A song of ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The LORD will keep you from all harm–he will watch over your life; 8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
“When the moon’s in the full, then wit’s in the wane.” ~ from The Witch of Edmonton: a known true story by William Rowley, Thomas Dekker, and John Ford
As one who has, at one time and another, feared for my own sanity (yes, I know if you worry about sanity, you’re probably sane), I am particularly thankful for that little line at the end of verse six: “nor the moon by night.” The moon has long been thought to cause insanity (See Jules Cashford, The Moon: Myth and Image [New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2003], 281-285 for a short history). I find it especially interesting that the Egyptians worshipped the moon, and there are hints of Israel bringing that idolatry with them (Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17-25).
I recently did Beth Moore’s Bible study Stepping Up: Psalms of Ascent. In it she gives background into these Psalms. Traditionally they were sung during the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for one of the mandatory feasts. So, these people were often in harm’s way. However, their confidence was not found in how many people were with them or in where they were located or in their own strength. Instead, the Psalmist reminds the Israelites that their confidence is in God’s character. It’s in the fact that He alone is the Creator of everything. He never sleeps (unlike idols) and watches over His people day and night, regardless of their location or activity. Even when things look dangerous, they don’t have to be afraid of various dangers, including going crazy.
What a blessing that God has addressed this in His Word! He holds our sanity, and during those times when everything around us seems to be going a little insane and it feels like our mental stability is becoming, well, less stable, we don’t have to be afraid. Instead, we can run back to the refuge of God’s character and find peace/hope in knowing that our Creator, the maker of heaven and earth, our covenant God, keeps us from harm.