Wednesday of 1 Lent

Look to the Hills – Psalm 121

“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.”

Psalm 121:1-2

Take a moment and read Psalm 121.

Bishop Terwilliger was my spiritual director when I was in seminary.  He was from the hill country of upstate New York.  When he first flew to Dallas after begin elected suffragan bishop of Dallas, his first thought as he gazed from the window of the plane on his approach to DFW airport was, “It’s so flat!”  The sight of the mountains holds a certain comfort for those of us who call the mountain regions our home.  The Psalmist would agree.  From the far distant city of their exile on the low, flat plains of Babylon and the banks of the Euphrates River, the Psalmist turns to the west and cries a longing plea to God that he may return to the hills of his homeland.  

The first words of Psalm 121, “I lift up my eyes to the hills,” should sound very familiar to Asheville residents.  They are printed, in Latin, on our city seal: “LEVO OCULOS MEOS IN MONTES”.  Asheville and Jerusalem have much in common.  The elevation of the two cities is nearly identical, and both are surrounded by mountains.  And for those of us in Christ Jesus, both are our home.  For me, when I travel, there is no more comforting sight as I make my return home, than to see the mountains in the distance as I come up I-40 from the Piedmont or climb the Saluda grade on I-26 from South Carolina.  This same longing, to see the mountains, was in the heart of the Psalmist as he penned the words of this Psalm.

But a journey home for the exiles would be difficult, even impossible, without the help of the Lord.  It would take about four months for a camel-driven caravan to travel the more than 900 miles from Babylon to Jerusalem.  Babylon, at its highest point, is only about 100 feet above sea level.  And the journey west, toward Jerusalem, would be across sun scorched desert wasteland.  And the last part of the journey would be a precipitous climb.  The exiles would need to cross the Jordan near the Dead Sea which is 1410 feet below sea level, then climb almost 4000 feet over the mountains before reaching the Holy City.  But any journey home is worth the effort, and the Psalmist’s heart ached to make the journey.

The Word of the Lord to the exiles was that they would return to their homeland.  Seeking the vision of the Lord the Psalmist turns toward Jerusalem and stands on that promise.  But he also recognized that pursuing the promises of God can be difficult in a foreign land.  Nevertheless, the pursuit of God, and fulfillment of His will, is always worth the hard work.  Also we must remember that we never pursue God’s promises alone.  God is with us, and “He will not let your foot be moved…The Lord is your keeper, the Lord is your shade on your right hand” (vv. 3,5).  He will keep us sure-footed on the climb, and shielded from the sun in the desert wastelands. 

So, we lift our eyes to the hills.  We lift our eyes to our home.  We lift our eyes to the Lord.  From Him comes our help.  He who made heaven and earth will be with us, we need only look to Him.

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