By J.R. Miller
"I lift up my eyes to the mountains; where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth."
"I will lift up my eyes." We ought to train ourselves to look up. We grow in the direction, in which our eyes turn. We become like that on which we look much and intently. We were made to look up. Man's upright form indicates this. The Greek word for man means upward-looking. An old writer says, "God gave man a face directed upward, and bade him look at the heavens, and raise his uplifted countenance toward the stars."
Yet there are those who never look upward at all. They never see anything but things that are on the earth. They never see the stars. They never look toward God. They do not pray. They have no place in their scheme of life for God. Christ taught that all the circumstances of our lives, are in the care of God who is our Father, whose very children we are. The hairs of our head are all numbered. Even the birds are fed and the flowers are clothed by our Father. We should continually look up to God. "I will lift up my eyes unto the mountains."
The poet did not mean that the mountains themselves were a shelter for him. Nothing earthly is a sufficient refuge for an immortal being. To him the mountains were a shadow of eternal things. Mountains have always appealed strangely and powerfully, to noble minds. When the writer says he will lift up his eyes unto the mountains, he is thinking of God. "From where does my help come from?" he asks, and the answer is, "My help comes from the Lord."
Think a little what mountains mean to the world. Many blessings come down from them to the plains. Ruskin mentions three great offices which the mountains fulfill. They determine the courses and the channels of the rivers. They are the great ventilators of the earth, generating currents of air that bear health on their bosoms. Then they keep the valleys fertile by the soil they perpetually send down.
The mountains make the valleys. Not many years ago, the land in certain western plains was desert. The soil was rich--but there was no water, and nothing would grow. Yet yonder, on the mountain sides, were streams flowing away from the melting snows. All that was needed was to bring the blessing of the mountains down, and the deserts would then be made to blossom as the rose. Men lifted up their eyes to the mountains, and today we have the orange groves and the gardens and all the marvelous luxuriance of Southern California.
This is a parable of spiritual life. From the mountains of God--flow down heaven's streams of grace, and the bare and empty lives they touch become rich in beauty and fruitfulness. Think what they miss--who never lift up their eyes to the mountains of prayer, who get nothing from God.
"The Lord is your keeper." This wonderful little Psalm describes the manner of God's helping in a most striking way. Our keeper is the strong One, who made heaven and earth. The power that keeps you, that shelters you, that blesses you--is the power of omnipotence.
"The Lord is your keeper." Note some points. The guardianship is individual, "your keeper." You say, "Surely God does not think of me. He has such vast concerns in His hands--that one life so small as mine cannot have His personal thought and care." The answer is, "The Lord is your keeper." You are as really and as much the object of His interest--as if in all the universe He had only you to think of! When, in distress or need, you lift up your eyes unto the mountains, and ask, "Where shall my help come?" God turns to you as if He had nothing else to do--but attend to your cry.
Think, too, of the minuteness of His care. "He will not let your foot slip." On the mountain paths, great disasters may result from the slipping of a foot. Many a life has been lost, by a misstep among the crags. But the divine keeping extends even to the feet, "The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord."
There is here another assurance of exquisite beauty. "He who keeps you will not slumber." No human love can watch without ceasing. The most devoted mother must fall asleep sometimes, beside her suffering child. But there is an Eye that never closes, that always watches.
"The Lord will preserve you from all evil." How do we account, then, for the troubles, the sufferings, the sorrows that befall good people? The poet does not say the Lord will keep you from pain, loss, sickness, and injury, from people's unkindness, from calamity--but from "all evil." These are not "evils." There is only one evil--sin. You may suffer all manner of trials--but so long as you have not sinned--no harm has come to you; you have been kept from all evil.
Thus this whole Psalm shows the safety of those who lift up their eyes unto the mountains. They are guarded when they go out and when they come in. You never can get away from God's keeping, if you live in the mountains. The mountain takes the storms and shelters the valleys.
A tourist tells of coming upon a village which nestled at the foot of a great mountain. He asked the villagers if they had many storms there. "Yes," they replied, "if there is a storm anywhere in the whole region, it seems to find us." "How do you account for this?" asked the tourist. The answer was: "Those who seem to understand say it is because our mountain towers highest of all the mountains. If he sees a cloud anywhere in the horizon, he beckons to it and it comes and settles on his brow." The tourist asked further if they had many accidents from lightning. "None," was the answer. "We have seen the lightning strike the mountain countless times--but no one in the village is ever touched by it. We have the thunder, which shakes our homes, and then we have the rains, which fill our gardens with the beauty which everyone so much admires--but the lightning never touches us. The mountain takes all the bolts and shelters us."
This, too, is a parable of what Christ is to us and to all who believe on Him. He is the mountain on which the storms break. On Calvary the tempests of ages burst upon His head. But all who nestle in His love--are sheltered in Him. "In me," He said, "you shall have peace." He is our eternal keeper, because He took the storms on His own breast, that we might hide in quiet safety under the shadow of His love. We lift up our eyes unto the mountains, and rest in peace and confidence, because our help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.
A mountain is the symbol of reality. The weakness of much Christians, is the unreality of their faith. God is real. Men laugh at you when you talk about your mountains of faith. They say you are a dreamer. But to you they are gloriously real. You go to them in your prayers--and come back with your hands full of heavenly blessings.
Is your religious life real to you? Is Christ real? A young Christian friend wrote: "I read my New Testament a great deal--but somehow I find myself asking all the while, 'Are these things actually true? They certainly are very beautiful to read about--but are they true? How do we know they are true?' " Are the things you read in the New Testament real to you? Is God real to you as your Friend? Two girls walking together one evening were engaged in earnest conversation. They stopped a moment before separating, and a gentleman waiting for a car overheard just a fragment of their conversation. One of them said to the other, "Yes--but why has nobody ever seen God?" That was all the gentleman heard--but the one sentence told of pain and question in a heart that longed for certainty. "Why has no one ever seen God?"
There are many good people who have the same longing. A disciple said once to the Master, "Lord, show us the Father." Jesus had been revealing the Father, not only in his miracles--but in all his sweet and gentle life, in his patience, his compassion, his kindness, his helpfulness. There was more of divine glory in any one common day of Christ's beautiful life of love--than there was in a whole year of Sinai's majesty.
There is mystery everywhere. There really are few things you understand. How can you lift your hand! How can you see the far-off mountains from the crags about us here! How can we talk by wireless telegraph with a friend on a ship half way across the ocean? You cannot see Christ, and you ask how you can know that He loves you. But you cannot see the love in the heart of your friend. Do you doubt it, because you cannot see it! You cannot see any form when you are praying, and you ask, "Is there really anyone who hears? Is there really anyone who sees me, knows me, loves me? Is there One who cares?"
If there were no assertions of God's being and no assurances of His love and care in the Bible, daily Providence is so full of God--that we could not doubt His existence, or His thought for His children. Christ is to us, the most real Friend in all the world, though we never see Him with our eyes. We never think of doubting Him or asking if He is real. No human friend comes so close. We see Him in His interest, His care, His kindness, in people's lives, all about us.
Some years ago, two men met on a vessel crossing the sea. They soon discovered that they had both been in the American Civil War, one with the North, the other with the South. They found, too, that they had taken part in the same battle. Then this incident came out as they talked together reminiscently. One night the Northern soldier was on watch-duty on one side of a little river, and the Southern soldier was a sharpshooter just across the stream, picking off soldiers on the other side. The Northern soldier was singing softly, "Jesus, Lover of my soul," as he paced his beat, and the words of the old hymn were heard in the stillness over the river. The sharpshooter was taking aim and was about to fire upon the Northern soldier as the song revealed his place. Just then he heard the words, "Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Your wings." His rifle dropped--he dared not shoot a man praying that prayer. "I could as soon have shot my mother!" he said.
Was not God in this strange incident? Was not the answering of the soldier's prayer a reality! We need not ask why no one ever sees God? Lift up your eyes unto the mountains in every time of need--and you will see Him in the help, the blessing, the deliverance, the comfort, the grace that will come to you.
"I will lift up my eyes unto the mountains." Let us make our lives, lives of upward looking. There are people who look down always, watching for thorns. They never see anything but the unpleasant things. They are always finding troubles. They find them on the brightest days, in the loveliest places, when their circumstances are the happiest. But that is not the way to go through life. Lift up your eyes--and look for roses, not for thorns. Some people think the world is all bad, all wrong, with no love, no friends. They do not love anybody, nor trust anybody. They hear only discord--no music. They say that all men are liars. They tell you all Christians are hypocrites, all merchants dishonest, all homes bedlams, all marriages failures, that nobody is pure, that there is no unselfishness.
Can you think of any other way of making one's life wretched, miserable, and unhappy, that equals this? Lift up your eyes unto the mountains where the air is sweet, the light clear, the music like angels' songs. This will change all the world for you. Of course there are discordant notes in the music of almost any neighborhood--but there are also beautiful harmonies, sweet symphonies, noble oratorios, and why should we listen only to the few discords--and shut our ears to the inspiring songs that fill the air? Let us hear the sweet songs--not the discords.
Lift up your eyes unto the mountains--when you think of your own circumstances. They may not seem bright or hopeful. Perhaps you have discouragements, difficulties, hardships. But why should you keep your eyes on these? There is always more white than black, more joy than sorrow, more love than hate, more encouragement than discouragement. Lift up your eyes when things are hard with you--and you will always find something to cheer you. Look for the one joyous, hopeful thing--and let that make you brave. There is always something good in your circumstances. Find that.
There is a story of a little dog lying on a parlor floor one chill and dreary day. Presently there came a small patch of sunshine on the floor, a ray of sunlight coming in through the shutter. The dog saw it, got up and went and lay down in it. That was good philosophy. If there is only one spot of cheer or encouragement in your circumstances, find it and set your chair down in it.
So the Psalm calls us with a thousand voices--to look up, and to come up higher. Think of the love, the sweetness, the holiness, the truth, the serenity, the joy of God. If we would reach these excellences, these lofty things--we must lift up our eyes and our hearts--unto the mountains. We never can attain them by looking down. Goodness is always found above us, not in the depths below us--it keeps ever above us. We must look to the mountains. The heights call us. Let us leave the lowlands of selfishness, covetousness, resentment, envy, and all that is unworthy, and go up and live with Jesus Christ on the mountains of holiness, of victory, of purity!
The mountains are places of strength. They are the emblems of perpetuity. We talk about the everlasting mountains. The higher our lives reach as they become filled with God, the stronger they are, the securer and safer. The power of temptation over them grows less and less. Our faults and vices, the base things, the groveling things, cannot live in the pure mountain air--they will choke and die there. The heights are refuges for our souls. Enemies of spiritual life are everywhere--but they cannot reach us--if we climb up into the mountains!
I saw the statement that someone, looking through a great telescope, detected birds flying five or six miles above the earth. How safe they are up there so high! No arrow can find them there. Just so, the soul that looks up into the mountains, that lives in the heights far above the earth--no fowler can trap it, no enemy can touch it. The mountains are places of safety.
The mountains are places of peace. There is a point in the heavens, above the clouds, where no storm ever blows, where no tempest ever breaks, where nothing ever disturbs the perfect stillness. The mountains bring peace. With God we are above all fear. Let us rise above the strifes and confusions of earth--into the peace of God!