Scripture reading for June 29th: Psalms 120-127
Today’s reading is a set of psalms that were known as the “songs of ascent”. These were songs sung by pilgrims as they traveled on their three required yearly visits to the temple for the celebrations of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. The pilgrims usually came up the road from Jericho to Jerusalem and experienced an elevation change from 1200 feet below sea level in the Dead Sea and Jericho area to over 2600 feet above sea level in Jerusalem. The climb was difficult for several reasons. It was a dry area with little water and the terrain was rough. It was also an area known to be inhabited by robbers and marauders who would prey on the pilgrims.
The first psalm in this series begins with the pilgrim in a place where he is in distress. He is in a place where he is living among those who hate peace. They are deceitful people and have lying tongues. The lying tongue hates those it hurts! He is far from God’s house and God’s people and realizes his need to call on the Lord and begins his journey to the city of God. This journey may be what you need today, take time to call on the Lord and decide to move towards Him!
Psalm 121 is a favorite psalm of many. I memorized it as a child in Sunday School. As the psalmist begins the journey upward to Jerusalem, his eyes see the hills and he realizes that this journey is impossible in his own strength! The climb is difficult and there are many dangers. He confesses that his help comes from the Lord, who is Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:2) The Lord will keep him safe and watch over him. God will keep him safe during the hot sun of the daytime and the treachery of the darkness! In fact, God will keep him from all and any harm, not only now but forever! What an encouragement for us today! No matter what obstacle or hazard or mountain of difficulty, God is with us to help us!
The central goal of the journey is Jerusalem, the city of God and God’s covenant community! Psalm 122 is a song that reminds the traveler of the joy that awaits him and his fellow-pilgrims when they arrive. They long to stand in the gates of that city and can actually see themselves there. It’s a city closely compacted, a tight-knit community centered around the temple and worship of the Lord, this Maker of Heaven and Earth! The tribes go up to praise the Lord according to His statutes! (Psalm 122:4) Jerusalem is the city of ‘peace’ and all are encouraged to pray for the peace of the city. In a world where war, hatred, lying and deceitful tongues form the social context of where we live every day, peace is the norm in God’s city. It comes by prayer and consistent seeking. We must maintain that peace by centering on God Himself! Take time today to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and to seek it’s prosperity!