Psalm 121:4
Shall neither slumber nor sleep. The words "slumber" and "sleep" are not climactic. Indeed, the Hebrew word for "slumber" is the stronger term of the two. There is no more in the setting of the two terms than poetical repetition. The one peril of the night-watchman is that he might be overcome with sleep. The one duty of the watchman is to keep ever, through his watching-time, awake and alert. Yet at the best no absolute security can be placed in any human watchman. A man may be overpowered with sleep, and be physically unable to resist its advances. Absolute security of defense lies in God, and we may fully trust in him. It is inconceivable that we can be placed in any circumstances or conditions which are unknown to him. Illustrations may be taken from the wilderness-journey of Israel. The pillar-cloud of the Divine presence was always there, night and day; and never anything could happen to Israel that was not divinely permitted. Or illustrate from the sick-bed of the sufferer. Worn out, the nurse may fall asleep, but the eye of the God of all consolation is never dimmed (see Psalm 139.).

I. THE EVER-WATCHFUL WATCHMAN SEES. This is more necessary in a watchman than keeping awake; he must be quick to observe, attentive, noticing everything. "All things are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." God's seeing includes what is by man seeable and by man unseeable; it includes what is and what is to be. "In every place, beholding the evil and the good."

II. THE EVER-WATCHFUL WATCHMAN UNDERSTANDS. He not only sees things, but sees the significance of things. Estimates the importance of what he sees. Recognizes the relation of what he sees to his people. Makes what he sees the ground of his prompt and gracious action in their behalf.

III. THE EVER-WATCHFUL WATCHMAN HELPS. By his merciful defendings: "No plague shall come nigh thy dwelling." By his wise upholdings: "Will not suffer thy foot to be moved." By his wonderful overrulings, which constantly turn seeming evil into real and permanent good. If our life is thus within the constant Divine inspection, we may put away all fears, and simply "seek the kingdom of God, and his righteousness." - R.T.

Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
Why was this added? Was it not enough to say, "He that keepeth thee will not slumber"? Nay, this is not mere repetition. In the one sentence God is spoken of as the Keeper generally of His Church, or people; in the other sentence as the keeper of the believer individually. And the transition from the believer to the Church is exquisitely beautiful and comforting. For the individual, on being told of the wakefulness of his heavenly Keeper, might say — "Can I dare to hope that one so insignificant as myself is to be the object of so unwearied attention?" And why not, "O thou of little faith"? Thou art a member of that body which God hath purchased to Himself at inestimable cost. Dost thou not know, that to touch this body is to touch "the apple of His eye"? and is not the body touched, if touched in the very least of its members? If thou canst believe that "He that keepeth Israel never slumbers," is not the wakeful eye upon thyself? What is "Israel" but the aggregate of such units as thyself? and how can "Israel" be incessantly watched if a single unit be overlooked? Or there is another way, in which the third and fourth verses may be connected. There is nothing of selfishness in religion. It does not content the believer that great privileges are his; he longs to share them with others; they seem but half enjoyed, unless enjoyed in fellowship and communion with multitudes possessing "like precious faith." Does his heart, then, bound at being told — "He that keepeth thee will not slumber"? Yes, but his joy is not full till the celestial voice adds — "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." Then he feels — "There is a blessed company who share with me this unwearied protection. I am not alone, and I would not be alone, in the favour of that glorious Being, who made heaven and earth." Friends, kinsmen, children, all may be included. There is room for an innumerable multitude: — oh! that an innumerable multitude may suffer themselves to be gathered under the shadow of His wings.

(H Melvill, B. D.)


1. As a shepherd keeps his sheep — by feeding them, by supplying all their needs, and also by guarding them from all their adversaries. He keeps the flock with vigilance so that it is not diminished either by the ravaging of the wolf or by the straying of the sheep.

2. As a king keeps his jewels. God hides His people in the casket of His power, and protects them with all His wisdom and strength.

3. As a governor keeps the city committed to his charge.


1. Think of God's eyes as never wearying of His people. Infinite patience!

2. God is never forgetful of His people for a single moment.

3. God is always ready to show Himself strong on behalf of those who trust Him.

4. God is never asleep in the sense that He ceases to consider us. You and I, in thinking of one thing, often forget another; but it is not so with God. He is so great that His centre is everywhere, and His circumference is nowhere; and you, dear brother or sister, may be the very centre of God's thoughts, and so may I; and all His redeemed may at the same moment have His thoughts fixed upon each one of them.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

His eye is ever upon His people for good. That great eye never closes. That great eye is as bright and piercing as ever, and not for a single instant is the vigilance relaxed. A poor woman, as the Eastern story has it, came to the Sultan one day, and asked compensation for the loss of some property. "How did you lose it?" said the monarch. "I fell asleep," was the reply, "and a robber entered my dwelling." "Why did you fall asleep?" "I fell asleep because I believed that you were awake." The Sultan was so much delighted with the answer of the woman that he ordered her loss to be made up. But what is true, only by a legal fiction, of human governments, that they never sleep, is true in the most absolute sense with reference to the Divine government. We can sleep in safety, because our God is ever awake. We are safe, because He never slumbers.

(N. McMichael.)

As He preserved the ark for Noah's sake, and Goshen for the ancient Israelites' sake, and all that were in the ship for St. Paul's sake, and all that were in the bath for St. John's sake, and all that fled to the tombs of the martyrs in Rome, when the Goths sacked the city, for the Christians' sake: so at this day He supporteth all kingdoms and states for the Churches' sake. The world is as a hop-yard, the Church as the hops, kingdoms, states, and commonwealths as the poles; and as the owner of the hop-yard preserveth the poles and stakes carefully, not for themselves, but that the hops may grow upon them: so God preserveth all states and societies of men, that they may be a support to His Church. We may take this note higher, and truly affirm that He keepeth heaven and earth for her sake; the earth to be as a nursery for her children, to grow awhile; and the heaven for His garden and celestial Paradise, whither He will transplant them all in the end. Wherefore, although the world never so much scorn, and contemn, and malign, and persecute God's chosen, yet it is indebted to them for its being and continuance; for God keepeth the heavens for the earth, the earth for living creatures, other living creatures for men, men for Israel, and Israel for the elect's sake. For their sake it is that the heavens move, the sun, moon and stars shine, the winds blow, the springs flow, the rivers run, the plants grow, the earth fructifieth, the beasts, fowls, and fishes multiply; for as soon as grace hath finished her work, and the whole number of the elect is accomplished, nature shall utterly cease, and this world shall give place to a better in which righteousness shall dwell. Yet when heaven and earth shall pass, this word of God shall not pass; for He that now keepeth militant Israel in the bosom of the earth shall then keep triumphant Israel in Abraham's bosom.

(D. Featly, D. D.)

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