The LORD will keep you from all evil. He will keep your soul. Psalms 121:7
(click for podcast version)
During one incident in the exploits of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock with the Enterprise they encountered "the Excalibans." The Excalbians were interested in learning about the difference between Good and Evil when they pitted Kirk, Spock, Surak and Abraham Lincoln against a number of historical villains - including Genghis Khan from Earth, and the Klingon Kahless.
Now - to a Klingon, it's not flattering that Kahless, one of the heroes of the Klingon race, was cast as a champion of "evil" - though in time it became apparent that it was more of a projection - as one of the Federation's enemies he was regarded as an embodiment of evil; the Excalibans constructed their representation of Kahless from Kirk's impression of him, not the real person. But that's fiction - I'm sure we'd never make that mistake in real life - or would we?
How we define evil - what it is, who is affected by it, or who commits it, is a tangled question. No wonder how in time of war or interpersonal disputes we can misdirect or misunderstand the our enemy in a conflict as evil. But this verse cuts through all the dimensions of "evil" but getting to the most important point:
This verse is one of those worth commiting to our quiver of "promises" - it encourages us to move forward with confidence with the knowledge that evil cannot be the final victor.
The Hebrew word for evil here is "ra'" - the same word we find in Psalm 23's "I will fear no evil" (lo eira ra). Translated here as mIghtaHghach - ongoing-evil, it is a frequent word appearing over 600 times in the Bible and comes from a root meaning "to spoil." The KJV renders it many ways, including adversity, affliction, bad, calamity, distress, evil, grief and harm, to name a few.
I like that root of "to spoil," for believers understand that represents something gone wrong in creation - and it's something that God has pledged to make right.
Of course the challenge we find in such promises is - well, the fact that we KNOW "bad things happen to good people." Despite promises like this - and many others - it sometimes seems as if evil DOES have the upper hand. But, as one writer notes:
In the light of other scriptures, to be kept "from all evil" does not imply a cushioned life, but a well-armed one. .... Psalm 23:4, which expects the dark valley but can face it. The two halves of verse 7 can be compared with Luke 21:18f, where God's minutest care ('not a hair of your head will perish') and His servants' deepest fulfilment ('you will win true life', NEB) are promised in the same breath as the prospect of hounding and martyrdom(Lk. 21:16f.). [Psalms 73-150, Derik Kidner]
Now - that is a direction that a Klingon can embrace: not ... a cushioned life, but a well-armed one.
This directs us to take the whole of scripture in mind when we consider the problem of facing evil. It draws us to realize we move toward God's ultimate victory.
When we reflect on that we will rejoice with St. Paul proclaiming: