Psalms 120-134 are all headed ‘Song of Ascent.’ It is likely that pilgrims prayed these psalms when they went up (ascended) to the temple in Jerusalem (built on a mountain) in anticipation of experiencing God’s presence. This Advent we’ll reflect on some of these Ascent Psalms as we make our own ascent to the celebration of our Lord’s 1st Advent.
In Psalm 120, the psalmist refers to Meshech and Kedar, places outside of Israel’s borders, and both hostile to Israel. “They represent the strange and the hostile” (Eugene Peterson. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Intervarsity Press, 1980, p. 25).
Prepare to listen. Light the 1st purple candle, praying, ‘Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.’
Prayerfully Read Psalm 120
In my distress I cry to the LORD, that he may answer me: ‘Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.’ What shall be given to you? And what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue? A warrior’s sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree! Woe is me, that I am an alien in Meshech, that I must live among the tents of Kedar. Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. 7I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.
This isn’t a joy-filled psalm; not one we include in most church praise music! The psalmist is in distress because of the lies and deceit around him. Today our culture is drowning in lies, fake news, distortions, conspiracy theories and made-up stories, filling us with fear. Unless we become distressed and dissatisfied, fear will lead to a wasteland of hatred and violence. But we can turn fear into a seed that grows into beauty and truth.
In the psalmist’s distress he first cried out to God to destroy the liars with ‘A warrior’s sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree!’ That sounds like a good solution, but God doesn’t always oblige us. Instead, he waits for us to own up to our part in the lies and deceit, and repent; to say with the psalmist, ‘Woe is me.’ And then act like an alien among people hostile to truth by seeking peace when everyone else seeks war. I am for peace; this is what people in the way of Jesus say and stick to even when everyone else is opposed to peace.
In what ways can you show you are for peace not war (as in discord)?
Respond to Jesus
Lord you often stood alone for truth and peace. Help me live like you and stand up for truth and stand against the lies and deceit in my culture, even if it means I’m alone in standing for peace. Amen.
Go live obediently in the world standing for peace and truth.