Cross Points 4.10.22

My Strength, Psalm 121

“I look to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains?  No, my strength comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth, and the mountains” (Psalm 121:1).

The above is from The Message, and not the typical wording of this verse.  But I must admit I was always a little confused by the traditional translations.  The ESV renders this: “I lift up my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come?  My help comes from the Lord.”  That always sounded like “the hills” or “the mountains” was a metaphor for where God dwelt, but I think The Message is better.  The mountains are part of God’s creation, but that’s not where we receive help, it comes from God!  And I think “the mountains” hold another meaning also, which I’ll describe in a moment.

As you’ll recall, Psalm 120, the first of the Songs of Ascent, talked about troubles.  As we walk toward Jerusalem, or as we initially take out on the path of a Christian pilgrim, we realize that things can be tough.  How will God help us?  Does he just take the problems away?  Experience tells us no.  In fact, experience and God’s Word tell us that as a God-follower, we not only have issues to deal with in life, but now we may add to that - persecution.  What are we to do?  Psalm 121 helps us take the next step.

It's interesting that as the Jewish person headed up this mountain where Jerusalem was located, he would reference help from the mountain.  It’s tough walking up this mountain and can challenge the person’s strength.  Thus, we read further in Psalm 121, “He won’t let you stumble; your guardian God won’t let you fall asleep.  Israel’s guardian will never doze or sleep.  God is your guardian, right at your side to protect you, shielding you from sunstroke, sheltering you from moon-stroke.”  Within the hot desert like environment, often barren of many trees, walking up toward Jerusalem could expose you to the sun for long periods, the potential for a sunstroke.  That could make you weak, wanting to lay down and sleep, not the best idea.  Ancient writers also referred to being emotionally ill as moon-stroke (from which we get the term lunacy).  Dangers exist for the Christian today as we walk God’s path with Christ.  The dangers are real, but God assists us in our struggles in many ways.  Through his Spirit and Words, through others who can help us, through the reminders of what he’s done in the past, etc.

There is another thing about mountains.  When Rexanne and I were in Jordan visiting the Open Door Library in Amman, we had a chance to visit Petra.  While there we hiked up to a “high place” where pagans once offered sacrifices.  It was easy to see how this place could impress, looking out over the Petra valley below, it was an inspiring place. Pagan religions would offer sacrifices to their false gods, even going so far as sacrificing children at times.  Unfortunately, the Jews did this for many years also, and it was constantly condemned by God.   A few of the kings tried to tear them down (see 2 Chron. 28:25 and 2 Kings 18:22, etc.).  So, we do not look to the hills for our help, not to false gods, not to “high places,” not even to the mountain of the temple in Jerusalem!  Whether the mountain is physical or as a metaphor for government and rulers, if we want true help it must come from sincerely seeking the Lord.

It’s said that all the water in the ocean cannot sink a ship unless the water somehow gets inside.  God will protect us from ultimate harm IF we do not let the world’s ways seep inside us.  The Song of Ascents continue.  Next week we’ll venture further up the mountain toward our goal.  

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