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  • Writer's picturePastor Mike

January 28 2024

Sunday, January 28

We are Pilgrims Passing Through


Psalm 120:1-7  A song of Ascents

1 In my distress I cried to the LORD, And He heard me.

2 Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips And from a deceitful tongue.

3 What shall be given to you, Or what shall be done to you, You false tongue?

4 Sharp arrows of the warrior, With coals of the broom tree!

5 Woe is me, that I dwell in Meshech, That I dwell among the tents of Kedar!

6 My soul has dwelt too long With one who hates peace.

7 I am for peace; But when I speak, they are for war.


Today we come to a new section of 15 exciting psalms, Psalms 120-134. Each of these psalms is called "A Song of Ascents." The Hebrew word translated "ascents” or "degrees" comes from a root that means "to go up," as ascending a stairway. Ten of the psalms are anonymous, four are attributed to David (Pss. 122, 124, 131, 133) and one to Solomon (Ps. 127). These psalms were selected to form a "hymnal" to be used by the people who went to Jerusalem for the three annual feasts (Ex. 23:14-19); Passover in spring, Pentecost in early summer, and Tabernacles in the autumn. The pilgrims sang these songs together as they journeyed in family groups to Jerusalem (Luke 2:41-52), and this helped to focus their minds on what the Lord had done for their nation.


The sanctuary is mentioned in 122:1 and 9; 132:7-8; and 134:1-2, and Mount Zion and Jerusalem are mentioned in 122:2-3, 6; 125:1-2; 126:1; 128:5; 129:5; 132:13; 133:3; and 134:3.  Three special themes are repeated: (1) the afflictions that Israel experienced at the hands of the other nations, (2) the gracious way God cared for and protected His chosen people, and (3) the blessing of being in Jerusalem. Israel had suffered contempt and scorn (123:3-4), near extinction (124:1-5; 130:1), traps (124:6-7), bondage (126:1, 4), and affliction (129:1-3), yet she is still here!


Under the leadership of Moses, the Israelites were a nomadic people for forty years. But after they settled in Canaan, the Lord required them to go to Jerusalem three times a year. This reminded them that, spiritually speaking, they were still a pilgrim people and needed to depend on the Lord. "For we are aliens and pilgrims before you," said David in 1 Chronicles 29:15.


Too many believers today want to be "settlers," not pilgrims and strangers (Heb. 11:8-10, 13-16; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:11). We are happy to settle down in our comfort zones and live as though Jesus never died, Jesus is not coming again, and our lives will never end. We are guilty of what Eugene Peterson calls "the tourist mindset," content to make occasional brief visits with the Lord that are leisurely and entertaining, all the while conforming to this world and enjoying it.


In Psalm 120, we are looking at the pilgrim and where he lives. The pilgrim in this psalm said he lived "in Meshech and in Kedar." Who was Meshech? He was one of the sons of Japheth. Genesis 10:2 tells us of "the sons of Japheth; Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras." From the sons of Japheth came the gentile nations, and Israel today is scattered among the Gentiles throughout the world. They dwell in "Meshech" located in Asia Minor.  "Kedar" was the son of Ishmael. It was located south of Israel in Arabia. Does that tell you anything? The pilgrim was living among the Arabs. How interesting is that?


Notice that in verse 2 he cries, "Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips and from a deceitful tongue." He was surrounded by people with mean tongues. The man who sojourned in Meshech had been maligned and lied about. I do believe that no people have been lied about, maligned, and persecuted as much as the Jews. We hear much about minority groups today, and the interesting thing is that the Jew has been able to make his way among all nations and peoples, but he has been criticized the entire time. Anti-Semitism has been real down through the ages; yet the Jew has been able to survive all of it. The Jews are a minority group among the Gentiles and among the people of the world; and they have lived in the place of gossip, quarrels, tensions, problems, and burdens. Also, this can be said of you and me.


Now, not only did the pilgrim live among people with mean tongues, but he lived in a world of war: "My soul has dwelt too long with one who hates peace. I am for peace; But when I speak, they are for war.” This certainly describes the Jews' current situation.


Today, like the pilgrim, we need to pray (vv. 1-2). We must trust the LORD (vv. 3-4), as the lost world lies about us. And we must patiently endure their hatred for us (vv. 5-7). And we need to remember that our citizenship is in heaven (Luke 10:20; Phil. 3:20; Heb. 12:22-24), and that should make a difference in our lives on earth. We need to "feel temporary" as we make this pilgrim journey called life.


God bless!

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