I opened Scripture to Psalm 121 and began to read to him:
I lift up my eyes to the hills-where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip - he who watches over you will not slumber...he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.As the words were coming out of my mouth, I suddenly realized a uniqueness to the moment. Typically I read those words as a way to instruct people - but not so in this case. No instruction necessary. For him, I was reading the Psalm not as a recommendation but a description of a life lived. I was standing at the bedside of one, who many decades ago, had resolved that his eyes would look well beyond the hills to divine help. He would not be lured by the inadequate idols placed on the tops of hills. His hope would be in the Lord the Maker of heaven and earth. And he has personally lived and publicly proclaimed that with great faithfulness.
The hills were home to all the efforts by human hands to create and worship gods. People of antiquity would look to and visit the hills seeking help from tangible, counterfeit expressions of divinity. In response to this the Psalmist asks a rhetorical question, "Where does my help come from?"And the answer is not found on the hills. The answer is found in the one who made the hills and everything around it. He is the only one who will not let your foot slip - who will watch over your life - who will not grow tired.
It is with great ease that we create idols. Our sinful hearts ooze with a desire to replace God with people and things that give us immediate satisfaction. We feel falsely more secure when we are able to see and touch and hold that which is in front of us. And so we set our eyes on the hills rather than the One beyond them.
But just when it seems that all has forgotten the Lord, there emerges a voice declaring the silliness and insufficiencies of our human efforts to answer the questions of life. We hear the name of the Lord being lifted up by the faithful. We taste and see again that the Lord is good. We sense and are refreshed by the touch of His presence. And our eyes are lifted again to the Source that is higher than the hills.
As I stood at the beside of one who has been such a voice, I wrestled with a question. "Where is his help now," I wondered. Is there no comfort from this Psalm for those in death? I found the answer in the final phrase - the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. The help that comes from the Lord is for every stage of life. God's helpful presence is in the beginning, middle, and end. And perhaps it is most pronounced in the end. For in the final breaths of life we catch our first glimpse of a line. We see clearly that what we call an end, God calls a beginning. The line we see is the starting line not the finish line. And there are no idols waiting for us. Just God.
So once again, even in the silence of death, he was proclaiming. And I heard and have written. From where does your help come? Only you can answer that question. I, like my friend, point your eyes to beyond the hills - to the Lord, maker of heaven and earth. Though He does more behind our backs than in front of us, His presence is always with us. Embrace the timing and subtlety of His helpful work. All else is ultimately unhelpful.
For Reverend Walter Myers