Remember the childhood experience of getting soap in your eyes during a bath? The moment the soap would trickle down, the natural reaction was to look down, which only made it worse. However, as parents, we've all told our young children to "Keep looking up." When trying to wash that young child's hair, if we could get them to keep looking up, the soap wouldn't get in their eyes. Well, when I read Psalm 121, I think of that scene. I hear God telling His children to "Keep looking up!"
Psalm 121:1–8 (NKJV)
1 I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help?
2 My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day, Nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in From this time forth, and even forevermore.
The book of Psalms is considered as the hymn book of the people of God in the Old Testament. This passage is from the Songs of Ascent, which is a collection of Psalms (Psalms 120-134) sung as the people of God journeyed to Jerusalem for one of the three annual festivals. As they came from all over Israel to worship in Jerusalem, they were always ascending. When my group and I visited Israel last year, we noticed that regardless of where we came from in Israel, we were always going up to Jerusalem because it's located at a higher elevation, surrounded by hills and mountains. In this context, they would walk together and sing these songs to God.
In Psalm 121, we find a pilgrim who, as he journeys, looks upon the hills that surround him. Commentators interpret the first verse in two main ways:
1) It could refer to the "high places" mentioned in the Old Testament, which were sites of idolatrous worship by the pagan nations around Israel. Some Israelite kings would establish or tear down these high places, which symbolized idol worship. So, in saying, "I lift my eyes to the hills; from whence comes my help. My help comes from the Lord, who made the heavens and the earth," the pilgrim is affirming his trust in the one true God, Jehovah, rather than in these idolatrous high places.
2) As the pilgrim journeyed, he could be contemplating the natural beauty of the hills and the surrounding landscape. The act of gazing at this awe-inspiring creation leads him to declare, "I look at these hills; I look at the beautiful creation. From whence comes my help? My help does not come from the creation itself. It comes from the Creator of all this beauty - God Himself."
So, Psalm 121 invites us to focus our trust on the Creator rather than the creation and to remember that our help ultimately comes from the Lord. Whether in times of temptation to worship false idols or when marveling at the majesty of the natural world, the psalmist's message resonates through the ages: our ultimate source of help is the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Dear God, I praise You! I worship You! You are the Creator of all this beauty I see all around me. I pray that my eyes stay on You today. I pray I keep looking up! In Jesus' name, Amen.