“A Song of Ascents. I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 121)
Psalm 121 is designated a “Song Of Ascents”—one in a collection of psalms for pilgrim-worshipers as they made the journey to the temple site in Jerusalem for festal worship (1 Ki. 12:28; Ps. 122:3-4). The mountains along the road that led to the city featured many pagan worship sites, which were often advertised as being able to offer protection from bandits who preyed on unwitting travelers by night and from the dangerous heat of the mid-day sun. Such constant threats tempted pilgrims to settle for worshiping with the pagans in the mountains rather than with God’s people in Jerusalem. To make matters worse, pagan priests and cult prostitutes stood alongside the road, trying to coax less resolute travelers into the hills.
Lifting their eyes, these exhausted pilgrims faced a choice. Would they settle for false worship in the hills with its promise of immediate relief? Or would they remain on the road and trust that God would be faithful to bring them to their destination? That’s what the psalmist is asking in verse 1, “From where does my help come?” Then in verse 2 comes the answer: “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth! “
We, like these ancient travelers, would do well to see ourselves as pilgrim-worshipers walking in the Spirit toward an Everlasting City “whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10). Along the way, we are coaxed by a pagan world. Its siren songs bellow from the side of the road, advertising false promises:
Want to be immovable? We have just the product for you—got that (overused) credit card ready? Want to preserve your life? Consider divorce—isn’t your family really just an obstacle to your authenticity and happiness? Want to keep yourself from evil? Take another peek at that porn site and don’t think about it too much—who’s to say what’s evil anyway?
On and on they go, tempting us to believe there’s a better life awaiting us in the hills. All we need to do is worship their gods, they claim, and we’ll have everything we’ve ever wanted—protection, security, pleasure, satisfaction. But listen to their siren songs closely enough, and you’ll soon realize that something is askew. If you’re starting to get the feeling that their whole sales pitch is a ruse, you’re absolutely right. Psalm 121 blows their cover:
Want to be immovable? God will not let you be moved. Want to preserve your life? He is your keeper. Want to keep yourself from evil? He will keep you from all evil.
God’s Word cuts through the noise and counters the world’s phony sales pitches with His unbreakable promises. Hearing His voice, we have a decision to make. Will we settle for the idols of our pagan culture? Or will we stay on the pilgrim way, devoting ourselves to worshiping the God whose sovereignty and faithfulness infinitely surpass anything this world can offer? You know the answer: it’s time to stop running back to those old hills—they can’t deliver what they promise. Instead, lift your eyes to them and defiantly declare, “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!” Then keep moving toward that Everlasting City.