What does it mean that God is our help? You may even ask if God is really in control. Just looking at the world around us will lead many to conclude that it doesn’t seem like God is keeping his people from harm. How can we reconcile God’s promises to keep us from all harm with the brokenness of our lives? The Psalmist encourages us to lift our eyes above the mountains (i.e., our problems) and look up to God. There we will recognize, as in the book of Revelation, that one day God will wipe away all our tears, destroy all evil, make right all injustice, and our bodies will be raised. That is what is coming. Yes, we have challenges now, but they cannot separate us from the love of Christ (Rom 8:35). This Psalm challenges us to trust in God.
Eugene Peterson summarizes the Psalm in The Message this way: “The promises of this Psalm have always read it this way—not that we shall never face problems, but that no injury or illness, no accident, no distress will have evil power over us that will separate us from God’s purposes in us. No literature is more realistic in facing the harsh facts of life than the Bible. At no time is there any suggestion that the life of faith exempts us from difficulty. What it promises is preservation from all the evil in them. The Christian life is going to God. In going to God, Christians travel the same ground that everyone else walks on, breathe the same air, drink the same water, shop in the same stores, are citizens under the same government, subject to the same pressures, get the same distresses, and buried in the same grounds. The difference is that each step we take, each breath we breathe, we know we are preserved by God. We know we are accompanied by God. And therefore, no matter what doubts we endure, or what accidents we experience, the Lord will preserve us from ultimate evil. He will keep our life.”
This Psalm is part of a collection of Psalms called the Songs of Ascent, and was meant to be sung in community, as an encouragement for us to care for one another. The promises proclaimed were passed from one person to another, and from one generation to another, as the Israelites traveled to Jerusalem for their annual festivals. May we do the same for each other.