Where are not safe anywhere on this mother earth. Even if we live behind lock and key, burglar bars and electric fences, even if we limit going out at night. The world is a dangerous place. But this is nothing new. Is it enough reason to be fearful and lose hope? No!
Ps 121 reminds us that God is everywhere. The problem is, do we really believe it? Or do we need to see it?
Ps 121 is the product of an uprooted nation, it tells us of their faith struggle, their need is the product of a displaced nation, it tells us something of their disbelief and their need for assistance, and yes, their despair.
It is likely that the king of Jerusalem saw the locust-like multitude of enemy soldiers on the mountains around the city. Those returning from the festival had to return home but the sun baked down during the day. Some preferred to travel at night, when the sun was not their enemy. However, the moon was also a problem for those who believed that the moon caused mysterious things like epilepsy and mental disturbances. A suitable time, or rather, a SAFE time to travel was a problem.
If the pilgrim-poet then asks: “I lift up my eyes to the mountains– where does my help come from?” (vs1; NIV) he does this with faith, in spite of the dangers. He confirms that the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth is everywhere, that He does not sleep, and that He protects the traveler. The vision and sight of the pilgrim might be limited by the mountains, but the invitation is to look further, to look over, to look beyond the mountains to the Creator of the mountains, of the heavens and of earth. He is at the same time the Creator and the Protector and Saviour of Israel.
The invitation of our text is therefor to look further than the crisis, the high mountains. The challenge is to not focus on himself and his crisis, but to look up. It actually becomes an appeal to believe in God in the midst of the crisis or danger. The pilgrim experiences how he is released from his anxiety and how he can find security in God.
Someone once said: “God does not preserve us like porcelain dolls in a glass case.” We do not go through life without scars. Sometimes we might not even survive. But does this make God less God? He does not promise survival, He promises conservation in distress.
But what do we expect from this conservation? That we will never become ill or that no misfortune will come our way? No, this is part of life on earth.
We cannot create God’s presence and we do not need to. God promises God’s presence and God keeps His promise. That makes our life on earth, with all its challenges, struggle, dangers and despair, worthwhile.
We are not “remote controlled.” God does not merely cut away evil and pain. Rather He takes it on Him in Christ. Remember, Jesus did not simply survive, He re-vived and relived for our sake. He stands in for our protection as the eternal high priest. He guarantees this! Therefor our security is in Him.
Written by: Rev Kathleen Smith, Ned Hervormde Kerk, Cape Town, Churches Channels of Hope facilitator