Psalm 121 • The Lord is Your Keeper


Psalms 120-134 are each labeled as “A Song of Ascent”. As Jews made pilgrimages to Jerusalem, these are the songs sung while traveling the roads slowly leading up to Jerusalem, culminating in their arrival at the Temple. One of the important functions of each of these 15 Psalms is in the way they prepare the worshiper for the culmination of their travel into the very presence of God, to have the right attitude in bringing their sacrifices to Him. So often we forget that what we think are delays in our life are really His patience waiting for our heart and mind and soul to take hold of the proper attitude and heavenly perspective. In reality, we are on a journey preparing us for eternal life in His presence.


Read through the entire Psalm and make note of the word that is used most to describe God’s actions:

  1. “He who keeps you” (v.3)
  2. “He who keeps Israel” (v.4)
  3. “The Lord is your keeper” (v.5)
  4. “He will keep your soul” (v.6)

    There are also 3 other phrases which closely compliment these thoughts:

  1. “He will not allow” (v.3)
  2. “The Lord will protect you” (v.7)
  3. “The Lord will guard” (v.8)

The primary theme of this Psalm is the Lord as our personal Keeper, a truly inspiring meditation when coming into the very presence of the Lord, or to His temple as would be the case of the pilgrims preparing themselves for such an encounter.

Read verse 1

Q: There are at least 3 probabilities as to the meaning of “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains”. Can you list them?

  1. It could be the prayer of someone needing to be rescued, looking to the high ground for a sign that help has arrived.
  2. It could be a reference to the fact that so many idols and temples built to false gods were established on hilltops, and that to trust false gods is to hope for help that will never come.
  3. Most likely, Jerusalem being located at the top of a mountain, and the fact that private worship often took place in one’s home by opening an eastern window and gazing towards Jerusalem, that it is an affirmation of all the positive attributes of God as symbolized in Jerusalem and the Temple on their mountain.

Read verse 2

Q: Of all the myriad of qualities and attributes of the character and nature of God that COULD be mentioned, why in this context is it significant that He is here affirmed as the Creator?

A: Our help is not coming from someone merely familiar with our situation, or merely experienced in similar matters, but the One Who created everything that has gone into creating the very situation we find ourselves in. There is no higher expert to assist us than the Creator Who obviously knows every detail of what the situation is, as well as the precise solution.

Application:  If we are not looking to Him, we are looking to something allowed to replace Him.

Read verse 3

Q: We’re seeking help for one reason or another, for one circumstance or another. How does His assistance to “not allow your foot to slip” relate to the kind of help He will provide?

A: It’s not a promise that all the physical problems associated with our situation will be automatically erased, but that He will reinforce our spiritual character so that we will not “slip” in our faith and walk during these times.

Point: In the course of the tests and trials of such great Biblical characters such as Moses, David, Elijah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and so on, the common characteristic they share is concern for maintaining their spiritual walk even more than overcoming the difficult circumstances before them. It’s always God first, self second.

Application: The help we need above all else is in maintaining faithfulness.

Read verse 4

Q: What comfort do we derive from v.3-4 that the Lord “will neither slumber nor sleep” in regard to either Israel collectively or each of us individually?

A: There is no day and night, no times of working and times of sleep from working with God. He is present, available, and working all the time. It’s not a matter of us catching Him at the right time, but that we are always obedient in order to receive Him according to HIS timing.

Read verse 5

Q: What is the meaning of “shade on your right hand”?

A: The right hand is always a biblical symbol of one’s power and strength. “Shade” can also be translated here as “shadow”. Taken altogether, it’s the reassurance that we are always standing in His shadow, that He is always present with us, and that HE is the source even behind our individual strength.

Read verse 6

Q: Are we REALLY concerned that the sun and moon are sources of problems for us

God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also.

― Genesis 1:16

Throughout the Bible the sun and the moon are used to represent rulers or powers over the physical environment. Just as Joseph’s dream identified his father as the sun, his mother as the moon, and his brothers as stars. Since our help is the Creator, these things are in His control and subordinate to Him. Even authorities that seem beyond our ability to deal with are brought under control through Him.

Application: God is working all the time, we are always standing in His shadow, and what is not in our control is under His.

Read verse 7

Q: How does this expand on the thought initiated in v.2?

“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

― Matthew 10:28

Jesus Himself said that His kingdom is not of this world. It’s more important to make it into the next kingdom than to achieve temporary peace in this present age. We have ETERNAL assurance of help, not temporal.

Q: What is significant about the word “protect” in this instance?

A: He knows that without His help, evil could overcome us. It’s one of the things that can appear overwhelming to us if we had to face it alone; but He Who is greater can be trusted to protect us from even the worst spiritual and/or moral influences.

Application: His promise is for spiritual protection both in this life and the one to come.

Read verse 8

Q: To the people living during Old Testament times—even until recently in history—what would “your going out and your coming in” mean to them?

A: One’s house and/or city in which they lived was their safe haven, the place most fortified for their protection from wild beasts or even marauders. It was therefore normal for them to have to go out of these safe havens to the place they actually worked—to grow crops, tend cattle, chop wood, etc.—and at the end of each work day return to that place. People in those times were the most vulnerable while going to and from work.

WE must go to and from God’s work but have the assurance that He will keep us in the process as we are working in the world and safely return back together to His church.

Q: What might be significant about the last word “forever”?

A: This Psalm is not just an affirmation for this part of our life in Christ while on earth, but for our entire life with Him in eternity. This is why the most important protection He provides is for our faith and soul.

Application: His protection is not just for when come together as a church, but in the course of daily life.

Overall Application