Reading: Psalm 120
A song of ascents.
I call on the LORD in my distress,
and he answers me.
Save me, LORD, from lying lips
and from deceitful tongues.
What will he do to you,
and what more besides,
you deceitful tongue?
He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows,
with burning coals of the broom bush.
Woe to me that I dwell in Meshek,
that I live among the tents of Kedar!
Too long have I lived
among those who hate peace.
I am for peace;
but when I speak, they are for war (NIV).*
Petrie Island in early May — photo by David Kitz
Psalm 120 is the first in a series of fifteen psalms that are called Songs of Ascent. Each psalm begins with this statement or title: A Song of Ascents. Some of the psalms also add this phrase: Of David.
Of course, this title begs the question, what are the Songs of Ascent? And furthermore, to what are we ascending? This compilation of fourteen psalms was composed for the use of pilgrims who were making their way to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. These are psalms of pilgrimage. They are called Songs of Ascent, or Psalms of Ascent, because Jerusalem is built on a high point in the land of Israel. Specifically, the temple compound was constructed at the summit of Mount Zion, so pilgrims were literally and figuratively ascending to worship at the House of God.
This first psalm in the series is really a lament. The psalmist is living in a distant place—a place far from God. All of us begin our pilgrimage—our journey to God—from a distant place. Just like the prodigal we find ourselves in a distant land, a land where there is no peace. Sin has its fleeting pleasures, but it brings no lasting peace, no deep contentment. We have wandered far from the Father’s warm embrace. The psalmist laments, “Woe to me that I dwell in Meshek, that I live among the tents of Kedar!”
The Songs of Ascent are all about drawing near to God. They are about going to the heart of worship and finding peace—true peace in the arms of God. But first we must recognize where we are. We are dwelling in Meshek—in a world far from the LORD. We need to acknowledge our true condition. Change happens when we recognize the truth about ourselves and our need for a Savior. Only then can we begin our journey toward peace.
Have faith in this promise. I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me.
Response: Father God, today I am continuing my journey toward you. Lord Jesus, I need you as my Savior. Help me set aside those things that hinder my journey to intimacy with you. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you living in Meshek? Have you begun your pilgrimage to arms of the Father?
* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
Volume II of Psalms 365: Develop a Life of Worship and Prayer by award-winning author David Kitz is available now. For a closer look at Volumes I and II click here.