We can understand the concept of life offered in Psalm 121 as it is understood in the famous words of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The Lord is not guaranteeing physical safety from all harm, He is promising that all who are His no longer need to fear death, for He has conquered death and granted eternal life to those who believe. Like the promise that the Lord’s Holy One will not see corruption in Psalm 16, this passage looks forward to its ultimate fulfillment in Christ.
How can the believer reconcile the suffering, trials, and persecution they are guaranteed with the astounding assurance in Psalm 121 that the Lord will keep them from all evil? Some might misinterpret this passage and claim a false gospel of health and wealth. Others may question God’s wisdom when they look at the tragedies befalling Christians throughout the world. Often we simply view this psalm as a platitude. We turn to it when we feel uneasy or anxious, but stop short of the solace it offers once our fears are momentarily assuaged. We are satisfied with momentary relief when we are promised comfort forevermore.
Psalm 121 is described as a “song of ascent,” indicating that it may have been sung by Hebrew pilgrims on their way to worship in Jerusalem. Why does the psalmist lift his eyes to the hills? One explanation is that the traveler is raising his eyes towards the temple in an act of confidence. Another interpretation relies on the understanding of this passage as a literal journey, where the hills might represent danger. With either interpretation, the answer to the pilgrim’s question remains the same: the Lord who made heaven and earth is his help.