“I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?”
This week I am at the mountain resort of Nagarkot in Nepal. I was one of the speakers at the Anglican Church of Nepal’s Clergy Retreat. From my hotel room, I could see the beautiful mountain range of the Himalayas. Psalm 121 came to my mind as my eyes scanned the beauty of God’s creation.
Psalm 121 is a song of ascent, sung by the pilgrims as they ascend to Jerusalem for their annual pilgrimages. Most of the pilgrims would have walked the entire journey. The last leg of the journey was a difficult and steep climb up to Jerusalem which was located 2,474 feet above sea-level. The pilgrims often feared traveling up the mountain because they were exposed to wild animals and robbers as well as the oppressive heat sun, as they made their way to the House of God.
The psalmist recognized that the pilgrims needed help and protection. He acknowledged that it was not a trouble-free journey. He composed this psalm for them. He declared God was the pilgrims’ Helper (vv. 1–2) and Keeper (vv. 3–8). They had nothing to fear because He was always on guard (vv. 3–4) and always guarding (vv.5–8) the wearied pilgrims. He encouraged them to look beyond their hostile environment and the difficult steep climb. He pointed them to the Temple mount where the divine presence of God resided. He helped them to see that their Omnipotent God was their Helper and Keeper, the Creator of the heavens and earth, who was always watching over them. As the pilgrims sang this psalm, their fears were dispelled by seeing who this God was to them.
Like the pilgrims of the past, we too, as we journey through the dangers and difficulties of the world, are called to look beyond our hostile environment to see the Omnipotent God, our Helper and Keeper, our Vigilance and Shield. The psalm calls us to walk with confidence in this world despite the perils and dangers of the world.
Robert Mackenzie, in his book, David Livingstone: The Truth Behind the Legend, tells of a young 27-year-old David Livingstone, by the dim lamplight, read this psalm to his father, mother, and sister before dawn on a November morning in 1840 before he set out from his home to become a missionary to Africa. He went with the full confidence of the Omnipotent who would be his Helper and Keeper, his Vigilance and Shield, during his time in Africa. God did not fail him.
Rev. Dr Timothy Chong