Posts Tagged ‘KC Pillai’

Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength

June 23, 2018

One of my all-time favorite passages from the Old Testament comes from the closing verses of Isaiah 40, where we find the Verse of the Day for June 23, 2018. Not just the Isaiah 40:31, but verses 28-31 offer comfort and assurance:

Isaiah 40:28-31 (NKJV):

Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the LORD,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
31 But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

In Psalm 103:3-5 (NLT) we find another reference to being renewed like the eagle.

He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
4 He redeems me from death
and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
5 He fills my life with good things.
My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!

Eagles in the Scriptures:

Another celebrated passage connected with eagles speaks of protection and provision in speaking to the Children of Israel when they escaped from the bondage of Egypt:

Exodus 19:4

You have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.

Watching an eagle in flight is also awe-inspiring, as Proverbs 30:18-19 proclaims:

There are three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not:
The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.

Eagle Renewal:

Bible scholar, KC Pillai, converted Hindu, points out some distinctive features of eagles, as recorded in the Bible. He refers to the birds mentioned in Isaiah 40:31 and elsewhere in the Old Testament as “holy eagles,” described in this way:

The holy eagles are likened to heavenly beings; they are the “king of the birds.” Once every five, ten or fifteen years, (people differ on the time interval) the eagles build a nest high in the coconut tree, and then abandon themselves, like advanced swimmers that dive into the water. So these eagles, from the top of the high palm tree, dive down into a lake, or pond or well, or any still water; they don’t fly, but dive headfirst, with their wings folded intact on their backs. They abandon themselves and we see them dropping into the water, and when they come up they have lost every single feather. They are floating on the water, and the eagles are left stranded in the water, unable to swim or fly.

Somehow, they struggle and manage to reach the shore. Then the people come and feed the eagles, because the Eastern people look upon these holy eagles as representatives of God. Nobody will hurt them because they look upon them as heavenly beings. Then in six or seven weeks’ time, their new feathers have grown out and they fly back to the treetops. Nothing can stop them now. That is why “…they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they all mount up with wings as eagles;”

Psalm 27 and a new psalm:

The Verse of the Day also brings to mind the closing verses of my favorite psalm:

Psalm 27:13-14

New King James Version (NKJV)

13 I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.
14 Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!

We close with another original psalm expressed as a prayer:

“. . . And The Spirit of God Moved. . . .”

“Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.”
Traditional Gospel Song

As the Spirit of God moved upon the water,
As an eagle ascends on high and stirs her nest,
Attentive to the cries of her starving young ones;
As she satisfies her young and then spreads her wings,
So Holy Spirit with a gentle wavering,
Flutter over, move upon us in a new way.
As a gentle dove would hover over her brood,
Cover our soul and saturate our whole being.
As we wait upon you, spread your wings, bear us up
That we might soar to heights above the fowler’s snare.
Renew our strength and refresh our desire to serve.
As you feed us and sustain us, we shall mount up
On eagle’s wings. We shall run and not be weary.
As we look to you, we shall walk and not faint.

Esther Mui offers a beautiful spiritual song based on Isaiah 40:25-31: “Those Who Wait on the LORD”:

Asking questions in Psalm 121

September 11, 2016

psalm121

The Verse of the Day for September 11, 2016 is a familiar passage from one of the most recognized Psalms of David, as we examine Psalm 121: 1-2 in the Message Bible:

[A Pilgrim Song] I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.

The passage is rendered this way in the familiar King James Version:

Psalm 121:1-2

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

In contrast to the statement that opens Psalm 121 in the King James Version, the Message Bible raises a question in verse 1 and offers a response in verse two. In a previous blog post, I also indicated that verse one should be more precisely rendered as a question. I pointed out that KC Pillai, converted Hindu scholar whose area of biblical studies included Orientalisms or customs from the Eastern sectors of the world, and other scholars also raise questions about the opening verses of the celebrated psalm.  Pillai suggests that the verse should be read: “Shall I lift up my eyes to the hills? From whence comes my help?”  The answer follows in verse two: “My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.”

The previous post goes on to discuss other aspects of Psalm 121 in this excerpt:

This particular psalm is said to be among the Psalms of Degrees or Songs (Psalms) of Ascent. Psalms 120-134 comprise a “hymn book” from which pilgrims sang as they were ascending Mount Zion, the highest point in Jerusalem, the place of celebration of the annual feasts mandated by God for the Children of Israel.  Paul Stroble, in his blog devoted to this psalm points out that “Clift McCann writes in The New Interpreter’s Bible that these psalms are all short enough to be memorized and several contain references to everyday life, implying that these psalms reflect the experiences of everyday people traveling or arriving at Jerusalem.”

Stroble, also mentions that various writers refer to Psalm 121 as “the psalm for the journey of life,” and “the psalm for sojourners.”  He continues his discussion of the merits of this psalm that he finds especially meaningful “because of the comfort of its promises as one travels literally and figuratively.”

On the 15th anniversary of the life-altering events of 9-11, as we endeavor to stand in midst of the turmoil of the perilous times that are so difficult to deal with, we find strength and encouragement from Psalm 121 in its entirety in the Amplified Bible:

I will lift up my eyes to the hills [of Jerusalem]—
From where shall my help come?

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

He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber [briefly] nor sleep [soundly].


The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.

The sun will not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your life.

The Lord will guard you’re going out and your coming in [everything that you do]
From this time forth and forever.

We close with a musical compositions inspired by Psalm 121 and offered by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir:

 

Another look unto the hills

June 22, 2016

Psalm 121--7

Revised and re-posted from a year ago is the following blog entry:

Taken from Psalm 121:7-8 in the Amplified Bible, the Verse of the Day for June 22, 2016 provides great comfort and assurance to the believer:

The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

These verses make up a familiar passage from one of the most recognized Psalms of David which opens in this way:

Psalm 121: 1-2:

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

Bishop KC Pillai, a converted Hindu, dedicated his life to enlightening students of the Bible regarding Orientalisms or customs and practices from the Eastern sectors of the world that so clearly influence our understanding of Scripture. Pillai and other scholars point out that the first verse of Psalm 121 is often rendered as a statement when in actuality it should be a question. In contrast to the rendering of verse 1 in the King James Version which opens with “I will lift up my eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help,” Pillai suggests that the verse should be read: “Shall I lift up my eyes to the hills? From whence comes my help?”  The answer follows in verse two: “My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.”

This particular psalm is said to be among the Psalms of Degrees or Songs (Psalms) of Ascent. Psalms 120-134 comprise a “hymn book” from which pilgrims sang as they were ascending Mount Zion, the highest point in Jerusalem, the place of celebration of the annual feasts mandated by God for the Children of Israel. Paul Stroble, in his blog devoted to this psalm points out that “Clift McCann writes in The New Interpreter’s Bible that these psalms are all short enough to be memorized and several contain references to everyday life, implying that these psalms reflect the experiences of everyday people traveling or arriving at Jerusalem.”

Stroble, also mentions that various writers refer to Psalm 121 as “the psalm for the journey of life,” and “the psalm for sojourners.”  He continues his discussion of the merits of this psalm that he finds especially meaningful “because of the comfort of its promises as one travels literally and figuratively.”

The passage from Psalm 121 and its reference to the Lord who “shall preserve thy soul from all evil” also brings to mind a series of blog entries entitled “A Five-fold Prayer.” The commentaries were based on a statement regarding the ways of God when we find ourselves in perplexing situations that challenge our faith. In such instances, God is endeavoring to do one or a combination of five things: “Direct us; Inspect us; Correct us; Protect us, and Perfect us.”

After hearing those words, I took those five verbs and formed them into a request, a petition, a personal prayer to God.  I asked God to become the initiator of the action, and I would become the object of his action. I also examined each of the verbs with scriptural illustrations from the Old Testament and New Testament and composed a prayer/psalm inspired by each verb at the end of each section related to each of the five verbs. In writing out my personal application of the scriptures, I also incorporated music related to the verbs as well. In Part 4 I asked God to “Protect Me.” Since there was no word “protect” used in the King James Version, I used the term “deliver” and shared this personalized psalm or poetic petition at the end of discussion of this particular verb:

Protect me

As a child runs to safety in his father’s arms,

So I, too, run to you, “my shelter from life’s storms.”

Lord, I long to dwell with you in the secret place,

My buckler, my shield, deliverer, my fortress,

Strong tower, defender, who responds to my prayer.

For Lord, you are faithful, who will establish me

And protect me and deliver me from evil.

We conclude our discussion with one of my favorite musical compositions inspired by Psalm 121 “My Help” offered by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.

Voice of the bridegroom

December 29, 2015

The familiar passage from John 14 brought to mind thoughts about heavenly mansions.

Taken from John 14:1-3 in the New Living Translation, the Verse of the Day for December 29, 2015 is a familiar passage that expresses great comfort:

[Jesus, the Way to the Father] “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.

Recently this well-known passage from the King James Version was recited at a funeral or “home-going” service for a dear friend and fellow believer.

In discussing these verses, Bishop KC Pillai, converted Hindu and prominent Bible teacher whose areas of expertise are Eastern customs and manners known as Orientalisms, points out that this particular passage is more appropriate for a wedding than for a funeral. The words that Jesus speaks to his disciples are actually spoken by the bridegroom when he departs to literally prepare an apartment or dwelling place for his bride, according to the customary wedding ceremony during Biblical times. Pillai goes on to explain in more detail:

In New Testament Bible days a wedding ceremony lasted ten days. On the tenth day the bride and groom are declared husband and wife. For the first 12 months of their wedded life the two young people just learn to understand and live with each other. (Not a bad idea.) They live two months with the groom’s parents, then two months with the bride’s parents. They commute back and forth between the in-laws every two months, concluding their first year of married life in the home of the bride’s parent’s.

At the conclusion of this first year of marriage there is a unique religious service, with all the people of the town present. The husband brings forth his wife, appearing before all the village people. He stands his wife in front of him, facing himself, with the best man on his right side and the virgins that attended the wedding on his left hand, and with loving authority the husband says to his wife before them all, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: If it were not so, I would have told you, I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.”

In thinking about those “many mansions” that God has prepared for us, I recall the lyrics to a gospel song referring our dwelling place as “a building not made with man’s hands.” Those lyrics were the inspiration for this poem that includes a reference to the opening verses John 14:

Not Made by Man’s Hands

Lord, keep my day by day,
in a pure and perfect way.
I want to live, I want to live on
in a building not made by hand.

Traditional gospel song

I recall the poignant words of the Lord Jesus Christ,
Words of the Bridegroom to reassure his Beloved:
“I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am
There you may be also, and if I go and prepare
A place for you, I will come again and receive you
Unto myself that where I am, you may be also.”
Though my dwelling place is furnished just to my tastes,
Will I need an office where I can compose my thoughts?
Is there a kitchen for me to prepare meals that bless?
Or will Christ make his servants sit down and enjoy
Sumptuous feasts prepared to satisfy the appetites
Of those who hunger and thirst for more than food or drink?
I know I will enjoy my custom-crafted mansion,
Exquisite design from God’s mind, not made by man’s hands.

Listen to the Scripture song based on John 14:2, 3: In My Father’s House are Many Mansions:

A word spoken at the right moment

October 22, 2014

The Verse of the Day is a word of wisdom taken from Proverbs 15:23 in the Amplified Bible:

A man has joy in making an apt answer, and a word spoken at the right moment—how good it is!

Today’s blog is a revision of the entry shared a year ago and reposted below:

Proverbs 15--23

The Verse of the Day for October 22, 2014 mentions the phrase “a word spoken at the right moment” which brings to mind another related verse found in Proverbs 25:11 (AMP):

A word fitly spoken and in due season is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

Bishop KC Pillai, a converted Hindu, who dedicated his life to enlightening students of the Bible regarding Orientalisms or customs and practices from the Eastern sectors of the world, indicates that the reference to “apples of gold” is actually referring to a variety of succulent oranges grown in the Middle East. He comments on the often quoted verse from Proverbs:

“Verse 11 ‘Apples of gold’ had nothing to do with apples. These are a kind of orange we grow in Egypt, Syria and India of which there is no English name. . . There is a special orange tree called Kitchilika tree, sweetest of all oranges. This fruit makes a refreshing drink which soothes and comforts. It is gold in color, and does not last long after it is ripe and can’t be exported outside of the country. Very tasty, we make sherbet of it, and it is easily smelled when ripe on the tree. They are very beautiful to look at and quench the thirst quicker than any other juice. It was called apples of gold because there was no other English word.

The verse should read: ‘A word appropriately spoken is like oranges placed in a tray of silver.’

So a word appropriately spoken to a weary or troubled person will refresh, soothe, comfort, revitalize, strengthen. The Word of God is the only ‘word fitly spoken.’ It will lift a person out of trouble and despondency. Words appropriately spoken (to a troubled person) are like golden oranges in trays of silver. They are refreshing, strengthening, pleasing, uplifting.”

A great way to start the day is with a glass of “OJ”—orange juice of a special kind.

Psalm 121: Marching to Zion

September 11, 2014

psalms-121-1-2

Re-posted and modified below is the blog entry from last year’s anniversary of 9-11:

The Verse of the Day for September 11, 2014 is a familiar passage from one of the most recognized Psalms of David:

Psalm 121: 1-2:

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

Bishop KC Pillai, a converted Hindu, dedicated his life to enlightening students of the Bible regarding Orientalisms or customs and practices from the Eastern sectors of the world that so clearly influence our understanding of Scripture. Pillai and other scholars point out that the first verse of Psalm 121 is often rendered as a statement when in actuality it should be a question. In contrast to the rendering of in the verse 1 in the King James Version which opens with “I will lift up my eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help”, Pillai suggests that the verse should be read: “Shall I lift up my eyes to the hills? From whence comes my help?” The answer follows in verse two: “My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.”

This particular psalm is said to be among the Psalms of Degrees or Songs (Psalms) of Ascent. Psalms 120-134 comprise a “hymn book” from which pilgrims sang as they were ascending Mount Zion, the highest point in Jerusalem, the place of celebration of the annual feasts mandated by God for the Children of Israel. Paul Stroble, in his blog devoted to this psalm points out that “Clift McCann writes in The New Interpreter’s Bible that these psalms are all short enough to be memorized and several contain references to everyday life, implying that these psalms reflect the experiences of everyday people traveling or arriving at Jerusalem.”

Stroble, also mentions that various writers refer to Psalm 121 as “the psalm for the journey of life,” and “the psalm for sojourners.” He continues his discussion of the merits of this psalm that he finds especially meaningful “because of the comfort of its promises as one travels literally and figuratively.”

One of my favorite musical compositions inspired by Psalm 121 is offered by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.

In its rendering of Psalm 121:1 the Amplified Bible makes reference to Mount Zion:

 I will lift up my eyes to the hills [around Jerusalem, to sacred Mount Zion and Mount Moriah]—From whence shall my help come?

Indeed, Zion is the ultimate destination of those pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem and those sojourning through life. Eleven years ago when I most providentially found myself in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, I heard a life-changing teaching on the spiritual significance of Zion in a believer’s life, and the message inspired this poem:

Zion

For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation.

Psalm 132:13

 

To ascend the holy hill, the quest to reach Mount Zion,

To dwell in that high mountain, a place of untold beauty.

Still onward and upward in this lifelong journey,

I situate myself in an accurate position,

As my obedience activates the blessings of God.

My spirit overflows and floods my heart with new song.

 

With all that is within me, I yearn to sing the Lord’s song,

As I migrate upward from Babylon to Mount Zion,

Up to Jerusalem, the place of the Temple of God,

The place where I shall worship God in all of His beauty.

I am ever moving toward that ultimate position,

Knowing both anguish and joy in my perfecting journey.

 

I am moving toward a place of wholeness as I journey

From an alien land where I could not sing the Lord’s song,

As I arise to a more elevated position,

To stand on the Rock, the chief cornerstone, laid in Zion,

Where I shall behold the Lord in His resplendent beauty

And see more clearly revelation from the heart of God.

 

Great and glorious and wondrous is the City of God.

We celebrate the goodness of God along this journey.

The Lord, our God, has fashioned the perfection of beauty.

Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised with joyful song.

God displays His passion for Jerusalem and Zion:

He reigns over all the earth from this lofty position.

 

The grace of God flows freely from the highest position,

From the exalted place of the tabernacle of God,

Who has set His King upon the holy hill of Zion.

The sons of God shall be blessed and refreshed on their journey,

Teaching each other with psalm and hymn and spiritual song.

Ascend to worship at the transcendent throne of beauty.

 

The stone once rejected is now the stone of great beauty.

The chief cornerstone has become the foremost position.

The Rock of our Salvation fills our hearts with a new song.

Glory and honor and power and wisdom to our God,

Who strengthens and sustains us with power on our journey

To our destiny, perfected in a place called Zion.

 

The Lord, the Almighty God, is enthroned in great beauty.

As we journey, we maintain an accurate position,

For from Mount Zion flow countless blessings and endless song.

I recall a familiar hymn from childhood “We’re Marching to Zion” which turns out to be one of the hymns composed by Isaac Watts. The simple lyrics and rousing melody have become much more meaningful within the past 11 years. Here is a rousing rendition of the classic hymn recorded live with the Gaithers:

Tattooed in the palms of God’s hands

April 22, 2014

Isaiah 49 15-16

Without question, tattooing or body art, as some call it, has becoming increasingly popular in recent years. According to nbcnews.com, studies from the American Academy of Dermatology indicate that 24 percent of Americans between 18 and 50 are tattooed. Annually Americans spend $1.65 Billion on tattoos, so say statistics.

Among the reasons individuals give for getting tattoos is to honor loved ones, using their name or a verse or some other design as a permanent tribute worn on their bodies. Similarly, in a most unusual manner, God, our Father, not only holds us in the palms of His hands, but the scriptures also reveal that He has tattooed portraits of those whom He loves in the palms of His hands. The Amplified Bible translates Isaiah 49:16 in this manner:

Behold, I have indelibly imprinted (tattooed a picture of) you on the palm of each of My hands; [O Zion] your walls are continually before Me.

New Living Translation renders the verse this way:

See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.
Always in my mind is a picture of Jerusalem’s walls in ruins.

Although tattooing is extremely popular today, what God has done to honor and express His love for His people is unique. Bishop KC Pillai, converted Hindu and Bible teacher, relates a specific Orientalism, a custom or practice from the Eastern sectors of the world, explaining that tattooing is the oriental way of remembering people expressed in Isaiah 49:16:

If you give a present you may lose it, but if you tattoo something on an individual you will never lose it. Therefore, we always remember you. They tattoo all over the arm [in] different places, but never in the palm. . . . No man can engrave on palms, because the area is tender and the needle is hot and hurts too much. It takes time to look for other tattoos, but here in the hand [there is] no time to look, just as open as your palm.

Every time God “does something with His hand,” those whom He loves come to mind, for He remembers everything about them. The Psalmist asks,

What are human beings, that you think of them; mere mortals, that you care for them? (Psalm 2:8)

In response, God, our Father,  expresses His love and concern for His creation when He engraves our image in the palms of His hands—we are always before Him. Beyond the lyrics of Willie Nelson’s love song, “We are always on His mind.” God tells His beloved just how special we are in a special way.

Selah, in singing the classic hymn “Before the Throne of God above,” makes a reference to Isaiah 49:16 with the line “My name is graven on His hands.”

A word fitly spoken

October 22, 2013

Proverbs_15-23

The Verse of the Day for October 22, 2013 mentions the phrase “a word spoken in due season” which brings to mind another related verse found in Proverbs 25:11

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

The New Living Translation offers this rendering:

Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket.

Bishop KC Pillai, a converted Hindu, who dedicated his life to enlightening students of the Bible regarding Orientalisms or customs and practices from the Eastern sectors of the world, indicates that the reference to “apples of gold” is actually referring to a variety of succulent oranges grown in the Middle East. He comments on the often quoted verse from Proverbs:

“Verse 11 ‘Apples of gold’ had nothing to do with apples. These are a kind of orange we grow in Egypt, Syria and India of which there is no English name. . . There is a special orange tree called Kitchilika tree, sweetest of all oranges. This fruit makes a refreshing drink which soothes and comforts. It is gold in color, and does not last long after it is ripe and can’t be exported outside of the country. Very tasty, we make sherbet of it, and it is easily smelled when ripe on the tree. They are very beautiful to look at and quench the thirst quicker than any other juice. It was called apples of gold because there was no other English word.

The verse should read: ‘A word appropriately spoken is like oranges placed in a tray of silver.’

So a word appropriately spoken to a weary or troubled person will refresh, soothe, comfort, revitalize, strengthen. The Word of God is the only “word fitly spoken.” It will lift a person out of trouble and despondency. Words appropriately spoken (to a troubled person) are like golden oranges in trays of silver. They are refreshing, strengthening, pleasing, uplifting.”

This Indian hybrid orange may be closer to the fruit spoken of as "apples of gold" in Proverbs 25:11.

This Indian hybrid orange may be closer to the fruit spoken of as “apples of gold” in Proverbs 25:11.

A great way to start the day is with a glass of “OJ”—orange juice of a special kind.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orange_%28fruit%29

Psalm 121: Looking beyond the hills

September 11, 2013

Psalm_121-1

The Verse of the Day for September 11, 2013 is a familiar passage from one of the most recognized Psalms of David:

Psalm 121: 1-2:

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

This photo of Mount Zion is taken from Abu Tor.

This photo of Mount Zion is taken from Abu Tor.

Bishop KC Pillai, a converted Hindu, dedicated his life to enlightening students of the Bible regarding Orientalisms or customs and practices from the Eastern sectors of the world that so clearly influence our understanding of Scripture. Pillai and other scholars point out that the first verse of Psalm 121 is often rendered as a statement when in actuality it should be a question. In contrast to the rendering of in the verse 1 in the King James Version which opens with “I will lift up my eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help”, Pillai suggests that the verse should be read: “Shall I lift up my eyes to the hills? From whence comes my help?”  The answer follows in verse two: “My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.”

This particular psalm is said to be among the Psalms of Degrees or Songs (Psalms) of Ascent. Psalms 120-134 comprise a “hymn book” from which pilgrims sang as they were ascending Mount Zion, the highest point in Jerusalem, the place of celebration of the annual feasts mandated by God for the Children of Israel.  Paul Stroble, in his blog devoted to this psalm points out that “Clift McCann writes in The New Interpreter’s Bible that these psalms are all short enough to be memorized and several contain references to everyday life, implying that these psalms reflect the experiences of everyday people traveling or arriving at Jerusalem.”

Stroble, also mentions that various writers refer to Psalm 121 as “the psalm for the journey of life,” and “the psalm for sojourners.”  He continues his discussion of the merits of this psalm that he finds especially meaningful  “because of the comfort of its promises as one travels literally and figuratively.”

One of my favorite musical compositions inspired by Psalm 121 is offered by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.

 

In its rendering of Psalm 121:1 the Amplified Bible makes reference to Mount Zion:

I will lift up my eyes to the hills [around Jerusalem, to sacred Mount Zion and Mount Moriah]—From whence shall my help come?

Here is an artist's rendering of Mount Zion by William Henry Bartlett.

Here is an artist’s rendering of Mount Zion by William Henry Bartlett.

Indeed, Zion is the ultimate destination of those pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem and those sojourning through life. Ten years ago when most providentially found myself in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, I heard a life-changing teaching on the spiritual significance of Zion in a believer’s life, and the message inspired this poem:

Zion

For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation.

Psalm 132:13

 

To ascend the holy hill, the quest to reach Mount Zion,

To dwell in that high mountain, a place of untold beauty.

Still onward and upward in this lifelong journey,

I situate myself in an accurate position,

As my obedience activates the blessings of God.

My spirit overflows and floods my heart with new song.

 

With all that is within me, I yearn to sing the Lord’s song,

As I migrate upward from Babylon to Mount Zion,

Up to Jerusalem, the place of the Temple of God,

The place where I shall worship God in all of His beauty.

I am ever moving toward that ultimate position,

Knowing both anguish and joy in my perfecting journey.

 

I am moving toward a place of wholeness as I journey

From an alien land where I could not sing the Lord’s song,

As I arise to a more elevated position,

To stand on the Rock, the chief cornerstone, laid in Zion,

Where I shall behold the Lord in His resplendent beauty

And see more clearly revelation from the heart of God.

 

Great and glorious and wondrous is the City of God.

We celebrate the goodness of God along this journey.

The Lord, our God, has fashioned the perfection of beauty.

Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised with joyful song.

God displays His passion for Jerusalem and Zion:

He reigns over all the earth from this lofty position.

 

The grace of God flows freely from the highest position,

From the exalted place of the tabernacle of God,

Who has set His King upon the holy hill of Zion.

The sons of God shall be blessed and refreshed on their journey,

Teaching each other with psalm and hymn and spiritual song.

Ascend to worship at the transcendent throne of beauty.

 

The stone once rejected is now the stone of great beauty.

The chief cornerstone has become the foremost position.

The Rock of our Salvation fills our hearts with a new song.

Glory and honor and power and wisdom to our God,

Who strengthens and sustains us with power on our journey

To our destiny, perfected in a place called Zion.

 

The Lord, the Almighty God, is enthroned in great beauty.

As we journey, we maintain an accurate position,

For from Mount Zion flow countless blessings and endless song.

I recall a familiar hymn from childhood “We’re Marching to Zion” which turns out to be one of the hymns composed by Isaac Watts, said to be the father of hymn. The simple lyrics and rousing melody have become much more meaningful within the past 10 years. Here is a rousing rendition of the classic hymn recorded live with the Gaithers: