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I Lift Up My Eyes

Series Title: Going Up with the Psalms of Ascent (chapter 6)

 

These edited transcripts are taken from Dwight's most loved audio series, Highways in Their Hearts. Click here to see the downloadable audio version in our online store.

 

We are looking at the special grouping of Psalms 120-134 for clues on how to enter into a more intimate relationship with our LORD. We need and desire to experience His presence and power in a transforming and empowering way. We are setting our hearts on pilgrimage, looking for the highways in our hearts.


Our study of Psalm 120 yielded three essential lessons.

1) Our journey begins with an earnest longing and desire for God. We must not be satisfied with living on the periphery of spiritual experience.


2) If we are going to mature, we must learn to see God in and through our present circumstances. Distress and trouble are a part of our spiritual pilgrimage. We must learn to exercise faith for today.


3) We must learn to control our tongue to grow toward maturity. How we use language is one of the most significant thermometers of our spiritual temperature. What we think and speak has enormous power for good or bad, for blessing or cursing.


The next step up into divine presence is inspired by Psalm 121. It is unique in its beautiful arrangement; there are four groupings of two verses. The wonderful rhythm speaks of poetic beauty and profound spiritual truth.

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.

He will not let your foot be moved;

he who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, he who keeps Israel

will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper;

the LORD is your shade on your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day,

nor the moon by night.


The LORD will keep you from all evil;

he will keep your life.

The LORD will keep

your going out and your coming in

from this time forth and forevermore.

A clue to how special this psalm is can be found in its opening inscription, which is translated from Hebrew into English as A Psalm of Ascent like the others. But it is different in the original Hebrew. Where the others read a song of going up or ascending (shir hama'alot), this one literally means to ascend (shir lama'alot). The ancient sages of Israel saw this as profound.


Even more so than the others, Psalm 121 is a stepping stone to spiritual understanding. It speaks of the mystery of going up to God.

I lift up my eyes to the hills is a Hebrew idiom. This is the way Jesus used language. In English, we would say something like, I look up. Metaphorically speaking, we were dwelling on the periphery of the Holy Land in Psalm 120—in Meshech and Kedar. We have been looking through the eyes of a pilgrim who longs to get to Jerusalem, where the Lord is.


These travelers, in distress, see the hills. What hills? Again, contextually, these are those that surround Jerusalem. Looking up from our valley of despair, we see the Holy City of God. Our goal, the destination of our spiritual journey, is in sight. Which prompts the question, From where does my help come?


The help does not come from the hills; it comes from the Maker of the hills, the God of Israel, Creator of heaven and earth. Weary pilgrims, tossed and troubled by the world, look longingly up to where the Holy One chose to dwell. The question is rhetorical. It reminds us that the source of our strength, which keeps us keeping on, lies beyond ourselves.

My help, says the psalmist, comes from Yahweh.


The natural tendency for you and me is to seek help from the hills of our abilities and resources. In times of distress, we often look for what we need from ourselves or others. But not the pilgrim, not citizens of the kingdom. No, we must never forget that our help comes from the Lord God Almighty.


When I use the name by which God revealed himself, Yahweh, it is with intention. More and more, I am finding that the term God is so diluted that the referent is not clear. People say God, and they mean some impersonal cosmic force that underpins this physical universe. Others use the word to denote the true self within you, your higher being. Culture throws the word God around cheaply. It is used in a variety of ways in both casual conversation and cursing.


By the time of Jesus, the sacred name was not spoken in conversation, only by the high priest in the house of the Lord on special occasions. I understand that wisdom because you don't hear anybody cursing in the name of Yahweh. Yet the balance for us is that when Jesus teaches us to pray Our Father in heaven, his referent is Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I want to be clear when I teach who I am referring to and that He alone is God.


My friends, it may seem basic, but never forget those around you—even in church—are not necessarily making the connection. Yahweh is the God of Jesus. And it is the Father, by way of the Son, who we serve and in whom we find the source of our strength and help.

If you are setting your heart on pilgrimage, this is a vital spiritual lesson to learn. Yahweh is the goal toward which we are progressing and moving, but he is also the one who gives us the get-up-and-go to get there!

Hebrews 12: 1-2 sheds some much-needed light on our faith journey.


Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.


To make this spiritual journey, you must fix your eyes on Jesus the way he fixed his eyes on Yahweh. Here, the metaphor of a race is used in place of the image we are working with, pilgrimage. The point is that both are not a sprint but a long-distance race. And if we are going to run successfully, we must lay aside everything that hinders us.

The Greek here suggests the word weights, lay aside every weight that slows us down. Before races, some horses are handicapped by putting extra weight on them to slow them down. Many of us don't get anywhere in our spiritual journey because we handicap ourselves. You and I are often weighed down, entangled in the affairs of this world.


What kinds of things hinder us, handicap us, and weigh us down?


As in all things, Jesus comes to our rescue. This time, with insight into the question we are asking.


Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. [...] And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. - Luke 8:11-15


What are these weights that hinder us? Life's cares, riches, and pleasures. But not so for those with a highway in their heart. Pilgrims are captivated by the beauty of their God's character and words. Rather than the sin which clings so closely they hear and hold fast His words and bear fruit with patience.


Behold the profound simplicity of spiritual pilgrimage! Behold the joy of experiencing the LORD who keeps you from all evil and keeps your life.



 

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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.


Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.


Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.

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