Psalms of Ascent: 120

We are beginning a new devotional series through the Psalms of Ascent. They consist of 15 songs (Psalms 120-134) that were sung by the people of Israel as they traveled to the city of Jerusalem three times a year during the Pilgrimage Festivals: Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles.

The songs have diverse themes and ideas. Some are celebrations, others are laments, and many are a little bit of both. But what ties them together is that they were sung by a community on their way to the City of God. In that sense, they are extremely relevant to our lives today. We are all on a pilgrimage towards the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom. The journey is long and difficult. So let us travel together, carrying with us, in our hearts, minds, and lips, the prayers and proclamations of those who have traveled this road before us. The first of these proclamations is in Psalm 120:

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!

The main idea of Psalm 120 is trusting in the Lord in times of great evil. It is a lament of the state of the world. The psalmist was surrounded by liars and people who hated peace. He/she saw the sin happening all around, and instead of participating in the darkness or giving over to despair, called out to the Lord for deliverance.

This deliverance is multifaceted. It is first and foremost protection from these evildoers. Lies and deceit are destructive, both to the victims and to the liars themselves, as we see in the rest of the passage. In verse 3, the psalmist begins speaking directly to the enemies. He/she speaks of a coming judgement from the Lord. Even in the midst of great anguish and suffering, there is hope that God will bring forth justice.

We live in a time of great evil. Liars and those who hate peace surround us. Our nation's leaders from both sides of the political aisle make promises they can’t keep and speak division into our lives. Entertainment, social media, advertisements, and manipulative people around us are constantly filling our heads with false ideas and half truths.

But Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. The people of God sang Psalm 120 together three times a year so that no matter what was happening around them or in the midst of them, they could be reminded that God brings justice. Let us join them in calling out to the Lord, because we know he will answer our prayer.