Eyes to the Hills

Do we understand what is meant by the psalmist who lifts his eyes to the hills?

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.

– Psalm 121:1-2 (ESV)

I have heard Christians declare that God, our help, is coming from the hills—that we look and there He is! And for a long time, I assumed that’s what the psalm meant. But the third chapter of Jeremiah makes it sound rather different:

Lift up your eyes to the desolate heights and see:
Where have you not lain with men?
By the road you have sat for them
Like an Arabian in the wilderness;
And you have polluted the land
With your harlotries and your wickedness.

Truly, in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills,
And from the multitude of mountains;
Truly, in the Lord our God
Is the salvation of Israel.

– Jeremiah 3:2, 23 (NKJV)

The ESV’s more literal translation of that latter verse gives, “Truly the hills are a delusion, the orgies on the mountains. Truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel.” When I ran across Jeremiah 3:23, in the New King James translation, a few months ago—the day after the election, if I’m not mistaken—of course it brought the beginning of Psalm 121 to mind.

But I heard the psalm differently, this time. I heard it like this: “I lift my eyes up to the hills, but where does my help actually come from? Not there. My help comes from the Lord, who made Heaven and Earth.”

We lift our eyes to Capitol Hill, but the hill is a delusion, and truly in vain do we hope for salvation from it. Where does my help come from? My help comes from God alone.

(Note: Matthew Henry’s commentary of the psalm actually mentions both meanings, and you can find it at Blue Letter Bible.)

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