Psalm 121 is the second in a series of 15 psalms known as the Songs of the Ascents. These were sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate the annual feasts of ancient Israel at different times of the year.
This psalm opens with an important question: “Where does my help come from?”
These are familiar words. It’s a question that’s been with us in one way or another over the years, but perhaps now more than ever before.
The pilgrim of Psalm 121 looks for assurance: “I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from?”
Hills or mountains are often associated with deities in the Bible, and it’s easy to see how someone would look at these high places of worship and wonder what divine power might provide help. If this verse was written in a less poetic form it might read, “Which one of the gods on those mountains will help me?”
The pilgrim knows the answer: “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
The extraordinary phrase, Maker of heaven and earth, was incorporated in the Apostles’ Creed because of its foundational importance to Christian faith — “I believe in God the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” Anything in this world that touches our lives is within God’s sovereign realm. He is Creator, Lord and King. We can take great comfort in that fact.
As the psalm unfolds, we notice one pervasive theme: God’s guarding of His people. This
promise is repeated six times in the short eight verses, like a drumbeat accompanying the pilgrim on the way. The Maker of heaven and earth will not slumber, but He will indeed guard, keep watch over, protect and be the shade. If we keep our eyes fixed on Him, the Source of our help, then we have this great assurance.
We too are on a journey, and we need reassurance along the way. Here is a simple practice that will help.
The annual celebrations of the great feasts of Israel brought God’s people together to do three important things: celebrate and commemorate His mighty acts and acknowledge His goodness and help in their lives.
We receive much encouragement when we take time to remember as clearly and as specifically as we can what God has done in our lives and in history.
Whether by reflecting on a passage of Scripture or remembering how God has acted in our own lives, taking time to acknowledge and name God’s acts of goodness and faithfulness clears our vision and builds hope and peace deep within us. All that is needed to begin is 15-20 minutes of solitude, a Bible, a pen and a piece of paper.
As we enter another year of unknowns, let’s keep our eyes fixed on our God, Maker of heaven and earth, and ponder His love and faithfulness often. His help is unfailing. He is with us on the journey. We can hold on to this assurance every day.