The Scottish Psalms and Paraphrases were written out of a deep loam of spiritual passion and theological assurance. That theology could be stern, rendered inflexible by doctrinal rectitude, narrowed to the constraints of minds severely logical and tolerant mainly of Calvinism in its least tolerant forms. And pushed too far theological assurances and dogmatic certainty could lead to spiritual anxiety and an inner uncertainty about personal salvation and the demeanour of God towards this particular, and particularly undeserving sinner.
But out of such theology there sometimes grew a spirituality and experience of God that often enough was a corrective to such fear of the face of God, and that could be like sunshine on a heather covered hillside. This Psalm. paraphrased in sometimes quaint syntax, is one of the treasures of Scottish devotion. For myself, I like a bit of quaintness to balance the banality and predictably prosaic translations of the Psalms in most modern translations. Bennachie in the background of the photo, taken in late autumn, can be seen from our house, and from almost anywhere in much of rural Aberdeenshire. It isn't a mountain, it's a hill, and when I look to it, I understand why the versifiers of this old Scottish paraphrase got it so right. When my life is hard and the wind blows in my face, and my eyes are cast down, when inner horizons are constrained and shadowed by low lying clouds of sadness, when the path is slippery from moss and rain on hard rocks and the cumulative weariness of the long walk weighs like clothing soaked in Scottish drizzle, "I look to the hills from whence doth come mine aid", and pray that "henceforth my going out and in God keep forever will."
Psalm 121,A Song of degrees.
1I to the hills will lift mine eyes,
from whence doth come mine aid.
2My safety cometh from the Lord,
who heav’n and earth hath made.
3Thy foot he’ll not let slide, nor will
he slumber that thee keeps.
4Behold, he that keeps Israel,
he slumbers not, nor sleeps.
5The Lord thee keeps, the Lord thy shade
on thy right hand doth stay:
6The moon by night thee shall not smite,
nor yet the sun by day.
7The Lord shall keep thy soul; he shall
preserve thee from all ill.
8Henceforth thy going out and in
God keep for ever will.