The first time I led a mission trip to a foreign country where I didn’t know the language, I was surprised at how much I relied upon our mission host. Our host not only interpreted conversations for us, but they also helped us navigate, warned us of hazards, and guided us to places where the food was safe for us to eat.
One time in particular I remember was when my small group was about to cross the street. The light was green, and we had a “walk” signal. One of my college students had just stepped off the sidewalk to cross the street when our mission host grabbed his arm and yanked him back to the sidewalk just as a car narrowly missed him. Our host smiled and said that unlike the United States, traffic lights and speed limits had only just been adopted and cars still had the right of way, not pedestrians. Our host’s presence with us was invaluable, guiding, helping, and keeping us safe.
This is a wonderful psalm meant to give the reader great encouragement and confidence in the presence of the Lord.
This psalm, like many others, has been made into a song that is often sung at worship services. However, the first verse, I lift up my eyes to the hills, is often misinterpreted. To understand this psalm correctly, we need to understand what the writer meant by the word hills.
In the context of this writing, hills should be understood in a negative sense. Hill country was a source of danger. Journeying through the hills was always a struggle, filled with slippery paths, loose rocks, and deep valleys. In addition, robbers and wild animals could threaten travelers. Those who traveled through the hill country often traveled in caravans for safety and mutual support in the journey. So, as the psalmist considered the journey through hill country, a natural question arose, “from where does my help come?” He wasn’t asking for simple assistance, but looking for help beyond human limitations as he journeyed through the hills.
The strong answer comes when the psalmist expresses his confidence in the nearness of the Lord. Notice the great images that are painted for us: The Lord won’t let you slip, the Lord is always watching. Notice that the words keep or watch over are repeated several times. It’s the same word in Hebrew meaning that the Lord keeps faithful watch over His people. It’s the understanding that the Lord is present with you every step of the way. The psalmist doesn’t specify how the Lord will do this, only that you can be confident that the Lord is there keeping you with Him as you journey.
We see the same confidence and encouragement expressed in the New Testament in Jesus’ promise that He is with us always, (Matthew 28:20); and in Paul’s amazing writing in Romans that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, (Romans 8:37-39.)
Don’t misunderstand this passage to say that if you entrust your life to Jesus you won’t face difficulties. Experience teaches us that life is full of difficulties, but we know that the Lord is always with us, and nothing can pry us from His grasp.
Here are a couple of incredible verses where Jesus made that same promise:
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.” John 10:27-29 ESV
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." John 6:38-40 ESV
Take confidence in the fact that the Lord is always with you. May His presence give you great joy, even in the midst of difficulties and challenges.
God bless you and know that you are prayed for constantly.