Breathe: Saturday, March 18

Saturday, March 18 | Rev. Darren Hensley | Psalm 121

In the Psalter, we find perhaps some of the most beloved psalms of joy and confidence in the Graduals or Songs of Ascent, and among these, Psalm 121 stands as a most eloquent profession of trust in God’s providence and care. It is certainly a favorite of mine. For centuries, pilgrims recited this psalm on their way up to Jerusalem, and its words are well-known by persons everywhere needing assurance and protection amidst the trials of life. Indeed, this psalm may have originated as a farewell liturgy, and so is most appropriate as a psalm of our journey—whether in life or to the heavenly Jerusalem.

Its verses carry us on our path as we lift our eyes to the hills, a place of destination or also possible danger. Seen as the symbol of divine assistance, this description affirms the sovereign power and might of God who can and will keep and deliver us in every circumstance. Yet, the psalmist claims God’s tender and personal concern for our well-being, just as the Lord accompanied the Israelites on the exodus from Egypt. This promise does not mean everything will always work out the way we want it or that there are not consequences. Yet, even in the brokenness of life—the mistakes, setbacks, and difficult choices we sometimes have to make—we can trust God is working with us, even, and especially, when we might not perceive it.

The Psalms teach us to make room so that we may discern the paths to which God is calling us, and through the power of their words, grant us permission to be honest with God. And so, as a psalm for sojourners, this psalm is an appeal to live our lives fully in the present grounded in a promise. Like Abraham and Sarah, we, too, are called to be a people “always on the way.” The orientation presented here, however, is not a summons to rush forward in an other-worldly escapism. Rather, it speaks to a sense of unsettledness where structures of social privilege and power meet divine judgment. As sojourners, we must be aware of the ways we can participate in such work. For Jesus, such confrontation led to a cross, but the good news is that God was ever there keeping his life even as God will keep ours, while we seek to follow Jesus and decide what to do next.

Prayer: God of Presence, on life’s journey, may we never lose sight of the beauty of the world around us and the gifts of family and friendship. Though we may not know what lies around the corner, we do know that You go with us. Strengthen us in Your promise. Whoever we meet, whatever tasks we encounter, show us opportunities to be faithful unto You. May we be ever grateful for those who offer us sustenance and comfort along the way. At the crossroads we face, grant us discernment, guidance, and wisdom and keep us on Your path. O Lord, grant us traveling mercies. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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