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From where will my help come?

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come?

2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

These ancient words from the poetry of the Psalms were most likely referring to the hills of Jerusalem, the sacred city. Lifting one’s eyes, meant looking toward God.

As one commentator put it, wherever the writer “stands, this question is not one of doubt; he knows, as (is also referenced in Psalm 3:4 and Psalm 14:7, that help will come from God’s holy hill “out of Zion.” 1

Those hills are the heart, symbols of God’s creations and faithfulness, jutting out above humanity, remaining in the past and the present. The hills of Jerusalem literally host the Holy One.

So it is significant that this poem begins on the hilltops of the holiest place in the world, the throne of Jehovah. I lift up my eyes to the hills! A phrase of both poetry and hymnody.

As if to say, I will start by turning my gaze, with particular intention, toward all that is beautiful, toward whatever is holy, toward all that was before us and to all that shall be here long after us- start with the hilltop and remember our place in the order of things- begin by being in awe, before the One who made heaven and earth. Look up. Lift up your eyes.

But the piece that lands with a theological thud for many of our postmodern ears is not the hilltops, but the help.

Because the psalmist begins with a question and then answers it in the next line. from where will my help come?

2 My help comes from the Lord.

That is a statement of conviction and certainty, a kind of focused clarity, an implication anchored in the belief that whatever God is and wherever God is, whatever hilltop on which God resides, whatever place on which you stand, the Divine will help! For sure. Without hesitation. Help comes from the Lord!

But if we don’t hold the view that God is a vending machine kind of energy that fulfills all requests with the right kind of currency, be it prayer or good deeds or providence, what does it mean for us right now to proclaim with the same level of hope, my hope comes from the Lord?!

From where does our help come for real?

The word help in Hebrew, Ezer appears other places in the Jewish scriptures. In fact it shows up 20 other times, including in the book of Genesis chapter 2 when we read this, And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a help mate for him.

Just like the word used in the Psalm, ezer, help comes from the Lord! And this help is on the way, this ezer will indeed arrive, but in the form of another person.

The word for help and helpmate is the same.

This all makes me wonder if the Universe really does send people to help us in times of need. It might not always be in the ones we expect, but maybe we really, truly are being guided, supported, nurtured in ways we cannot fully comprehend.

I am sure some of you have heard that old story where a fellow was stuck on his rooftop in a flood. He was praying fervently to God for help.

Soon someone in a rowboat came by and she saw him she shouted to the man on the roof, "Jump in, I can save you."

The stranded fellow shouted back, "No, it's OK, I'm praying to God and God is going to save me."

So the rowboat went on.

Then a motorboat came by. "The drive of the motorboat shouted, "Jump in, I can save you."

To this the stranded man said, "No thanks, I'm praying to God and God is going to save me. I have faith."

So the motorboat went on.

Then a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, "Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety."

To this the stranded man again replied, "No thanks, I'm praying to God and God is going to save me. I have faith."

So the helicopter reluctantly flew away.

Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went to Heaven. He finally got his chance to discuss this whole situation with God, at which point he exclaimed, "I had faith in you but you didn't save me, you let me drown. I don't understand why!"

To this God replied, "I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter, what more did you expect?"

I love the words of Anne Lamott who says that asking for help, praying for help frees us, maybe even from ourselves. She writes, “Help. We can be freed from a damaging insistence on forward thrust, from a commitment to running wildly down a convenient path that might actually be taking us deeper into the dark forest. Praying “Help” means that we ask that Something give us the courage to stop in our tracks, right where we are…”

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come?

2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Perhaps even acknowledging that we have come to the edge of our own knowing and are in need of guidance is enough. Maybe that allows for us to be open to seeing clearly whatever help might come?

Because prayer of any kind is a form of surrender, it is a way of saying that we aren’t in control and we know it. And in my experience it is often not until I have let go, that something new really has had the chance to make itself known.

Perhaps you have those kinds of stories too? Where you were stuck, lost, seemingly at the end of your rope and maybe you even asked for help….then miraculous at some point, somehow, somewhere, help and hope quietly arrive on the scene.

One of the times in my life where I had to ask for help as a regular spiritual practice was during the process of planting Urban Sanctuary. It was the most beautiful and terrible experience of my life and my prayer chair in our garage became my landing pad. One morning, I was down low, nearly reduced when I said out loud to God, “I surrender!” The prayer that came to me that day is one that has remained with me, like a light in a dark room, “Not my way, God, but your way.” Not mine but yours…

I needed to be freed of my own ideas and I needed help. In my fantasy, a glowing, maybe even white robed angel would arrive to give instructions in my wilderness time of spiritual entrepreneurship. And that never happened.

But one day I found myself in a beige waiting room preparing to see a Nurse Practitioner for a checkup. I had toiled and tangled in the urban and sometimes gritty city of a million people. I was feeling small and unseen as I sat there with the tissue paper crinkling beneath me. I moved nervously, she looked at my name on the clipboard and then back at me and said, “Are you the one starting the new progressive church?” There I was in a flimsy hospital gown, feeling pathetic, unprotected by clerical garb or official introductions of being the Reverend and right there Deb shared her enthusiasm. My help comes from the Lord!

Deb turned out to be the answer to prayer and she wouldn’t be the last. We would go on to sit in silence together, to lead Dinner Church together, to read together, to march the streets together with others who would join us.

I had imagined that young professionals in the high tech industry would flock to this new thing, but what God sent was a middle aged mystical woman, devoted to women’s health, who was the Ezer for me. Help arrived and we would meet for the first time when I was not fully clothed.

I think this is how God works- holy help, the kind that uplifts, the people sent by God often show up in ways we don’t expect.

And I have come to believe that the Universe, that our God doesn’t always send help in the way of a problem being solved right now or something being fixed just right, but I do believe that maybe the Universe really does send us help in the form of helpmates, people who accompany us and widen the view.

They are people we know and people we don’t. People who just pass through and people who plant seeds and grow roots.

And sometimes we even have the gift of being the answer to someone else’s prayer… Sometimes we are the Ezer for another…

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come?

2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Beloved of God, if you are praying for help, if you are looking to the roadside and the hilltop, don’t give up, You might not always see it, but you are never alone. The Universe is your friend and is sending help, but it might arrive by disguise or even by surprise…

1 Ellicott’s Commentary:

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