What does Psalm 121 mean for us today?

Commentary: An active faith, not fatalism

Psalm 121:1-2

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains    where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the Lord,    the Maker of heaven and earth.

Week 24 (June)

A few days after our return to Italy from our first home assignment year, I was in the apartment of an Italian woman. There, over a cup of espresso in her small, high-ceilinged kitchen, our conversation turned to spiritual matters. She is not a born-again Christian, although her daughter and son-in-law had been converted 15 years previously.

"I believe in fate," she suddenly said to me. "Whatever is meant to you will happen."

When I started to protest, she continued, "How else do you explain the fact that a man is hit by a car as he crosses a certain street corner? He could have crossed somewhere else or waited a moment and have lived. It's all up to chance or fate."

That can be a tough argument to counter. In fact, in my book,Paul McGrady: Mr. Evangelism, I did not feel competent to address the why? of the death of an evangelist-professor in the prime of his life and ministry.

Let it be said, however, that I believe in the Holy-Spirit-inspired words of David in Psalm 121:8: "The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore".

Life is more than a mere chain of circumstances that we cannot control. Unfortunately, however, Satan too often lulls us into accepting a view of life like this woman's. Sometimes we even find ourselves saying, "Well, that's the way life is."

But is it only that? Isn't there a Creator who is indeed active on our behalf? Didn't the Holy Spirit inspire David to write, "The Lord watches over you -- the Lord is your shade at your right hand" (Psalm 121:5)?

With my limited human perspective, I don't have all the answers to the questions of life. I don't know why we are sometimes dealt such hard blows. But I do know that there is much more than mere fate or chance at work. When we find ourselves living on the level of this woman with little conscious realization of God's presence, we must remember to ask ourselves with David, "Where does my help come from?" (v.1)?

Help does come from the Lord! That's David's view of life expressed in Psalm 121. We are aware of God who never tires of being our Keeper. And we have the opportunity to express often, both to ourselves and to others, our faith in a God who is actually intervening in our affairs.

We needn't live out our lives resigned to fatalism. Our thoughts don't have to be tainted by anything that smacks of a dead obliviousness to God's presence and action.

Let's put our faith actively in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Messiah is all that David pictures Him to be in Psalm 121, and He is even more.

I wrote this devotional article while we serving as a missionary in Italy. It was published in Standard, a weekly Faith Connections take-home curriculum piece for adult Sunday school classes produced by The Foundry.

    -- Howard Culbertson,

More on God's presence: He is my shepherd     Emptiness vs presence

More for you from Psalms

Other devotional articles:    Year-long series in Standard     Devotional reflections built ham radio illustrations     Christmas    Come YeApart     Devotionals about pastors

Rookie Notebook: Our first nine months as missionaries in Italy     10/40 Window map and explanation     Seeking God's will?    African martyr's commitment    Mission trip fundraising    Ten ways to ruin your mission trip    Nazarene Missions International resources