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Psalms 120-124 To Jerusalem for worship
Each of the fifteen Psalms 120:0 to 134 is entitled ‘A Song of Ascents’ (RSV; NIV). These psalms were apparently sung by worshippers from the country areas as they made the journey up to Jerusalem for the various annual festivals.
Whether or not the psalms were written for this purpose, they have been arranged in a sequence that reflects the feelings of the travellers. They provide expressions of worship for the travellers as they set out from distant regions, travel through the country, come to Jerusalem, and finally join in the temple ceremonies.
The collection opens with a cry from one who lives in a distant region and is bitterly persecuted by his neighbours (120:1-2). Their insults pierce him like sharp arrows and burn him like red-hot coals. He prays that God’s punishment of them will be just as painful (3-4). He is tired of being victimized. He feels as if he lives in a far-off land where he is surrounded by attackers from hostile tribes. He will set out for Jerusalem and seek some peace and refreshment of spirit in God’s house (5-7).
As he journeys through the hill country, the man knows that God who made the hills cares for him (121:1-2). Even when he sleeps by the roadside at night, God, who never sleeps, watches over him (3-4). God protects him from dangers by day and by night (5-6). Surely, God will take him to Jerusalem and bring him safely home again (7-8).
In the excitement of anticipation, the traveller pictures his dream as fulfilled. He recalls a psalm of David and pictures himself at last standing in Jerusalem as David once did (122:1-2). He sees it as a beautiful, well-built city, where the tribes of Israel are united in their worship of God, and where God rules his people through the throne of David (3-5). He prays that God will always preserve the city and prosper its people (6-8). He himself will do all he can for the city’s good (9).
Ungodly people mock the poor traveller, and others who have now joined him, for putting up with such hardships just to attend a religious festival in Jerusalem. The worshippers ask God to give them some relief by silencing those who mock them (123:1-4).
The persecuted travellers once more recall the experience of David and sing one of his psalms that reflects their own experience. As David was persecuted, so are they. Only through God’s grace and power have they been kept from much worse treatment (124:1-3). Their enemies are as violent and destructive as a raging flood (4-5), as cruel as wild animals (6) and as cunning as bird-trappers (7), but the travellers have the great Creator on their side (8).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Psalms 121". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany