The past few years, I’ve researched and considered a favorite psalm, 121, one of the “songs of ascent” believed to have been sung by pilgrims traveling the road up to Jerusalem. Authors have called 121 “the psalm for the journey of life,” and “the psalm for sojourners,” because of the comfort of its promises as one travels literally and figuratively. I decided to post some of my notes and reflections on this blog.
Based on certain childhood experiences, I’ve always struggled with an emotional kind of fatalism—not an intellectual fatalism, i.e. a pessimism about inexorable fate, but rather an emotional anxiety about what lies ahead. “What if?” is my emotional default mode when life seems uncertain. The first month of the calendar year (especially the first week or so) increases this sense of anxiety and anticipation: what will the new year bring? What if life changes in a moment (which it probably won’t but possibly could)?
Psalm 121 provides me tremendous emotional comfort about what I do believe “in my head” very solidly: that God cares for us, guides us, comforts us in trouble, and has “the big picture.” It is a simple psalm with profound promises that can carry us through different periods and challenges of our lives.
In addition to the works cited, I’ve gained much information about this psalm from two online articles. When I mention these two authors as I go, these are the sources I’m using:
James Limburg, “Psalm 121: A Psalm for Sojourners.” http://www2.luthersem.edu/word&world/Archives/5-2_Psalms/5-2_Limburg.pdf
David G. Barker, “‘The Lord Watches Over You’: A Pilgrimage Reading of Psalm 121.” http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/OTeSources/19-Psalms/Text/Articles/Barker_Ps121_BS.htm
Several other notable commentators on this psalm can be found at: http://www.preceptaustin.org/psalm_121_a_commentary.htm
The header photograph is a stretch of Interstate 70 in south-central Illinois, the path of many of my own journeys for nearly fifty years.
These notes began a few years ago, when I purchased a new NRSV Bible to replace (but more usually to supplement) the worn old Bible I’ve used since I purchased it for a college course in 1977. Approaching my 50th birthday, I decided to take notes as I compared the two Bibles. During that time of midlife spiritual renewal, my notes became a blog called Changing Bibles, and then I “farmed out” those posts at that site to this one, and also to two companion sites called The Love of Bible Study and Bible Connections. So these four sites of informal notes and reveries result from a common midlife resolution to renew my personal Bible study. My resolution clearly got out of hand, but in a good way.
This site is in memory of my mom, Mildred Stroble (1919-2012).
The contents of this blog are my personal views and opinions and are not in any way representative of my employers, publishers, or any associations or organizations with which I’m affiliated.
All original content copyright 2012 by Paul E. Stroble
All Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version unless otherwise indicated. The New Revised Standard Version Bible is copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
My website is http://www.paulstroble.com I do not post updates at this Psalm 121 site, but do feel free to add comments. I post regularly at Journeys Home.