This is one of my favorite praise songs. Verses one and two of this psalm were set to music and are just plain enjoyable to sing. My wife first heard the song sung uptempo and lively while I first heard it sung in a slower and more contemplative fashion. This is the exact opposite of almost every other song experience in my household, which makes this song and this thought all the more special to me. It is one of the places where God flipped the paradigm.
I have read and been taught that the Songs of Ascent were commonly sung while families were making their regular trips to the temple in Jerusalem. There were appointed feasts and festivals and times that Israel was supposed to gather in Jerusalem and this group of songs was allegedly sung during the trip.
I live in a place where there are mountains. I look north and there they are. I travel a short distance and I am climbing those mountains. So I understand the idea of looking at mountains pretty well. And there are two ways in which I understand what the psalmist is on about.
First, there is the basic idea. Mountains. Look at them and be awed by their strength and size and sheer mountainness. Yet these magnificent things were created by the same God Who refers to the Earth as His footstool and measures the expanse of the universe by stretched out His fingers. Not that He has physical feet to put up or fingers to span the universe, but the metaphors illustrate His vastness and the universe’s comparative smallness. Looking at the mountains, I find myself impressed by their strength and durability. Yet God promises that He will one day do things so that not one of those mountains is left where it is. For reference, have a read through Revelation. The strength of a mountain is of no consequence when compared to the strength of God. And it is God Who provides me with strength to do His will and live how He wants me to. The strength that displaces mountains is put at my disposal to enable me to live a righteous life. That is help indeed.
Second, if this song really was sung while Israel was going up to the temple, then “the mountain” was often a metaphor for the temple mount. If that is the case, then another embedded idea is that of going into the presence of God. Where can I find help to get me through the trials of life? In the presence of God.
I will lift my eyes up to the mountains. I will look to the examples of God’s power and might. I will look to the place where I can enter in to the presence of God (which is anywhere, now). I will look for reminders that God can and will do mighty things, for my strength comes from the LORD.