Text: Psalm 121

The pilgrim’s journey to Jerusalem to attend the holy feast was not an easy one. Those were not the days of paved tar roads and highways. There were no cars nor buses. Every pilgrim had to make his journey by foot or by beast of burden. As they do so, they were exposed to the inclement elements of the desert, as well as the dangers of robbers and thieves. In the eyes of the world, there seem to be no guarantee that they will reach their destination.

However, the pilgrim is not devoid of help. As he casts his eyes towards the hills of Jerusalem where the temple is located, he is reminded of the presence of the LORD, who is the ultimate Helper not just of his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but also of his entire journey from earth to heaven. This same LORD is also the Helper for Christians today who are strangers and pilgrims here on the earth.

Moreover, the LORD is no ordinary Helper. There may have been some who had offered us help in the past. However, as time passed, they realised that they had no ability to help us. It is not so with the LORD. He is the One who created the heavens and earth with the power of His Word. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (Jn. 1:3) Nothing is impossible for our Almighty God. He is our most able Helper.

Nevertheless, though one may have the ability to help, it is useless if the person is unwilling or is not present to help. This is the charge of the deists, who depict God as One who created the world and thereafter gone to sleep, leaving the world to run on its own.

The Pilgrim Psalmist assures us that this is not the case. God is not like man. Unlike a security guard who may doze off in his moment of weakness, our God is One who absolutely never slumbers (v.3). Thus, He is our ever present Helper.

The Psalmist then describes the LORD as a shade to emphasise his perfect vigilance and protection. Firstly, the shade is described as being at our right hand. Something that is at our right hand is always available. An umbrella is only useful if it is beside you. What use is it if it is sitting at home? Thus, the Lord is always present to hear our cries for help. If only we would go to Him!

Secondly, the LORD as our shade protects us from the sun and the moon. The sun in the day brings its scorching heat upon the pilgrims. This heat can cause severe dehydration and suck up the pilgrim’s energy. Heat injuries are not a laughing matter! Having a shade as a shelter from the heat can make all the difference in ensuring that the pilgrim makes it to the destination. On the other hand, being exposed at night under the moonlight can make the pilgrim a target of predators and robbers. A shade can thus hide and protect him from such enemies.

Thus, we see how the LORD is our perfect Helper. It is especially comforting that as the omniscient and omnipresent God, He knows all our “going out” and our “coming in” (v.8). His promise is that He will watch over our ways. What a comfort to the soul, especially to those who are on travels. Hence, this Psalm is also often termed the Traveller’s Psalm.

Dearly beloved, safety is of the Lord. We must never take our journey mercies for granted. This is made abundantly clear when members share how they were protected from accidents and serious injuries. How gladdening it is to hear their confession that this is the Lord’s preservation. May we always remember to pray before we start our journey each day.

As for me, I will always remember how the Lord preserved my wife and I after we had a serious accident around the Pan-Island Expressway. We caused quite a jam that day! Thankfully, though the front of the car was smashed, we escaped with no injuries at all. How can that be? It is only by the Lord’s mercies! Our duty on earth is still not yet done. But the lesson is now learnt – safety is always of the Lord. It must never be taken for granted.

All of us are on a pilgrimage that will eventually lead us to heaven. This world is not our home. Who is it that will guarantee our passage to the new Jerusalem? It is none other than our Lord. No man shall be able to pluck us out of our Father’s hand. Thus, we know that even should we meet with any critical injury, it is but an entrance into the everlasting joys of Christ. He is our perfect shade and our keeper. We will all be kept safe till we reach our final destination. Thus, let our souls rest in the Lord during our journey here on earth.

Lovingly in Christ,
Pastor Clement Chew