A Song of Faith for Life’s Journeys

1     I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
   My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
   He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
   Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
   The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
   The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
   The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
   The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore. (Psalm 121 ESV)

The Question: Where Do I Turn for Help?

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?” (v. 1)

This question presupposes a problem in life. We look for help when we are in need. This is the kind of problem that we can’t handle on our own. We don’t have the strength. We don’t have the smarts. We don’t have the resources. Where do we look for help? One insight into the condition of our heart is where we turn when the chips are down; when life hurts.

My daughter’s response to pain or something surprising is one example. She says, “Holdy! Holdy!” Where do you turn when your life hurts? Mommy? Perhaps your good friend Jack Daniels?

The psalm begins with a question, but within the question is also the hint of an answer. “I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come?” (v. 1) The commentators debate whether the hills are meant here as refuge or terror. To have the high ground in a conflict is always an advantage even in modern warfare. Do we flee to the hills for safety or look to them for signs of rescue? But the hills also hide dangers and marauders and invaders. So, which is it?

Remember, this is a song of ascent sung on the way to Jerusalem. To draw near to God required climbing the hills surrounding Jerusalem.

Here is a picture of the actual hills around Jerusalem.

Judea and the mountains surrounding Jerusalem from the west.

How many Israelites saw these very mountains singing in Psalm 121? The hills meant that they were getting close. When I’m driving home from a long trip, when I hit the rock quarry on I-80, I know I’m close. It’s reassuring. The hills and the ascent around Jerusalem were themselves indicators that I’m getting close to Jerusalem, close to the temple, and spiritually, drawing near to God.

Where does my help come from? “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (v. 2) The psalm begins with pain and uncertainty in life. I need help! From where will it come? “My help comes from the Lord.” The psalmist quickly reminds his heart through the lyric of this song where his ultimate hope is found. The Lord. This is God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God of Israel. The upward look is a look of expectation. I lift my eyes up. Holdy! Holdy!

What makes me think the Lord is able to help? “Who made heaven and earth.” How is that for a resume? Imagine the interview. “God, I see here on your resume that you indicate an ability to help in times of need. What should make us confident you can do the job?” I made all the heavens and all the earth. The psalmist is no pantheist. The hills can’t help. The hills don’t care. But the one who made not just the hills but the universe, he’s able and willing to help. “The thought of this verse leaps beyond the hills to the universe; beyond the universe to its Maker. Here is living help: primary, personal, wise, immeasurable.”[1]

Perhaps the key word is “up.” I lift my eyes up. Off my problem. Off my trial. Off my seemingly insurmountable trouble. I lift my eyes up to the Lord who made everything there is. To him my eyes look for help.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2017 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

[1] Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150, Tyndale Old Testament Commentary, p. 431.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

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