Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore.
In the Fall of 1984 I was able to take a 3-week trek around the Annapurna mountains, part of the larger Himalaya Mountain Range that extends east and west along the Nepal and China border. My route was a large counter-clockwise circle beginning at around 3,000 ft. altitude in the town of Dumre, climbing to the Tharong-La pass at 17,769 ft., and then hiking back down a different river valley, finally ending in the city of Pokhara. Within that circle are 6 peaks, all over 7,000 meters and many more that are over 6,000 meters. The views were spectacular and the trek… life-changing. Being surrounded by these massive mountains was truly an amazing experience.
Here, I’m taking the photo from the north, looking down on the others who were crossing the Tharong La with me. We’re trekking from left to right, now heading down into a completely different river valley. This was about 7:30 a.m., after about 4 hours of climbing (we left our camp in Pedi at about 3:00 a.m.). The date was November 15th and we are right about at snowline. Towering up on each side of us are peaks that are over 7,000 meters (22,000 to 24,000 ft.). The picture below is shot from the pass with a longer lense.
Even when the mountains are not as high as the Himalayan peaks, being surrounded by mountains is not an uncommon experience in many countries. For over 20 years we lived in Gunma, a prefecture in Japan with 12 cities on the flatlands, and 50 towns and villages located in several large mountains that surround the prefecture. Mt. Akagi, Mt. Haruna, Mt. Asama, and Mt. Myogi were just the main four peaks that were part of our daily lives.
The two photos below show Mt. Tanigawa (one of our highest peaks in Gunma) and Mt. Akagi, as it appears to most folks living down in the capital city of Maebashi during the summer season.
Psalm 125, our text for today, is referred to as a “Song of Ascents”. It was thought to be a song or chant that may have been sung by pilgrims as they climbed the road to the capital, Jerusalem, for one of the major festivals that took place there each year. Jerusalem is located on Mt. Zion, higher than the towns and river valleys below. Mt. Zion, in turn, is surrounded by mountains. While these are not mountains on the scale of the Annapurna range I mentioned earlier, the words sung here in verses 1 and 2 must have been deeply meaningful to the pilgrims as they walked along, aware of the mountains and geography surrounding them.
The poet gives us a beautiful word image – actually 2 images.
- In verse one, we see ourselves described as a mountain – like Mt. Zion – when we are able to place our trust fully in God. “Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.”
- Those who TRUST in the Lord – we can’t really do this unless we remove our trust in other things.
- …are like Mount Zion – the mount / rock on which Jerusalem stands; this would have been impressive for pilgrims to see and contemplate.
Scripture uses other word pictures to describe people:
- Some people are like sand, ever shifting and unstable (Mt. 7:26)
- Some people are like the sea, restless and unsettled (Is 57:20; James 1:6)
- Some people are like the wind, uncertain and inconsistent (Eph 4:14)
- But believers who trust in the Lord are like a mountain – strong, stable, secure
2. In verse 2 the image switches from us to God – God, as a surrounding and protecting range of mountains
“As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people.”
- Again, pilgrims would have been impressed at the reality of the geography as they made their ascent to Jerusalem.
- To have God pictured as mountains that surround us (we too are like a mountain) would be a very comforting and supporting image.
Let’s take these two images with us as we head into the week – Ourselves as mountains, and God as a surrounding protection of mountains. But let’s not forget. The key to these images is TRUST!
(The above is a summary of our message from November 15th shared during our zoom worship time. It was a thrill to have Pastors Steve and Betty Luttio join us from Minnesota…. and to sing for us a song based exactly on these two verses! A song that they have been singing since their college days.)