Today we set out on a pilgrimage and journey with others in an ascent to a higher place (Psalm 120-125).
The collection of psalms we think of today as Psalm 120-134 are known as “Songs of Ascent” (cf. the header to each of these psalms). Imagine a group of travelers making their way to Jerusalem (cf. Deut. 16.16a) and singing these brief songs along the way. The caravan sets out far from Jerusalem (Ps. 120), experiences what it does along the way (Ps. 121), and then finally arrives at Jerusalem (Ps. 122).
Other songs either sung along the way and/or while in Jerusalem are included (Ps. 123-133). These psalms cover a variety of topics, but often on touch family matters (e.g. – the proper raising of children), as might be expected as families travel together and sing.
Finally, a psalm that functions well as a word of benediction for the group’s departure as they set out on the road to make their way back home rounds out the collection of the songs of ascent (Ps. 134).
This morning we read Psalm 120-121.
We travelers are far from Jerusalem as we begin our journey and we reflect on just how far things are from what we would like them to be in our life.
“… I dwell in Meshek … I live among the tents of Kedar! … among those who hate peace. I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.” (120.5-7)
The journey itself is demanding for us as we travel uphill and through valleys, but we continue on in faith with the Lord’s help. We are thinking often, “How much further?”
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord … He will not let your foot slip — the Lord will watch over your coming and going.” (121.1-2a,3a,8a)
Today, at mid-day, we read Psalm 122-123.
Lo, we’re here! We’ve made it to our destination: Jerusalem!
“Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem.” (122.2)
Our jaw hangs slack as we greatly rejoice and wonder over the city. And so, we’re moved deeply to pray.
“There stand the thrones for judgment, the thrones of the house of David. … May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.” (122.5,7)
And pray some more.
“I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven. … Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us.” (123.1,3a)
This evening, we read Psalm 124-125.
We deal with the dangers along our journey with faith, reminding each other during, and after, of how the Lord continues to see us through all things. We journey by faith and we rehearse our faith, reinforcing our faith via songs we sing together.
“… if the Lord had not been on our side when people attacked us, they would have swallowed us alive when their anger flared against us …” (124.2-3)
Everything around us reminds us of our God’s steady care for us, even the lay of the land becoming metaphors to us of his strong protection. They seem to call to us to trust him more and more. And so we call out to each other to do just that.
“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.” (125.1-2)