“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help” (Psalm 121:1 KJV).
If you are looking for a psalm that inspires courage and hope, Psalm 121 is it. It was one of the first passages of Scripture I memorized as a young Christian. I remember when the Gideons came to my school, passing out pocket-sized New Testaments. (When such a thing was still done.) I took one, even though at the time I wasn’t a Christian. After getting saved, it was my constant companion. In the front was a guide to Bible passages to read in different situations. As I recall, for protection, this psalm was the recommended choice. I looked it up and came to love it.
Most modern translations render the first verse something like this, “I lift up my eyes unto the hills. Where does my help come from?” Commentators usually say that the psalmist indicates that our help does not come from any earthly source. You can’t look to any natural object and find the answer to your needs. Your help comes from a source much higher than any earthly hills, or even mountains. Your help comes from the Lord Himself. This is a beautiful thought, and one which I wholeheartedly agree with. Yet, could there be another view?
You will notice that I have given the first verse as it reads in good ol’ King Jimmy (as Otis Spellman would say). I like the Authorized Version here. In my mind, this takes us back to the historical and cultural context of the psalmist. This psalm is one of a series (Psalms 120-134) called the Psalms of Ascent. They are pilgrim psalms. You will remember that every faithful Jew was expected to go to Jerusalem three times a year. At Passover, Shavuot (Pentecost), and Sukkot (Tabernacles), they would make their way to the Holy City, gathering in worship of God. Now you need to understand that Jerusalem is in the Judean hill country. The roads leading to the city are on an incline. That is one reason for the name Psalms of Ascents. The pilgrims were literally climbing up to Zion.
Now imagine with me that you are a pilgrim in ancient Israel. Days ago, perhaps even weeks, you left your home. You have trudged through the heat of the day. You have endured the cold of the night. Perhaps your journey has brought you through the arid desert. You may have had to endure violent rain or wind. You may have trembled in fear at the night sounds—wondering whether that odd noise you heard was a jackal, or perhaps a bandit. Yet, though the difficulty of the journey does matter, it is not the most important thing. You are on your way to the City of David to join fellow worshippers in adoring Yahweh, the God of Israel. So you press on. Yes, you are weary. But your desire to go to honor the Lord, to make a sacrifice, to worship the one true God drives you on. Then, it happens… You round a curve in the road, or crest a small rise, and there you see it—the hills of Jerusalem. Skirting the city is the Mount of Olives. There is Mount Zion. There is the palace of the king. And glory above all glories, there is the Sacred Temple, the nucleus of your faith. Your heart quickens. Joy bubbles up. And though your limbs are worn with fatigue, there is suddenly a new hope in your soul. You know that there is the one place on all the earth where God has chosen to put His name. There is where His glory dwells. There His presence manifests itself. There, on Mount Moriah itself. There on that holy hill. You cry out, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills. There! There… that is where my help comes from. My help comes from the Lord!”
Weary pilgrim, is this journey of life wearing you down? Does all the mess around you just drag on you? Are you fatigued by it all? Let me encourage you. No matter what you have already gone through. No matter what you are going through today. Lift up your eyes to the heavens. See the Lord high and exalted, enthroned in the heavenly Jerusalem. There, from the celestial Holy Mount, the Sovereign God looks down. From there, He sees you. From there, He sees your weariness. From there, He sees your need. And from there, He will send you help. Yes, your help is in the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. Written by Victor Morris, Founder of Truth Builders Ministry