A story is told of a man who one day in his youth found a gold coin on the street. Ever after this- he kept his eyes on the ground as he walked watching for coins. During a long life time, he found a good amount of coins but mean while he never saw the flowers and the trees, which grew in such wondrous beauty everywhere, he never saw the hills, the mountains and the sweet valleys, the picturesque landscapes; he never saw the blue skies, and the birds flying. To him this fair world meant only a dusty, dreary roads and odd places to look for coins. What wasted years of existence without enjoying the beauty of the world?
This really is the story of the life of most people. They never lift their eyes off the earth. They live only to gather money, to acquire property; or to scheme for power or to live for pleasure. They never lift up their eyes to the hills. There is no blue sky in their lives. They never cherish heavenly visions. They are absolutely without God in this world.
J. R Miller in his book Unto the Hills, notes, “Not many of us are living at our best. We linger in the low lands because we are afraid to climb into the mountains. The steepness and ruggedness dismay us- so we stay in the misty valleys and do not learn the mystery of the mountains. We do not know what we lose, in our self-indulgence. We do not know what glory awaits us if only we had courage for the mountain climb, what blessing we would find, if only we would move to the uplands of God.” Are you simply lingering on the peripheries of Christian life or dissatisfied with your mediocre existence and longing for new heights?
As we are nearing the end of 2014, God is inviting us to come unto the mountains in the year 2015. For some the past year may have been like living in a valley, however God wants to turn that into a mountain top experience like he did with Moses. Come away unto the mountains where he has something to teach you. We would be well off to look at Psalm 121 and learn from those ancient Jewish pilgrims as thy journeyed towards Jerusalem. Let’s read Psalm 121.
BACKGROUND TO PSALM 121.
Psalm 121 is one of the fifteen psalms called “Songs of Degrees or Songs of Ascents” They were probably sung by the pilgrims as they went up to Jerusalem. This particular psalm was sung by the caravans when on the evening before entering the holy city, they encamped within sight of the mountains that made a wall round about Jerusalem. The sight of the mountains gave the pilgrims great joy, for it told them that close beneath those hill-tops nestled the city which they loved so much, with its temple of marble and gold in which God dwelt.
More on a personal note, Psalm 121 became one of my favorites Psalm as it was often read by my father whenever his children were making a trip away from home. It gave us such assurance to know that God would go with us on our journey and keep us safe throughout and would someday bring us back home. Let me break down this Psalm for us. This Psalm contains only eight verses and carries three profound themes. Vs 1-2 Talks about God’s sovereignty. Vs3-4 talks about God’s keeping. Vs 5-8 talks about God’s protection.
I. GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY (Vs 1-2)
Vs 1-2, “I lift up my eyes to the hills where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth. The NASB translates, “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains.” I would like to spend a few minutes talking about mountains, and what role they play in our lives.
Mountains are fascinating. In my personal spiritual life mountains and hills have a great impact. I grew up in a region that boasts to have the top five tallest mountains in the world including Mount Everest. The city of Hyderabad where I ministered most of my time is 1,776 feet above the sea level, surrounded by several hills. We lived in a place called Mahendra Hills. So naturally, those hills became one of my favorite destinations in the mornings for my quiet time and prayer. This is where I learned most of my faith lessons and practiced my spiritual lessons of trust, spiritual warfare, waiting on God, giving up rights, contentment and patience.
In the ancient times mountains had a remarkable influence on the minds of people. They played a large role in the Bible story. For example: After the flood the Ark of Noah rested upon the mountains of Ararat (Gen 8:4) Abraham’s faith was tested when he offered his only son Isaac on the mountain Moriah. Till today “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” On Mount Moriah that the temple was built. On Mount Sinai God gave the law to Moses.
Mountains and hills played a crucial role in the life and ministry of Jesus. After spending a whole night on a mountain he chose his twelve disciples. It was on a mountain Jesus delivered His famous speech of “The Beatitudes” On Mount Hermon Jesus was transfigured. He was crucified on a hill called Golgotha. On a mountain in Galilee he gave the great commission to his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. It is noted in the gospels that Jesus used to withdraw himself alone into the mountains to be with His father.
The Mount of Olives was where he stood last as he ascended to heaven. One day, on the day of his return, the scripture tells us in Zechariah 14:4, “And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives which is in front of Jerusalem on the east and the Mount of Olives will be split.” What a glorious day that would be for all those who are waiting for His return. It would be beneficial to do a word study on “The Mountains” in the Bible.
Coming back to our passage. The sight of a hill or mountain made devout Jews think of God. That was the thought behind these two verses, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains where else my help comes from, my help comes from the maker of heaven and earth.” The Hebrew word “Nasa” occurs more than 650 times in the OT. Which means, “to raise, to lift up (the face, the eyes, the voice, or the soul).
Lifting up his eyes to the mountains the Psalmist was reminded of God’s sovereignty and his righteousness as it was compared to a mighty mountain in Psalm 36:6.The Mountains were symbols of God’s everlasting love. They were meant to bring peace, and provide refuge in times of trouble. King David fled to the mountains numerous times when he was haunted by his enemies. In Psalm 55:6 he exhorts the haunted soul to flee like a bird to its mountain.
Mountains also represent obstacles we face in life, in the line of pursuing God. Jesus exhorts us to speak to those mountains by faith and they will be removed from our path (Mark 11:23) God credits, how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news on the mountains. All in all the mountains were an integral part in the lives of Israelites. They not only reminded them of God’s greatness and glory but also God’s stern dealings with them as a nation whenever they turned their backs away from Him. The Psalmist when he was in trouble, did not look to people for help but lifted his eyes to the mountains for he knew from where he would get help. Where do you look when you are in trouble? Who do you turn to in times of sorrow? That brings us to the next theme in the Psalm which is God’s keeping.
II. GOD’S KEEPING (Vs 3-4)
Vs 3-4, “He will not allow your foot to slip. He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold He who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep.” There is nothing more serious and fatal than slipping your foot while climbing a mountain especially a steep icy mountain. Modern day mountain climbing gear includes special boots. They are typically designed to be used with crampons. These special boots are life savers, they keep your foot from slipping.
In the spiritual life slipping of foot sometimes viewed as a type of misfortune. Once in India I was going up to my place on a bicycle. It was so steep I had to get down and push my bicycle. On the side of the hill I saw a path, I thought this would take me up to the top of the hill. So I got side tracked and got on to that path, but in the end instead of going up, I went down all the way to the bottom of the hill where I started. A hard lesson learned.
Similarly in our journey one wrong step or a misstep of faith can get us off track and make us fall down. But God’s care extends even to the feet of his children. He would not let our foot slip. Psalm 37:23-24, “The steps of a man are established by the LORD; and He delights in his way. When he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong; because the Lord is the One who holds his hand (he sustains him with his hand.) This scripture does not guarantee us that we would never fall, but when we fall we fall into the safest and strongest hands of God that hold us firmly.
No doubt, there are many dangers on the path of God’s children, but those who look to the mountains will not be overwhelmed by them because God keeps his foot from slipping. But those who look to people do not come under God’s keeping. So the safest place to look is unto the Mountains. This brings us to the third theme; protection.
III. GOD’S PROTECTION: (Vs 5-8)
Vs 5-8 “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.” These few verses explain the overall protection of God of His children. It touches all aspects and covers all dimensions and all stages of life.
It is a life time protection from all the known and the unknown dangers. It is better than the ADT protection the companies seem to provide; because it doesn't cost God’s children anything except trusting in his care and protection. These scriptures promise us God’s daily protection, not only today but all the days of our lives. God promises not just to protect us from some but from all evil. You may be wondering Pastor, we are not surrounded by mountains like the Israelites did so where can we go when you say “Unto the Mountains”? Well we don’t have to run to a literal mountain, God becomes our mountain through Jesus.
We can reach God through Jesus and by coming to His Church. Paul writing to the Hebrews reminds them of this fact. Hebrews 12:22-24, “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”
In conclusion, lifting our eyes unto the mountain is in essence lifting our eyes to God. We can only reach God through Jesus who said, “I am the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the father except through me. If you want your 2015 to be a year of fruitfulness, and successful, come to Jesus. Surrender your life to Him. Let Him hold all the things that hold you, let him have all your pain and He will satisfy your soul with good things. My question to you is; have you lifted your eyes Unto the Mountains, where on top Christ is standing with his arms wide open to receive you and fill you with His peace and abundant love? Amen