I lift up my eyes to the hills...
Ps. 121:1 - "I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth."
Last week Cianan and I were able to visit Devil's Tower in eastern Wyoming. It was amazing to crest a grassy hill and observe this incredible, 867 foot tall, geological feature appear on the horizon more than 15 miles away! It was a like a visual magnet, holding our attention as we traveled toward it. It was even more impressive when we arrived at the ranger station to hike around the circumference of the tower.
However, at the trailhead something else caught my eye. We read a sign that said, "Please do not disturb prayer bundles." As we walked around the tower, we saw bright colored fabric tied to trees, blowing in the wind. I decided to find out more about these prayer bundles when we got home.
Apparently there were multiple (almost 20) native american tribes that considered Devil's Tower sacred ground. Many of them had sacred legends about the origins of the Tower, and they would hold annual and cultural ceremonies at the base or in close proximity to it. They would travel to Devil's Tower to have spirit quests, offer prayers, and the Lokata (Sioux) would come to celebrate the Sun Dance at the time of the summer solstice. The prayer bundles we saw tied to the trees were offerings that people had made in order to have their prayer heard, following the centuries old practice of their people. As the prayer bundle was made, they would meditate on their request, attempting to infuse the materials with their desire. Small items (typically tobacco) would be tied into the fabric as an offering. The multiple pieces of fabric (each color representing a different direction of the wind) were tied into a long length and eventually secured to a tree branch.
As I thought about all of the people over the years who had been impressed with Devil's Tower, and had come to offer prayer requests and seek spiritual insight or to connect with something more, I couldn't help but think of Psalm 121.
The psalmist who wrote Psalms 121 was traveling to Jerusalem to worship Jehovah, the covenant God of Israel. During his trip, he and his traveling companion looked at the hills they passed. Some speculate that what they saw on the hills were the idolatrous high places where some sought the help of images of wood and stone by sacrificing to them. The sight of the high places led the Psalmist ask himself, "Where does my help come from?" The answer was a comforting and confident, "My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth."
Like the Psalmist of old, we don't find help from the inanimate hill itself. Eventually the hill will be gone. Nor do we find help from some empty and mute idol, fashioned in the likeness of a created being. Instead, we find help from the incomparable creator himself, the covenant God of the Bible who is alive, who has spoken, and who is faithful to his people!
I wondered what lessons we could learn from those prayer bundles, and though of a couple of things. (1) People today still look for help! The prayer bundles on our trail were bright and new. Someone put them there recently. That means there are people right now looking for spiritual help. (2) People are still looking, just in the wrong places! Those who know God believe that salvation with the Father is only through His Son. Salvation with the Father is only found in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12), only Jesus is "the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (Jn. 14:6). Those using prayer bundles may not have found Jesus yet, but there are people looking for more and they need to hear about Jesus. We need to seek out those people and share what we know about the creator and the way to him!
If the author of Psalm 121 were hiking with you around Devil's Tower, and you lifted your eyes to the hill and saw a colorful prayer bundle blowing in the breeze, and he asked the question, "Where does my help come from?" How would you answer?