By Michael E. Brooks
“I will lift up my eyes to the hills – From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1 NKJV).
This week I made a brief trip to the Bandarban Hill Tracts of southeastern Bangladesh. Most of Bangladesh is low-lying delta, situated on the northern shore of the Bay of Bengal. A narrow strip of hills runs along its eastern border however, which is divided into four different “Hill Tract” districts. I had visited one of these districts previously, but this was my first time to the Bandarbans.
I have a special love for hills and mountains. Though I can enjoy many different geographic terrains, including fertile plains, coastal areas and others, the hills are probably my favorite.
These hills are not nearly so spectacularly beautiful as the Himalayas of Nepal or the Rockies of the U.S. Yet they have a quiet green beauty of their own. This beauty draws me back to such regions again and again.
The writer of Psalm 121 is probably not extolling the beauty of the hills however, but their association with the presence of God. He is looking not at trees or peaks, but at Solomon’s temple on Mount Zion, in the hills of Judah. This was, for the Jewish nation and faith, the dwelling place “of the name of the Lord” (1 Kings 8:20, 27).
God’s wonderful creation is a perpetual reminder of his existence, his nature and his willingness to accept us in fellowship (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20). Whether it be in the majesty of the nighttime skies, the power of the seas, or the beauty of hills and mountains, when we look at the wonders made by his hands, we are moved to worship and trust.
But the Psalmist leaves no uncertainty about the source of our help. It is not in the hills themselves, or any of the other features or resources of the creation. It is in God the creator.
“The Lord is your keeper, the lord is your shade at your right hand” (Psalm 121:5). “The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore” (Psalm 121:8).
There is probably in most of us a tendency towards nature worship. This world contains such beauty, prolific resources, and awesome power that it is easy to credit those attributes to the inanimate, unresponsive material itself rather than to the living being that brought it into existence.
We are impressed with the splendor of the oceans, the grandeur of the mountains and the quiet peace of lush valleys. Our spirits are tempted to respond with homage and adoration. Unlike the Psalmist, we may feel that it is the hills themselves which provide us with help.
Modern humanists foster this attitude through emphasis upon environmental concerns and man’s identity as a “natural being,” that is as just another of the species of animals which inhabit the earth. According to their thinking, nature (through evolutionary process) brought us into being, and therefore it is to nature that we owe our allegiance and gratitude.
It is not some inanimate and unthinking force which hears our prayers and answers our needs. It is the God of heaven, maker of all the universe. “He will not allow [our] foot to be moved; He who keeps [us] will not slumber. Behold he who keeps [us] shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Verses 3-4).
This world is beautiful and worthy of our care. It is not our help and protection. It is only his creation.
By Michael E. Brooks