“I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Where do we turn for help?
I clearly remember the first two Scriptures I stored in my memory bank as a child. The first was 1 John 4:19: “We love because He first loved us.” The second was Psalm 121. For me, these have been constant reminders that I will only find true safety in God, the Source of life and love. The problem is that this is not always my instinct when I am hurt or offended, overwhelmed with problems, dangers, fears, despair and temptations. My eyes dart about from one useless remedy to another instead of fixing their gaze on the only One who can give me sure help. I want to be fully reliant on God, but I often find myself fretting and desperately seeking comfort, solutions or escape when disaster strikes, much like a crazed hamster running around an impossible maze. Lifting our eyes to the mountains is a decision of the will and an act of faith. It requires willpower to take our eyes off the hazards at our feet and look upwards. It takes faith to focus our minds and hearts on a God we cannot see, while the visible world is shouting for our attention and perpetual action.
Here’s the truth we need to sink deep into our souls: God created the universe from nothing. He has infinite power and holds the whole world in his hand. Isaiah 40:22 says that God “sits enthroned above the circle of the earth.” Who of us has even created a single molecule, let alone a mountain, bird or human body? What kind of a God creates a planet to support a vast array of life, perfectly positioned in its galaxy, with the perfect star in just the right place to warm it up, with the perfect tilt, mass, spin, magnetic field and mass, and shields its inhabitants by other comet-sweeping planets? The first verse of the Bible says categorically, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Yet, this great Creator-God also cares for the little things of this world, the details of our ordinary lives. It is He who sustains us day by day. Who of us knows what tomorrow will bring? Yet, even in 1000BC when David penned Psalm 121, he painted an image of this awesome God as his personal help with such affection for His children that He cherishes each one of us as a father would watch over his baby. Even better than a human parent who needs to sleep, God never slumbers nor sleeps! He covers us with his love day and night even when we face extreme circumstances. The scorching heat of Palestine’s days and the freezing dangers of the nights is a metaphor for the many troubles we will face in our lifetimes and God will be our refuge through them all.
Do you see God in the way that David sees Him in this Psalm? Do you have such an intimate relationship with God that He is the first person you call on for help? This promise of protection was for believing Jews (Israel) in the Old Testament, but since Jesus, the promised Messiah came, all people who have put their faith in Christ are called “children of Abraham,” the new Israel. Two millenia after David wrote this Psalm, God still watches over the coming and going of those who take refuge in Him. Our God never changes, though circumstances and cultures may change. The only condition is that we put our trust in Him.
Day by day as a I walk with God, I am discovering that He is the only one who can hold me up and stop me from stumbling. Psalm 121 pictures a person sliding or falling, trembling or staggering on a dangerous path that we cannot handle on our own. How often I feel like that shaky person! God doesn’t stand and watch us indifferently from afar, but is as close as our right hand, as powerful as a Special Forces body guard, as protective as a hedge of thorns. That’s the truth about God, the maker of heaven and earth. The question is whether we believe it–whether we exercise that muscle of faith to look to God for help–rather than turning to creature comforts. Believing God requires that we make a choice in our minds and step out in faith.
The alternative to looking to God for help is not safe or comfortable as we suppose. When we turn our gaze away from the Maker of heaven and earth and look instead to created things to satisfy and protect us, we’re embarking on a journey through the desert equipped with a leaky water bottle and no map. We’re facing armed robbers in the dead of night with a pea shooter! That’s how useless our worldly comforts and protectors are.
Instead, commit Psalm 121 to memory, and when that difficult situation arises, flex your faith muscles. Find a quiet spot or go for a walk, preferably in a beautiful place where you can take in what God has made. Look up and say aloud, “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth….”You may be trembling when you start out, but you will be peaceful and steady when you return home. That’s what happens when we orbit around God instead of ourselves.
Download and listen to “Praise you in the Storm” by Casting Crowns. Some of the lyrics are straight out of Psalm 121.