Book V is an invitation to exuberant praise; it is worship in light of God’s covenant love, His Word, and the reminder that His promise of David’s neverending throne would be fulfilled in the Messiah.
It’s terrifying being alone. Every time I go camping with my son in some wilderness, the night always has me on edge. Of course, it’s never a good idea to listen to some spooky stories of creatures like the “Batsquatch” as you try to fall asleep in the woods. Having another human being with me helps temper my fears when I hear the rustling and bustling of the night noises in the woods, even if my 12-year-old son couldn’t do much to protect me.
Why would we think life alone from God would be anything other than terrifying? The Psalms of Ascent in Book V open this reality to us. With the question of Psalm 121, “Where will my help come from?” This psalmist requires us to make a decision. The mountains pilgrims to Jerusalem would pass by were not the stuff of epic scenery and stunning vistas. They were the high points of worship, specifically of the pagan gods and goddesses of Baal and Asherah. Would those false, lifeless, powerless gods render any help at all? Choosing them would mean abandoning the living God. The psalmist adamantly makes his decision, “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2).
When the people of God declare, “my help comes from the LORD,” we immediately open our life to the presence of God. We lift our eyes “to the one enthroned in heaven” (Psalm 123:1) and see the Lord’s abundant grace and power for us. We experience the all-satisfying grace of God and can proclaim, “the LORD has done great things for us” (Psalm 126:3). Declaring “my help comes from the LORD” rejects the lifestyle that makes the Lord an occasional advisor to levy some helpful insight here or there. The Lord is the essential presence that builds, secures, relieves, and blesses the life of a man seeking Him (Psalm 127). Without the Lord, it’s all vanity.
When we declare the Lord is our only help we recognize our desperate need for rescue and forgiveness because, before the Lord, no one could stand (Psalm 130:3). But with the Lord, there is faithful love, “and with him is redemption in abundance” (Psalm 130:7). In the presence of the Lord, we can settle down, have our hearts quieted, and let the almighty God, who is all-powerful and all-glorious, be our only hope (Psalm 131).
The decision lies before us too. Will we look to the weak and fleeting “help” the systems and powers of this world offer to secure our lives? Will we cast ourselves on the impersonal forces of this present age, hoping we get lucky and thrive? Or will we look to the Lord, who knows us intimately? Will we turn to the Lord who is “aware of all my ways” and one who has “encircled me” and “placed your hand on me” (Psalm 139:3,5). With the Lord, you are never alone. You stand under the gracious promise, “The LORD will protect your coming and going both now and forever” (Psalm 121:8).