“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.” Psalm 121
About couple of decades ago, when my family and I were being shown around the old central city of Leiden, Holland, we were taken up on some kind of ancient battlement that has stood there for centuries.
Hundreds of people were about, as they say. Our guide, a historian, was narrating the story of the ancient city from atop from the battlements, which, as I remember it, was a huge concrete angel food cake. Dozens of people were strolling on it, enjoying the sun and the Sabbath.
I couldn’t help thinking about the fall one might take if one lost his or her balance or was somehow nudged off the edge. There were no fences, no wires, no plexi-glass, and no warning signs. If you would fall, you’d simply splat on the ground beneath it, maybe eight or ten feet, as I remember.
“So I’m amazed,” I told our guide at Leiden, “that there’s no wall. What happens if people fall? I mean, someone could sue.”
He laughed. “The court would say, ‘You’re a fool for falling off the edge.’”
I found that answer really strange because it wouldn’t happen here, and certainly wouldn’t be said. In fact, it’s possible that someone might stage a fall just to reap the dividends. We are a litigious society.
I don’t need to go back farther than fifty years or so in my own ethnic tribe to locate theological arguments that questioned the righteousness of insurance. I mean, what God appointed to happen, happens, or so the tenet runs. Insurance, theological purists argued, weakens dependency on God by pushing the insured to take comfort instead in an financial portfolio.
Today that argument is dead in the water. It would be impossible to live without insurance these days, a high-wire act without safety nets.
But Psalm 121 minces no words. In its eight short verses, it insists five times—count ‘em yourself—that God watches over us, and he does so without blinking. He neither slumbers nor sleeps. He’s always there.
Affluence is a buffer, keeping us from need. From when comes my help? —from my 401Ks, my retirement fund, my nest egg. It’s probably fair to say that in terms of heat, clothing, fuel, and food, in the west at least, we’re warmly taken care of. That God watches over us is nice, but get real and keep your eyes on the Dow Jones.
All of which would be true, if it weren’t for the tortures of the soul, the pain that come from wounds within. Far be it from me—a citizen of one of the richest countries in the world—to say that those hurts, sorrows of the heart, are more crippling than the sorrows of the flesh. I’m in no position to judge. We’ve got food in our new refrigerator.
But I know something about heartache, as does everyone who’s ever lived, including the only one of us who was sinless.
Fat or thin, rich or poor, what remains the greatest comfort is not a good lawyer or a bountiful insurance payoff. What Psalm 121 won’t allow us to forget is that our God is always there, vigilant, caring, protective.
The poet can’t say it often enough. He’s there, he’s there, he’s there—and he won’t fall asleep on the job. You can’t buy that kind of insurance. Someone, the sinless one, already did.