Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Episode Resources

Watch Nancy teach this message.

Michael Card singing:

I lift up my eyes unto the hills
From when shall come my help.1

Leslie Basham: You and I are needy! We all need help. Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: What kind of help do you need? What are you facing beyond your ability to handle? Fears? Challenges? Problems? Where are you looking for help; where are you looking for protection? To the hills, to created things, to people, to money, to a job, to your mate, to friends? Or . . . are you looking to Jehovah, the Lord?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for March 11, 2019. Nancy’s starting a new series from Psalm 121 called “A Song for the Christian’s Journey.”

Nancy: Over the next several days, I want us to take an in-depth look at one of the most familiar, most loved psalms in the Scripture. Turn in your Bible (if you’re able to do that), or scroll in your Bible (if you prefer) to Psalm 121.

I can’t believe that over all these fifteen years—I’ve taught through a lot of psalms—we’ve never been through Psalm 121. It’s a precious psalm to all of us who have known the Lord for any length of time. We’re going to study it together, and I hope it will be even more precious to us!

Let me read this psalm, and then we’re just going to take our time walking through this and see what it has to say for lives, as we look at this song for the Christian’s journey. Psalm 121: it’s called “a psalm of ascents.” We’ll talk about that after I read through the psalm.

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 (vv. 1–8).

Lord, I pray that You would open our eyes, open our ears, open our hearts to receive what You have to say to us through this Scripture this day. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit; may He be our Teacher, and may we say, “Yes, Lord!” to whatever You say to us today. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

This is called “a song of ascents.” That’s the designation that’s given to a beautiful collection of fifteen psalms, beginning with Psalm 120 and continuing through Psalm 134. Four of those psalms, we’re told, are by David. One is by Solomon and the authors of the others, including this one (Psalm 121), are not named, they’re anonymous. Many commentators, though, think that it’s likely that David wrote this one.

The meaning of this designation, “the song of ascents,” is notcertain. There are a lot of different theories and suggestions as to what it might mean. Some believe that these were psalms that were sung by the Jewish exiles as they returned from Babylon to Jerusalem, and that’s possible.

Others believe that the word “ascents,” it can mean “steps,” like ascending steps. One Jewish tradition is that the Levitical choirs sang these psalms on the fifteen steps in the temple going from the outer court of the women to the inner court of the men. So, fifteen steps. Then these choirs would stop and sing one of these psalms on each of those steps. It’s possible, although there are not many people who hold to that position.

John Calvin thought that it might have something to do with the elevation of the notes, or the melody, that was used to sing these songs. Again, there are are not many who hold to that view, but it’s possible.

Most commentators that I have read believe that these psalms—these fifteen psalms—were a hymnal, a collection, for groups of Jewish worshipers who were making a pilgrimage up to Jerusalem, or Zion. Jerusalem is about 2700 feet in elevation, so wherever you were coming from, you would have to come up to get to Jerusalem.

These groups of worshipers would come for three annual feasts, or holy days—Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. All the men (and sometimes with their wives and young people) would come three times a year from various parts of Israel. The view is that they sang these psalms as they traveled.

Most of these psalms are short and they’re easy to remember, so you could sing them without having the text in front of you. They may have begun singing these psalms—these travelers’ songs—when they were still far away from Jerusalem, and then they would progressively sing through them as they got closer to Jerusalem and ended up at the temple.

You can see this progression. Psalm 120, the first of these psalms of ascents, is a song of lament. It’s sung by someone who is living far away from Jerusalem. It starts in Meshech and Kedar. These are Gentile lands that are far away from Jerusalem. And the traveler who’s far away from Jerusalem is experiencing despair, longing to be in Jerusalem with the people of God.

And then this collection ends in Psalm 134 with God’s people experiencing intense joy in the house of the Lord. They finally arrived! So this is a progression that these Jewish pilgrims would sing as they came to Jerusalem. I think that’s very possibly what this “psalms of ascents” designation means.

We know from Luke chapter 2 that Mary and Joseph took this annual pilgrimage to celebrate the Passover, and when Jesus was twelve, He went with them as a young Jewish man. Think about how Mary and Joseph and Jesus may have sung these songs with other pilgrims who were traveling with them from Galilee to Jerusalem—how they may have sung these songs together.

And then, Jesus and His disciples would have sung these songs as they traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, including just before the crucifixion of our Lord—singing the psalms of ascents.

Now, Psalm 121, the one we’re looking at for the next several days here, is the second song in the songs of ascents. It’s often been called “a traveler’s psalm.” As we unpack it, we’re going to see, for obvious reasons, that it was applicable to the Jewish pilgrims.

But I think it also has beautiful, sweet application to all believers who are on pilgrimage, on our journey, through the troubles and trials and perils of this life to our ultimate heavenly home in God’s presence. And so, this is a song for the Christian’s lifelong journey. It’s one you want to be knowing memorizing, quoting, singing as long as you are in this journey toward Heaven.

This is psalm that has been a great comfort and encouragement to believers over the centuries. David Livingstone is one of my heroes, who was a great missionary statesman to Africa. In 1840, before he went to the continent of Africa where he would spend the rest of his life and would die and be buried, he read this psalm and prayed with his father and his sister before heading to Africa.

It was an encouragement and a comfort to the one who was leaving, and also to those who were being left behind. And you’ll see why as we read it together. Today, we’re going to concentrate on just the first couple of verses and then we’ll move through it in the days ahead.

Verse 1: “I lift up my eyes to the hills.” (Some of your translations will say, “to the mountains.” Same word.) “From where does my help come?” Now, if you’re like me, you may have first learned and memorized this psalm in the King James Version, which has a different punctuation in this first sentence . . . which entirely changes the meaning of this first verse.

In the King James, the first verse is all one sentence: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills [comma], from whence cometh my help [period].” One sentence. You have the same translation used in the final scene of The Sound of Music when the Reverend Mother quotes this verse as she sends the Von Trapp family away to the mountains to try to escape into Switzerland!

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills [comma], from whence cometh my help [period].” (Now, she didn’t say the “comma” and the “period,” but I’m helping you see that it was all one sentence.) That could sound like the pilgrim is looking to the mountains for help. But that’s not what this means. In fact, I think the meaning is just the contrary.

In the translations since the King James, this verse is punctuated differently. It’s a sentence, followed by a question: “I . . . lift up mine eyes unto the hills [period]. From where does my help come [question mark]?” (Or, from the NIV: “Where does my help come from [question mark]?”)

Now, what are “the hills” or “the mountains” that are referred to here? Again, there are various interpretations. Let’s just look at some of those. I don’t know that they’re right or wrong. I think sometimes when the Scripture is not explicit, it’s because it doesn’t really matter. It could be one of several things.

But these could be the hills that the pilgrims saw as they approached Jerusalem. The Holy City is on a mountain, and it’s surrounded by mountains. So as you’d be traveling, you’d be seeing mountains, but you’d be seeing the mountain of God. Zion, the holy hill of the Lord, symbolized the place where God’s presence dwelt.

And the people, as they came to Jerusalem, were looking to that mountain as being symbolic of the place where God lived. God, who was the One who would be their Helper, who would help them. Conversely, they could be as they were traveling, looking to the hills or the mountains as a threat, concerned about bandits or robbers who might be hiding in those hills and who might make their journey dangerous.

Or they might consider the hills as a place where they could hide from attackers. There are other places in Scripture, often in Scripture, where we see hills and mountains as the places where people would build shrines or altars to idols, false gods—“the high places.” You read this many times in Samuel and Kings and Chronicles.

People wanted to go to an elevated place to worship their false gods. There they would build this altar, they would make sacrifices, they would make shrines, and they would bow down and worship in these high places.

That’s why the good kings of Israel and the good kings of Judah would get rid of the high places. They would wipe out the idolatry, and they would say, “No, God is the One—alone—who we should worship!” So they may have been saying, “Are we going to look to these false gods for our help? No, we are going to look to God—Jehovah—for our help!”, not to those high places.

Another commentator says that these mountains or hills could symbolize whatever is great or excellent in the earth, beautiful things, good things. “Am I going to look to those things, those people, to find my help?” We’re going to see that there is nothing good or bad, other than Jehovah Himself, who is the source of help that we need.

So, regardless of what you think those hills and mountains may be or how that may interpreted and implied, the psalmist is acknowledging that he needs help! “From where does my help come? I need help!” You’re not looking for help if you don’t need help. If everything’s fine, if you have no problems, if you have no issues, if you have no challenges, you’re not going to be looking for help.

The psalmist needed help, and we need help! We need help every day, every hour, every moment of this journey through this world, through this life . . . all the way to Heaven. We are not self-sufficient; we cannot manage on our own. I think that’s one of the reasons that God orchestrates circumstances divinely to make us conscious of our need for help.

Oftentimes, when we have a True Woman conference or a Revive Our Hearts conference or an event where I’m going to be speaking, I will pray in advance the week, the days, leading up to that conference: “Lord, would You be creating circumstances in the lives of the women who are going to be there that would make them conscious of their need for You?”

I do this because I don’t want to spend the first half of the conference trying to convince women that they need the Lord! I want them to come saying, “Help! I need help! I need the Lord!” And so, I tell the women that I’ve been praying that, and then I say, “Don’t blame me for whatever happened in your week! (laughter)God was creating circumstances that made you realize you need help! You’re not self-sufficient.” We need help.

A reminder though, that the One who does not need any help—ours or anyone else’s—is Jehovah. The Lord needs no help! He is self-existing, self-sufficient, all sufficient. In Him is all help. We are the ones who need help!

There are different difficulties and challenges and hardships on this journey, and every woman in this room, every woman listening to this podcast or this broadcast or watching on Facebook Live, you have something in your life—it’s a circumstance, a situation, a person-—something that you can’t control, you can’t manage. Or you’re perplexed, you don’t know what to do. You need help!

I like that this psalm doesn’t specifically identify what these troubles and trials are, because the promise of this psalm doesn’t just apply to a few specific circumstances. It applies to whatever threats and difficulties God’s people may experience on their journey.

Now, our tendency in times of trouble is to scan the horizon around us and look for help. Who or what is out there that can meet our needs: “What book, what person, what counselor, what pastor, what friend, what sister, what phone call, what message can I read? What medicine can I take? What can I get to help me with this problem?”

And God uses many of these things in sweet ways to minister grace and help to us, but ultimately, those things are not the source of our help. But it’s our natural tendency to look at what we can see, what we can touch, what we can experience to be our help.

And the message of this psalm is that, whatever these hills represent—big things, high things, lofty things, things we think may be helpful—it’s not enough. The hills are not sufficient; they are not adequate. Those pagan gods, those idols, those things we look to for comfort or peace or help; they are nothing! They cannot help! The psalmist would look at those high places and say, “Those are not gods. They are false! They cannot help me!”

Those mountains, strong and secure as they may seem, they cannot help. Only Jehovah can help. And so, the psalmist looks above and beyond the hills, the mountains, to the only true source of help, and in that Source he is confident. He declares confidently in verse 2, “My help comes from the Lord [nowhere else, no one else], who made heaven and earth.”

Some of your translations will say, “The Lord, maker of heaven and earth.” It’s one of the Names of God in the Old Testament: the Lord Jehovah, Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 124, just a few psalms over (still in this collection of psalms), says in verse 8: “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

The Scripture asserts this over and over again. This is where we find confidence. This is where we find peace. This is where we find rest. This is where we find hope and help in the most distressing circumstances of life. “My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth!”

This was a common declaration of faith at the beginning of worship services in the early church: “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” And in the sixteenth century, during the Reformation, this practice was resumed in the Reformed churches, where they would start out their service by saying, “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

What an assurance is that! What reason for confidence, for peace! One commentator says about this designation of God, Maker of heaven and earth:

He is the One who begins, maintains, controls and directs everything in his creation. Nothing can happen outside his direction; every situation we face, every danger which threatens, is within his created realm.

We are not hopeless. We have no reason for despair. Even when we cannot see how the help will come, we know the One who is our Helper, the One who is our help, who made heaven and earth. This is my Father’s world. And as we live and walk in this world, it all belongs to Him! Anything and everything that could possibly happen to us is under His control. He is Sovereign; He is Lord; He is over it all!

And so the psalmist doesn’t look to or rely on any created person or thing to provide the help he needs, but he places his trust in the One who created everything—including the mountains and hills, with their difficulties and their challenges. “I’m not going to look to the hills and the mountains for help. I’m going to look to the One who made the hills and the mountains, the Creator, the Sovereign wise Lord of all!”

You see, those hills and those mountains, they represent creation—what is natural, what is beautiful, what seems strong. Or they may represent false gods. They can be good things. They can be bad things. They can be created beings—leaders, people that we look up to for wisdom, for counsel, for help. But they’re all created versus where the psalmist says he will look for help, and that is to the Creator. He’s looking to supernatural help, the true and living God who is able and willing to help His people!

There are just some beautiful words in the commentaries that talk about what this looks like for us.

My “friend” (you often hear me refer to him), Charles Spurgeon says,

It is vain to trust the creatures; it wise to trust the Creator.

And then, Warren Wiersbe said,

A God big enough to make this world and keep it going is big enough to help you with your problems today.

I love that! Counsel your heart with that!

Another commentator said,

That power which brought all things out of nothing is competent for any work.

Anything God called you to do, you say, “Help! I can’t do this! I can’t raise these kids! The first two I was fine, but that third one . . . that’s a child for whom no textbook was ever written!” You need help? God says, “I’m competent!”

He made heaven and earth. He brought all things out of nothing. He is competent for any work He calls you to do.

Let me just tell you, about two days ago I was feeling the stress and strain of preparing eight new programs to record today. I’m going, “Help! Help!” I live there; I have lived there since the day we started Revive Our Hearts.

I never want to get to the place where I don’t feel that need for help, for grace, for assistance. I don’t ever want to be in the place where I don’t need God! Because, “Anything that makes me need God is (you’ve heard me say it a thousand times! What’s the end of the sentence?)a blessing!” A blessing!

By the way, it’s important to recognize He is the One who made heaven and earth. It shows us the importance of believing the biblical account of Creation. This stuff didn’t just get here; it didn’t just evolve. This is why the first two chapters of Genesis are so important and so foundational. If God is not the Creator, then we’ve got a whole lot of other problems!

But He is the Creator. He did make heaven and we affirm that in this Scripture and in many others. And so, as you think about your story and your journey today:

  • What kind of help do you need?
  • What are you facing beyond your ability to handle? Fears, dilemmas, challenges, problems? (Are you making a list in your mind?)

Maybe it’s one thing that’s just pressing in on you. It’s so big right now! It’s a financial need; it’s a health need; it’s a son or daughter who’s not walking with the Lord, who’s walked away from the Lord. It’s so big on your heart: “How do I love this child? How do I deal with this?” What is it that’s on your heart?

Maybe it’s a lot of little things. It’s not some big huge problem in your life today, but there are a lot of little things just gnawing at you, nagging at you, nipping at your heels . . . and you just feel so helpless. That’s a great place to be! “From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord!”

Where are you looking for help? Where are you looking for protection? Where are you looking for wisdom? To the hills?—to created things, to people, to money, to a job, to your mate, to your parents? Are you looking to your alarm system to be your protection? Are you looking to yourself, to friends, to government, to politicians, to spiritual leaders? Are you looking to these or others things or people to be your help? Or are you looking to Jehovah, the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth?

Psalm 123:1: “To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!”

Deuteronomy 33:26: “There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help.”

And then, Psalm 146 verse 3: “Put not your trust in princes [mountains, hills; exalted, elevated people or things], in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation . . . Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth” (vv. 3, 5–6).

Jeremiah 3:23: “Truly the hills are a delusion . . .Truly in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel.”

You look to the hills for help in your trouble? You’ll be disappointed! They cannot help you, ultimately. They’re a delusion.

Our help comes not from any created thing but only from the Lord our Creator, the One who made heaven and earth. Look to Him and find your confidence, your security. Listen, this is what we’ve got to counsel our hearts with day after day, moment after moment.

Some of you don’t know that you’re in trouble until you get home and you’re going to find out there’s a situation that has arisen. Or maybe it’s on the way home, with a flat tire. I’m not wishing that on anybody—may it not happen!—but I’m saying there are things around the corner that we don’t know about. I want us to not just look around us, but to look up for help!

“My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth!” And all God’s people said, amen.

I will lift up mine eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord—the Lord which made heaven and earth.

He said He will not suffer thy foot, thy foot to be moved;
The Lord which keepeth thee. He will not slumber nor sleep.

Oh the Lord is thy keeper.
he Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand, upon they right hand.

No, the sun shall not smite thee by day nor the moon by night.
He shall preserve our soul, even forever more.

My help, my help, my help . . . all of my help comes from the Lord.2

Leslie Basham: That’s the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir reminding us that God is our help in times of trouble. Before that, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth showed us that same thing we heard the first day in the series on Psalm 121 called, “A Song for the Christian’s Journey.”

We all need a lot of help, and I’m so grateful for today’s reminder of where each of us can turn when we’re in trouble. We’re able to bring you that message today, thanks to a group of listeners who provide Revive Our Hearts with a lot of help! Nancy’s here to tell you more.

Nancy: I’ll be the first to admit that I need a lot of help all the time! And, thankfully, God has raised up many wonderful people in my life who provide that help. That includes a team of staff that serve alongside of me at Revive Our Hearts. And it also includes a special group of listeners that we call the Monthly Partner Team.

These listeners “hold up our arms” as we fight the battle to share the truth of God’s Word with a needy world. Now, your heart might have jumped when I said that. Perhaps you thought, I’d like to partner with Revive Our Hearts and join in what God is doing.

This would be a great time to engage, because we’re asking the Lord to raise up hundreds of new partners this month. Of course, you’ll want to know what you’re getting into, so here’s a rundown of what our Monthly Partners do.

First, as a Monthly Partner . . . you pray! Pray for Revive Our Hearts, pray for me, as we seek to call women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. Second, you tell others about the message and the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. That could be on social media. It could just mean keeping your ears open and when you hear about a woman’s need, you connect her with resources that Revive Our Hearts offers. Finally, you give $30 or more each month.

This really is a partnership, so when you become a partner, we want to stay connected with you. So we send updates and a monthly devotional resource called Daily Reflections.

And as a new partner this month, your welcome package includes two of my latest books: Adorned and the updated, revised Lies Women Believe. You’ll also get a set of Seeking Him Scripture memory cards and a True Woman Manifesto booklet and all the conference messages from True Woman ‘18 on CD.

I know that’s a lot to take in, so I hope you’ll explore the details. You can learn more about the Monthly Partner team at ReviveOurHearts.com, or you can call us at 1–800–569–5959. Thank you so much for considering partnering with us as we help women everywhere to thrive in Christ!

Leslie: Most days, could you use an afternoon nap? We may grow weary, but Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says God is never tired. She’ll be telling us more about that from Psalm 121 tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to find help in the Lord alone. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

1 Michael Card. The Way of Wisdom. “My Help.” Sparrow Records, 1990.

2 Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. High & Lifted Up. "My Help (Cometh From the Lord)." Word Entertainment, 1999.







 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

Join the Discussion