Psalm Saturday: Song of Ascents

Psalms 120 through 134 are called the Psalm, or Song, of Ascents. Four of the psalms are ascribed to David (Psalms 122, 124,131, and 133). One (Psalm 127) is credited to Solomon. It is believed that these psalms were sung by worshippers as they ascended the road to Jerusalem during the annual pilgrimage festivals.

Sweet T and I had the profound experience of participating in a recreation of this worship tradition during our 2012 trip to Israel with a group from our church led by Todd Bolen. Our group recited these psalms aloud as we climbed the stone steps on the south side of the Temple Mount. Walking where millions of sandals had stepped before us in ancient times was a humbling and deeply inspirational moment of worship.

Jesus had walked here.

Southern Steps at Temple Mount _edit

“Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed.”

Deuteronomy 16:16 (ESV)

Reciting the Pslams of Ascent

Worshippers would enter the Temple from these southern steps, three times a year, after the prescribed cleansing in the adjacent ritual baths, or mikvot.

Tradition and ritual serve an important purpose in our lives. Yes, we tend to rebel and revolt against such things in our modern 21st century society. Even our church culture tends to distance itself from the relics of ritual and tradition. Some of that, of course, is for good reason. However, not all custom and ceremony should be cast onto the woodpile waiting for the fire to consume it.

Throughout history, diverse cultures, and numerous religions recognized the value and importance of reminders and repetition. Early Jewish cultures understood the necessity of rehearsing truth while living in a world that countered God’s Word at every turn. Today, we recognize the need to remind ourselves of God’s truth as Christians living in 21st century America during this tumultuous period in world history. Without reiterating it, God’s truth can be drowned out by the resounding dissonance resonating from the public square proclaiming faith, prayer, and worship are misguided at best, if not utterly impotent and useless.

The thousands that made the pilgrimage and recited the Psalms of Ascent from memory several times a year were reminded of the keys of life such as faith, forgiveness, grace, mercy family, children, community; peace, hope, love; brotherhood and sacrifice. Practicing this thrice-yearly ritual helped them maintain right attitudes toward the Lord and toward others.

Naturally, tradition and ritual can not save us. Scripture makes it clear only faith in Jesus can accomplish our salvation. But, as with our forefathers and our ancestors, repetition and observance of our cultural and religious practices help remind us of the difficulties and challenges we have overcome and serve as milestones guiding us along the path forward.

They remind us of who’s we are. 

Ascending the Southern Steps

One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. ’The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.

Mark 12:28-30 (NLT)

Giving God priority and treating others as we ourselves would like to be treated empowers us to leave a lasting thumbprint on the world we inhabit and the people we encounter.

Southern Steps at Temple Mount (3) slide

Deliver Me, O Lord

A Song of Ascents

Psalm 120

In my distress I called to the Lord,

and he answered me.

Deliver me, O Lord,

from lying lips,

from a deceitful tongue.

What shall be given to you,

and what more shall be done to you,

you deceitful tongue?                                                        

A warrior’s sharp arrows,

with glowing coals of the broom tree!

Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech,

that I dwell among the tents of Kedar!

Too long have I had my dwelling

among those who hate peace.

 I am for peace,

but when I speak, they are for war!

Come, Bless the Lord

A Song of Ascents

Psalm 134

1 Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,

who stand by night in the house of the Lord!

2   Lift up your hands to the holy place

and bless the Lord!

3  May the Lord bless you from Zion,

he who made heaven and earth!

 

 

Psalm Saturday: Psalm 9 Gratitude

Gratitude is an amazing thing. When I get down, shifting my focus from what’s bugging me to the numerous things I should be grateful and thankful for immediately changes my perspective. Gratitude reminds me that even when things look bleak, there is way more good in this world than we can always readily see. It is difficult, if not downright impossible, to be angry or worried when I am grateful. Hatred cannot exist for long in a grateful heart.

In Psalm 9, we witness David praising God for demonstrating His righteousness in judging wicked nations, providing deliverance for David from his enemies, and for being a trustworthy God. These themes repeat themselves through many of David’s psalms. Even though he experienced trouble, some directly of his own making, David never lost sight of the goodness of God and the incredible things the Lord had done in his life.

Like David, we should remember the Lord’s past acts of demonstrated grace and undeniable mercy in our lives so that we can be sure to praise Him publicly for these wonderful things He has done. God’s past faithfulness gives us confidence in His present and future trustworthiness. God remains faithful today and forever.

Psaturday Psalm

 

Psalm 9

To the choirmaster: according to Muth-labben. A Psalm of David.

1 I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. 2 I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

3 When my enemies turn back, they stumble and perish before your presence. 4 For you have maintained my just cause; you have sat on the throne, giving righteous judgment.

5 You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish; you have blotted out their name forever and ever. 6 The enemy came to an end in everlasting ruins; their cities you rooted out; the very memory of them has perished.

7 But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, 8 and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness.

9 The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. 10 And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.

11 Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds! 12 For he who avenges blood is mindful of them; he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

13 Be gracious to me, O Lord! See my affliction from those who hate me, O you who lift me up from the gates of death, 14 that I may recount all your praises, that in the gates of the daughter of Zion I may rejoice in your salvation.

15 The nations have sunk in the pit that they made; in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught. 16 The Lord has made himself known; he has executed judgment; the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion. Selah

17 The wicked shall return to Sheol, all the nations that forget God.

18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.

19 Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail; let the nations be judged before you! 20 Put them in fear, O Lord! Let the nations know that they are but men! Selah

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