A Journey Through the Psalms of Ascents: Intro and Psalm 120
Psalms 120-134 are known as the Psalms of Ascents. They were sung by pilgrims as they were making their way to Jerusalem from whichever direction they came from. Since Jerusalem was set on a high elevation, these pilgrims ascended to their place of worship.
Of course, as with the rest of the Psalms (there are 150 of them combined), there is a mix of themes going on. In other words, within the Psalms of Ascents, there are Psalms of lament, psalms of thanksgiving, psalms of wisdom, psalms of celebration, psalms of confidence in the character and promises of God, and there are psalms of royalty.
What I find most interesting about the Psalms of Ascents is it’s parallel to the everyday Christian life. Psalm 120 is all about repentance, which is symbolic of the very first step to becoming a born-again believer. Psalm 134 is all about ‘arriving’ to Jerusalem, which is symbolic of the believer arriving to heaven after a lifetime of being molded into the imitation of Jesus. And then Psalm 121 through 133 is addresses all kinds of life experiences that every pilgrim experienced which is directly symbolic of the experiences that born-again believers will experience. This may be times of doubt, times of joy, times of confidence, times of lament, times of suffering, and so forth.
The Psalms of Ascents illustrates what the life of a Christian looks like.
Here, we’ll spend a few minutes on Psalm 120.
What jumps out at me is the very beginning of this Psalm which says, “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.”
So, what’s happening here. What’s happening is that the person is in trouble, is distressed. The culture in which this person lives in is a culture of lies. They are lies that are antithetical to the gospel; to the truths of God. At first, these lies may seem attractive, but then they betray you. They make promises to and about you that don’t deliver.
Perhaps culture says that there is no God. Perhaps it says that you can handle the messes of life without God. Perhaps it says that you are a good-for-nothing individual because of something you did years ago. Perhaps it says that you are good enough and there is no need for God. Perhaps it says that you are too bad for God to be able to do anything for you or want to do anything for you.
Some of these lies we’ve bought into and they’ve made us feel empty inside. Psalm 120 is all about turning away from those lies and running to the truths of God. It’s really about repentance. Repentance is a turning away from the lies that are said about us and the lies we create to make us look good and the lies we accepted.
Repentance is running the opposite direction of trying to do life all on our own; of believing that there is enough goodness in us to be alright. Repentance is refusing to be your own god and turning to the true God to be your Savior and Messiah.
But culture doesn’t want this for you. It wants you to be your own god; to pursue your own pleasures and individual freedom. If we accept this, we will never find peace for peace can only come from being made right with God and that can only happen once we are forgiven. Forgiveness comes when we repent.
Until we repent, life will be empty. It will be miserable. It will be a fleeting after that which is void. It’s futile.
So, this Psalm is about deliverance from the chains of culture’s lies. We can’t break those chains. Only God can. He is willing.
But, let’s understand something though. Being delivered from the lies of culture does not mean escaping culture. It means running to God who will, in turn, give you the strength, wisdom, and power to live as light in the midst of culture. We must never embrace or escape culture. We must always embrace it and we can’t do this when we’re not delivered; when we’ve not repented.
The million dollar question for you today is, “Have you repented?” or have you just been going through the motions with no regard to who truly has your heart? Have you just been a religious being or have you truly been born again? Until you’ve repented we cannot go on this journey of ascents. Until we come to terms with Psalm 120, we cannot go on to Psalm 121.