I have to live in circumstances I cannot control and at times I feel there is no hope. The words of Psalms 120–121 give me the grace I need; those words, Too long, describe the heaviness of my heart. In these psalms I find the comforting reminder that in my trouble God will deliver—that He is my help, and He doesn’t slumber nor sleep.

Too often under difficult circumstances some Christians presume that what we need is an admonition to persevere or a rebuke to be faithful; God knows when we need conviction of our heart or an exhortation, and He also knows when we need assurance of His love and understanding.

B. B. Warfield speaks so eloquently on God’s Word:

“…we do not see in revelation man reaching up lame hands toward God and feeling fumblingly after Him if haply he may find Him, but God graciously reaching strong hands down to man, bringing him help in his need, we see in it a gift from God, not a creation of man’s….4

John Owen writes of God’s Word:

“How often in the reading of it do we meet with, and are as it were surprised with, gracious words, that enlighten, quicken, comfort, endear, and engage our souls! How often do we find sin wounded, grace encouraged, faith excited, love inflamed, and this in that endless variety of inward frames and outward occasions which we are liable unto.”5

As David said:

“The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the LORD are true;
they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.”
Psalm 19:7-11

Stay in His Word. Read it, day in and day out. Trust that your loving Father will provide what you need.

Isaiah 42 Photograph: – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
1, 2, 3Leslie S. M’Caw, J. A. Motyer, “Psalms,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., pp. 529, 529–530, 530.
4Benjamin B. Warfield, Mysticism & Christianity, “This essay originally appeared in The Biblical
Review (vol. 2, 1917, pp. 169-191) but this edition was derived from The Works of Benjamin B.
Warfield (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1991, vol. 9, pp. 649-666). The electronic
edition of this article was scanned and edited by Shane Rosenthal for Reformation Ink. It is
in the public domain and may be freely copied and distributed. Pagination from the Baker
edition has been retained for purposes of reference. Scanning errors may be present in this
5John Owen, The Works of John Owen, edited by Rev. William H. Goold, Vol. IV, pp. 192.

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

6 thoughts on “Psalms 120–121: I Cried & He Answered

  1. (I’ve had to revise the categories. Most of them were wrong—they must have been left over from another post!).

  2. Pingback: Psalms 125–127 |

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