Where Does My Help Come From?

What do you like to do on long journeys? Listen to music? Play games? Watch movies? Listen to an audiobook? I enjoy all of those things. I wonder if the children of Israel played I Spy as they traversed to Jerusalem twice a year:

“I spy with my little eye something…brown.”

“Sand?”

I doubt they played that game, but we do know one thing they did. They sang. Psalms 120-134 are known as the Psalms of Ascent, songs that the Jewish people would sing as they ascended the holy mount into the Temple.

Psalm 121 begins with a statement, followed by a question. “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains. From where does my help come?” The next verse answers the question in simple terms: “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” The following six verses explain what that Helper does. But first, we need to consider the places we don’t look for help.

Not In.

“Know thyself.” This famous Greek maxim attributed to Plato still ensnares us today. Princesses tell you to be “true to your heart1”; Oprah tells you to “live your truth2”; and Jason Mraz tells you, “You do you. I’ll do me. Together we’ll make harmony.”3 The message that somehow the answer to our problems is found within ourselves echoes across our culture in every conceivable medium. If we’re not careful, this ubiquitous message will start to infiltrate our own minds and hearts as well.

We must remember that neither truth nor help will come from within our own fleshly, depraved hearts. Jeremiah famously called our hearts “deceitful above all else and desperately sick” (17:9). No, my friends, our hearts are the problem. Not the solution. Being “true to your heart” or living “your own truth” is just buying snake oil from the con artist.

Help does not come from within.

Not Out.

I’ve heard that most girls have their wedding planned from the time they’re in middle school. They know the cut of dress, the flavor of cake, the style of decorations, and, of course, the look of the ring they want. I was not such a girl. In middle school I cared much more about game day than I did about my wedding day. And frankly, though I didn’t get married until my early 30s, nothing really changed in the next 15-20 years. So, when I got engaged, I was in over my head. Big time. I had no idea how to plan a wedding! Thankfully, God taught me some important lessons about asking for and accepting help from people with much better taste and style than I in the months leading up to the Big Day.

Perhaps you can relate. I’m sure you’ve experienced a time when you had no choice but to ask for help. With a problem car or a problem child. With a financial crisis or a health emergency. Having trusted friends to ask for help is good. Yet, like most good things, we can twist them into something not-so-good. Our hearts can easily become dependent on the helpers, rather than on the Sender of the help.

Though I’m sure I didn’t seek the Lord’s help the way I should have when planning my wedding, the help that came from friends was ultimately from God and in answer to my cries for help. Even if human helpers may be able to assist us, we must remember that ultimately our help comes from the Giver of all good gifts.

Not Down

Have you ever wondered what we did before Google? Though I can remember a time when I couldn’t pick up a phone and find an answer to whatever trivial question that came up in conversation, I still wonder how we did it. Probably arguments over inane subjects went on a lot longer.

The internet seems to provide help in many different areas. For introverts who would rather stay cloistered within the four safe walls of their home, social media can provide an avenue to social interactions without actually having to interact with anyone. Likewise, the inter-webs can provide an identity for those thirsting for approval. With every like, thumbs-up, or heart that we receive, our endorphin count rises.

We can find a how-to video to assist with any DIY project; network with companies looking for employees during a job search; sell our used car, couch, or clothes; “attend” a worship service; get a high-school, college, or post-graduate degree; earn a comfortable living; and probably a whole lot more all online.

 It’s no surprise, then, that our eyes often drop to our phones when we need help, rather than looking to the Maker of heaven and earth.

Once again, this doesn’t mean that we should never use a search engine, watch a TED talk, or enroll in an online university. What it does mean is that the iPhone must not replace the Great I AM.

 Up!

The psalmist doesn’t look down, out, or in. He lifts his eyes. His help, he says, comes from the “Maker of heaven and earth,” the sovereign Keeper of Israel.

We must lift our eyes to the Guardian of Our Souls because He keeps us. The psalmist says that Yahweh will not allow his foot to slip. As Jesus explains in John 10, He is the Good Shepherd who keeps His sheep safely in the palm of His hand. Not one of them can fall out, nor will any of them ever be snatched by the adversary lurking about seeking to destroy them. No phone or friend can make such a claim.

The Keeper also never goes off the clock. He never takes a break, a nap, or a vacation. We can rest easy because He’s always on the job. A friend may say that she’ll always be there for you, but that’s a promise that no one can keep. While you may keep your phone within reach at all times, it will still let you down. The internet may not sleep, but it’s certainly not omnipotent. And, for those of us who delight in self-reliance, just visit a nursing home or hospital for a jolt back to reality. Our minds and bodies will fail us. Our Guardian, however, never sleeps, abates in strength, glitches, or fails.

Finally, He will protect us. The psalmist calls Him the “shade on his right hand” who keeps the sun from smiting him by day. This image shows that God protects us from the heat of trials. While shade doesn’t totally prevent all the heat from getting to us, it does help us get a respite from it. Likewise, our protector provides the fortress we need to survive when the heat of trials and temptations come our way. No other pseudo-refuges can provide such shelter. As the foolish man found out, the house of sand cannot withstand the tempest.

I lift my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from? 
 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth. 
He will not allow your foot to slip;
your Protector will not slumber. 
Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep. 
The LORD protects you;
the LORD is a shelter right by your side.
The sun will not strike you by day or the moon by night.
 The LORD will protect you from all harm;
 he will protect your life.
 The LORD will protect your coming and going both now and forever.
 
(Psa 121:1-8 CSB)


1 Lyric from “True to Your Heart” by Matthew Wilder and David Zippel. Featured in Mulan.

2 Oprah Winfrey at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z84UtPAWqNM.

3 “You Do You” by Abby Leah Dorsey / Andre De Sant’anna / Brandon Coleman / Chaska Lela Potter / Jason Mraz / Leo Costa / Mai Sunshine Bloomfield / Mona Tavakoli / Rebecca Emily Gebhardt / Tiffany Haddish

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