Psalm 121: Mountains, Stock Thieves, and Baby Steps

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” Psalm 121:1 KJV

As a youngster I read the King James Version (what else was there?) of the above Psalm and thought that the Psalmist was writing about the hills as the place from which his help came.  There is no question mark.  The mountains spoke to me of the grandeur of God; they were God’s dwelling place, and from the hills he would race to his people’s aid.

For the Israelites, however, the hills contained the hiding places from which their enemies would so often attack.

Last weekend Jen and I lifted our eyes from the hollow in which Pietermaritzburg nestles and took to the foothills of the Southern Drakensberg and the quiet village of Himeville.  There we settled into the comfort of Moorcroft Manor.  Built in a slight crescent each of the rooms looks west to the Maloti Mountains and Lesotho.  The Sani Pass is the major tourist attraction of the area—the only road into Lesotho from the east.  Mind you, townies like us would not call it a road.  Travelling up and down is such a mission it has spawned an entire industry and T-shirts to boot.  There is a pub at the top which even the most ardent teetotallers are likely to need.

We on the other hand were very happy to settle into our luxury room and view the splendour before us from a safe distance.  The sun-drenched mountains layered in snow provided a vista of peace and beauty; the foreground was given to stretches of water, birds, trees and under-floor heating.

For the farmers in this area, however, the hills contain some of the same horror they held for the Israelites.  From the hills come stock thieves who drive cattle and other livestock along inaccessible paths deep into the mountains, and often up over the escarpment into Lesotho itself.  Indeed, for these frontier farmers Psalm 121 is an appropriate prayer.

But we all have our mountains; huge looming edifices that might, for some, seem like a thrill and challenge but which, for others, are an impregnable barrier full of treachery and uncertainty.

There is a mountain of work on my desk threatening me every morning.  I’m not exaggerating; my colleagues have begun to doubt that I still have a desk in there.  Some days I think it’s going to completely overwhelm me and I’ll be lost forever beneath the victorious pile. 

For others it’s a mountain of debt or a destructive relationship that threatens to overwhelm them and to squeeze out all hope.  For some it’s an illness or an addiction that grips the future and shrivels up their courage.

When we look at these mountains, where do we turn for help? 

It’s easy to point to Psalm 121 as a simple solution to everyone’s troubles.  But I’m not convinced that’s how God works or how the Bible is to be used.  Each of us must discover the truth of Psalm 121 (and other promises of scripture) for ourselves.  The God who never sleeps, who never takes time off, is there for each one of us to discover.  And he comes to us whether we are desperate, overwhelmed by mountains of suffering and fear, or lost in awe at the grandeur of the mountains of God’s creation. 

Psalm 34:8 is the one I would prefer to point you to:

“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” NIV

The Good News Bible puts it, “Find out for yourself….” and The Message, “Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—how good GOD is. Blessed are you who run to him.”

What a wonderful God.  He doesn’t demand blind faith, a leap in the dark from everyone.  That works for some, but here he also opens the door to the fearful, the uncertain; those who need to take a few halting steps, who want to ‘try him out’ as it were.

What about you?  Were yours halting steps, full of uncertainty, or did you discover God in a dramatic Damascus experience of transformation?  I’d love to hear from you.

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7 Comments

Filed under Bible, Meditation & Prayer

7 responses to “Psalm 121: Mountains, Stock Thieves, and Baby Steps

  1. Pingback: Moorcroft manor | Imperialtaco

  2. Judy

    Hi Ian thanks for the really good writings that you give us. Our (yours and mine) growing up together gave us a very good foundation for the hills and valleys that we have travelled. I wonder how those who have not known God from a very young age cope with living without knowing His presence. Life is very empty without that knowledge of His presence!! Keep writing my friend, you have such a gift.

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  3. What a neat application of this verse. I have never thought of it in this light. I have many mountains that take my courage. Your message is very timely for me, as they all seem to be! I can’t wait to share this with my family.

    As far as how the Lord got to me, I was one of those who thought He already had gotten to me, and then he sent someone into my life (my boss and his family) to show me what it really meant to live a life for Him. I’m so glad He did!

    P.S. I can’t believe you have snow, we are still around 100 degrees F here and no rain in sight.

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    • Thanks Polly,
      Glad to be able to ‘connect’. Yes, God has always got something more for us, when we’re ready. For me it was a natural progression as a child, but a sojourn in a self-inflicted wilderness took me right back to basics. God is good.

      We don’t get snow as a rule at home but up in the mountains they get it most winters, but not a huge amount. But, yes, we are just emerging from a pretty cold winter (by our standards). And if you’re loking for rain, then you’re obviously not on the eastern seaboard!

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  4. What a refreshing illustration of this Psalm. Be warned I may well steal it when I next preach on Psalm 121

    Thank you

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  5. Pingback: Spring at the Edge of Winter: a Visit to the Mountains | Wondering Preacher

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