Oswald Chambers: Great Aspirations

“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.” Psalm 121: 1-2.  

The marginal rendering puts it in the form of a question. “Shall I lift up mine eyes unto the hills?  from whence should my help come? And recalls Jeremiah’s statement “In vain is help looked to from the mountains” Jeremiah 3:23. I want to apply that statement spiritually.

Mountains stir intense hope and awaken vigour, but ultimately leave the climber exhausted and spent. Great men and great saints stir in us great aspirations and a great hopefulness, but leave us ultimately exhausted with a feeling of hopelessness; the inference we draw is that these people were built like that, and all that is left for us to do is to admire. Longfellow says: “Lives of great man all remind us we can make our lives sublime,” but I question whether this is profoundly true. The lives of great man leave us with a sense of our own littleness which paralyses us in our effort to be anything else.  Going back to the settings of this Psalm, one realizes that the exquisite beauty of the mountains scenery awakens lofty aspirations; the limitless spaces above the highest mountain-peak, the snow-clad summit, and the scarred side ending in foliage and beauty as it sweeps to the valley below, stand as a symbol for all that is high and lofty and aspiring.

When one is young this is the type of scenery reveled in, the blood runs quicker, the air is purer and more vigorous, and things seem possible to the outlook that were not possible where we lived in the valleys; but as one gets older, and realizes the limitations not only of physical life but in the inner life, the remembrance of the mountains and of mountain-top experiences leaves us a little wistful with an element of sadness, an element perhaps best expressed by the phrase, “What might have been, had we always been true to the truth, had we never sinned, had we never made mistakes!” Even such simple considerations as these brings us to the heat of the Psalmist’s song in this Pilgrim Song Book --“Shall I lift up mine eyes unto the hills?” Is that from whence my help is to come?” and the Psalmist answers, “No, My help cometh from the Lord, Who made the hills.” – and there we have the essence of the spiritual truth. Not to the great things God has done, not to the noble saints and noble lives He has made, but to God Himself does the Psalmist point.

The study of biography is always inspiring, but it has this one drawback, that it is apt to leave the life more given to sentiment and thinking and perhaps less to endeavor that is usually supposed; but when we realise what the Psalmist is pointing out and what the New Testament so strongly insists on, viz., “the Lord is our help,” we are able to understand such a mountain character as the Apostle Paul saying “Follow my ways which be in Christ.” We have not been told to follow in all the footsteps of the mountain-like characters, but in the footsteps of their faith, because their faith is in a Person.