With Lifted Eyes

With Lifted Eyes

“I lift my eyes toward the mountains.  Where will my help come from?” (Psalm 121:1 CSB).

Long ago, Jewish pilgrims sung this question on their way up to Jerusalem, as part of fifteen “Songs of Ascents” found in Psalms 120-134.  Believers in Christ have asked the same searching question ever since.  The mountain skylines we see from a distance are impressive, yet pale in comparison to those even of lesser elevation that represent tangible reminders of spiritually significant moments in Jewish history for these pilgrims, and for us.

Mountains have commanded a prominent place throughout the Old Testament.  For example, Mount Ararat comes to mind after Noah and family survived the worldwide flood.  “And the water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered.” (Genesis 7:19 NASB).  Apart from God, there is no place high enough to escape sin.  God delivered His Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai.  Later, the LORD showed Moses the Promised Land from the vantage point atop Mount Nebo.   Mountains were often symbolic of God’s power, majesty and protection; a place of worship and sometimes of testing. 

Abraham’s faith in God was uniquely tested sometime between Noah’s and Moses’ mountain top experiences.  Somewhere on a mountain in the land of Moriah, Abraham “raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance” (Genesis 22:4).  When the ultimate test of Abraham’s faith arrived, a picture of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice for all believers, Abraham looked up again, hearing the voice of an angel of the LORD calling from heaven, “’Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold , behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns”… “And Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.’” (Genesis 22:13-14).

Therefore, the answer to Psalm 121:1’s question “Where will my help come from?” is, not surprisingly, “My help  comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:2).

Capture the magnitude of those last few words.  Appreciate the infinite capability of your Creator God.  You don’t have to understand it to be grateful.  The same thing applies to faith.  Break some new ground with each step of faith with the One who reminded Job centuries ago of His capability and power, “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, Or loose the cords of Orion?  Can you lead forth a constellation in its season,  And guide the Bear with her satellites?  Do you know the ordinances of the heavens, Or fix their rule over the earth?” (Job 38:31-33).  Job could only muster a rather sheepish reply to those tough questions.  A response no better than we could offer.  Yet, these very same constellations of Job’s time still roam the night skies intact, and you can see them if you only look upward.  God doesn’t change.  Neither do His capabilities nor His love for you.  So, with rising faith, lift your eyes higher than even the mountains.  Ponder the shepherd-like love and attention that God gives to His starry creation.

“He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them” (Psalm 147:4).  “Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power Not one of them is missing” (Isaiah 40:26). 

The New Testament also has many memorable mountain events (think Beatitudes, the Transfiguration, Mount of Olives and those moved by mustard seed-like faith).  And as for stars, nothing outshines Jesus Himself.  “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches.  I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star” (Revelation 22:16). 

Jesus, the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of God’s nature (Hebrews 1:3), brought sight from heaven—spiritually and physically—with heartfelt compassion.  Such compassion fueled a mountainside picnic for a crowd of spiritually starving people who were growing hungry as the afternoon faded.  Jesus wasn’t flaunting His ability to feed so many with so little, or dazzling His audience.  Instead, He was pointing all who would believe, toward where help could be found.  Jesus said to His disciples, “Bring them here to Me” (Matthew 14:18), speaking of just enough bread and fish to feed over 5,000, although a deeper two-fold point was being made:  introduce others to Him, and secondly, bring every concern toHim.  Jesus shows us how we can do so by first looking to God for help, “and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food” (Matthew 14:19).  Avoid overlooking the obvious, “The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; The LORD raises up those who are bowed down” (Psalm 146: 8).    

Jesus’ heartfelt compassion saw the multitude as being “like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34).  Thinking back to Job’s astronomy test, stars appear very much alike and indistinguishable from a distance unless they are part of a constellation.  However, Jesus as Creator knows how many exist, knows them by name and their exact whereabouts… as would any good shepherd.  “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” (Psalm 19:1).  Notice the present tense verbs used by the psalmist to describe how God’s glory, creativity and capability continue being displayed to each generation.

God created you in His image which uniquely separates you from the rest of His creation.  Surely, you know that fact.  But how well do you apply it?  If a vehicle’s clutch illustrates faith, then the Holy Spirit can help you mesh your head’s knowledge of God more smoothly with your heart’s willingness to trust Him.  Faith brings head and heart together producing less doubting, less grinding of spiritual gears and greater efficiency as a servant of God.

“I will praise the LORD while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.  Do not trust in princes, In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation” (Psalm 146:2-3).  Are you driven by faith or by fear?   If driven by jittery fear, then “popping” faith’s clutch is apt to stall or even detour your earthly trek with God ascending mountains and walking through the shadowy valleys along the way until journey’s end.  “To Thee I lift up my eyes, O Thou who art enthroned in the heavens!” (Psalm 123:1).

Calvary’s cross was located near Jerusalem—a hillside city surrounded by mountains.  Although not towering by elevational standards, Jesus’ crucifixion site remains a landmark of hope to every believer—the place fulfilling His statement, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32).  There Jesus was “lifted up” on a cross for you, showing no greater love than can be given by God.  Because of His grace, you can receive eternal life (John 3:14-17) and compassionate help along the way.  Just ask Him with lifted eyes.  

                                                                                                                                Alan Summers, GBC Elder

All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) or as noted, from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).