“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?” Psalm 121 teaches us that the Lord is our helper and keeper. When we find ourselves in circumstances that overwhelm, we can look to him for help. It is a pilgrim psalm, sung as the saints of old moved through the wilderness. As they went, they would see all the various hills. These were locations where they would set up the statues of idols along with their altars in order to offer sacrifices. They represent what the world trusts in.

A pilgrim would see many of these high places on his way. Our Psalmist is not saying that his help comes from the hills but, rather, looking at the hills, he is asking where his help comes from. Some trust in power and others in money. Some trust in their own abilities and still others look to cheating and stealing for success. The believer must look beyond these “hills” and see from where her help comes.

No sooner than the question is asked, it is answered: “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” The word for ‘help’ is not used the way we would tend to use it. We use it for speaking of someone who can assist us in something. We can do it on our own, but we need assistance to get it done. That is not the Bible’s use of the term here. A helper is someone who helps to do something we cannot. God’s help for his people is something that they cannot do on their own. We are not able to guarantee our safe arrival in our heavenly home. It must be God who helps.

He is the LORD. This is the covenant name of the God, the name God revealed to his people. It speaks of his sovereign power, which he uses in behalf of his people. Do you remember when God revealed his name? In the Exodus from Egypt. God is our helper because he is the one who redeems us to be his own special people. He can help us, and he has promised to do so.

Our Psalmist speaks of God’s power, “who made heaven and earth.” In his day, people looked to the hills because the gods of the hills were thought to be higher than the gods of the valleys. There were gods of the stars, sun, and moon. We look to the Lord because he is the one true God who made all things. This is meant to be an encouragement to us in our prayers. God is not struggling to work things out or running from problem to problem, seeking to fix it as best he can. No, he is sovereign, and he is great. He made all things and is in control of all things. He is the God of the sun, moon, stars and the hills and valleys we face in life.

What is the result of looking to the Lord? Verses 3-8 are a summary of God’s goodness and faithfulness to his people. “He will not let your foot be moved.” Journeys were treacherous, and there was always the chance of slipping. God keeps his people and even if they do stumble, they will not fall. How can we know this? Because God is always with his people, “he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” There is never a time when the Lord is not with his people, watching and keeping them.

Those who look to God for help are said to be kept. The word for ‘keep’ is used four times in this section and is translated many different ways throughout scripture: protect, watch, preserve, guard. The keeping of God is perpetual. A ‘keeper’ would have been used to guard a city against attack. What a powerful image! God is never asleep but is ever ready to hear our prayers. We cast our cares upon him, at all hours of the day, knowing he hears and cares. The Psalm continues to say that God’s people are kept against the elements (sun shall not strike; nor the moon) and kept from evil. God keeps the lives of his people. Not a hair falls from their head, apart from his will. What joy and comfort this brings to us! What a wonderful encouragement to prayer, knowing that our God is always with us and watching over us!

 

— Pastor Everett Henes, the pastor of the Hillsdale Orthodox Presbyterian Church, can be reached at pastorhenes@gmail.com.