Saturday, May 21, 2011

Psalm 120

A Cry in Distress

Psalm 120 opens the first of 15 psalms known as "Songs of Ascents"  (also called 'Songs of Degrees' and 'Pilgrim Psalms').  Most Biblical scholars understand these psalms as songs sung by pilgrims as they went up to Jerusalem to celebrate the great feasts.  Thus, these psalms accompanied the "ascent" to the city of God.  Some scholars believe that specifically there were fifteen steps by which the priests ascended into the Temple, on each of which they sang one of these fifteen psalms.
The City of God today
Jerusalem, 2011

In the 16th century, scholar Benedictine Genebrardus defined the fifteen degrees of going up out of the valley of weeping to the presence of God to be
  1. affliction,
  2. looking to God,
  3. joy in communion,
  4. invocation,
  5. thanksgiving,
  6. confidence,
  7. patient waiting for deliverance,
  8. God's grace and favour,
  9. fear of the Lord
  10. martyrdom
  11. hatred of sins
  12. humility
  13. desire for the coming of Christ
  14. concord and charity
  15. constant blessing of God
In my distress I cried to the Lord,
And He heard me.
~ Ps. 120:1

The best men may sometimes be in the depths, in great trouble and affliction.  But in the greatest depths, it is our privilege that we may cry unto God and be heard.  ~ Matthew Henry
My grandmother Mae loved this hymn, and would play it on the piano when she would visit our home - what a beautiful truth to remember and live by:

What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O, what grief we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear -
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.
~ Joseph Scriven 

I love the words of Sarah Young in Jesus Calling as a reminder to us when when feel overwhelmed:
Keep your eyes on Me!  Waves of adversity are washing over you, and you feel tempted to give up.  Your gravest danger is worrying about tomorrow.  If you try to carry tomorrow's burden today, you will stagger under the load and eventually fall flat.  You must discipline yourself to live within the boundaries of today.  It is in the present moment that I walk close to you, helping you carry your burdens.  Keep Your focus on My Presence in the present.
In verse 5, the psalmist mentions Meshech and Kedar - these are references to two tribes who were a far distance apart, and suggests the barbarian-like people among whom the psalmist lived.  In spite of his efforts at peace, his enemies reacted with hostility. 

  • God hears my cries of distress
  • God is my deliverer against lies & deceit
  •  I praise the Lord that I can carry all my burdens and griefs to Him . . . and that - as He heard the cries of David - He hears my cries today
  • I praise God that unrighteousness will not ultimately prevail against His people
~ Ruth Harms Calkin

With overflowing gratitude
The Psalmist said
"We will write songs
To celebrate Your mighty acts!"
Lord, on the keyboard
Of my grateful heart
I too have composed songs
To celebrate Your unequaled greatness
Your faithfulness
Your splendor and majesty.
Lord, the most triumphant song of all
Exalts Your measureless love.
With joy and adoration
I sing it again and again.
As long as I live, O God
I shall continue to sing
My songs of exuberant praise!

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