Yahweh, My Helper
(H) A Song of Ascents. (1) I will lift up my eyes to the mountains. From what source comes my help? (2) My help (comes) from Yahweh, maker of heaven and earth. (3) He will not allow your foot to slip. He who keeps watch over you will not become drowsy. (4) Indeed, he who protects Israel neither becomes drowsy nor sleeps. (5) Yahweh (is) your protector. Yahweh (is) your shade on your right hand. (6) The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. (7) Yahweh will protect you from all evil. He will protect your soul. (8) Yahweh will protect your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever.
Three repeated terms lead us to the message of this lovely psalm. First, the psalmist emphasizes “my help” coming from Yahweh by asking and answering a question about the source of our enablement (vss. 1 & 2). Then, he repeats the phrase, “become drowsy,” along with the synonym, “sleep,” to emphasize Yahweh’s vigilant care for those who belong to him (vss. 3 & 4). Finally, in a virtual piling up of repetitions, the psalmist uses various forms of the word for “protect” (six different times in vss. 3-8). Pilgrims, while traveling to worship at the temple in Jerusalem, likely chanted this psalm as they walked along together to remind themselves of Yahweh’s constant care for them while on their long and arduous journey.
Note the psalmist’s use of four merisms, figures of speech in which opposites speak of the whole. “Heaven and earth” describes the universal scope of Yahweh’s creative power (vs. 2) . “The sun...by day nor the moon by night” emphasizes the constancy of Yahweh’s care (vs. 6). “Your going out and your coming in” conveys the idea that God protects us in every activity we might undertake (vs. 8). Finally, “from this time forth and forever” communicates the thought that his care over us will never cease (vs. 8).
I. The source of our protection (1 & 2)
II. The nature of our protection (3-8)
We who belong to Yahweh can trust him to protect us from all evil in every situation we face.
The Apostle Peter captures the message of this psalm in one verse: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7). Paul gives us the same kind of encouragement when he asks the rhetorical question, “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Rom. 8:31)? This psalm provides a detailed description of God’s unceasing care for those whom he loves. We are encouraged by the psalmist’s example to look to God alone for the protection we need (vss. 1 & 2). All other resources will inevitably fall short, but God’s provision will never fail us.
The psalmist examines Yahweh’s protection from two perspectives. First, from the divine standpoint, we can rest assured that his vigilance never ceases because our God never grows weary nor sleeps as human guardians would (vss. 3 & 4). From a human standpoint, those under his care remain confident because Yahweh promises to be with us wherever we go, to keep us safe from whatever danger that we might face, and always to be there for us in everything we do throughout our lives.
One question remains. If our all powerful, ever vigilant God is committed to protecting us in such a thoroughgoing way, why would we ever look to anyone or anything else for help? He alone is all we need, the one in whom can unreservedly trust forever.