Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
I lift my eyes up 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
As a child – or perhaps with your children now – do you remember singing songs to pass the time on long journeys? Maybe singing ‘she’ll be coming round the mountain’ on a long walk, or the classic ‘100 green bottles’ on a school trip (guaranteed to test the patience of any and all teachers present). This tradition of singing songs to pass the time and inspire people to keep going is an ancient one – as demonstrated in the Songs of Ascent, gathered together in Psalms 120-134.
The Songs of Ascent would have been sung by the Israelites as they made their way from their homes to Jerusalem for a religious festival. And this was far more treacherous than a long coach journey with 30 under-10s. This trek could have been miles long, done on foot, and ran the risk of injury or attack from robbers and animals alike.
As the writer considers the journey ahead of him, he longs for safety and help. His eyes are drawn to the mountains, with their looming presence. Traditionally, however, they were the hiding place of robbers and bandits, and the place where false gods were worshipped. The hills may appear to offer what the writer desires and needs, but this psalm reminds both him and us that help comes from the creator alone.
Throughout the psalm, the ‘you’ is singular – there is a real sense of God’s personal provision and protection. As the writer lifts his eyes to the hills, considering what they offer him, he is drawn from the hills to the creator God, the maker of heaven and earth.
God the creator and his power to save and protect are the main themes of this psalm. We may not be in the habit of taking treacherous journeys on foot nowadays, but we – like the Israelites – still need help, and we still crave safety and security. Wherever we find ourselves – mountains, valleys, school gates, workplaces, down the gym, or at home with the family – it is tempting to turn to something large and visible, like mountains, for our help and our hope. But this psalm reminds us that our help ultimately comes from the LORD – the unchanging, unfailing one.