Another look unto the hills

Psalm 121--7

Revised and re-posted from a year ago is the following blog entry:

Taken from Psalm 121:7-8 in the Amplified Bible, the Verse of the Day for June 22, 2016 provides great comfort and assurance to the believer:

The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

These verses make up a familiar passage from one of the most recognized Psalms of David which opens in this way:

Psalm 121: 1-2:

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

Bishop KC Pillai, a converted Hindu, dedicated his life to enlightening students of the Bible regarding Orientalisms or customs and practices from the Eastern sectors of the world that so clearly influence our understanding of Scripture. Pillai and other scholars point out that the first verse of Psalm 121 is often rendered as a statement when in actuality it should be a question. In contrast to the rendering of verse 1 in the King James Version which opens with “I will lift up my eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help,” Pillai suggests that the verse should be read: “Shall I lift up my eyes to the hills? From whence comes my help?”  The answer follows in verse two: “My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.”

This particular psalm is said to be among the Psalms of Degrees or Songs (Psalms) of Ascent. Psalms 120-134 comprise a “hymn book” from which pilgrims sang as they were ascending Mount Zion, the highest point in Jerusalem, the place of celebration of the annual feasts mandated by God for the Children of Israel. Paul Stroble, in his blog devoted to this psalm points out that “Clift McCann writes in The New Interpreter’s Bible that these psalms are all short enough to be memorized and several contain references to everyday life, implying that these psalms reflect the experiences of everyday people traveling or arriving at Jerusalem.”

Stroble, also mentions that various writers refer to Psalm 121 as “the psalm for the journey of life,” and “the psalm for sojourners.”  He continues his discussion of the merits of this psalm that he finds especially meaningful “because of the comfort of its promises as one travels literally and figuratively.”

The passage from Psalm 121 and its reference to the Lord who “shall preserve thy soul from all evil” also brings to mind a series of blog entries entitled “A Five-fold Prayer.” The commentaries were based on a statement regarding the ways of God when we find ourselves in perplexing situations that challenge our faith. In such instances, God is endeavoring to do one or a combination of five things: “Direct us; Inspect us; Correct us; Protect us, and Perfect us.”

After hearing those words, I took those five verbs and formed them into a request, a petition, a personal prayer to God.  I asked God to become the initiator of the action, and I would become the object of his action. I also examined each of the verbs with scriptural illustrations from the Old Testament and New Testament and composed a prayer/psalm inspired by each verb at the end of each section related to each of the five verbs. In writing out my personal application of the scriptures, I also incorporated music related to the verbs as well. In Part 4 I asked God to “Protect Me.” Since there was no word “protect” used in the King James Version, I used the term “deliver” and shared this personalized psalm or poetic petition at the end of discussion of this particular verb:

Protect me

As a child runs to safety in his father’s arms,

So I, too, run to you, “my shelter from life’s storms.”

Lord, I long to dwell with you in the secret place,

My buckler, my shield, deliverer, my fortress,

Strong tower, defender, who responds to my prayer.

For Lord, you are faithful, who will establish me

And protect me and deliver me from evil.

We conclude our discussion with one of my favorite musical compositions inspired by Psalm 121 “My Help” offered by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.

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