My Help Comes from the LORD - Psalm 121

When Edith and I begin a vacation we will often recite Psalm 121. There is a sense of trust and assurance expressed in this psalm that seems unequalled in the Bible.  

In last week’s article “For Pilgrims”, I began with Psalm 120, the first of fifteen psalms with the title “A song of ascents.” In Psalm 120, the psalmist begins where we must all begin. Before an Israelite starts on his pilgrimage towards Jerusalem, he must be aware of his pagan surroundings. He must be uncomfortable with and committed to separating himself from the values and beliefs of his pagan neighbours. He must then turn his eyes, his heart to the LORD. This is the theme of Psalm 121 - an expression of trust in the LORD. The pilgrim travels towards God’s house - and thus towards the LORD.  

But, as all of us who follow Jesus know, when Jesus calls, “Come, follow me,” the journey is not all pleasant and peaceful. Our hearts are committed to God. We are pilgrims - this world is not our home. We are heading towards our heavenly home. But we need help on our journey. The pilgrim asks the question every believer in Jesus asks, “Where does my help come from?”  

In the Old Testament time, the hills or the metaphor of the mountain may have represented four things. We would wish that the pilgrim explained what he meant by the hills. These are four possible explanations for hills or mountains:

1. Places of refuge. In another psalm David was told to, “Flee like a bird to the mountains.” (Psalm 11:1)

2. Places of worship. The altars and shrines of pagan gods were erected on the highest hills.

3. Places of danger. Thieves and bandits would jump upon innocent travellers.

4. Places representing strength and dependability.  

When the pilgrim declared, “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth,” he was boldly stating,

1. The hills are not a place of refuge - only the LORD is my refuge.

2. The hills will have numerous places of pagan worship - only the LORD deserves and receives my worship.

3. The hills may be places of thieves and those who hurt - but my ultimate refuge is the LORD.

4. The hills may represent strength - but my ultimate strength and dependability is in the Creator - never the created.  

If the opening words of Psalm 121 are the pilgrim’s confession of trust in the LORD, the rest of the psalm, verses 3 to 8, are fellow pilgrims responding to and supporting the pilgrim in his trust in the LORD. May we both declare our deep trust in the LORD, and also support and encourage one another to trust in the LORD.  

“Our help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”