As our writing team was discussing Psalm 121, I found myself asking the question: is this psalm true? While I know it’s not a question we’re supposed to ask when we’re reading the Bible, I think it’s a fair question in light of what the psalm posits. The psalmist made the claim,

7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;

    he will keep your life.

8 The Lord will keep

    your going out and your coming in

    from this time forth and forevermore.

Keep you from all evil? That’s quite the categorical and absolute statement. It would be easier to get behind if the author had said, “God will keep you from most evil.” If we’re honest, doesn’t it seem as though evil touches even the most devoted and pure-hearted followers of Jesus?

My mind immediately went to the virtuous Dietrich Bonhoeffer. During the Nazi’s rise to power, Bonhoeffer stood up to Adolph Hitler and stood his ground as a follower of Jesus calling out both his country’s abhorrent actions and the church’s apostasy. For those reasons, he was imprisoned and hanged only days before the American liberation of the POW camp. Was he kept from evil? I was lamenting this story and imagining it as an example of the way this psalm doesn’t seem to match with reality. However, during the course of our writing team’s conversation, I was struck by the truth that it’s completely unfair for me to state whether God has kept someone else from evil. Certainly, from the outside, it seems as though Bonhoeffer’s life was overcome by evil, but Bonhoeffer himself might say otherwise.

In fact, I now believe he would argue quite ardently that “the Lord kept him from all evil; he kept his life.” Knowing that his life on this earth was quickly coming to a close, Bonhoeffer sent one final message to George Bell in England: “This is the end, for me the beginning of life.” He echoes what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). I’m convinced that Bonhoeffer died more in love with Jesus than he’d ever been previously and after he breathed his last breath was ushered into his glorious presence.

When Christ is our supreme treasure, we are untouchable. When Jesus is our ultimate prize and our deepest affection, there is nothing that can stand against us. In the same way that no amount of water outside of a boat can sink it, no amount of evil outside of us can snatch us from our savior’s hand. Being kept from “all evil” doesn’t mean that we won’t be attacked by evil, it means that we won’t be defeated by evil! He will keep our life, just like he kept Bonhoeffer.

Today take some time and reaffirm your love for Jesus. Pray back Paul’s words, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” And then thank Jesus for keeping you and protecting you from evil.

Ryan Paulson
Lead Pastor

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