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  • Writer's pictureMatthew L. Tinkham Jr.

You're Surrounded!

Updated: May 2, 2023

“1 Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. 2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore” (Ps 125:1–2 ESV).

In Knoxville, Tennessee, we live very near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other beautiful mountain ranges that make up the East Tennessee portion of the Appalachian Mountains. The magical thing about our mountains is that, for many people, they afford a restful retreat from the busyness and stress of city life. A trip to the mountains can change the pace of life, putting all other things on pause so that fresh air, beautiful views, peaceful quietness, and diverting outdoor adventures can be enjoyed. In short, the mountains supply respite and solace for the anxious soul. I personally appreciate the mountains because of their immensity and their unshakeable strength. When reflecting upon the fortified solidity of the mountains, one is overcome with a sense of shelter and security that is reassuring, alleviating fears and putting at ease the mind. For this reason, mountains are often employed metaphorically by the writers of Scripture as symbols for God’s unfailing protection and ever-abiding presence. In fact, the psalmist utilized such a metaphor in Ps 125. Mount Zion was a title for the sacred hill upon which Jerusalem, the city of David, sat. In v. 1, the writer designed a simile in which the people of God who trust in him are compared to Mount Zion. How are these two entities similar to one another? Both are portrayed as possessing immovable strength and, therefore, having an eternal quality to them. What is it that makes them so? In the following verse, the psalmist pointed to the topography of the geographical region in which Mount Zion or the city of Jerusalem is located as the answer to this question. In both ancient and modern times, Israel was and continues to be a tremendously mountainous region of the Middle East. Jerusalem itself is nestled in the midst of the Judaean Mountains that run in a north-to-south direction. Jerusalem’s Old City during the time of David sat upon the southern part of what is called the Eastern Hill of the West Bank in this mountain range. To its north is the upper part of the Eastern Hill, famously known as Mount Moriah—the mountain upon which Abraham was tested to sacrifice his beloved covenantal son of promise, Isaac—and the Samaria Hills. To the east of Jerusalem beyond the Kidron Valley is a ridge of mountain peaks that includes the Mount of Olives, where Jesus often met with and taught his disciples centuries later. To the west of the city beyond the Hinnom Valley is the Watershed Ridge that slopes westward into the hills of the Shephelah and out to the Coastal Plain along the Mediterranean Sea. The Judaean Mountains continue to the south of Jerusalem, where well-known Mount Hebron lies, and end in the northern part of the Negev desert, where the mountains slope downward into the Beersheba Valley. As such, the city of Jerusalem is surrounded—surrounded on all sides by rocky hills and mountainous ridges.

The psalmist explained that the source of Mount Zion’s unshakeable strength is the mountains and hills that surround it. Likewise, the reason that God’s people maintain unwavering strength is due to the impregnable presence of God that encircles them on all sides. Just as Jerusalem is enclosed by fortified mountains and hills in all directions, so similarly are God’s people engulfed by his all-pervading presence. Bestowing great assurance is the psalmist’s comment that the Lord’s protective presence around his people does not come and go like the passing of the wind but rather abides in permanence as do the solid mountains in which Jerusalem is wrapped. Because God is eternal and omnipresent and passionately loves and cares for his people, so he abides with his people now and forevermore. He will never leave them or forsake them (Josh 1:5; Heb 13:5). For this reason, the people of God have nothing to fear. Their hearts are guarded with “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,” that his abiding presence ushers into their lives (Phil 4:7 ESV; cf. Ps 125:5). When facing the unknown, the worst of sufferings, or the greatest of evil, God’s people can stand “strong and courageous” in the boldness that his permeating presence imparts (Josh 1:6, 9 ESV). With the God who possesses all power ever with his people, who can stand against them (Rom 8:31)? Nothing is powerful enough to overcome them because “in all these things,” they “are more than conquerors through him who loves” them (Rom 8:37 ESV). Walled in on all sides by the presence of God, they can withstand any and all adversity. God’s righteous people are like the city of Jerusalem upon Mount Zion because they stand steadfastly in the center of the fortifying presence of the eternal, omnipotent God. They are surrounded—surrounded by the strengthening presence of God! When the psalmist referred to God’s people, he understood them to be “[t]hose who trust in the Lord” (Ps 125:1 ESV) and “those who are good” and “upright in their hearts” (Ps 125:4 ESV). The true people of God fervently believe that God will fulfill the covenantal promises contained within his word. Without any doubt, they trust that God will be faithful in his presence, provision, and protection for them. When faced with loneliness and depression, they have full confidence that God is always there. When challenged by various needs and the accompanying worries and anxieties, they are assured that God will take care of them. When threatened with suffering or even death itself, they do not shudder; they know that God will shelter and shield them. This quality of radically unquestioning trust in God’s ability and desire to be there for them at all times is what enables his people to be as immovably strong as Mount Zion. Their mature faith in the omnipresence and omnipotence of the eternal God develops in them characters that match that of his own; they are good and upright because they trust in the goodness and righteousness of God. The question for us is this: are we a part of God’s true people? Are our hearts guarded with a peace that results from a settled, steadfast trust in God’s presence, provision, and protection? Do we live fearlessly, no matter the difficulties we face in our lives because of the confidence that we have in being surrounded by the ever-abiding presence of God? If you can answer these questions with a resounding “yes,” then you are indeed a part of God’s covenantal people and, as such, possess the promise of his all-pervading presence. However, if you have questions or doubts, I want to encourage you to put God to the test of his word. Claim his promises and watch your confidence in him grow, as he proves himself faithful at every turn. Trust in his presence. Believe in his provision. Have faith in his protection. Experience being surrounded—surrounded on all sides by the eternal presence of God. In the new year of 2023, my hope for you is that you daily seek for the divine presence to surround you much in the same way that St. Patrick of Ireland did. He wrote a beautiful prayer in the fifth century AD that expressed his wish for Jesus to surround him with his presence. This prayer continues to spiritually enrich Christians today. Here is a brief excerpt of that prayer pertinent to this theme.

“Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in the ear that hears me.”

Stuart Townsend wrote and arranged a hymnic song called “Christ Be with Me” that is based upon The Prayer of St. Patrick. Check it out at this website:

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