1 I lift up my eyes to the hills— Where am I to look for my aid? 2 My help comes to me from the LORD By whom earth and heaven were made.
3 Your foot he will not leave to slide— His watch over you he will keep. 4 The LORD over Isr’el keeps watch, And he will not slumber or sleep.
5 The LORD will keep watch over you— Your shade from the heat and the light. 6 The sun will not harm you by day; The moon will not harm you by night.
7 The LORD will protect you from harm— Your life he will ever defend. 8 He’ll guard every step that you take Both now and for days without end.
You can hear a Free Church of Scotland sing this to the tune Solihull here
Our work in ‘Praying the Psalms’ is somehow to bring the stylised disciplined speech of the Psalms together with the raw, ragged, mostly formless experience in our lives.” So writes Walter Brueggeman in his eponymous book. Unless we can do that we are left with a beautiful poem of hope and expectation, an assurance of being surrounded and caught up and held in the love of God whatever may happen which may or may not stand up to the test of raw experience when it hits us between the eyes.
This Psalm is often chosen for funerals and we can see why. My help will come from the Lord when I journey through the thickly wooded mountains full of predators and unknown horrors is a comfort and encouragement at our times of deepest sorrow and regret. Pilgrims singing this song on their way to Jerusalem will have found the courage to put one foot in front of the other as we can in our own time. But this is not a charm nor a talisman to guarantee safety or protection and it is not a blithe reassurance that with God all things shall be well – for what happens when things do not turn out as this seems to promise?
Instead it is a confident hope based on hard-won experience over rough terrain and many hidden ravines that when we travel onwards and upwards God will be alongside in the journey and in the destination. Security does not lie in a location or a person or an institution. Our help comes ultimately from the maker of heaven and earth.
So let us lift our eyes rather than bowing our heads and know that we stand on good firm holy ground.
“As we look towards the mountains we have yet to climb grant us that confidence and hope that keeps us going and assurance that all shall be well for you are with us each step of the way”
Dr David Livingstone, missionary, abolitionist and explorer, read this prayer on the quayside before he left for Africa.
The Rev’d Carole Elphick is a retired Transitional minister worshipping at Muswell Hill in London.
Sing Psalms! (C) The Psalmody Committee, The Free Church of Scotland
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