From Where Does My Help Come?


From Where Does My Help Come?

Psalm 121 is known as the Traveller’s Psalm. It speaks to the help we receive from God throughout all of life. While the majority of the Psalm takes the form of a priestly blessing, the harrowing question of where ‘from where does my help come?’ is one that each of us can relate to. 

Scripture: Psalm 121 and John 3: 1-19

Life is a journey. The end of one chapter marking the beginning of the next. Though we journey through this world, trusting in the hope that one day we will cross over the Jordan and live in eternity with our risen Lord Jesus Christ, how we journey through this world matters. As with any journey there are dangers, those we can see and those that are hidden. There are pitfalls that may befall us. There are also joyous experiences, wondrous moments that are worth holding on to. The journey is the shared sum of our experience, defining who we are as individuals.

In The Fellowship of the Ring Tolkien writes,

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say”

Life is a great journey and we are blessed to be on that road with God, Creator, Son and Spirit. The author of Psalm 121 knew of the dangerous that one could experience on the road. Psalm 121 is often referred to as the Traveller’s Psalm. But it is about more than merely travelling to a new destination or the family vacation. As we journey through Lent, we need to ask ourselves where is it that we are travelling and why? What is the purpose of our trip, what do we hope to learn, what do we hope to discover, what do we hope to see?

The Psalm is broken into two parts:

  • The first is found in verses 1-2, which might be formed as concerned question followed by an answer.
  • The second part is verses 3-8, which form a priestly blessing.

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.

In these first two verses we find a Chiastic pattern. We lift our eyes to the hills and our help comes from the very one who made those hills. We might think that we are looking to the hills for God, but it is just as likely that those looking to the hills did so with fear and distrust. For in the hills lurked hidden dangers. Like walking down the Jericho road, the hills held thieves and robbers, those who would do us harm. The Psalmist reminds us that it is from God that our help comes.

Psalm 121 reminds us that God protects, shields, watches over, guards and keeps. In God we can trust. This is good news, just as the promise we have in Jesus Christ, in the Gospels is Good News. News that matters. That through Jesus we have access to life abundant. All this is through God.

It doesn’t mean that the road is easy. Nor does it mean that there aren’t dangers and pitfalls before us. What it means is that God is with us, no matter what we may face in life. In John’s gospel reading this morning we receive the promise that Jesus does not come to condemn, but to save. Jesus does not come to judge, but to offer life.

In John’s gospel, sin is defined as not believing in Jesus, therefore not being in relationship with Jesus. You’ll recall last week the quote from Douglas John Hall I used, which reminds us that the term sin isn’t a list of misdemeanors but of relationship. For John, to be without sin is to believe in Jesus.

For John, Jesus does not come to condemn or to judge. The world already sits in judgement as it has turned its back on God. Jesus comes to save, to bring the light, to remind us what we are about as a created people. Jesus comes to offer an eternal relationship of love, grace and mercy.

But the world we live in, we ourselves, we often choose death, the world chooses death over life. It does it repeatedly, it does it without thinking, without regard for the consequences.

Prof. Rolf Jacobson reminds us that we live in a bad news world. “The world is so full of bad news, sad news, angry news, judgmental news, scary news, divisive news, death news. Those who live in the world are so bombarded by that which degrades and divides, shames and blames, threatens and frightens. And the world so desperately needs to hear that which is truly good and truly news—that Jesus saves. That Jesus is life itself—abundant life.” (Rolf Jacobson)

John 3:16 is perhaps the best-known piece of scripture.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish by have eternal life.”

It is a wonderful promise, that those who are in relationship with Jesus Christ will have eternal life. But I believe it extends larger than that, I believe that God’s grace is bigger than this. This week I was reading Resurrecting Religion by Greg Paul. I quoted Greg’s paraphrase of the Beatitudes a few week’s back. There was a passage in Greg’s book that leapt off the page at me.

Greg is writing about a gentleman name Matt who had taken his own life. Greg is honest that he didn’t like Matt very much and that through a variety of circumstances Matt was basically screwed from birth. But about the injustice of Matt’s life and death Greg writes the following:

“My anger looks for someone to blame and ultimately rests on God himself. God’s wrath transmutes through Jesus into a fiery determination that those upon whom every evil force has been concentrated, such that the opportunity of meaningful choice has been negated, will nevertheless see salvation instead of damnation, redemption instead of condemnation, healing instead of ultimate decay, reconciliation instead of banishment, honour instead of degradation. This is not a get-out-of-hell-free card; this is the key to the city, a last-shall-be-first miracle.” (Greg Paul, Resurrecting Religion, 2018, p112).

Greg writes of the beautiful promises we find in the Beatitudes, but it echoes in John’s words that God did so love the world that he sent his only son. A strong reminder we find reinforced in the words of the Psalmist, that as we journey through life our help comes from God, who made heaven and earth.

As we journey through Lent in this bad news world, it is good to keep the words of the Psalmist close at hand. A Psalm that begins with a question, ‘From where shall my help come?’ and ends with a priestly blessing. Listen closely again to the words of the Psalm,

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.

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.

The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time on and forevermore. Amen.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.

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