121. To the Hills I Lift My Eyes

1 To the hills I lift my eyes;
whence shall help for me arise?
From the LORD comes all my aid,
who the heavens and earth has made.
He will guard through dangers all,
will not let you slip or fall.
He who safe his people keeps
never slumbers, never sleeps.

2 Your protector is the LORD;
shade for you he will afford.
Neither sun nor moon shall smite;
God shall guard by day and night.
He will ever keep your soul;
what would harm he will control.
In the home and by the way
God will keep you day by day.

Text Information
First Line: To the hills I lift my eyes
Title: To the Hills I Lift My Eyes
Meter: 77 77 D
Language: English
Publication Date: 1987
Topic: Comfort & Encouragement; Funerals; Marriage (4 more...)
Source: Psalter, 1912, alt.
Tune Information
Composer: Marcus M. Wells (1858)
Meter: 77 77 D
Key: G Major

Text Information:

A profession of the LORD's sure protection of his people.

Scripture References:
st. 1 = vv. 1-4
st. 2 = vv. 5-8

Psalm 121 is one of fifteen "Songs of Ascents" (120-134), psalms the Israelites sang as they went up to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. Its main theme–that the LORD is the unfailing Protector of those who look to him–surely made it appropriate for such use. However, it is equally appropriate for God's pilgrims on the journey of life. We confess that our security comes from the LORD, the Maker and Ruler of all creation, and receive assurance that the LORD never sleeps (st. 1), but watches over us day and night to protect us from harm no matter where we go (st. 2). The (altered) versification is from the 1912 Psalter. Other settings of Psalm 121 are at 180 and 448.

Liturgical Use:
Whenever the Christian church confesses its assurance in God's care and keeping; stanza 2 makes a fine choral benediction.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

Converted to Christianity as a youth at a mission in Buffalo, New York, Marcus Morris Wells (b. Cooperstown, NY, 1815; d. Hartwick, NY, 1895) spent most of his life near Hartwick as a farmer and maker of farm implements. He is remembered in hymnody for writing both the text and tune of "Holy Spirit, Faithful Guide." "On a Saturday afternoon, October 1858, while at work in my cornfield, the sentiment of the hymn came to me," writes Wells. "The next day, Sunday, being a very stormy day, I finished the hymn and wrote the tune for it and sent it to Prof. I. B. Woodbury." Isaac Woodbury was the editor of the New York Musical Pioneer, and the original text and tune were first published in that periodical's November 1858 issue.

GUIDE has been associated with Psalm 121 since the 1887 Psalter. GUIDE is a rounded bar form (AABA); it has basically one rhythmic pattern and a very simple harmony. One antiphonal arrangement that works nicely is to have a soloist ask the opening question and everyone sing the rest in reply. The tune's simplicity invites unaccompanied singing in harmony.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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