“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth” Ps 121:1-2.
The songs of “degrees” are songs that were composed to be sung as worshipers ascended toward the Temple in Jerusalem. Some versions have the heading “a song of ascents.” Psalms 120-134 have this distinction. The songs of degrees have always had a powerful impact on the people of faith because they address the Christian journey. The city of Jerusalem has several typical applications -
- Jerusalem speaks about our relationship with the Lord and hence our salvation.
- Jerusalem speaks about finding the perfect will of God for our lives - Mount Zion, the city set on a hill.
- Jerusalem speaks about the eternal destination of the blessed, heaven.
And so, these psalms that were composed to be sung as pilgrims journeyed to Jerusalem for worship, speak to believers on three different levels. As we journey though salvation, as we journey toward God’s perfect will in our lives, and as we journey toward glory, these songs will encourage and comfort us along the way. These songs are divinely inspired encouragers for our journey of faith.
Psalm 121 tells us that God is our protector. In these days of instability and confusion, isn’t it comforting to know that there is a God that looks after us and protects us? He will keep us and look after us in our pilgrim journey to heaven. In Him we have joy, comfort, and protection. The Lord Jesus has been this way before us, and as our heavenly Father, He will protect us and encourage us along the way. We don’t need to fear or dread the enemy of our souls.
So far in these songs for pilgrims we have seen that we must be delivered from deceit (Psalm 120). Now we are reminded that the Lord is our protector (Psalm 121). Regardless the level you speak about concerning the journey of faith, we must be delivered from dishonesty and walk in truth, and we must have the protection and guidance of our God. This is true of our relationship with God, which we know as salvation. This is also true about journeying to God’s perfect will for our lives. And it is equally true as we prepare to enter our eternal home.
The things that prepare you to enter the presence of God, will prepare you to be successful in the journey of faith. This includes salvation, service, and eternity. The same things that will prepare you to enter the presence of God in worship will also prepare you to live for God, to serve God, and to meet God. This means that applying the basic truths of the pilgrim psalms personally will enhance worship and everything about your life in Christ.
Lift Up Your Eyes
“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” Ps 121:1
As the worshipers ascended the hilly terrain of southern Palestine on the way to Jerusalem, they would sing this song. Their eyes were fixed in the direction they were traveling. There were ascending toward Jerusalem. Verse one should end with a question mark.
“I lift up my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from?” Ps 121:1 NIV
As their eyes were pointed in an upward direction toward Jerusalem, the question is asked - Where does my help come from?
Wherever your eyes are fastened, in time of trouble that will be the direction you flee. If your eyes are fixed toward the world, in time of trouble, you will run that direction to seek help. But our eyes are lifted up in God’s direction. Where does our help come from? - It comes from Him!
Whether the problem and issue you face deals with your salvation, your service, or your eternal destiny, your help always comes from the Lord! As long as our eyes are fastened upon Him and in His direction, we are careful to remember that He is the source of our help on all levels of our Christian journey. If we focus on our problems and fears instead of on the Lord, the Creator of the universe, we often fail to act by faith.
Comfort and safety do not come through the power of the flesh. Quit looking at your own frailty and focus on God’s strength! Lift up your eyes to the hills and remember where your help comes from.
I come from a long line of worriers. It is in my genetic makeup to focus on negative possibilities and dream up as many disasters for a given situation as possible. Then, I have been taught, to focus on the top two or three and worry as much as I can during the waking hours and dream bad dreams about it while asleep. Worrying is the responsibility of every adult that has reasonable mental abilities. In fact, I have even heard someone very near and dear to me ask the question, “If I don’t worry about it, who will?” As if worrying is the responsibility of everyone in town except the village idiot! If someone reports sighting an unidentified flying object, then I should worry about being abducted by aliens and carried off to spend the rest of my days as a captive in some strange intergalactic zoo on the planet Zarkon. Even though it is part of my genetic makeup, I have made the decision to reject this fatalistic, negative, faithless kind of thinking! In the journey of faith I am on, worrying is a carnal indulgence that I can ill afford to entertain.
When the journey of faith becomes perilous and cares and concerns begin to crowd into my thinking, I have another option. I can lift up my eyes unto the hills! I chose to not dwell on negative possibilities and fatalistic thinking. I will lift my eyes and my thoughts to a higher level than I dwell at present. I will not continue to focus on where I am, but on where I am going. Because it is the God that I am going to worship, the God that I live for, the God that I serve, the God that I will spend eternity with that will help me! Where does my help come from?
“My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.” Ps 121:2
I am not looking for help from anyone that dwells down here. My help comes from up there! The One I serve is the One that controls events down here. He made heaven and earth. If God wants to use my friends to give me help, that is fine. But He is still the real source of my help. If God wants to use the government (don’t laugh, God is a miracle worker!), He is still the real source of help.
Perhaps you have heard the story of a poor Christian widow who had an atheist neighbor. The atheist knew the widow needed groceries, so he placed a few bags of groceries on her porch, rang the doorbell, and hid nearby to observe the widow’s reaction. When the widow found groceries on her stoop, she began to praise God. The atheist sprang from his hiding place and told her the source of her help was not God but an unbelieving atheist. To which the widow replied, “God provided the groceries, He just made the devil pay the bill.”
“He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” Ps 121:3-4
One does not have to believe in the Calvinist style of predestination in order to recognize providential blessings. We can safely trust in God’s care. He will not allow our foot to slip so long as we walk with Him.
Note the key word in these two verses - keepeth or keeps. This word indicates present, continuous action. The Lord will keep and continue to keep us. There is a difference between “will keep” and “keeps.” One may not keep that which He does not have. The point is that God cannot keep what you have not yet given Him.
There are those who lament the condition their life is in and wonder why God has allowed so many things to come their way. But God will not keep that which has not been committed to His care. Providential blessings are promised to those who place their life under providential care.
If you have trusted fully in the crucified One, quit looking for help down here. Your sentry and protector is stationed up on the hills. He will not sleep; neither will He slumber. Some form of “keep” is used three times in this song. And “preserve” is used twice. If you have trusted in God, He is your keeper and protector. If you have not yet trusted in Him and surrendered your life into His care … what are you waiting for?
What God Protects Us From
“He will not suffer thy foot to be moved…” Ps 121:3
“He will not let your foot slip…” Ps 121:3 NIV
Oh yes, backsliding is a possibility, yet one that God will protect you from if you continue to walk with Him. Are you still traveling toward Zion? Are you still going forward in your journey of faith? God will protect you as you continue to walk with Him.
B) Daily Threats
“The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day…” Ps 121:5-6
There are the threats that we face daily as we continue our journey of faith. The enemy comes at us constantly and from ever angle imaginable. But the Lord is the shade upon our right hand. He shelters us and preserves our strength.
The inhabitants of the Middle East are well acquainted with the danger of constant exposure to the sun. One must find shelter, shade from the destructive force in the heat of the day. Satan and the forces of evil are a constant assault against the righteous. Without the shelter of the Lord, we would soon wilt under the constant pressure against us.
The Lord knows this and promises to preserve us.
C) Hidden Threats
“The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.” Ps 121:5-6
And then there are the hidden threats that come during the twilight hours. Under cover of darkness, the enemy creeps in and attempts to rob and plunder the weary pilgrim. But God is our faithful and sleepless sentry during the night while we rest.
Psalm 91 also expresses God’s protection against this dual threat.
“Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.” Ps 91:5-6
The pestilence that walks in the darkness; the terror by night. God is our protector and preserver.
“The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.” Ps 121:7-8
When we are involved in the journey of faith, God is involved in protecting and preserving us. He is faithful to keep that which we commit into His care.
In every aspect of the walk of faith, God protects His pilgrims. In our salvation, in our journey to Zion, and in our quest for the streets of gold. He will preserve us in our going out (as we venture forth) and our coming in (as we near our destination). He preserves our soul.
© 2009 Nevin Bass. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced for the purpose of resale without written permission.