Across the Pastor’s Desk: To discover God, lift up your eyes

Published 7:44 pm Thursday, May 24, 2018

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Todd Walsh

Todd Walsh


What is your favorite psalm?  I have a feeling most people will answer that it is Psalm 23. My vote would go there, too.

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But there are 150 psalms in the Bible and the psalter is a wonderful library of verse that has spoken well to us through the ages.

My second favorite is Psalm 121. This one is used often in times of trouble or mourning. But it also speaks well to give comfort and encouragement for any day.

The psalm begins with, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where is my help to come?  My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”

The opening words of Psalm 121 came to life in a new way the first time I visited the Holy Land. We landed at Ben Gurion airport and began our journey to Jerusalem. The ride started out on nice flat ground, which makes sense. Airports need flat ground.

I realized before the trip that there are hills in the Holy Land. But we are talking hills! And the 25-mile drive from the coast to Jerusalem takes you uphill almost 2,500 feet. There are steep hills and deep valleys. The coast side of the Judean hills is beautiful with its forests and terraced hillsides. The Dead Sea side is the same type of dramatic terrain but with no vegetation. It is a picture of desolation with its own beauty.

The drive up to Jerusalem illustrated Psalm 121. “I lift up my eyes to the hills.”  When in the bottom of one of those valleys you are surrounded by hillside. It can feel very closed in. And the daylight is delayed or ended early as the sun must rise high to reach into the valley. The only way to see anywhere is to look up.

I can imagine the psalmist in one of those valleys and being moved to a leap of faith. “From where is my help to come?  My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”  When one is in one of those deep valleys, you can’t help but look up. The geography moves you to a posture of prayer.

If we look at life as a journey, the path is rarely level. There are curves. There are hills and valleys. There are places where we stay for a time. And there are others where we know it is wise to hurry through.

The psalmist realizes we can find ourselves in a low place without being in a valley of the Judean hills. We can find ourselves stuck in a valley of our own hurt or circumstance. We can look around and find there is nowhere to turn. We can convince ourselves there is no escape.

The moment can come when we reach a simple realization. It doesn’t do any good to look around. What does work is to look up. The spiritual side of this is the wonder of Psalm 121. What is around us can leave us empty. The one who is above is the one who can reach down to us, the one who can guide us on our way.

Psalm 121 is a psalm of ascent. It was one of the psalms used by pilgrims as they approached Jerusalem and more specifically, the temple itself. The geography of Jerusalem is the same as the hill country around it. One cannot help but lift up your eyes to the hills as you approach Jerusalem. And in the days of the psalmist your eyes would land in the shimmering house of the Lord, the place they believed then God dwelled among the people.

Today those who claim faith in the one named Jesus look to another hill, Calvary. It is the place the Lord of life gave his life for the world. It is the place where the God of heaven came to earth and brought new life to the world through the rising of Jesus.

Today we can lift up our eyes to the hills and find the same God giving us life, restoring life and reminding us that there is a place to turn. And that place is a person named Jesus who is among us still and ready to guide our way.

Todd Walsh is director of spiritual care services at Thorne Crest Senior Living Community.