The psalmist appears to be on a journey, possibly on their way to the tabernacle to celebrate one of the Jewish feasts and so, they ask God to protect them on their way.
Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding of the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.
1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.
2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.
3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.
4. How it was used.
The heading tells us this is a song of ascents. Psalms 120-134 all have the same heading.
Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.
‘Several theories of why this group of psalms is so named are available. The Jewish explanation is that there were fifteen steps from the Court of the Women to the Court of the Men in the Temple, and that each of these psalms was sung in succession on those steps. Another view is that these songs were sung in successive phases of the Jews’ return from captivity. Apparently the true explanation is that these psalms were written for the pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem for the great annual feasts, Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. ‘It seems most probable that these songs form a collection for the use of pilgrims who came up to Jerusalem at the great feasts.’
The psalmist begins by asking, whilst they look to the mountains, where does their help come from? We can imagine the psalmist looking at one of the mountains near Jerusalem and getting excited as they get closer to the city.
They confidently announce that their help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth, Genesis 1-2. In other words, His help was the Creator of the universe.
They are confident that God won’t let their feet slip on the journey, that is, they will stand on firm ground, Psalm 38:16 / Ephesians 6:11 / Ephesians 6:13.
God is watching over the psalmist, and watching over Israel, 1 Kings 18:27. They know that God doesn’t slumber, that is sleep, Isaiah 27:3 / Psalm 139:11-12. In other words, God never takes His eyes off His people, He looks, He cares and He protects them.
We can imagine the psalmist walking in very hot conditions, with the sun beating down constantly on them, hence why they say that the LORD is their shade, Isaiah 25:4.
He is at the right hand, which is a sign of authority, Psalm 16:8 / Psalm 109:31, and it appears that He’s using His authority to provide a cloud which will shelter the psalmist from the heat, Psalm 91:1 / Isaiah 4:6 / Isaiah 25:4.
The moon won’t harm them at night, which is probably a reference to some superstitions which some held but the point is that God would protect them day and night. The LORD will protect them from all harm, which possibly speaks of protecting them from any robbers they may come across on their journey to Jerusalem.
The psalmist is confident that the LORD will watch over them, He will watch over His people’s coming and going constantly, all the time, Deuteronomy 28:6 / Job 5:24.
The psalmist was confident that God was watching over them on their journey to Jerusalem and as Christians, we too should be confident that God will protect us on our journey to heaven.
Often we think that God is up in heaven and He doesn’t see us, but He does, Psalm 32:8 / Proverbs 15:3. When we remember Stephen after being stoned and he is about to die, he lifted his eyes to heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God, Acts 7:54-59.
Jesus wasn’t sitting, He is standing because He saw what was happening and He cared and He was concerned about what was happening to His servant, Stephen.
He wants to help us get to heaven even more than we do at times, but until then, He won’t take His eyes off His children, Job 36:7, especially, when they are in trouble, Matthew 10:22.