The green, rolling hills seemed to be calling my name. After weeks of cold, wet weather, I couldn’t wait to enjoy the sunshine that had finally arrived between storms. Reaching for my phone, I texted a friend: “How about taking a hike?”
Although a walk in the hills meant cutting into the time I’d carved out to tackle some projects at home, I knew being outside was just what I needed. A few hours on the trail would make me more energized and productive than a day of sitting alone in front of a computer screen.
Imagine my delight when I returned home later and discovered Psalm 121 included in Session 7 of Kelly Minter’s No Other Gods:
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 nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
I love the imagery in this passage and how easily the path described in it parallels our faith journey with Jesus. It is one of the fifteen Psalms known as the “Songs of Ascents” (Psalms 120 through 134). The Israelites would have sung these words as the made their pilgrimages to the Three Great Feasts described in Exodus 23:14-19. Most likely, they would have envisioned themselves ascending the fifteen steps at the temple in Jerusalem (one Psalm for each step). Three times a year faithful Israelites would have journeyed over treacherous paths from far-reaching villages to worship God at the feasts. As they traveled, they passed the time singing laments and praises. The majesty of God’s creation reminded them of his power and sovereignty and spurred them on as they traveled through arduous terrain.
Over the course of studying No Other Gods, we’ve been on a challenging journey too as we’ve identified and relinquished idols. What we must keep in mind, however, is that the journey will continue long after we’ve closed our workbooks and moved on to a new study. The path of spiritual growth doesn’t have a stopping point. We won’t arrive at a destination on this side of heaven. While this thought may make you weary, take heart and consider the observations made in Psalm 121.
-We are not alone on the journey, ever. Our help comes from God. However, relying on him involves lifting our eyes up to see him and to recognize the ways he is working in and around us. Looking down or being self-focused will only hinder our growth.
-We must continually remind ourselves about God’s character and capabilities. Having direct access to the Maker of Heaven and Earth is not something to take for granted.
-We must reassure ourselves that God is never asleep at the switch. He’s never caught off guard by something unexpected, even when we are. He is always vigilant and aware, whether we are or not.
-God shelters us and watches over us. He’s with us on the journey and always has something to teach us through the different processes that unfold in our lives.
-God will never leave us. He was with us in the past, is with us in the present and will be with us in the future.
Remembering these things helps me to take a deep breath and stop trying to figure out life on my own. As much as I like things to be neat, orderly and in their places, I’m learning to trust God while things are still in process and end results aren’t clear. I’m remembering to look to him when I’m fearful or confused or anxious instead of rushing to find comfort or reassurance from an idol. I don’t know what’s on the road ahead, but I do know God is with me every step of the way.
Bebo Norman’s song “I Will Lift My Eyes” is a more contemporary version of a Psalm of Ascent. Click on the link to and make it your prayer as you listen.