Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, April 23rd, 2024
the Fourth Week after Easter
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 120

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-7

This time let's turn in our Bibles to Psalms 120:1-7 to begin our Bible study this evening. Now you'll notice these psalms have a heading. The psalm, "A song of degrees." The word literally is ascents, A-S-C-E-N-T-S. And these are sort of the marching songs for the people of Israel as they would come thrice annually to Jerusalem to worship the Lord.

There's a lot of things about the nation Israel that excite me. There are a lot of things that I wish that somehow we could incorporate in our worship of the Lord. This business of all of them gathering together three days out of the... well, actually there was the feast days were seven days, but three times out of the year. At the Feast of Passover, at the Feast of Pentecost, and at the Feast of Succoth or Tabernacles. This business of everybody gathering together and just having a great worship service and a great feasting time and a time of worshipping the Lord. This, to me, would be exciting when the nation, the whole nation, is gathering to acknowledge that God reigns over the nation. And just the worshipping of the Lord together. How exciting that must have been.

Now Jerusalem is situated, in a sense, in what is known as the Jerusalem Mountains. So no matter where you are coming from, you are ascending towards Jerusalem. Whether you come from the Galilee region or the Jordan region, and usually coming from Galilee they would come down the Jordan River and then from Jericho make their way up the twenty miles to Jerusalem. Or whether you're coming from the Sharon valley, the coastal plains, the area of Joppa or whatever, you're always coming up when you come to Jerusalem. You're coming from Beersheba, coming from Samaria, you're always ascending up to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is sort of on the mountain, and yet, it is surrounded by mountains. Mount Zion, Mount of Olives, Mount Scopus, and the mountains that surround the city itself, but yet from anywhere in the country, coming to worship you are ascending to the city, and so these were called the songs of the ascents.

These were sung by the pilgrims as they were coming to Jerusalem on these glorious feast days. Coming to worship the Lord. And so the songs that they were singing as they were coming. Now in the marching and so forth, there are certain cadences that they get into when they're marching, and sometimes they sing songs in cadence to go along with their marching. You know, the count off, one, two, three, four, you know. And it's always sort of fun, you know. "First they hire me, then they fire me, then by golly I left! I left. I left, right, left." You know, and going along in cadence. And so these were those kind of songs that they would sing in sort of a cadence as they were coming to Jerusalem to worship the Lord. Remembering many times the alien areas where they were living, those who were alien towards God and alien towards those who worship God. So remembering the enemies and the areas from which they have come, but they had anticipation. And in these next fifteen psalms, there is underneath that anticipation, I'm soon going to be standing there in the assembly, worshipping God. And that glorious anticipation of standing there in Jerusalem, within the gates of Jerusalem, worshipping the Lord with the assembled multitude.

According to Josephus there were, many times, well over a million people who would gather for these feasts to worship the Lord together. So the first of these psalms of ascents, the psalmist is looking forward to that time.

In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me. Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from the deceitful tongue. What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue? Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper. Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar! ( Psalms 120:1-5 )

In other words, he's coming now from these antagonistic areas, Mesech, Kedar, people who hate God. People who have been against those who worship the Lord. "I've been dwelling there, O God, I've cried unto Thee in my distress."

My soul hath long dwelt with him that hates peace. I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war ( Psalms 120:6-7 ).

So the first psalm expresses that turmoil of living in a world that is antagonistic towards God. Much the kind of a world that you live in. And so many times living in the world, living amongst the ungodly, we can identify with the soul that is longing for that fellowship with God. The soul that is longing for that peace of God, and yet, all of the turmoil, all of the confusion, all of the lying and conniving and all that is going on in the world around him. And so the soul longing for God. And as he is coming towards Jerusalem, because you're always ascending upwards,


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Psalms 120". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/psalms-120.html. 2014.
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