There are a number of verses in the Bible which have always somewhat baffled me. They roll off the tongue, get quoted and made into everything from tapestries to songs, but confuse me more than they inspire. Maybe baffle is a bit too strong a word. It’s probably more that, with all of the other inspiring and inspirational verses in the Bible, I wonder why they picked that particular one.
Psalm 121:1 is one of them. The first time I heard it – in the King James Version as its so frequently quoted – I really was confused.
I lift up mine eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help.
Um, what? My help comes from the hills? How, uh, helpful…
And then, I read a bit more, grew a few more years of maturity, did a few more Bible studies and found it in the New International Version where, it turns out, it’s actually a question rather than a statement. A question which is answered in the next verse.
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.
Makes more sense. But still, with all the other psalms around it, talking about God’s strength and power and incredible might, it still confused me what the mountains had to do with anything. Why are we looking up at the mountains again? [Okay, side note for all those currently shouting at me that I’ve missed the point, I do know this is one of the Psalms of Ascents, hence the mountain reference. It’s more that it didn’t seem relevant to me today.]
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love mountains. They’re awe-inspiring. They tower above the rest of the world, and remind us of strength, power and might. They’re beautiful, terrifying, constant, unforgiving. They give us a world of metaphors. Conquering a mountain, a mountaintop experience, the importance of the valleys between mountains, give me this mountain, climb every mountain (ford every stream, follow every rainbow…) Sorry, getting distracted… now I’ve got that song in your heads, I’ll get back to the point J
I love mountains, but this verse didn’t resonate with me at all.
Until I read it a couple of weeks ago in The Message (which, by the way, I’ve had and been reading for over a decade. How did I miss this???).
I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.
Did you get that? My strength comes from the one who made the mountains. The greatest, most awe-inspiring landmarks in this world? God made them. With the same strength he gives me. When I look at mountains, marvelling at their beauty and strength and the way they never (fine, rarely) change, I remember the one who’s even greater than those mountains. The one who made those mountains. Because the maker of something is always greater than their creation. Greater, stronger, more powerful, more inspiring. The one who never changes.
I don’t know about you but I’m pretty certain I’ll never look at mountains the same again.
Where does my help and strength come from? Not the mountains, but the Mountain Maker. And, believe me, if he can make mountains, nothing in our lives is too hard for him.