18 May 2013

Psalm 121

“I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come? “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (vv. 1-2)

Background: God still is...

One of the first things a good ski instructor teaches a skiing novice is how to stop. Safety is paramount, and once the basic skills of control are understood and mastered, hours of fun on the miles of exhilarating ski runs await. And what happens when the skier encounters unexpected twists and turn in the terrain? The default is straight back to lesson one: how to stop safely. Similarly, with rock climbing, one of the early principles a novice is encouraged to understand is the fine art of balancing body-weight on a vertical surface. And should the guide rope get caught or the climber slip, it is back to the default principle of how to connect with the rock face without putting life or limb in danger.

Often the twists and turns of life can seem like a ski slope with its uneven surfaces, low visibility especially for those with limited experience. At other times it can feel like an uphill climb accompanied by bruising, courtesy of the slips and catches along the way. Both slopes and hills of life have their share of joys and at times seem to be one exhilarating experience after another. Equally, both can have their challenges and even back-to-back disappointments. So what's the default position? How does one stop or connect safely again?

In Psalm 121, whether life seems uphill or down slope, uplifting or downbeat, the safe or default position is the same: look to the Lord. This is not the physical upward look to the hills that the author refers to rhetorically, but it is the expectant looking to where hope of humanity and the help of God meet. In verses 3-8, the psalmist describes God as an alert, wide-awake, protecting, providing, 24-7 help with no 'best before' or 'use by' date. The writer gives unshakeable assurance of God, drawing on nature, human behaviour, and personal routine to emphasise that Godwasable,isable, andwill beable to be that sustainable and sustaining source of help.

There is an unmistakeable and almost overwhelming confidence in God bursting out of this Psalm, giving the author and reader the opportunity to remember God's promise, to revive purpose and to regain perspective. Far from wondering if God might help, could help or even should help, the author makes it clear that God still is.

To Ponder

  • How does this Psalm encourage you to "look to the Lord"?
  • How would you describe God's presence during a good or difficult time?
  • How have you experienced the assurance of God's help during good or difficult times?

Bible notes author

The Revd Katei Kirby

The Revd Katei Kirby is currently heading up the Belonging Together project in the Connexional Team. This initiative celebrates the Methodist Church's ethnic diversity, and seeks to embed this at all levels of the Church's life and ministry of the Church.