At last, the peaceful and scenic mountains of Israel. What a sight for sore eyes after enduring the suffering and pain of living in far-off Meshech and in distant Kedar, feeling tired of living among people who hate peace, in fact, amongst people who only want war (Psalm 120:5-7).
And so, our pilgrim, sighting the mountains in the distance, worships his God and sings yet another song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem:
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
But the emphasis here is not so much on the mountains, as appealing as they are, but on the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. In fact, the mountains may either be a great place for safety and refuge against danger or they may be a place full of danger where thieves may be hiding ready to ambush. Remember the story Jesus told in Luke 10:30-35 when A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers…
So, in response to the psalmist’s question, where does my help come from? He does not answer from the mountains, but rather, these majestic mountains remind him that his help comes from the One who created them, i.e., My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He continues by then reviewing the wonders of such an amazing God caring for him and helping him. He sings:
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
Maybe he was recalling the story of the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 18 standing on Mount Carmel challenging the prophets of the false god, Baal, and challenging the Jews with the words, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” (v.21) Later when the prophets of Baal were having trouble getting their so-called god to respond, Elijah mockingly says to them, “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” (v. 27)
But not the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth! Because, as the psalmist says here, he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. Our God, is ever vigilant. In Psalm 46:1 we read, God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
So, he continues:
5 The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
Note the repetition of the words “watch over.” They are used 5 times in this psalm when the psalmist says that God watches over you … he watches over Israel, and then confidently states, he will watch over your life … the Lord will watch over your coming and going.
Note also this last verse when he says that God will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. As Wilcock puts it:
“The going out and coming in of verse 8 have many dimensions. The believer is guarded as he goes to work and as he comes home, in every venture and every return to base, at every departure and arrival, at birth and at death… Both in the great movements of history and ‘in common things of life, its goings out and in,’ the Lord guarantees to guard his people, both now and forevermore. It is ‘hard to decide which half of [the phrase] is the more encouraging: the fact that it starts ‘from now,’ or that it runs on, not to the end of time but without end.’ [quotes from Horatius Bonar and Derek Kidner]. (# 5)
So, where does your help come from?
Elijah knew the answer to this as he prayed on Mt Carmel:
“Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
Then God answered and the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
And When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!” (1 Kings 18:36-39).
So today, lift up your eyes to the mountains—where does your help come from? Your help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Amen.