Looking Unto the Hills
J. R. Miller, 1909
"I lift my eyes unto the hills. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber. Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep. The Lord protects you; the Lord is a shelter right by your side. The sun will not strike you by day or the moon by night. The Lord will protect you from all harm; He will protect your life. The Lord will protect your coming and going both now and forever." Psalm 121
We ought to learn to look up. Many people dwarf their lives and hinder the best possibilities of growth in their souls—by looking downward. They keep their eyes ever entangled in mere earthly sights and scenes, and miss seeing the glory of the hills that pierce the clouds, and of the heavens that bend over them. We grow in the direction in which our eyes habitually turn. We become like that toward which we look much and intently.
Yet there are those who never look upward at all. They never see anything but the things that are on the earth. They never see the stars. They never think of God. They do not pray. They have no place in their scheme of life for divine things.
This is our Father's world. He made it, he sustains it, he lives in it, all its affairs are in his hands. One of the Psalms gives us this devout thought of life: "I lift my eyes unto the hills." It was to God, that the poet looked. The hills are a symbol of God.
The writer says also, "My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." The minuteness of the divine keeping is beautifully brought out in the Psalm. "He will not allow your foot to slip." On mountain paths a great disaster may result from the slipping of a foot. Many a life has been lost by a misstep among the crags. But God's keeping extends even to the feet of his children.
There is another assurance of exquisite beauty in the Psalm. No human love can watch over a friend unintermittingly. The most devoted mother sometimes sleeps by her suffering child. But there is an Eye that never closes—that always watches.
The whole Psalm shows the safety of those who lift up their eyes unto the hills. They are kept from all evil. They are guarded when they go out—and when they come in. We never can get away from the divine keeping, unless we give up God and go out into sin. The greatest mistake anyone can make—is to leave God out of his life. To those who live thoughtfully, life is full of God. Even if there were no assurances in the Bible, telling us of his love, no promises of his care, common daily providence is so full of God, that a thoughtful person could not doubt his existence or his care for his children.
God is the most real Friend in all the world, though we have never seen him. We can see his footprints everywhere. We find evidences of his love, his interest, his kindness, in people's lives all about us. If one says he has never seen God, he has at least seen God's faithfulness, evidences of his love, his interest. We may not hear his answer in words when we talk to him in prayer—but we see the answer in what he does to bless us.
Some time ago, two men met on a vessel crossing the Atlantic. They soon discovered that they had both been in the American Civil War, one fighting with the North, the other with the South. They discovered, too, that they had taken part, on one occasion, in the same battle. Then this incident came out, as they talked together reminiscently. One night the Northern soldier was on sentry duty on one side of a little river, and the Southern soldier was a sharpshooter just across the river, picking off soldiers on the other side at every opportunity. The sentry was singing softly, "Jesus, Lover of my Soul," as he kept his watch, and the words of the old hymn were heard in the still night over the stream. The sharpshooter was taking aim and was about to fire on the sentry. Just then he heard the words, "Cover my defenseless head, with the shadow of your wing." His rifle dropped—he dare not shoot a man praying that prayer. "I could as soon have shot my own mother!" he said. Was not God in this whole incident? Was he not a reality that night? We need not ask why no one has ever seen God. Lift up your eyes unto the hills in every time of need, and God will always help.
Every Christian should train himself, to always look up. Some people look down continually, watching for thorns and briars. They never see anything in life, but the unpleasant things. They are always looking for troubles. They find them, too, on the brightest days, in the loveliest places. They never see anything beautiful. But that is not the way to go through life. Lift up your eyes—and look for roses, not for thorns.
Once when a voice was speaking to Jesus, some people said it thundered, while others said an angel spoke to him. So it is always with people—some never hear anything but thunder. They think people are all like snarling wild beasts. They do not love anybody, nor trust anybody, nor care for anybody. They hear only discords, wolf-notes. They do not trust people, even the best of them. To them all men are liars, thieves, robbers. They claim that all Christians are hypocrites, all merchants dishonest, all homes bedlams, that nobody is pure, and nobody is unselfish. Can you think of any other way of making one's life miserable, that equals this? Rather, lift up your eyes unto the hills, 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 a great city where throngs are surging all about. But why should we hear the discords—when there is so much sweet music in life to be heard everywhere? We are exhorted to overcome evil with good, bitter with sweet, sorrow with joy, hate with love. Lift up your eyes unto the hills, when you think of your own circumstances. They may not seem bright or hopeful. You hear people talk about the sore troubles they have. There always are difficulties, discouragements, disappointments, and we can easily find them when we look for them. But can you not train yourself instead—to find something good, something beautiful, something cheering, and inspiring? There always is at least a gleam of light in even the darkest night.
When the little dog, lying in the parlor upon a chilly day, saw a spot of sunshine on the floor, he was wise to leave his cold corner and go and lie down in it. His was good philosophy for a dog, and good also for a man. If there is only one spot of happiness in all your little world—find it and set your chair in it.
Some one tells of a poor crippled shoemaker who never could go out anywhere. His little shop was in the heart of the great city, with houses on all sides of the poor place where he lived, shutting out every beautiful sight, with no sky visible from his little window, with not a hint of life to be seen. But one day he discovered that from a certain place in the shop—he could catch a mere glimpse of blue sky. He set his shoemaker's bench right there, so that while he cobbled away, he could lift up his eyes at every resting moment and see the bit of beauty. How it brightened his dreary life! There is some point in the hardest experience in your life where something of heaven may be seen. Find it and set your stool there!
"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in poverty." Philippians 4:11-12
In one very important sense, it is true that we make our own world. The sunshine we see about us daily—is in ourselves. It shines out from within us. We are not to go about demanding that others shine on us, on our field, and on our home. We are not to blame other people—when we are peevish, fretful, discontented, or touchy.
It is usually our own fault—that we are not happy. Even if people do not treat us as they should do, if they are unjust to us, unkind, rude, selfish, exacting—that will not make it either right or beautiful for us to grow unhappy, or to go about sour and sad. We should never allow anybody, any circumstances, or anything that happens—to spoil our life. We ought to resolve to keep sweet, whatever the circumstances may be.
That is what being a Christian means. That is what it is to lift up our eyes unto the hills. If we are looking to God, we cannot do vulgar things, we cannot lie, we cannot be selfish, grasping, or greedy, whatever the provocation may be. If we truly lift up our eyes unto God, we will get something of God's beauty into our soul, will become imbued with God's holiness, God's truth, God's love, and get grace enough to enable us to live the Christlike life.
The mountains are places of strength. They cannot be moved. They are stable and sure. They are places of safety. They are away above the floods and dangers of earth. The higher our life rises, the safer it is. The power of temptation grows less and less—as we go up nearer to Christ. Our faults, infirmities, and vices—lose their power over us as we rise up into the mountain air—they will choke and die there!
It is said that telescopes have detected birds flying six miles above the earth. How safe they are up there! No arrow can reach them. No enemy can find them. The same is true of the soul that flies far above—no trapper can catch it, no tempter can reach 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. If we rise into these calm, holy heights—we shall find peace.
This dew from the sacred mountain represents the love of Christ which comes down perpetually from heaven, which not only nourishes the lives of men—but also heals all diseases.