Psalms 120-134 are called the Psalms of Ascents. This has taken on a dual meaning: People traveled up to Jerusalem, which is built on a high place; so  on the pilgrim feasts, such as Passover, people would sing these Psalms as they ascended up to Jerusalem. The Hebrew word for ascents also can refer to the steps of a staircase. In the Jerusalem temple, there were steps going up from the Court of Women to the Court of Israelites, and the choir stood on those steps singing Psalms.

Tonight’s Psalm makes reference to the mountain paths that faced the traveler. How would they find safe passage? The terrain was dangerous, but even more dangerous were the unseen predators, both man and beast lurking, ready to pounce.

It takes courage to keep going.

The same is true for us, even if we aren’t walking to Jerusalem. We are on a journey to the New Jerusalem, and the way ahead sometimes seems dark and treacherous. There are days when it seems very hard to keep going.

Tonight’s Psalm recognizes that while danger surrounds us, and while people will let us down or even make themselves our enemies, there is one helper who is absolutely reliable: “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” We have a God who creates from nothing. We have a God who provides food in wastelands. We have a God who makes roads where there was only water. We have a God who raises the dead. He is the one to whom we look for all help.

He is our keeper, that is, a keeper of sheep, our shepherd. The human shepherd needs to sleep, but this one stays awake throughout the night, so that we are never without His guardianship.

The daytime sun and the night’s dangers are not to be feared, for He who made sun and moon is Lord over all the times they govern. “The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.”

One of the unique aspects of this Psalm is how vague it is. Sun, moon, mountains, the need for help. The vagueness of the Psalm is its benefit to us. God’s Word is giving us a prayer for every situation. What kind of help do you need? Sickness? Anxiety? Sin? Relationships? Fear? In every situation, in every trouble, your help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Wherever you are on your pilgrimage, the Lord is our helper and shepherd, our keeper through the dark hours of the night.

Who draws guard duty? Not the President, not the general, not the colonel; the low-ranking soldiers have the watch. But the Lord Himself takes the ordinary duty, the low-ranking duty of watching, caring, protecting.

This is He who washes feet, makes his bed in a manger, and rides on donkeys instead of horse-drawn chariots. That is your God, your keeper. His help will not fail you. +INJ+