“Out of the depths I call you, O Lord!” (Psalm 130:1)
Do you remember when the unfortunate Nebuchadnezzar was struck with madness, becoming like a beast of the field? The king recalls at the end of his ordeal: “At the end of the days I … lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me” (Daniel 4:34). It has been said that of all the creatures on earth, only humans can look up. Even in the depths of despair or sin, we can if we choose, look up to heaven.
Did you notice that the perspective of the Psalms is upwards?
- “I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come?” (Psalm 121:1).
- “Unto you, O Lord I lift up my eyes” (Psalm 123:1).
- “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord” (Psalm 130:1).
- “Oh Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high” (Psalm 131:1).
Looking upwards implies that we are down, morally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. Looking upward also implies there is something (or, rather, someone) higher, much higher than we. That is what separates us from the beasts. We have the choice, we can if we so determine, look up. That is why Paul urges us to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is,” and to “set [our] minds on things that are above” (Colossians 3:1,2).
Psalms 121-134 are known as the “Songs of Ascents,” as in ascending, going up. Many scholars feel these were songs sung as Israelite pilgrims made their way to Jerusalem for some festival. Geographically, one would ascend out of the plain of Jericho (800 feet below sea level) to the city of Jerusalem (2,500 feet above sea level, a rise of 3,300 feet). As they neared the city, both their altitude and their hopes would rise. Their eyes rose to Mount Zion, where the temple was. Their hopes would rise spiritually, to the God whom they intended to meet there.
Isn’t that, in a word, what is meant by the term “worship?” Worship is a time when we drag our expectations from the mess surrounding us and look to the God who can pick us up out of this mess.
There are plenty of problems surrounding us. Instead, why don’t we lift up our heads from our dark despair, and see the Lord?