Songs for the Journey of Faith (Psalm 120)

Read: Psalm 120

There are fifteen psalms in the Old Testament Book of Psalms that are identified as “psalms of ascent.” There are a couple of different interpretations as to how these psalms were used in ancient Israel. However, many reputable scholars believe that they were “traveling songs”—songs sung as the Jews made their way back to Jerusalem for one of the three annual feasts prescribed by God (cf. EX 23:14-19). 

Over the next several posts, I would like to invite you to join me in looking at these psalms as we engage in our own “faith journey.” God intends for these psalms to refocus our attention on God, His ways, and His purposes for our lives.

Psalm 120, the first of the psalms of ascent, is short and filled with numerous metaphors.

There are three major stanzas in the Psalm (v. 1-2; 3-4; 5-7) and each one has a different image that forces the reader to ask, “OK, what is the psalmist really trying to say here?”

The key to interpreting the psalm is found in the word “distress” in verse 2 and in the geographical names of “Meshech” and “Kedar” in verse 5.  
These foreign names are symbolic for places far from Jerusalem and God’s worshiping people. So apparently the psalmist is describing a life that has been lived apart from God, where he has been trying to find happiness, peace, and meaning. However, his attempts to find life apart from God left him in great “distress.” 

So what was the TRUTH this psalmist needed to learn as he made his way back to Jerusalem?
The very first verse gives us insight into what any Christian pilgrim needs to learn as we journey through life. The psalmist says that he “called to the LORD” in his distress, and “He answered me.” And what was the answer? He doesn’t say directly, but the rest of the psalm leads us to believe that WHEN LIFE LETS US DOWN, THE LORD IS OUR ONLY SOURCE OF TRUE SIGNIFICANCE.

Embedded within the metaphors of Psalm 120 are three “faith-steps” that we need to take.
First, we need to remember and affirm who the Lord is.  That is what happened to the psalmist in verses 1 and 2. He remembered what the Lord had done in the past. The Lord had been faithful, so he called on Him to “deliver” him in the present. When life lets us down, we must remember that the Lord is our Deliverer.

We will find the LORD to be our source of hope and peace when we relinquish our desires to get even. 

Notice that the psalmist changes his tone in verses 3 and 4.  It may very well be that some of the people he was hanging out with were people who had also betrayed him along the way. That happens quite often when we try to “find life” outside of a relationship with the living God.  But instead of getting even, he turned his enemies over to God for justice.

Who do you need to relinquish to God, instead of trying to get even on your own?

A final “faith-step” is found in verses 5-7. That is, we need to return to the ways of God.  In verse 6 the psalmist writes, “I have lived too long with those who hate peace.” The implication is that he was returning to the ways of God.

What do you need to do right now to return to God’s will and ways in your life?

Life is a journey, and there are challenges and dangers around every turn.  But we need not fear.  God gives us His music and His truths to live as the people of God.  In so doing, we will find the hope and peace that the world simply cannot provide. 

You may also like...