Psalm 121. Ascending Song: Step #2.

Today’s Lectio Divina: Excerpts from Psalm 121. (MsgB)

A Pilgrim Song.

I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.

The Songs of Ascent continue.

Step one (Psalm 120) reminds us to always look to God in times of desperation and trouble. Now Psalm 121 backs up that game plan with some very practical advice for those who find themselves in transit in this life.

In the days before roadmaps, GPS, and interstate highway systems, a traveler needed to be acutely aware of their surroundings in order to reach their destination. From most every point across the land of Israel, the trek to Jerusalem was an upward ascent. Climbing hills and winding through narrow passes between mountains became a science. So when God’s ancient people hit the road to go up to Zion, it was necessary to keep your eyes on the horizon, watching for landmarks that would point you toward God’s Holy City. Unmovable landmarks like streams, mountains and deserts could always be trusted when you found yourself a bit off the beaten path.

Back in the day, mountains had another purpose as well.

Ancient societies always sought out the highest mountain or hill to build their holy shrines to their gods. Keep in mind that Israel has always been a small nation. A tiny piece of land carved out from amongst mighty nations. Powerful people like the Amorites, Edomites, Jebusites, and others stood firmly against the God of the Bible and the Hebrew people. The Amorites, for example, were known as mountain people. They would live in high places, placing their encampments on the higher peaks surrounding Jerusalem.

So when the Psalmist in Psalm 121 asks…

I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains?

…this is much more going on here than just a passive comment from a nature-lover.

The pilgrims going up to Jerusalem in the days of King David needed to remind themselves on a daily basis that the gods being celebrated on the high peaks of the Middle East were not the source of strength others claimed them to be.


Almost sounds a lot like today, doesn’t it?

Across the fruited plains of North America, there are many elevated gods erected on the high places of our lives. The gods of pleasure, comfort, sex, food, recreation and self-indulgence are all around us today, shouting from the mountaintops, calling us to come bow down, paying reverence to their power.

Sadly, many followers of God still fall prey to these triumphant shouts coming from the mountains. But wait. What sound is that I hear coming from the valley ahead of me? Could it be the voice of Jesus, inviting me to stay low, walking with Him through the next mountain pass?

Let the mountaintops remain with those who need to bolster up their lesser gods. As for me and my household, we will look to the One who needs no high altar to pump up His ego. We will stand united with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Eternal King who made the very same mountains those false gods say are theirs.

My prayer: Father God, the shouts coming from the mountaintops around me are tempting indeed. My search for significance woos me to climb up to the highest mountain and claim my prize of self-importance. Thank You, Jesus, for the reminder in Psalm 121 that there is a much higher power found in the God of the Scriptures. I choose today to look up beyond the mountaintops of this world and gaze into Your eyes. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: So how have I compromised my pursuit of God by settling on the earthly mountaintops of fleshly interests and human desires? What earthly pursuits do I need to let go of today in order to follow Jesus on our trek toward His Kingdom rule and reign?

So what is God speaking to you today as you ponder the Psalms?

Over a 50-week period, you and I will take a deeper look at The Psalms: God’s Songbook of Prayers. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Contemplating the Psalms home page for ease of use. Keep in mind that one of the best ways to explore the on-going applications of this blog series is to walk alongside a biblically-based, Christ-centered spiritual director who is familiar with how to make material like this part of your overall spiritual formation in God. Many of our directors in our Contemplative Activist network are available to companion you in your journey with Jesus. Click here for more info.

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