Archdeacon Simon responds to Psalm 121
Archdeacon Simon reflects on Psalm 121 and how it can be seen as a response to Psalm 23.
I will lift up my eyes to the hills – from where is my help to come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.
Whenever I read these words I think that Psalm 121 is itself a bit like a response to Psalm 23:
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
Both psalms have this same image of a valley floor which is place of trouble. Psalm 23 talks about shadows as a sign of death; Psalm 121 talks about the hills as a sign of help.
I imagine the kind of early morning or late evening when it feels like it is already night at the bottom of the valley, but the sun is still shining on the high ground either side. Or I think of the difficulty of weather forecasting in, say, the Lake District, when it can be raining had in one valley and glorious sunshine on the other side of the hill.
When you are in the valley, you can only see the valley you are in, and it might be gloomy, dangerous and depressing. But a bird’s-eye view might reveal that that’s not the whole story. For some of us some of the time, and for some most of the time, the place we are might be gloomy, dangerous and depressing. But the one who keeps his people does not slumber or sleep.
I am reminded of a text I love but which I don’t see used much, in John 5 when Jesus says, “I and my Father are always working.” He is in the middle of an argument about working on the Sabbath, or course, but how good to know: “I and my Father are always working.” The one who keeps his people does not slumber or sleep. The sun may not be shining on us right now, but it is shining somewhere. Lift up your eyes to the hills.
God is with us in the valleys, and he has a table prepared for us. He is keeping watch over us, and he is close enough to keep us from stumbling. He watches over all his people, and he is at your right hand. May you be blessed in your walk with him.
Psalms Summer Reading Challenge
Join Archdeacon Simon in this year’s Summer Challenge reading the book of Psalms together. Sign up to this course and you will receive weekly emails encouraging you in your reading. The Psalms are the hymnbook and the prayerbook of the Temple, and of the Church. In these 150 songs the Psalmist explores the whole range of human experience, with all its highs and lows, of human life lived in the presence of God, and sometimes the experience of the apparent absence of God too. Find out more about the challenge and how you can get involved.Course 19 PartsTotal current bookmarks 12