Beckett: In Your Going Out and Your Coming In

Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
My help comes from Yahweh, 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.
Yahweh is your keeper; Yahweh is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
Yahweh will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life.
Yahweh will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

The theme in this psalm, as the header in the ESV suggests, is the help that comes from God; and this help is a sure thing for His people. When the psalter lifts up his eyes to the hills, I imagine the main character in a movie looking up to the hills/the sky in hope of some help from divine intervention. Only in these movies, no help comes.

While it is Hollywood’s strong implication that God is indifferent in our miserable situation, the true reason for their helplessness is their lack of faith—i.e. trust—in this God. Previously, God was out of the equation in their life, and now suddenly they demand He show them some sort of sign, and we all know how Jesus thinks of demands for signs in an evil generation (Matthew 12:39). Hint: they will not receive a sign (other than the sign of the resurrection, as Jesus says, which they don’t believe, hence the futility of their demand for a sign).

But I digress. The psalter’s complete trust is in Yahweh. He knows—without a doubt—that God is not one who slumbers or sleeps. Because He neither slumbers nor sleeps, the Lord is certain to be your protector. No evil shall overtake you; He will keep your going out and your coming in. Just what does this mean?

The psalter is quoting specifically from the promise in the Torah, “Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out” (Deuteronomy 28:6). This is God’s way of saying He promises to always bless His people in His bringing them out and bringing them in.

This is of immediate significance to God’s promise to bring them into the Promised Land, “And He brought us out from [Egypt], that He might bring us in and give us the land that He swore to give to our fathers” (Deuteronomy 6:23). God promised to bring them out of slavery and death in Egypt and to bring them into life in the Promised Land (which was extremely fertile land, cf. the Fertile Crescent) and most importantly life with Him as His chosen people.

This promise, of course, is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ. God’s blessing for our going out and our coming in is completed in Christ. For in Christ, we are brought out of the death and slavery of sin and into the life of Jesus Christ. This is precisely what God performs in Baptism:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? …For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.

Romans 6:3, 5

Our culture is a “coming out” culture. One who “comes out of the closet” and professes some sinful sexuality is praised, celebrated, and honoured as a hero. Yet in their coming out, they are simultaneously casting out the Holy Spirit, whether they previously had Him or not. Those who previously had Him and “come out” quench the Spirit by refusing to listen to His work of Law and Gospel (i.e. this is a sin; therefore, repent and believe the Gospel for the forgiveness of your sins). Those who did not previously have Him and “came out” leave no opportunity for Him to come in unless they repent.

The world we live in is a “coming out” culture, but the life of a Christian is one of coming in. That is, the life of a Christian is one whom the Holy Spirit brings out of slavery to sin and death and brings into eternal life in Christ; and this coming in of the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6) repents of all sin, even those the world favours. This coming into life is God’s promise in Christ.

There are many thoughts on Jesus’ miracles, yet the main thing to know about miracles is that they all pointed to the greater miracle: Jesus’ resurrection, whose resurrection we share in by virtue of our Baptism. All of Jesus’ resurrection miracles point to this promise we have in Him, such as the girl who was “not dead but sleeping” (Matthew 9:18-26). From Jesus’ perspective, she was merely sleeping, although from the world’s perspective she was certainly dead.

This is how it is for all God’s saints who have been baptised into Christ. All God’s saints will be blessed in their going out and their coming in because in Christ, His saints are promised the going out of sin and the coming in of eternal life in Christ.

Thank you for reading this article. Please enjoy the following work by Felix Mendelssohn based on Psalm 121, Elijah.

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