Psalms 120-134 were sung as pilgrims made their way up the Judean hills to Jerusalem to celebrate the three annual feasts of Israel. A sort of hymnal for these traveling worshippers, these “Songs of Ascent” contain some of the most beautiful and moving sentiments in the Bible, and are well worth a thoughtful study.
Psalm 120 is a plea for relief from bitter enemies, and emphasizes God’s presence during times of distress. The psalmist cries, “Deliver my soul, O Jehovah, from lying lips, And from a deceitful tongue,” (vs. 2).
Psalm 121 confidently affirms God as the helper of those who seek him, and the keeper of his people. “I will lift up mine eyes unto the mountains: From whence shall my help come?My help cometh from Jehovah, Who made heaven and earth,” (vs. 1, 2).
Psalm 122 celebrates the joy of going to the house of the Lord, and includes a beautiful prayer for the peace of Jerusalem. “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go unto the house of Jehovah,” (vs. 1). This psalm still epitomizes the attitude of worshipers as they assemble for Christian worship today.
Psalm 123 is an expectant prayer for relief from contempt and disfavor, stressing the need to be patient for God’s mercy. “Unto thee do I lift up mine eyes, O thou that sittest in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their master, As the eyes of a maid unto the hand of her mistress; So our eyes look unto Jehovah our God, Until he have mercy upon us,” (vs. 1-2).
Psalm 124 praises the Lord as the defender of his people who rescues them from their enemies. It reminds us that “Our help is in the name of Jehovah, Who made heaven and earth,” (vs. 8).
Psalm 125 asserts that the Lord is the strength of his people, and is round about them constantly. “They that trust in Jehovah Are as mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abideth for ever. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, So Jehovah is round about his people From this time forth and for evermore,” (vs. 1-2).
Psalm 126 envisions a joyful return to Zion, with thanksgiving for Israel’s return from captivity. This psalm includes the inspired basis for one of the most beloved of our beautiful worship songs, Bringing in the Sheaves. “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing seed for sowing, Shall doubtless come again with joy, bringing his sheaves with him” (vs. 5-6).
Psalm 127 describes laboring and prospering with the Lord and affirms that true prosperity comes from Jehovah. “Except Jehovah build the house, They labor in vain that build it: Except Jehovah keep the city, The watchman waketh but in vain,” (vs. 1-2). It also recognizes the profound fact that children are a blessing from God. “Lo, children are a heritage of Jehovah,” (vs. 3).
Psalm 128 describes the blessings of those who fear the Lord. These blessings include the joy of God’s way. “Blessed is every one that feareth Jehovah, That walketh in his ways. For thou shalt eat the labor of thy hands: Happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine, In the innermost parts of thy house; Thy children like olive plants, Round about thy table,” (vs. 1-3).
Psalm 129 is a song of victory over Zion’s enemies, while Psalm 130 describes waiting for the redemption of the Lord. “I wait for Jehovah, my soul doth wait, And in his word do I hope,” (vs. 5). Psalms 131 tells of simple, childlike trust in the Lord, and Psalm 132 is a prayer for the Lord’s blessing upon the sanctuary or house of God.
Psalm 133 is perhaps the most famous biblical statement on unity: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity,” (vs. 1)! Psalm 134 closes the section with praise for the Lord in his house at night.
The Songs of Ascent never grow old or out-dated. They continuously thrill us with their beauty, their grandeur and their enduring timelines!
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.