Bible Study: Psalm 121

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.  My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.  He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.  Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.  The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.  The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.  The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.  The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.”

Where does my help come from?  I look toward the hills.  The places of this earth and there is no one there able to help.  No, I look higher than the earth and the heavens.  I look toward the one that created all things.  God is my helper.

No doubt you have heard sermons and testimonies using this passage with the ideal that the Lord came from the hills.  Sometimes the wording may lead us to that but the idea conveyed is more of a gaze continually moving upward.  It starts at their level in Psalm 120, then moves to the hills, to the heavens, and then to the creator of all things.  You may ask, “why not the hills?  We always talk about the hill called Mt. Calvary.”

Some have pondered that it means, “I look toward the dangerous hills and wonder how I will make it.  God will help me.”  Or it very well could be speaking of Mt. Zion but by verse two the reader quickly realizes that our help does not come from the mountain itself but to the on who is higher than creation.  This is partly why I look at this passage with a different understanding of the hills.  Again, the common thought of the day was that the higher you were in elevation the closer you were to a spiritual realm.  Not only did the Jews practice this thought but so did all the pagans.  So they built their altars on tops of hills and mountains to sacrifice.  Remember Elisha and prophets of Baal sacrificing on top of Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:17-40).  Or remember the command of God to the Israelites to tear down all the altars and high places that they found in the promised land (Exodus 34:13; 2 Chronicles 14:3).  When the psalmist says I look up to the hills, he is probably talking about, “worship of pagan deities, who were no help to anyone” (Cabal, 2007, p. 897).  Can they help him?  No!  Only the Lord, Yahweh, can help.

This is further carried by the psalmist in verses five and six.  We have to note the nearness of the Lord.  He is there be our shade.  That requires Him to be in close proximity.  Thank the Lord for His coming close.  But notice in verse six, “The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.”  Here, “The “shade” protects his own from sunstroke, a metaphor for the dangers of the day. Neither would he allow his own to become moon-struck, a metaphor for the dangers of the night” (Smith, 1996).  In that day, sunstroke and to be moon-struck were associated with the work of evil spirits.  For example, to be moon-struck was to act like “lunatick.”  Luna of course referring to the moon.

So, where does our help come from?  It does not come from those that are in the same condition as us (Psalm 120).  It does not come from those who would worship superstitions, spirits and false gods.  No, our help comes from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

References

Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J. P., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (p. 897). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

Smith, J. E. (1996). The wisdom literature and Psalms (Ps 121:5–6). Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co.

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