Running for the Hills

Tash, who is part of our Inclusive Gathering community, shares a personal reflection …

Back in 2004 Psalm 121 became very important to me. My mum was ill and in hospital, suffering from a (then) undiagnosed chest condition. I was at university and, in a single-parent family, found myself needing to look after my younger sister, who was still in secondary school at the time. It was spring term so exams were approaching. In the midst of all of the fear and uncertainty, I felt overwhelmed. And at some point during that time, I remember reading these words:

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.

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.

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.

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.

(Psalm 121:1-8)

Since that time, those opening words have been a constant source of support, the question asked and answered.

I don’t do any physical running anymore just because of previous injuries (or so I claim!), and only the wicked run when no-one pursues them (Proverbs 28 and a smile), but during this pandemic I’ve thought about where I run spiritually.

Thankfully the Bible speaks often about who we run to, not how far, how long or how fast. In the book of Psalms, there are so many references to God as a fortress. Clearly the idea of God being a fortress for His people was an important one, just as it is today. It was something they kept coming back to. He was their known in the midst of the unknown.

At the start of Psalm 59 we are told that it was written by David when King Saul sent men to watch his house in order to kill him.

Verse 9 says

O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress. My God in his steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.

Verses 16 – 17 say

But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.

David was a military man and so he would have well understood the concept of a fortress. To many people, David was the fortress, he was their security. David was the one they sang about ‘Saul (the king at the time) has killed his thousands but David his tens of thousands.’Even before that, David had entered the battlefield and killed the giant Goliath, the enemy that had the whole army quaking with fear.

But in his psalms, in his prayers and praise to God, David declares over and over again that God is his fortress.

For a fortress to be of use, for a fortress to be of value, you need to know where the fortress is! For God to be your fortress in life, you need to know where God is. For David, God was right there because he had a relationship with Him. That’s why this psalm mentions God the whole way through, in the first and last verses.

David knew that God was with him because they were in relationship. God wasn’t just there in his day of distress: God was there, involved and invited to speak into every day in David’s life.

In Psalm 71, another psalm of David, he writes

Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.

I love how openly dependent David is: God is the refuge where he may continually come, again and again and again.

In this season and in every season, we don’t need to run for the hills. Instead we can look to the hills and beyond them, knowing that because of Jesus, we have a fortress to run to, even if it means we run to Him each and every day.

About the Author … Tash lives and works in Birmingham. When she isn’t working she enjoys being an introvert which means drinking coffee and reading books! She loves being a part of Inclusive Gathering and is grateful to have a safe space to worship.