"I lift up my eyes to the mountains--
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth. "
One of the most beautiful things about the Bible is how it shows the ongoing movement of God's people. They understand God's character and God's heart in new ways as the centuries go by. Their faith flexes and changes as they see more and more of God, culminating in Christ.
In some of the Psalms, we see a prevailing image that reflects one of the earliest understanding of deities. Ancient near eastern "gods" were all understood to live on high mountains. Thunder was a sign of their movement and voice, and they were shrouded in mystery. Add that to the many times that God literally met Moses on mountains, and how Jerusalem is built on a giant hill, and you can understand why a lot of Hebrew terminology developed about God living "up there" on the hills and mountains. This view of the gods continued to be pervasive in Greek and Roman culture as well.
But Jesus comes onto the scene to reveal that God isn't somewhere "up there." God doesn't dwell in the temple. God doesn't dwell on top of Samaritan mountains or the high hills of Jerusalem (John 4:21). God is with us everywhere in spirit and in truth, in Jesus. Our language is simply an attempt to describe an indescribable spiritual reality. God's not actually sitting up there in the sky (well, at least not more than everywhere else!).
In light of all this, through all our modern years, have you noticed that this image of "looking up" has continued to persevere? Yes, we may bow our heads in prayer, but have you ever been alone with with God, and just felt drawn to lift up your face, and look "heavenward?"
There's something to that. Now, more than ever, it's time to embrace the practice of "lifting our eyes up to the hills" to remember that our help comes from the Lord. The Psalmist urges his listeners to change their view... to shift their physical and spiritual posture to one that is open.
We are in a world of keeping our heads down- have you noticed that? Bodies are hunched over while eyes and hearts are buried in phones. Eyes are down as people pass one another on the sidewalk and grocery stores (you cannot spread COVID through meaningful eye contact).
But when we look up, our posture changes. After the eyes and head lift, the rest of our body follows. The shoulders roll back, the ribs and heart extend out. Our bodies are less tense, and more open. More open to the world around us, and more open to God's grace over whatever is on our phone or stuck on repeat in our minds. We are also more open to literally notice the hills and mountains around us and delight in God's creative goodness. We are more open to notice the people around us and delight in God's image in them, and act with mercy. And as we keep looking up and up, we are more open to call out to Jesus, so that we can be transformed toward his character of love and compassion to others.
That's not a very common posture these days, is it?
At the end of the day, when we are looking down, our thoughts and attitudes often revolve around the self. We are tempted to be absorbed by things much smaller than God's kingdom. When we look up, we enter into a place to receive and give. There is a newfound vulnerability. There is an opportunity to notice something fresh and new, and to trust God as we step toward it.
Sometimes the simplest practices are the most helpful. Today, I encourage you to pray with your eyes up, arms out, and posture open. Ask God, and no one else, to be your hope and your rescue. Rest in the care of the creator.
And when you encounter others, lift up your eyes. See in them the beauty and complexity of God's image. Be filled with compassion and kindness.
I can't imagine a better descriptor when someone asks what we're like, than being known by this little image of Psalm 121.
"She lifts her eyes up."
Jesus, lift my eyes toward your hope. It's so easy to get distracted.