Sunday, August 2 – Saturday, August 8
Psalm 113– Psalm 126
What to look for in Psalms 113-126
This week, we will read both the shortest (117) and the longest (119) Psalms in the Psalter! We will also read a couple of well-known Psalms. Aside from being the longest Psalm, Psalm 119 is well-known for it’s praise of God’s word written in an acrostic form(God’s laws praised from A to Z!) And parts of Psalm 118 are well-known because the gospel writers noted its connection to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on what we now call “Palm Sunday.”
What might not be well-known in our section of Psalms this week is the subsection of Psalms often called the “Pilgrim Psalms” of the “Songs of Acent.” Each of these Psalms, s 120-135, has a subscript”song of ascents” at the beginning. In Hebrew, the word we translate as ascent literally means to “go up.” One interpretation about the Song of Ascents is that the Israelites sang them on their way back to Jerusalem after the exile. Ezra uses this word when he describes the Israelites going “up” to Jerusalem from Babylon, after the Persian King Cyrus gave them permission to go home (Ezra 2:1; 7:6-7).
A more common interpretation is that these were songs that pilgrims sang and prayed and they traveled to Jerusalem and up to the Temple (which was on a mount) during annual festivals of worship. For the original readers, Jerusalem was a place that embodied Yahweh’s promise to be with them and rescue them. This side of the resurrection, we know that God’s promise to be with us and rescue us, is not embodied in a geographic place, but embodied in Jesus. In this light, we too can sing the Songs of Ascent as pilgrims. Though we are not literally walking to Jerusalem, we too are pilgrims as we walk by the Spirit, following Jesus, to the glorious future that God has promised when Jesus returns. It is a future in which God’s Kingdom has fully come, bursting with God’s peace, justice, beauty, and goodness.
This week, let the Songs of Ascent stir your longing to be fully in the Lord’s presence, and fully in His recreated heavens and earth that will be reality when Jesus returns. As you read, ask the Lord how He wants to use this longing to help you live with hope and passion in the present moment.
Questions to ask of Psalms 113-126
Consider reading about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, with the entire context of Psalm 118 in mind (Matthew 21:1-11). How does the whole of Psalm 118 help you understand the hopes of the people on Palm Sunday?
Though we are literally walking to Jerusalem, we too are pilgrims as we walk by the Spirit, following Jesus, to the glorious future that God has promised. As a pilgrim, which Song of Ascent most clearly articulates the longings of your heart? Which encourages you most on your journey at this time?
Does anything about these Psalms make you feel uncomfortable? Why?
Does anything about these Psalms increase your trust in God?
Lord, help me not to forget that I am on pilgrimage, walking by the Spirit, following Jesus, towards Your glorious promised future, full of your shalom. When I feel distracted, give me a longing for my true Home that no other desire can meet. When I feel weary or discouraged, lift my gaze to you, the Maker of Heaven and earth. When I lose my way, have mercy on me and return me to Your path. Through this life, may our eyes be focused on You. In Jesus’ name, amen.