“I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber or sleep” Psalm 121:1-4
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what this scene would have looked like for David. It was written in a time of exile: he would have been waiting to get to the place that he knew was home, even though he had been a wanderer until this point.
He was waiting to get his life to the way that it was supposed to be. I can imagine him, pausing for a while on his long journey in the heat of the day, looking up at the mountains towering over him and wondering if he was ever going to get to that place that he so yearned for.
It’s a longing that can become such a burden in our hearts; a deep knowledge that we do not yet have what we desire so much; that it lies beyond the mountains, while we sit in the dry plains.
There was such intense longing in David’s words. I will look at the things that I cannot see, he said; I don’t see it right now, but it is there: lying just beyond that horizon.
This longing turned David’s non-vision into faith; confidence in what he hoped for and assurance in what he did not see. He encouraged himself not to stare at the ground – at the place that he was in – but to lift his eyes to the mountains.
Here’s the Thing:
Unless we have a habitual attitude of lifting our eyes when we are in that place of longing, gravity will win – down will go the head, and the eyes, and the desires. Christians can spend a long time walking around at the base of the mountains, but never lift their gaze up there, outside of a Sunday morning; they are missing something big.
When we lift our eyes, we place out faith firmly in God, who is so very for us, and we put our confidence in that which we know is coming, because He has promised it. The things that we long for are there; they are just beyond the horizon. Like David, walking to that place that he knew he would call his home, there is always a tie of watching and waiting and walking. And yet this time is so active: you are never going to reach what lies beyond the mountains if you sit still in that place and accept that that is all that life is going to be.
So How do we Keep our Eyes on the Mountains?
In Colossians 3:2, Paul reminds us to keep your mind on things above, not on earthly things. The Greek word translated here as keep your mind on is phroneo, meaning to have understanding of, to feel, to think, or to aim our affections at. In other words, like David: we do not watch the things that are going on around us, because they are not what is important. Instead, we look up to the mountains; not with a meaningless optimism, but with a hope that the God of the universe has the answers to our prayers just beyond the peaks. Our understanding is not limited to the physical things that we can see and feel, but it goes much deeper than that: we have the mind of Christ, and access to the heavenly perspective that comes with it.
David understood that sometimes the best way forward is to sit. “He will not let your foot slip,” he says; “He who watches over you will never slumber”.
If you have trouble resting, friend, know this: the God who watches over you will never sleep. You do not have to fight this battle on your own: the Greatest Guardian is on your side, and this is not your war. Sleep, friend: be still, and know that He is God. He’s got your back.
Some moments are for sitting and watching, like David did; and some, as I can imagine David did soon after writing these words, involve putting one foot in front of the other and shuffling towards the city that God has promised for us.
The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1). When we are pursuing Him – the one who makes and completes our faith – one foot in front of the other is enough.
“My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth”.