• Steven Marsh

Peace–To Whom Do We Look for Assistance?: a Reflection on Psalm 121

“Are you crazy like them?” or “Are you saved like us?”[1]  That is the current climate of discourse around converting to Christianity. In John 3, Jesus and Nicodemus are discussing conversion that is being “born again.” God promises to make us new creations in Jesus Christ.

According to Bryan Stevenson the author of Just Mercy, “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” [2] Bryan Stevenson, an attorney who worked for the Southern Prisoners Defense Committee (SPDC), could not get the words out of his head when he received the call from Judge Robert E. Lee Key, “Why…would you want to represent someone like Walter McMilliam.”[3] Walter McMilliam, claiming innocence, was looking for a new beginning. Bryan Stevenson was helping him see that he was more than the guilty verdict.

The people of God were approaching a sacred moment and a scared space.[4] Psalm 121 depicts a journey. Mt. Zion and its hills represent blessings and challenges facing the people of God to be the people of God in their time and place. Their abilities and faithfulness would not be enough for the journey. They needed to depend on the Creator, the One who knows them the best and loves them the most. For the journey isn’t only one episode, but a string of episodes. Life’s episodes tell the story of being “born again,” being made new.

Peace means wholeness, contentment, and well-being. If we want to experience peace, we must look to the giver of peace, Jesus Christ, for assistance along the journey. Along the way, we must keep the balance between our questions and the answers the Christian faith provides.[5] For example, “Why is their suffering?” Suffering is a means to a greater end.

Psalm 121 makes it clear that we are to look to God for assistance in the balancing act between the tough questions of life and the deep answers of faith. The text makes three points for our consideration. First, God is our helper. We receive a calm and comforting assurance from God in our struggles and inner tensions, because God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. Second, God is our keeper. God warrants our unshaken trust, because the all-knowing, always present, and all-powerful God is our Creator. And third, God is our preserver.[6] Because God is our preserver and protector, there is no need to fear. Joe Klein, a writer for Time magazine relates the following account of peace coming through looking to God for assistance:

Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Robert F. Kennedy was in Indianapolis that day, speaking in a black neighborhood. It fell to him to break the terrible news to the large crowd that had gathered to hear him speak words of hope. He sought to comfort his hearers, and did so by sharing his grief over the assassination of his brother, John F. Kennedy—something he had never done publicly before. In the midst of that sharing, he spontaneously quoted the following lines about pain from the Greek playwright Aeschylus, his favorite poet: “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”[7]

Bryan Stevenson was an interruption of divine assistance for Walter McMilliam. Because God is our helper, keeper, and preserver, we do not need to waver in our trust of and confidence in God. Look to God for assistance. God is fully worthy of your belief. Continue being “born again.” It’s a good thing.

[1]The two questions are gleaned from Anna Carter Florence in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 2 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 71.

[2]Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy (New York City, New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2014), 19.

[3]Ibid., 20.

[4]Concepts gleaned from James H. Evans, Jr. in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 2, 56.

[5]This idea was first discovered while reading James H. Evans, Jr. in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 2, 60.

[6]My thinking in this paragraph has been informed by the writing of Artur Weiser, The Old Testament Library The Psalms A Commentary (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: The Westminster Press, 1962), 744-749.

[7]Joe Klein, “Psst, Who’s Behind the Decline of Politics?” in Time magazine (4-17-06), 64-65.

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