A Certain Faith in Uncertain Times

January 20, 2009

Where do we turn in uncertain times? In times like these Psalm 121 brings a message of assurance: "I will lift my eyes to the hills--where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." The psalmist looked to a higher source of strength beyond what he could find on a human plane.

The ascent Psalms of 120-134 (15 total) were written over a diverse period of time, some by David. They were arranged in their order after the Babylonian exile. They were sung during the festivals of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. The ascent described the upward journey out of Babylon back to Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem and its temple are always described in Scripture as being "up." We always go up to the house of the Lord. In the Mishnah, the Rabbis say that the 15 Psalms correlate with the fifteen steps that lead up to the temple although there is no Scriptural support of this position.

Life with God is always an ascent, never a descent. Yet, the fact that it is an ascent reminds us that the walk of faith is indeed a journey not a destination, a direction not merely a decision. The purpose of the arrangement for these 15 Psalms is not certain. However, they do begin with the pilgrim in exile and surrounded by pagans (120:5-6) in the land of Meshech, located in central Asia Minor and Kedar, in Arabia. His pilgrimage takes him to the house of the Lord (122:1) and finally, into the presence of the Lord himself where he declares, "Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord"(134:2).

I will lift up my eyes to the hills and to the Lord. The "hills" are MountZion on which is at Jerusalem, the Temple and its surrounding mountains. The hills in its plural usage refer to the majesty of God revealed in Jerusalem (see Psalms 48:1-2; 125:2). The Lord watches over Israel. The phrase "watches over" appears five times in this Psalm. God is the guardian of His people. God is also "the Maker of heaven and earth." Not only is He the Creator, He is the only true God in contrast to the pagan deities of the ancient world (Deuteronomy 6:4; Ps 124:8; 134:3).

This Psalm calls to a life of complete trust. The affirmation of faith, "I will lift up my eyes." Faith looks up, beyond the limitations of the self and human resources, and trusts the heavenly Father who alone does all things well. Instead of looking out at our circumstances in fear, let us look up in faith! Amen.