The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 8 The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore. —Psalm 121:7-8
The rugged valley of Helm’s Deep and its stronghold, the fortress of Aglarond, is the scene of the first epic battle for the Ring in Tolkien’s, The Lord of the Rings. Prominent in the battle is Aglarond, or the Hornberg, whose most external barrier is the Deeping wall. The wall is imposing as it stands twenty feet high and is wide enough for four men to stand abreast. As the Deeping runs from the White Mountains left to right, it bends to the southeast and terminates at the Hornberg. A thick and tall tower, the Hornberg functions as the entrance to the bulwark, as an anchor for the wall, and as a tall sentry overlooking the valley.
Imagery from The Lord of the Rings fires my imagination and expands my thinking about biblical realities. For example, as soon as I read Psalm 121:7-8 in preparation for this blog post, the picture that instantly came to mind was the Hornberg. Those fleeing into the fortress sought refuge and, though still somewhat anxious, felt safe there. It’s not without purpose that this strong place is also referred to as “the Keep.”
Of the six times that the word “keep” shows up in Psalm 121, three of those come in quick succession in the last two verses. Clearly, there is a point of emphasis being made by the psalmist. Note the shift from the present tense in the earlier verses of this chapter to the future tense in verses 7-8. Anxiety is always related to our thoughts about the future, near or distant, regarding an issue over which we’re trying to control the outcome. Surely the psalmist means to settle our hearts concerning whatever troubles are coming our way by reminding us that our God will not let His Keep fail.
However, we should not mistake God’s keeping as the absence of conflict. In the awful battle of the Hornberg, there is great suffering and loss of life. Journeying through the Christian life is no different. As Derek Kidner writes, “In the light of other scriptures, to be kept from all evil does not imply a cushioned life, but a well-armed one. See Psalm 23:4, which expects the dark valley but can face it. The two halves of verse 7 can be compared with Luke 21:18ff., where God’s minutest care (‘not a hair of your head will perish’) and His servant’s deepest fulfillment (‘you will win true life’, NEB) are promised in the same breath as the prospect of hounding and martyrdom (Luke 21:16f.).” (Taken from: Kidner, Derek. “Psalms 73-150.” Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Vol. 14b, p. 432.)
How has my understanding of God’s keeping been affected by Psalm 121?
Instead of listening to and feeding my anxious thoughts, how will I seek out and listen instead to the One who promises to keep my soul?
With the promises of this Psalm, what specific risk of love or faith will I now move into, knowing that God will keep me?
How do I need to adjust my expectations that living the Christian life will not be free from anxiety, pain, and loss?