Dear Church family,
As we settle into the heat of July, many of us are travelling. In response, we will consider some of the travelling songs in the Bible. These songs are called the “Psalms of Ascent” (Psalms 120-134) and they were sung by folks as they traveled to Jerusalem for various Holy Days. They can tell us a lot about life on the road.
Today, let’s consider my favorite of these songs: Psalm 121. It begins:
“I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
These first lines are often misunderstood. Perhaps it is Maria’s fault from The Sound of Music. For who can forget the moment when she looks out the window toward her beloved mountains and says, “I lift my eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help” and we all hear her saying that the hills are her help. It is hard to ignore that fact since she loves to sing and dance on them!
But that is not what these first lines are saying. They are saying its opposite: “I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come?” Which means, Will my help come from these hills? And the answer follows: “[No!] My help comes from the Lord.” The reason for these lines is that temples to pagan gods were built on hilltops, everything from impressive compounds to small sanctuaries to worship one family’s gods.
The singer is on the road and he looks up at the hills all around him, with their worship of other gods and he sings, “from where will my help come?” He uses those hills to remind him that he worships the Lord alone.
When I am driving, I often look up to the billboards on the hills and sing myself this same song. Does my help come from the promises and the demands these signs make? No, I remind myself. My help comes from the Lord. Of course we raise up more than billboards in our lives, giving them god-like priorities. Ask yourself, what have I raised up in my own life that cannot truly help me? Have I raised up my own abilities, or my own income or have I raised up some other belief system, making it a personal sanctuary on a hill?
We all struggle with this to varying degrees. In that struggle it helps to return again and again to the opening line to this traveler’s song: “I lift my eyes to the hills; will my help come from there? No. My help comes from the Lord.” Wherever you may travel this month, this year, or this lifetime, these words can help keep you on the right road.
Peace of Christ be with you all,