Why in the world do you think the psalmist says, “I will lift my eyes to the hills” in Psalm 121:1, our psalm for prayer this week? Upon first glance, it seems like he mentions these hills as a place of help and then goes on to talking about other things, never to return with any explanation as to why he’s looking to the hills.
There are some clues in the text. Two are right in this psalm. First, what is the title of the psalm? It shares the same title as the psalms around it and is actually part of the inspired word of God. This song is in a group of psalms called “A Song of Ascents.” In other words, this is a song that the Israelites would sing as they went up, as they ascended to a place of importance.
Second, the last few lines of the text talk about “going out” and “coming in.” And it was a repeated action. They would do it “from this time forth and forevermore.”
So, they were going up to some place up above where they normally lived, and they were doing this on a regular basis. Now, where in “Israel” (v.4) could this be talking about? What important place did they regularly frequent that was up?
You got it! Jerusalem. And more specifically, the temple. Have you ever noticed that when the Scriptures talk about somebody going to Jerusalem, they were always going “up” to Jerusalem? Even if they were coming from the North, for example? That’s where the Lord lived, up in the temple located in the hills in which the city of Jerusalem was set. Mount Zion is another OT name of the holy city.
The Jews knew that God was omnipresent. But they also knew that a very special manifestation of his glory hovered above the gold plated ark of the covenant, behind the veil, in Holy of Holies in the temple. That was where the Lord “dwelt.” This was the locus of his covenant presence with them. And several times a year, three times at a minimum, the Israelites would make the trek up the hills to Jerusalem and to the temple where God dwelt, where the priests offered substitutionary sacrifices, and where the people of God would prayerfully seek the help they so desperately desired.
The hills – or valleys, or plains, or oceans – don’t offer any more help than the God who dwells in them. And while we don’t live in Jerusalem, the book of Hebrews still says that we come, in the blessings of the New Covenant, to “Mount Zion and to the city of the living od, the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb.10:22).
So lift up your eyes and look with faith to those hills and to the God who dwells there. See there the throne room of God, “behind the veil” as it were (Hebrews 6:19-20), where Jesus sits, ever living to intercede for you and me and to provide the help we so desperately need and to anchor our souls to his eternal presence as only he can.
This is what I’m praying for our church family this week!