Psalm 121:1 says in the King James, I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. But David’s help didn’t really come from the hills, of course. Verse 2 says: My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
Because of that confusion, later versions changed the punctuation. The ESV says, I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
That makes it a little clearer, but it doesn’t answer the question. Why did David lift his eyes to the hills?
I remember growing up hearing the answer that the hills represented strength, and God was strong. And I accepted that answer, and maybe it’s right.
But one time when I was reading Psalm 121, I began to think about David’s life.
It appears that David wrote this psalm after he was king, which means it was after he had spent a lot of time in those hills, the ones to which he was lifting his eyes.
What had happened in those hills?
For years, maybe as many as ten or fifteen years, he had hidden in those very hills, from a maniacal king who was dead-set on killing him.
When David lifted his eyes up to the hills, he didn’t just see a beautiful view. He saw his life flash before his eyes. He remembered moving from one hill to another, from one cave to another, hiding in the back of a cave while the king slept in the front, working his way around one side of the mountain while the king and his army marched inexorably around the other side.
When David looked at those hills, he saw despair and grief and darkness and hopelessness.
But when he looked at those hills, he saw something more. He saw protection. He saw deliverance. He saw safety in the cleft of the Rock. In those hills, David knew the presence of God.
When David became king, he wanted to remember that even in the darkest places, God was still there, leading him, protecting him, fulfilling the promise He had given him when he was a youth, even when it seemed impossible.
He wanted to remember, even as he sat on a throne, that the same Lord who had helped him when he was hiding in the hills—even in the times when he couldn’t perceive God’s help—would be helping him still.
Lift up your eyes to your own “hills.” What are your own hills? They are your time of greatest darkness and despair, when it seemed that God had forgotten you, but when afterwards you could look back to see that He was really holding you. He was there.
For Joseph of the book of Genesis (chapters 39-41), the “hills” he looked to might have been a memory of his years in the dungeon, waiting for the purposes of God to be fulfilled. And they were, far beyond his imagination.
For the apostle Peter, the “hills” he looked to might have been a memory of his faltering and failing when he followed Jesus as a disciple, knowing that Jesus loved him and protected him and eventually filled him with His Holy Spirit to do miracles and preach with power.
For Jesus, the “hills” He looked to were the cross of Calvary that He had to endure for the joy that He knew was set before Him on the other side.
For a friend of mine, the “hills” she may look to might be the days when she despaired that she would ever recover from the effects of horrific sexual abuse, only to see later that the Lord Jesus was walking with her through her healing journey to the other side.
For me, one set of “hills” I would look to would be a time of darkness when, spiritually speaking, I couldn’t see my hand before my face. But then seeing the Lord bring me out to the other side and show Himself strong and manifest Himself to me.
What are your hills? Are you in them now, crying out for God to be there with you in the darkness and hiding and fear? Are you feeling like He has abandoned you?
Don’t lose heart. Hold on to hope. Trust Him to finish what He has started.
There will come a day when you’ll lift your eyes to those hills and say, “See those hills right there? Those, right there. They are the place of my greatest despair and grief and darkness and hopelessness.”
And then you’ll say, “But they are also the place of my greatest protection and deliverance. They are the place I was kept safe in the cleft of the Rock. They are the place I began to know the presence of God.”
A Song of Ascents.
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does 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.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on 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 forth and forevermore.
See those hills? You can die there. But, through God’s grace, I survived and it is good to be reminded from whence I came. Thanks, Rebecca.
I did a study a few years back on the Psalms of Ascent, which include this psalm. This particular one was spoken as they were on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and the hills were dotted with altars and idols and vendors hawking various things to sacrifice to these false gods. So looking up into the hills meant knowing that they would have to traverse that territory in order to meet with their God on the other side. The hills were also treacherous in the desert – dry, cold, windy. It was the first time I’d heard this perspective! The hills were frightening to the Israelite pilgrims, and so as they looked to them with dread, they remembered where their help comes from as they cross – from the one who made these hills.
THANK YOU for what you shared.
I’ve just discovered your blog via ACFJ. Have purchased the book you co-authored with Jeff Crippen.
This post resonates strongly with me. So blessed to have someone like you articulating my heart…. “Don’t lose heart. Hold on to hope. Trust Him to finish what He has started.”
Thank you for your kind words, Healing, and it’s good to meet you. I hope the book is an encouragement to you.
Many years ago, my school teacher gave me another view as to how this is to be read. Itis punctuated as follows: “I will lift up my eyes unto the hills? From whence commeth my health? My health commeth from the Lord who made heaven and earth.
She pointed out that the heathens would place their idols on the highest point so that they could look towards their god(s) from any where that they found themselves. It was a reference point as to where their god and thus their help was situated. They could then face him/her and worship them.
David is mocking them in the first statement. He sarcastically ask if he is expected to look towards the highest point for his salvation. Next he asks them where do they think his help and salvation lies. Finally he answers that he looks to God who made not only the hills ( the earth) but the heavens also. His God is all around, as he has stated in
Psalm 139:7-14. He is everywhere, not fixed to one spot.
This has been the best explanation that I have ever received of this, I believe, misunderstood piece of scripture.
So beautifully said! If you haven’t already done it, search for the song “TOTAL PRAISE” performed by Steve Green or the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir on YouTube. I sing it every time I get a glimpse of the foothills and mountains around us. Now, after reading your blog, this Psalm will have even more meaning. I’ve spent some very precious times in “the hills” with the Lord and He is GOOD!
Yes, thank you, Sharon!
I am so much blessed by your teaching, you have enlightened my heart. Please l like to read more of your teachings. May the Holy Spirit continue to teach you as to teach us.
Actually that song was written by Juilliard trained, Richard Smallwood. You should listen to the original to get the full message of that song. It is appropriate in so many situations.
The song is so soothing. God be praised Selah!
Amen and Amen
Thank you so much for all your explanations. Psalms 121 gives me hope and confidence.
I remember growing up hearing the answer that the hills represented strength, and God was strong.
The Lord just opened my eyes to the things unseen… Thank you Lord.
I love this article.
Thank you for hope in confusion. Been spiritually dry for years with glimmers of sunlight. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be whole. Woke up to “I will lift up my eyes” & found your encouraging message when searching location of verse. May I remember His presence in the past & maintain my trust in Who He is.
I pray that you’ll experience the deep riches of Jesus Christ through the power of His Holy Spirit. I pray that you’ll see His promise of the wells of salvation springing up from your soul coming true in your life.
[…] “But when he looked at those hills, he saw something more. He saw protection. He saw deliverance. He saw safety in the cleft of the Rock. In those hills, David knew the presence of God.” (Rebecca Davis – Here’s the Joy) […]
Thank you. This helped a lot.
I’m thankful it did.
The Lord and Saviour will protect you, will heal you, will nurture you, will not let a hair in your head be harmed. He will gather you in his arms and carry you across the hills and valleys of pain, anxiety, worry, disappointments, joys and celebrations. Life will be hilly but HE will keep you and your family steady and will bless your generations. The God of Abraham, Issac and Moses will never let you down. The Father and his son and the spirit will always be with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen
In this season of COVID-19 and how this has affected our nation, it is comforting to know and be reminded that God is our Protector even when we’re facing Painful times. He is our Help! THANK YOU for this reminder and you have blessed me with this.
I’m thankful to hear that. God bless you.
I agree with Aston. Please look at Jeremiah chapter 3 verse 2 and verse 23 where it talks about lifting their eyes to the Hills
So, while sitting at the bus stop for over an hour, I began praying for desperately needed provision (an automobile) and this word sprung into my thoughts, “I look to the Hills….” and I began to contemplate its meaning. The Cattle on a thousand hills, hills?, or Hills have eyes, hills?…So as I arrive home, thoughts of whatever bad decisions I’ve made in my past, I need to let go and realize I can’t go back and change them. I regret, but get over them. And I re-read v8. which (pp) promises to preserve my going out and coming in, from this time forth and forever. And find your blog, read it and know this is exactly what I needed to hear (read). This perspective has opened Psalm 121 ‘HILLS’ and I thank you for your revelation and insight. So much so, I shared to my Fbook friends.
I was blessed greatly by this article! Profound and very personal to my Journey with the Lord.
I’m thankful to hear that, Andrea.
I have seen many hills in my 67 years. Today I STILL see them; they appear to be very high. I believe that God is allowing me to grow in faith.
My hills were so high today that I asked the Holy Spirit to intercede for me because I struggled praying. Without ANY doubt, I know that the hills are not as high as they appear; God didn’t allow me 67 years to throw away or to die from giving up. I’m looking to Him for my help.
Thank you for your thoughts on that. And that may be true I did read a commentary on that as saying looking to the hills would have been the hills of Zion and Jerusalem the dwelling place of God. So which of it it was we only need to know that God is the only one through his holy Spirit that helps us not only in our time of need but is always there for us as believers in Jesus the Messiah.
This absolutely resonates. Thank you for sharing your perspective on this verse and how it has spoken to you. It now speaks more deeply to me.
I thank God for his hands of Deliverance, that did not allowed the hills to over shadow me
A version put it this way ‘I look up to the hills’. The looking up is a deliberate act. He looked up to the challenges and problems before him and asked himself ‘where will my HELP come from?’ Seeking help suggests that he needed a help as to something partaining to the hills.
When you look up to the hills (problems and challenges) about you that you need help to surmount, know that it is only God that can help you through Jesus Christ.
[…] Why Did David Lift His Eyes to the Hills? A New Perspective on an Old Question […]
Wonderfully written and a blessing to read. May we each find our trust in God. Thank you for sharing this.
I don’t know if anyone is still looking at this article. For me the operative word is HOPE. This verse became very strong in my mind at a very dark place too. A hill was involved, of a home where I lived on that my hope was misplaced. I carried much shame .
One day I finally ventured out of my new place of residence, so cloaked with shame and guilt.. But, I needed to get food. I expected to have God’s hand on me with anger. But,as I rounded the driveway, lifted my head , so heavy with shame. I looked smack up into those hills,saw my sin,my heavy fault there. And then that verse came, without condemnation. My hope needed to be in Him. I was not a Saint after this moment. But I knew He was still with me and continued with me . He was and is the lifter of my head
Hope Eternal. What a friend, what a Saviour
Amen, hallelujah, what a Saviour. And yes, this post continues to me my most enduring “evergreen” article.
I think/thought the David saying he was looking to the hills was prophetic in that the Lord would be crucified on a hill and conquer everything for us. He is our help…our perfect help!
I thought David was speaking prophetically…Jesus was crucified on a heal and yet rose again giving us perfect help…accomplishing so much for us on a hill on across…David was both, King, Priest and Prophet and spoke often prophetically in Psalms.
I found this to be in depth and thought provoking. Great for bible study.
I understood in more straight forward way.
When you are battlefield and expecting help you would look for comrades furthest you could see. over the hills in this case.