I will lift up my eyes to the hills – From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. – Psalm 121:1, 2. Besides “The Lord is my shepherd” of Psalm 23, the next best known, most recited, most overused verse from the Psalms, at least in the black experience in America, is from Psalm 121 – “I look to the Hills.”
Bible scholar John Phillips maintains that Psalm 121 was written to cover three key events in the lives of the ancient Jews: first, when the Assyrians were threatening the Jews living in Judea; second, when the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity and had to walk through the hills to get home; and third, when Jewish pilgrims on their way to the temple in Jerusalem during their holy days had to travel through the dangerous hills.
Professor Robert Alter asserts additionally that the speaker/writer in this Psalm, fearful of unspecified dangers, “looks up at the mountains around him and wonders who or what will help him.”
One thing is clear, and that is that the first verse of this psalm is not a declaration of hope, but actually a cry of despair. When one considers the danger, darkness, doom and potential disaster that lies within the actual and proverbial hills of this text, it causes one to consider our challenges.
All of us have to deal with hills. Hills are those places in life where joy fades, and peace evaporates when we consider what lies before us. Hills are those dangerous intersections in life where one looks forward to something that may never be realized. Hills are those times when one’s personal weather forecast predicts bad weather; those times of uncertainty, of gloom and doom, of danger and doubt.
Most of us are dealing with some daunting hill right now! And you’ve probably determined that some of your hills are just too high. Hills hinder, hills harass, hills halt, and hills hurt!
Challenges of hills come in various sorts. There are financial hills, relational hills, vocational hills, emotional hills, and even spiritual hills. Uphill battles and downhill results.
Hills represent impediments to destination. Hills represent roadblocks, and stumbling blocks on your journey. And you and I know you can’t move forward without dealing with hills; they’re right in your face. You can’t fulfill your ultimate purpose without dealing with hills.
And if we’re afraid of the hills, and if there’s no hope in the hills, if life is uphill and downhill at the same time, how do you spell relief? Where does our help come from? In the language of the King James Version of the Bible “from whence cometh my help?”
Well, we have our answer in verse two: “Our help comes from the Lord!” For when we are vulnerable to slipping, and sliding, because of the fatigue resulting from battling the hills of life, the Lord helps us in our weariness. When we are too faint, God helps us because of our weakness. There are times when the sins of the flesh attempt to overtake us and overthrow us, and that same Lord helps us during those wicked and wayward moments.
That Lord, our God, provides for us, and protects us, and is present with us. Old Testament Professor David Adamo of Nigeria says Psalm 121 is used as an incantation by indigenous Africans during times of struggle and for protection from enemies nearby and afar, because they know intuitively that the Lord defends and protects the godly.
So when the roads are rough, and the going gets tough, and the hills are hard to climb, just cry out to the Lord for help. Because all of your help comes from the Lord. “Lord help us, Amen!”
Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at wtrichardson@Bellsouth.net. Website: WTRMinistries.com