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By KEITH ANDERSON
In the Book of Psalms, there are 15 Psalms of Ascents, written for when the people of Israel made their way to Jerusalem for the High Holy Days. Such trips were fraught with risks and dangers as properties were left in the care of others and thieves found easy prey along the path. In those days, Jerusalem was a small city tucked in the eastern hill country.
Psalm 121 reads: “I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip — he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you — the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm — he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore (NIV).”
In this psalm, we learn something of the sojourner, his understanding of God and his situation. The author was one of faith and trust in God, the creator. This God watches over those who travel, and never tires nor sleeps. This God protects from dangers along the way, whether thieves or in nature. The trip will happen, and the psalmist depends on God for the best possible outcome.
Imagine taking such a trip in those days. The customs and traditions dictated the journey. Staying home to play it safe was not an option. People were compelled to gather in Jerusalem three times a year insofar as they could afford. Caravans provided the best hope of safety along the winding routes up towards Jerusalem. The dangers and risks of the trip became transformed into joy and a festive mood upon reaching the temple that overlooked Jerusalem. Can you imagine a national worship service in our day and time?
As a new year begins to unfold, my prayer is that my eyes would be open to see what God would have me see. While I would love to avoid the dangers that lie ahead, I hope and pray that I would respond to any and all opportunities that would enrich or enhance my life and those around me. And may I never forget that my help comes for the Lord, the creator of heavens and hills, who neither slumbers nor sleeps. Truly, God is worthy of worship!
The Rev. Keith Anderson is pastor of First Lutheran Church.
Perspectives is a regular column sponsored and written by members of the Ketchikan Ministerial Association.