We want it all so fast. We dream of lottery wins, overnight successes, and magical romances — windfalls of success. An instantaneous arrival at our desired destination is the myth we often pursue.
But what if I told you there is a better life — a life that takes a journey, steps, a climb? I think that is the life we will confront in studying these fifteen songs.
It might be slow. It might be a process. It might take resolve. BUT IT IS GOOD! SO VERY GOOD!
These were songs of ascents, alluding to the climb to Jerusalem for the Hebrew worship feasts.
God had asked them to come to the tabernacle/temple/Jerusalem three times a year (Exodus 23:14).
- Passover in March-April (a.k.a. Unleavened Bread) — commemorated blood and exodus.
- Firstfruits in May-June (a.k.a. Pentecost, Weeks, Harvest, Oaths) — commemorated provision of Canaan.
- Booths in September-October (a.k.a. Ingathering, Tabernacles) — commemorated the wilderness wanderings.
The feasts provided an incredible opportunity to refocus on God, reviving their covenant with Him.
- 1 PUT GOD AT THE CENTER: To make pilgrimage was to prioritize God — Exodus 34:24 (ESV)—24 For I will cast out nations before you and enlarge your borders; no one shall covet your land, when you go up to appear before the Lord your God three times in the year.
- 2 BATTLE FOR HOLINESS: To make pilgrimage was to pursue holiness — 1 Peter 2:11 (ESV)—11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
- 3 ADOPT THE UNCONVENTIONAL LIFE OF FAITH: To make pilgrimage was to live and see by faith — Hebrews 11:13 & 16 (ESV)—13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth…16 …they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
This collection of Psalms will affirm you in your pursuit of God, His holiness, and the better life of faith.
Psalm 120 (ESV)— A SONG OF ASCENTS. 1 In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. 2 Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue. 3 What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue? 4 A warrior’s sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree! 5 Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! 6 Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. 7 I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!
Theme: Immersed in an atmosphere of ungodliness, make the personal decision to embark on pilgrimage, to live in exile, to live the climb.
Here: 4 Prerequisites Which Aid Your Decision To Climb
Prerequisite #1 — Distress (1-2)
1 In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. 2 Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.
Words had distressed our singer. The distress caused prayer. But more than prayer — pilgrimage.
To say: “I’m done doing it the world’s way. I’m sick of their way. I’m out.” Without this distress you won’t exit.
To hear Jesus say: Matthew 11:28–30 (ESV)—28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Prerequisite #2 — Foresight (3-4)
3 What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue? 4 A warrior’s sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree!
He begins to speak to the lying lips (2) and deceitful tongue. He wonders aloud what will happen to them. What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you?
Put another way: Where will the flow of this age lead you? Your answer to this question is vital to the pilgrim life.
Answer: It will all come crashing down on you.
The tongue that lies will be judged — Proverbs 19:5 (ESV)—5 A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape.
Do you believe this?
God’s inevitable judgement of lying lips is a microcosm — to understand this microcosm is important for adopting pilgrimage.
This brand of life doesn’t work out.
- Eventually — eternally.
- Experientially — this life right now.
Romans 6:21 (ESV)—21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.
Prerequisite #3 — Incompatibility (5-6)
5 Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! 6 Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace.
Meshech: son of Japheth, grandson of Noah. Established a people group far north of Israel (often associated with biblical places like Tubal and Magog).
Kedar: son of Ishmael. Established a nomadic tribe.
Meshech and Kedar represent the unsuitable and unfriendly.
Once you are born again you begin to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3), so you start to see the sin and evil in our world. You begin to feel out of place.
Many biblical characters felt an incompatibility:
- Like Noah, who walked with God during a time when every intention of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5, 9).
- Like Jeremiah: Jeremiah 9:2 (ESV)—2 Oh that I had in the desert a travelers’ lodging place, that I might leave my people and go away from them! For they are all adulterers, a company of treacherous men.
- Like Micah: Micah 7:2 (ESV)—2 The godly has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among mankind; they all lie in wait for blood, and each hunts the other with a net.
- Like Pergamum church: Revelation 2:13 (ESV)—13 I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name…
Prerequisite #4 — Peacemaking (7)
7 I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!
Jesus sent us out as sheep in the midst of wolves (Matthew 10:16). Here, the singer feels that.
You can almost be made to feel as if you have taken up war words, while the world has peace words, but this is untrue. You are for peace, O believer. But when you speak peace words they will sometimes incite war words.
Like David and Saul, we are to have the harp in our hand, but expect an enraged world to have the spear in theirs at times.
True Peace: Ephesians 2:13–16 (ESV)—13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
Keep your head on here. What you want for the world is true peace.
- True multiculturalism.
- True forgiveness.
- True mental health.
- True ending of hostility.
The community will climb, but individuals must join. Will you?