This lecture was delivered just before Teshima's departure for Israel (February 1968). At this time he took a group of over eighty people to Israel in order to celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem which was realized in the previous year. This is considered the third Makuya Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Ikuro Teshima

Today, we will read from Psalm 121. This is a famous song loved by many people. In 1932, when I first started learning Biblical Hebrew from a Bible scholar, Professor Junichi Asano, he taught me this psalm. I used to recite it in Hebrew.

The psalm is entitled "A Song of Ascents." I remember this psalm every time I make a pilgrimage to the city of Jerusalem. This song left a deep impression on me when I first visited Jerusalem. At that time, only Mr. Yutaka Kubota (President of Mitsubishi Steel Mfg.) and I went together. This time, I feel as if I were dreaming to find myself going on a pilgrimage with eighty-four people of Makuya.

Psalm 121 is generally considered a song for pilgrimage, but some scholars believe that David composed it rather on the eve of a battle to inspire his soldiers.

The subject of the first two verses is "I," whereas it is "you" from the third verse onward. Accordingly, it seems that the first person sang the first two verses, and another sang from the third verse on; from this, we know they sang alternate verses. Perhaps, as they marched on, the first and latter halves of troops might have sung it in sequence. Or, it could be that during the pilgrimage, people sang this song to each other.

Anything can happen in war or on pilgrimage. Verse 3 reads, "He who keeps you." The word "keep (shamar meaning to keep/preserve/protect)" appears six times within this song.

It means God will protect you all along dangerous journeys. However, I think that this applies not only to pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Even in the midst of our urban life, we can experience this "protection."

Earlier, I was amazed to hear Mr. M.'s testimony. He was involved in a three-car collision, and yet all of the passengers were unharmed. I thought, "Even now God protects those who believe in Him." I couldn't hold back my tears of gratitude.

This song's theme is "God shall protect you." Those who aim toward heaven in this terrestrial world experience dangerous, threatening moments every day in a pilgrimage, in a military march, or whatever else. Reflecting on the past, however, we find that we were indeed protected and feel a great sense of thanks. Thus, this song isn't only for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Every day, when we remember that there is the One who protects our going out and our coming in, we find this song to be delightful every time we read it.

(1968)