I Lift My Eyes (Better Understanding Psalm 121)

I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber. Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep. The LORD protects you; the LORD is a shelter right by your side. The sun will not strike you by day or the moon by night. The LORD will protect you from all harm; he will protect your life. The LORD will protect your coming and going both now and forever. - Psalm 121:1-8 CSB
This Psalm has always spoken deeply to me. In my youth, I imagined being downtrodden, even on hands and knees looking up to the Lord for help. The more I have studied God’s Word, the more I realize that this is only one possible application of this text, and not even one that resonates with the writer’s intent. As a Psalm of Ascent, this psalm would have been read/sung on the journey to Jerusalem. This was not necessarily written from a place of despair, but rather one of hopeful expectation. The pilgrim traveling to Jerusalem for worship could look to the holy hill of Zion knowing that the Lord would be the one to enable them to reach their destination. The brunt of this passage (verses 3-8) speaks of the protection of the Lord and His intervention in the life of the pilgrim. It encouraged the pilgrim that the Lord was with them and for them, even though they had yet to arrive in His holy city. They were to lift their eyes in hopeful expectation of the Lord’s hand at work in their journey because it was for His glory.
When applying this psalm to our lives today, we must lift up our eyes to see from the vantage point of the pilgrim. To do this, a few things must be true of us:

1.Our journey is bringing us to worship the Lord for His glory.
2.We are moving forward on purpose, towards the Lord’s goal for us. (See #1)
3.We are looking for help on our journey, shunning the idea of self-reliance and stability.
4.We are looking to the right place for help, seeking only the Lord.

When these things are true for us, our eyes are lifted toward the Lord, seeking His help and intervention in our journey. It is here that we can know the protection of our God who doesn’t sleep, is sheltering us, and keeping us from harm in our coming and going. Should our journey take us anywhere other than toward the Lord, our raised eyes will likely find nothing but the skyline. Why? Because we aren’t headed toward the Lord in the first place. To properly apply this psalm to our lives today, we must be living on pilgrimage, as sojourners in this world, seeking our ultimate arrival at the City of God. We must have hearts set on worshipping the Lord. When we are in this place, we too can lift our eyes to our eternal destination, the holy city of God, knowing with full confidence that He is with us and for us, protecting us along the way. What peace is found in knowing that our help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth!

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