“My eye has been made to see my wall being raised up;
Before me is the one who does evil;
My ear hears.”
(Psalm 92:12 [verse 11 in English])
A short survey of English Bible translations will give a vast variety of interpretations of this verse, thus it ought not be surprising that the one I offer above is again rather distinct from some of the others. In fact, about the only thing that each translation can be said to have in common is that it speaks of the eye seeing and the ear hearing something, though that something is debated by translators.
The text literally speaks of seeing “my wall” being raised up. The Hebrew word used there is r…wv (shur), which typically refers to a small wall that might be placed around a well or a fence that might be laid between two people’s property. In context, it seems that God is giving the psalmist the confidence to say that though the enemy is on my borders, I shall not fear because even now I see God erecting a wall to protect me and to protect this covenantal land that God has entrusted to my family.
If we translate the verse in this fashion, then rather than it speaking of the destruction of the psalmist’s enemies, its focus is really on the defense of the psalmist from his enemies…something that lends itself better to the following verses. Remember too, this is a Sabbath psalm, and as such, this is that which the assembled congregation would be singing as they implore God’s protection from the foes all around them.
The notion of the ear hearing things is not so much a notion of the psalmist hearing perhaps the clamor of the enemies outside of the walls, but instead it is covenantal language that speaks of the design of God: “He who has ears, let him hear” is a common Biblical phrase to say, “Listen to the design and wisdom of God.” In other words, while the enemy is before you, listen to God’s plan to preserve you healthy and strong from the onslaught of the wicked…for (as the following verses speak) it will be you who bear fruit in old age.
Thus it is a reminder to us to be confident and sure that God is in the business of strengthening and walling in his own to preserve them from the evil one. And indeed, God is still in the business of preserving his own today which ought not only to give us confidence in doing his work in this world, but it should also drive us to praise for he has done this for us.
“And Abraham journeyed from there toward the land of the Negeb and he dwelled between Qadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar.”
After the fall of Sodom and the surrounding cities, Abraham returns back to the west and the land of his sojourning. The Negeb (sometimes written as “Negev”) is the region to the southern side of what would become Israel. Qadesh and Shur are both on the western coast with Gerar just a little inland (not too far from Beersheba). All of these regions are part of the broader Canaanite territory and they are part of the territory that God had promised to Abraham. This is Philistine territory as well, yet again, all of this region is part of the inheritance of Abraham. In addition to this area being part of what would become national Israel, some of the area is also the territory through which Israel would travel on their wilderness wanderings. Again, God preserving his people in a place where they are surrounded by pagans.
While we may not wander leading a caravan of livestock, in a similar way, we are also wanderers in a land not our own. The culture around us typically claims to believe in God, but by the way most folks live, little of that testimony has merit. Crime, pornography, false teachings being presented as Christianity, and oppression fill our land, yet God provides for us as we walk in the midst of unbelief. In light of this, though, we are given a message to share with those we meet—one of hope, one of life, one of salvation. Because God provides for us and protects us, we have nothing to fear and nothing to hinder us from a bold testimony of faith. How often we fall short.
An interesting side note can be found in the names of the territory that Abraham is traveling between. Qadesh is derived from the Hebrew word for “holiness”—something that has been set apart for divine use. Shur is derived from the word that describes a wall around a well— something that protects the well from being destroyed. Gerar is derived from the word meaning, “to sweep away.” Indeed, these are things that are promised to Abraham’s children though the pagan nations regularly have set their hands to make poor imitations of what can really only be found in God. We are called and set apart as holy and God indeed sets a wall around us to protect us. To that end he sent his Son to suffer and die on the cross so that our sins might be washed or swept away in his grace. How significant even the names of these ancient cities are; how sad it must have been for Abraham to see the bastardizations of truth all around him. How we also ought to lament at how often truth is warped and distorted in our culture as we sojourn in a land that is not our own.