Tuesday, March 14

Psalm 121:5-8 (ESV)

The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

Contemporary scholars believe this Psalm was sung in festal processions leading into the Temple.   Something of a forerunner to our singing “Hail thee, Festival Day” come the recessional on Easter Sunday, no?

Trust in God is the theme of Psalm 121, one underscored here with patterned repetition and parallelism. In v. 5-6, his guardianship over Israel is 24/7.  Yahweh is their protector, their shade from sundry harms, be they inflicted night or day.  Regarding the former, the baneful influences of the moon—becoming “moonstruck”—issued in lunacy, epilepsy, and fevers to the ancients.

Verse 8 expresses the eternity of the divine care extended over the people God rules.  And such security in the Lord’s loving-kindness they shall know, “from this time forth, and ever forever more.”  Robert Alter, a contemporary exegete, finds here the completion of “an arc with reference to creation (v. 2) at the beginning of the poem in the designation of God as ‘the maker of heaven and earth.'”

A fourth-century Latin hymn (translated by John Mason Neale) finds inspiration in this Psalm.  “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” is a favorite Advent hymn sung by Anglicans worldwide.

Consider the second stanza.  Here is stressed Christ, the Living Word through whom the world began; through whom redemption reaches its inhabitants; and by whom the new heaven and earth shall be ruled (as the Cosmic Christ).

At his Word the worlds were framed; He commanded; it was done:

Heaven and earth and depths of ocean in their threefold order one;

All that grows beneath the shining

Of the moon and burning sun, ever more and ever more!

Guide us waking and guard us sleeping, that awake we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace.  Amen.

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