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Where Will We Lift Our Eyes?
Reflecting on the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost: One Day after Sunday (Year A)
Psalter: Psalm 121
Old Testament: Exodus 12:14-28
Epistle: 1 Peter 2:11-17
Psalter: Psalm 119:65-72
Old Testament: Leviticus 4:27-31; 5:14-16
Epistle: 1 Peter 2:11-17
Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer)
I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
from where will 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.
He who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade at 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 on and forevermore (Psalm 121).
In the King James version of the Bible, Psalm 121:1 reads, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help?” The New Revised Standard Version, translates verse 1 as a question. “I will lift up my eyes to the hills. Is that where my help comes from?” The KJV seems to suggest that the author is looking to the hills for his help. Perhaps looking to the mountains reminds the psalmist of God where many Old Testament divine visitations happen.
But I think the New Revised Standard Version better captures the Hebrew better. The psalmist is not looking to the hills because that’s where the shrines to the pagan gods are that were forbidden for Israel to worship. The psalmist makes it clear from the beginning that his help is found somewhere beyond the mountain dwellings of idols. So the psalmist is asking is that where I will lift up my eyes? Instead the psalmist turns his gaze higher to the Lord of Israel, the one who made heaven and earth including the mountains that house the pagan shrines.
Saint Paul tells the Colossians in chapter 3 to seek the things that are above where Christ is seated in the heavenly realms. In a world that tempts us to look for assistance in all sorts of places that really are poor substitutes for God, the psalmist and Paul encourage us to look to the right source of our faith—the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Unlike the idols, the God of Israel does not slumber or sleep (vv. 3-4).
PRAYER: As you heard the prayer of Isaac and Rebekah, O God, and guided them in the way of your love, so listen now to those who call upon you. Move us to praise your gracious will, for in Christ Jesus you have saved us from the deeds of death and opened for us the hidden ways of your love. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Revised Common Lectionary)
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