Psalms 120-131

Good morning! After yesterday’s apparently never-ending Psalm 119, today we have a marathon of another sort, twelve psalms in one day! Psalms 120-131 are grouped together as the majority of fifteen songs stretching to Psalm 135. These chapters are all listed under the heading “A Song of Ascents”. These go by the name “pilgrim songs” in other places, and they were likely used for pilgrimages up to Jerusalem for the thrice-yearly temple festivals. Some of these psalms focus on the destination—Jerusalem itself—while others equate the physical “Mount Zion” with metaphysical confidence in the God who “dwells” there in the temple (see psalm 125), or focus attention on God alone. Regardless, each song declares steadfast hope and faith in God’s righteousness.

Jerusalem gets the poetic treatment most intentionally in Psalm 122, and a bit more obliquely in Psalms 127-128. For a pilgrim who had spent days on the dusty, dangerous road, it must have been encouraging to come up the ancient path to something like what is now the “old city” at the heart of Jerusalem, surrounded with walls and gates. These structures suggest security and trust, with all the overlays of religious/temple and political/throne protection that are at hand in Jerusalem. Journeyers show mercy and peace to one another on the way, for the sake of their destination. Psalm 127 is attributed to Solomon, so perhaps we might not be surprised that it focuses on the building of a house (temple?) and the guarding of the city. Note the pious emphasis that it’s God who does the building and the guarding. Such a disposition—politically astute yet faithfully reliant on God—marks the ideal of ancient wisdom. Psalm 128 assures of happiness and goodwill for all those who practice righteousness. Jerusalem’s blessings extend out to create domestic bliss among all those who fear (read: “follow”) God.

Three other favorite psalms in this collection focus less on Jerusalem, but still use earthly imagery to convey heavenly hope. I like to read Psalm 121 with families at a time of a funeral because of its overflowing comfort and assurance. The questioner asks, “from where will my help come”, then immediately receives seven verses of God’s providential care and protection. Beautiful agricultural images about in Psalm 126. I can easily picture the incredible relief on the faces of those who have had their fortunes turned for the better, who come home with a joyful harvest. Those who thought they were condemned to death are seated instead at a table of never-ending bounty. Finally, Psalm 130 is another fervent prayer, trusting in God and waiting to see deliverance. Again, beautiful imagery has made this one of the most well-known psalms. Happy reading!

Read Psalms 120-131.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Psalms 132-136. Thanks for reading!

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