“I look up to the mountains – 
does my help come from there? 
My help comes from the Lord, 
who made heaven and earth!”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭121:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Psalm 121 was my father’s favourite. As a Scotsman, he was used to the Scottish hills and munroes, though more from a visual perspective than anything strenuous. But he lived for most of his life in the South of England, in the balmier and flatter county of Hampshire. He often wistfully expressed a desire for hills, “to lean on” as he put it. 

The Bible is full of references to mountains and hills. Jerusalem is built on one and we read in Psalm 2 that Jesus will rule from there one day, from His holy mountain. Often people in Biblical days fled to the hills, where they expected to find safety. There is something comforting about hills. But the Psalmist contrasts help coming from mountains with help coming from the Lord. We read in the preamble to this Psalm that it was sung by pilgrims climbing the roads and paths towards Jerusalem, so perhaps the Psalmist was thinking about where the true source of safety and security was, and he wrote down his thoughts. Thoughts full of references to how God looks after us. He brings out thoughts that God continually watches over us, day and night. He is our Protection, keeping us from harm. The Psalm ends with the verse, “The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” This has to be one of the most reassuring passages of Scripture that the Bible contains.

But what about us today, living a long time after the Bible was written. Do we look to the physical world around us, to our government, to our finances and possessions, or to God for our security and protection? Would we still be trusting God if all but He was removed from us? We hope that we will never have to find this out, but many people in the world today have nothing else but their trust in God. For example, Christians in the Middle East are being persecuted to the extent of having to flee from their homes to find refuge where they can; all because of their faith. But they know God is watching over them and that sustains them through times of almost unbearable difficulty. In our own lives there is plenty that we could be fearful of. Particularly in these Covid times there are many who are almost paralysed with fear of illness. Add into the fear-inducing mix energy prices, inflation, illness, family problems and so on, and we have a cocktail of challenges to make even those most robust of people want to “head for the hills”. But there is no remedy there. The only answer to our future is our trust in God. Only He can sustain us, support us, and keep us safe. 

We don’t know what the future holds but we do know the One who holds the future. That’s enough for me.

The Trembling Earth

“The Red Sea waters saw them coming and ran the other way!
Then later, the Jordan River too 
moved aside so that they could all pass through.
The land shuddered with fear. 
Mountains and hills shook with dread. 
O sea, what happened to you to make you flee? 
O Jordan, what was it that made you turn and run? 
O mountains, what frightened you so? 
And you hills, what made you shiver? 
Tremble, O earth, for you are in the presence of the Lord, 
the presence of the God of Jacob.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭114:3-7‬ ‭TPT‬‬

We read the historical and prophetic accounts contained within what we Christians call the Old Testament, and wonder about the nature of the events described. Are they accounts seasoned with traditional, word of mouth legends handed down from one generation to the next, or did the described events actually happen? Did the Red Sea really part? Did the Jordan River really stop flowing? And there are other events that took place in the Bible that seem against natural laws. Did the rock really release rivers of water when Moses struck it with his staff? Did the Jericho walls really collapse when the Israelites gave a shout and blew their trumpets? Did the ground really collapse and swallow up the family of Korah in the Numbers 16 account? Over the years I have heard two categories of response to these questions – one is the secular and liberal theology approach, that these Bible stories are just that, stories. Fictional accounts, or at least myths that some people try and explain away or discount by applying modern thought and archaeological research. But the other response is one of a fundamental belief in the infallibility of Scripture. A belief that these events really happened, just as they had been written. Sometimes people adopt a hybrid approach to these two extremes, accepting some accounts and not others. Others protest with the thought, “What does is all matter anyway?” 

This Psalm contains a fundamental, irrefutable theme – that God is the Creator of the Earth and everything within it. That He is able to make things happen in His creation because He is God. He is the all-powerful, ever present Almighty. And the palpable sense of awe in God’s presence manifests itself in the Psalmist’s graphic language of how the earth was responding, our world that we take to be fixed and immovable, but in his account frightened and shivering when God was there. 

As pilgrims in this life, we can trudge along, bounded by what we think are “natural laws”, or we can develop a sense of excitement that we are in the presence of Almighty God, our Creator who is able to do anything because he is all-powerful. Adopting an expectant feeling that whatever is facing us in our journey, God is there to help us, able to move the mountains in our paths. Without God’s intervention, the Israelites would have been recaptured or destroyed by the well-equipped Egyptian army when they encountered the Red Sea. Without God’s intervention, they would have been unable to pass over the Jordan River into the Promised Land. However, such miraculous events were not just for the Old Testament; Jesus Himself taught about the power we have over the natural world in Matthew 17:20, “I promise you, if you have faith inside of you no bigger than the size of a small mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move away from here and go over there,’ and you will see it move! There is nothing you couldn’t do!” Jesus walked on water. He stilled the storms. He healed the sick and raised the dead, and, amazingly, He said in John 14:12, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” Now that’s challenging. 

So what do make of all this? Are we feeling a sense of excitement building within us at what we can do though and with our amazing Heavenly Father? Or are we going to continue to tramp through a monochrome world, bounded and limited by our puny and inadequate natural abilities? We may not have the faith to make one of our local hills disappear, but what about stretching our faith to pray for the sick old lady next door, believing for her healing? Or believe God for …. (fill in your own faith need)? Tasha Cobbs sings a song, “This is a Move”. Let’s sing it together today – it’s on YouTube if you don’t know it. Here are the first two verses.

Mountains are still being moved
Strongholds are still being loosed
God, we believe
‘Cause yes, we can see it
That wonders are still what you do

And bodies are still being raised
Giants are still being slayed
God, we believe
Yes, we can see it
That wonders are still what you do