Let Your Help Come From the Lord

I will lift up my eyes to the hills — From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2, N.K.J.V.)

The heading for Psalm 121 informs us that this Psalm is “A Song of Ascents” (N.K.J.V.). The Hebrew word translated as “ascents” can be defined as “a journey to a higher place.” The fifteen Psalms that receive this specialized heading are Psalms 120-134.

There are at least three possible interpretations as to when these specific Psalms (songs) were sung by the people of Israel. First, since the Hebrew word translated as “ascents” (N.K.J.V.) can rightly be translated as “steps,” these Psalms could have been sung by Israel’s priests as those priests, in order to offer sacrifices, ascended the steps that led up to the altar of the Jewish temple. Second, these Psalms could have been sung by Jewish worshipers who were making their way up to the city of Jerusalem to observe the Mosaic Law’s three prescribed annual feasts: Passover/Unleavened Bread, Pentecost (also known as “Weeks” or “Harvest”), and Tabernacles (also known as “Booths”) (Deuteronomy 16:16). Third, they could have been sung by the Jews returning to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon.

There is an honest debate among translators in regards to how verse 1 of this Psalm should be translated. The classic King James Version conveys the minority translation by rendering the verse:

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

This rendering conveys the idea that the help comes from the God who resides in the hills, specifically the hills surrounding Jerusalem. However, the potential problem with this idea is that those hills (i.e. “high places”) were the sites of idolatrous worship shrines when wicked kings ruled Judah (Israel’s southern kingdom). The prophet Jeremiah probably had these sites in mind when he expressed the polar opposite thought of his help coming from the hills:

Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel. (Jeremiah 3:23, K.J.V.)

To eliminate the problem of a contradiction with Jeremiah 3:23, most translations of Psalm 121:1 insert a question mark after the words “from whence comes my help.”  The New King James Version’s rendering is a prime example of this:

I will lift up my eyes to the hills — From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2, N.K.J.V.)

You see, the insertion of the question mark places the help as coming from the Lord who lives somewhere other than the hills. It is as if the Psalmist is contrasting Israel’s false gods, the ones worshiped in the “high places” located in the hills surrounding Jerusalem, with the true God. Those false gods couldn’t provide any real help, but the true God could. The true God, after all, was far greater and loftier than any hills that He created.

While this particular translation is by far the majority one found in the various English translations of the Bible, there are some commentators who still favor the wording found in the classic King James Version. For example, William MacDonald, in his Believer’s Bible Commentary, says the following:

I still prefer the KJV here, and I’ll tell you why. The temple in Jerusalem was the dwelling place of God on earth. The glory cloud in the Holy of Holies signified the Lord’s presence among His people. The city of Jerusalem is situated on a mountain and is surrounded by mountains. So when a Jew in other parts of Israel needed divine help, he looked toward the hills. To him this was the same as looking to the Lord. Since the Creator’s dwelling was in the Jerusalem hills, there was a poetic sense in which all help came from the hills.

No matter which translation and interpretation of Psalm 121:1 is the correct one, there is certainly no mistaking the fundamental teaching of the opening two verses of the Psalm. The Psalmist wants everyone to know that his help comes from the Lord. And how much help can the Lord offer? Well, as the Psalmist is careful to mention, we’re talking about the God who created all creation. Needless to say, a God with that much power can provide any amount of help that anyone — and that includes you — could ever need. So, don’t hesitate to seek His help the next time you find yourself in need of it. You really can’t do any better.

This entry was posted in Adversity, Comfort, Encouragement, Fear, God's Love, God's Omnipotence, God's Mercy, God's Provision, God's Sovereignty, Grace, Idolatry, Needs, Problems, Trusting In God, Worry and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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