“You Are Not the Help You Think You Are

Ascent to Jerusalem


“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1–2)

There is a collection within the psalms known as the Songs of Ascent. Pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem for the feasts sang these psalms on their way up the 2,700 foot climb to the holy city. The pilgrims would be begin with Psalm 120 and work their way up toward Jerusalem and the temple reading or singing their way through to the last Song of Ascent, Psalm 134. The progression of the psalms in this collection are representative of the various stages along the journey.

The pilgrims traveled oftentimes dangerous trails and roadways and were frequently confronted with a variety of unforeseen circumstances and conditions. As one journeyed up to Jerusalem, one could easily be consumed with these struggles and soon find oneself feeling overwhelmed and helpless. Does this sound familiar? Have you been there recently? If not, you may be there before long. We live in a fallen world full of struggles and difficulties, some of our own making and some which are not. The psalmist’s perspective is helpful at times like these.

The nature of these particular psalms was to remind and focus the sojourners on their destination point, rather than to consume them with the difficulties and helplessness they were sure to face along the way. “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” He does not look to himself (a creature), rather, he looks to the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth, who is a certain and steady source of help. When the psalmist’s head is low, down in the plains, he feels helpless, but when he lifts his head to look upon the Lord, he is immediately reminded of the source of his rescue.

In an age obsessed with self-help, one would think that we’d be especially aware of our inability to provide ourselves the real help we are in constant need of. Yet, we are tempted to turn to ourselves and everywhere else, except up to the all sufficient grace of the Lord who made heaven and earth. “He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” (v. 3-8)

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