I lift up my eyes to the hills—
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 (Psalm 121:1-8).
Psalm 121 is a vivid description of a God who is active on behalf of His people. The people stumble and trip; the Lord keeps them from falling. The people snooze and doze from exhaustion; the Lord does not slumber but is always wide awake. The people are oblivious to coming trouble and attack; the Lord protects and shelters them though they are not cognizant of His protection. These are immensely comforting words for a people who can feel forgotten. Who wonder if God is aware. Who find themselves in constant need of help. People like us.
The good news here is that by faith, we believe that God is a busy God. He’s an active God. And we, as the people of God, are the beneficiaries of His activity. In these verses, the people of God aren’t to manufacture opportunities or bolster their own forms of self-protection. The job of the people of God, in light of God’s awareness, activity, and advocacy is simple:
We look to the hills. Among the myriad of God’s activity, His people are to look to the hills.
So we do. We find ourselves in the day of trouble, incapable of altering our own situation, so we look to the hills. But what do we see when we look there? The answer is found in a little phrase that might well be overlooked.
While the text of Psalm 121 is above, if you read up in your own Bible, before verse one, you’ll see a little annotation before this psalm: “A song of ascents.” See, Psalm 121 is among a series of songs classified as “songs of ascent” because they were intended, on their first use, to be sung by pilgrims as they were traveling to Jerusalem. As they were coming to the city, they would be ascending, for Jerusalem was built on a hill.
As the people approached the holy city, they were walking uphill. And as they walked, these songs were meant to be their soundtrack.
Look to the hills, pilgrims. Look to Jerusalem. That’s where the temple is. That’s where the help comes from, for it is said to be the dwelling place of the God of Israel.
But for the Christian, the hill becomes even more specific. When we look to the hills, we don’t just look toward the hill of Jerusalem. We look to another hill that’s outside the city gates. The hill of execution. The place of the skull. We look to the hills, and we see the cross of Jesus Christ.
Yes, this is from where our help comes from, for this is where our greatest need is met. Our greatest need is the need for forgiveness. For reconciliation. For righteousness. And for peace with God. It’s only on this hill that we find our true help. And if we find that kind of help there, surely we will also find other kinds of help as well. Help for our daily cares and troubles. Help for our lingering anxieties. Help for our loneliness and our plaguing fears.
We look to the hills, and we see the one hill. On that hill there is a cross. And when we see it, we know that our help has come indeed. Once and for all.