Third Saturday of Advent: Look to the Hills

By Samuel Chez

Advent Devotional | December 18, 2021

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

—Psalm 121:1 (Read Psalm 121)

I grew up in Brooklyn, New York during the late ’70s and early ’80s—one of the lower points of the city’s history and far from its recent renaissance. Being a kid has its universal challenges, but where I lived provided some extra ones as the walk to school and the school day itself held its share of threats.

Every day before school, my mother would recite Psalm 121 and then pray for me and my sister.

The routine provided comfort and formed an early view of God as a divine bodyguard. I would hold on to verses 5 and 6: The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. As I grew, and as we moved, the need for a physical bodyguard waned, but the need for God as our source of help continued.

While I lived at home, despite my age, the day, or the circumstance, I did not leave the house without my mom reciting Psalm 121 and praying for me before I left.

There were many days that I did not appreciate my mom’s faithfulness. I saw her prayer over me as a chore that delayed my outing. Eventually, I came to appreciate that my mother did what she did not simply because of her love for me, but because of her faith in a God who is a protector and provider. Verses 3 and 4 in Psalm 121 read: He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

Neither slumber nor sleep. Interesting image, isn’t it? Certainly this is not about whether or not God needs a nap, but addresses the fact that sometimes it seems as if God is not just silent, but absent.

During the writing of that Psalm—and most of the Old Testament—the people of Israel were waiting for the Messiah. And as they waited, their life was far from easy. Occupation, exile, oppressive rule, constant threats—certainly the Israelites could be excused for feeling that God was no longer keeping watch. Certainly they wondered if He had fallen asleep.

Even today, as we prepare to celebrate that the Messiah has come, we too find ourselves longing and waiting. The reality of the fallen and broken world around us can bring our hope and joy under siege.

Last year, just two days after Thanksgiving, my mom’s faith became sight as she went to be with the Lord after succumbing to COVID-19.

Along with my dad and my sister, I was blessed to be with her during her final moments on this side of eternity. We recited Psalm 121 together more than once, and we expressed thanks for her faith and how her love for her Savior was expressed in her love for her family. Then we were able to say goodbye.

When I look back at my life, read through the Bible, or think about my mom’s daily prayers, I see that God works in subtle and incremental ways more often than in miraculous milestone moments. The season of Advent is meant to remind us that our hope is not in vain—Jesus has come and will come again. Even in my grief, I am hopeful because I remember the Lord’s faithfulness to my family. I “look to the hills” of His faithfulness for help.

The closing words of Psalm 121 ring true: The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

—Samuel Chez is a Senior Manager at Boomi. He is a CCO student Messiah University alumnus and worked for the CCO on campus at Grove City College from 1994-97 and in CCO leadership from 2001-12.