1.) In my distress I cried to the LORD, and He heard me.
2.) Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips and from a deceitful tongue.
3.) What shall be given to you, or what shall be done to you, you false tongue?
4.) Sharp arrows of the warrior, with coal of a broom tree!
5.) Woe is me, that I dwell in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar!
6.) My soul has dwelt to long with one who hates peace.
7.) I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.
Psalm 120 is the first of the Songs of Ascents. There are 15 of these, beginning with Psalm 120 and going through Psalm 134. Four of them, Psalms 122, 124, 131, and 133, are attributed to David. Psalm 127 is attributed to Solomon. The authorship of the others is unknown. They are called Songs of Ascents because they held the ceremonial function of being read at the feast of Passover as the celebrants approached the temple. The main entrance of the temple in Jesus’ day was on the south side of the temple mount. There, one would go by the baths and the merchandisers and on to the main temple court. There were other gates, of course, but this was the primary gate for the people. It was here where Jesus entered on the day following Palm Sunday. There were 15 steps (not your typical steps) approaching the gate. The custom was for the pilgrims, as they approached, to stop on each step and read or recite from memory one of the Psalms. One entire Psalm for each step. The gate as it was in Jesus’ day is not there anymore, but the steps are. They are located in the middle of what is now the Christian/Crusader cemetery outside the southern wall of the temple grounds. On our trip to Israel, stopping at these steps was one thing we were told would happen, and I was looking forward to it. We were to stand and read a Psalm of Ascents on each step, reliving the ancient tradition. Disappointingly, we were not able to because of time constraints….
If you read all fifteen Psalms, you will find they are not really alike. As a sum, they incorporate the total spectrum of life. From praise and thanksgiving to fear and doubt. From statements of faith and promise to questions of grace and mercy. It is interesting, because we think of Passover as this massive celebration of joy, love, and peace. It was! But the Psalms helped to ground the children of Israel in the remembrance of their true celebration.
I intend to return to Israel one day and stand on those steps and read those Psalms. Yet we don’t have to be in Israel to read them. As we prepare ourselves for Easter, let us in our own homes take time this week to read these Psalms. They are not long at all. You could read them in one sitting. But let’s divide them up, three a day, beginning today. Put yourself in the place of the Hebrew pilgrims as they approached and prepared to enter one of the grandest sites in the world: the center of their faith, the throne of the God Most High, the Master of the Earth and Sky, the God of Power and Creation, the Almighty Sovereign of the Universe. Let them help us, as we move toward Easter, to celebrate the God who lives with us in our total spectrum of life; the God who walks with us through our praise and thanksgiving, our celebrations of joy, love, and peace and who rejoices in our faith; the God who also carries us in our fears, our doubts, and our questions. That we may truly have a heart of real celebration this week! Just think what we have to celebrate – the gift of the Lord’s Supper, the finished work of salvation on the cross, the empty tomb, the resurrection which brings our justification. This enables us to approach not the throne made by humanity, a throne of wood and stone, but the very throne of grace eternal in the heavens, where our Lord Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father. Where all His enemies are placed at His feet!
Remember to read and claim Psalm 91 in the first person each day this week.