Life’s not an easy journey. There are dangers and snares all around. For my wife, the dangers are spiders (everyone is a black widow mixed with brown recluse DNA), snakes (all poisonous no matter what), and killer hornets everywhere.
As a moderate hiker, I know first hand of dangers from animals, perilous trail conditions, weather, dehydration, and more. I prepare, plan, and load my pack with first aid, water, food, and more … even if just a day hike. One of the dangers is too much sun. I’ve suffered through that when hiking the a Grand Canyon … too much sun, not enough water, bad mix. And I loved those few moments where we could rest in the shade.
Doing a pilgrimage to a Jerusalem was a perilous journey. Thieves in hiding places, wild animals along the way, and very little shade. This Psalm, the second of the Ascent Psalms, deals with seeing a God as our helper, our protector, our keeper. And in verse 5, there is a weird phrase … He is your shade on your right hand.
Weird. He is my shade? What does that even mean? In the text, it is parallel to the word “keeper” so it sounds like the shade is our protector, our defender from the perilous dangers. But how does shade protect me? And why the right hand?
The phrase “right hand” is mentioned over 160 times in the Bible. It signified strength and a place of authority (for example, Christ is at the “right hand” of God interceding for us). So God is on our right hand, the side of our strength. But our strength is helpless against the sun. It beats down on us and saps our strength.
In that area traveling to Jerusalem, temperatures can get up to 100, maybe even 120 around the Dead Sea. The sun can be deadly, no matter how much strength you think you have. So, He is our shade. He protects from the heat of the sun and the cold of the night.
No matter what this world can throw at us, He is there to protect us.
And the protection allows us to keep on our journey. The journey may be perilous, but He protects us. And we keep on keeping on.
He’s my shade. He can be yours too.
Psalm 121 … ESV
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
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.