Psalm 121:1 – I raise my eyes towards the mountains. Where will my help come from? (CEB)
I grew up looking at mountains. Raised on a mountain just outside the boundary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there was not a day that my eyes could escape looking at mountains. People come from all over the world to behold these ridges, peaks, and valleys. People drive countless hours to get here and spend countless dollars to stay here. They may not move mountains, but the mountains move them.
Which brings me to today's verse from Psalm 121. There are lots of people who hear these words and immediately picture the most scenic mountain vistas imaginable, maybe the Swiss Alps with snow-covered peaks rising above steep, verdant valleys, or maybe the sharp crags of the Teton Range standing guard in western Wyoming, or the soaring Sierra Nevadas of Yosemite with incredible waterfalls and rock domes, or maybe even these mystical and ancient ridges of Appalachia. Whatever the image, it's hard to hear the words and not have a picture arise in our minds.
Yes, there is some help in getting away to the mountains. There is something refreshing about new vistas and perspectives. There is something that reminds us of our place in creation and in the natural community when we escape to such terrain. Mountains are good for us.
But we need to know that the psalmist has something completely different in mind. In the ancient world, the "high places" were reserved for worship, and the predominant form of worship was to nature gods of fertility. In the Bible, we read about the Asherah poles and the shrines set up to Baal in Israel. In essence, these high places were covered with idols that drew worship away from God, the Creator. The psalmist is saying that there is no help in such things. The "mountains" as here described are monuments to humanity's broken view of the world and of life.
The following verse is actually a rebuttal to the prevalent view of the day: "My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth." (Psalm 121:2 CEB) He is the only source of help — not that there are mountains, but that there is a mountain-Creator. There is a God who brings forth wonders and marvels and beauty beyond our comprehension. There is a God who watches over all that is taking place here. Every peak, every bird, every tree, every drop of rain — all of it is in the hands of the Creator. The mountains serve to push our perspective beyond the physical reality to the Mystery who made them — and us.
May every view of creation remind us this day of the Maker of heaven and earth who is watching over it all, and over each of us as well.
Prayer: Creator God, may every sight of beauty and nature fill us with wonder and gratitude for Your creating and protecting power. Amen.
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