Read: Psalm 120
Psalms 120 – 134 are described as Psalms of Ascent or of Degrees. Some have speculated that the “degrees” refers to the repetition of words in each of the psalms; e.g. in Psalm 120, “deceitful tongue,” “sojourn/dwelling,” “peace,” causing us to ascend throughout the psalm to greater levels of intensity. But most commentators think the “ascents” refer not to the style of the Psalms, but to their use. Some say they were used by the priests as they ascended fifteen steps leading from the outer to the inner court of the temple, one Psalm for each step. Others say they were used by pilgrims as they ascended to Jerusalem for the three annual feasts; each psalm being sung on a particular stage of the journey.
Think About It: What would make Psalm 120 especially fitting for the beginning of a spiritual journey?
Prayer: Lord, help me to ascend through my life, moving ever closer to You.
Read: Psalm 120:1; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Peter 4:12 – 13
The Hebrew word for trouble is tsarah, meaning distress, affliction, vexation, anguish, tribulation. Trials and tribulations should not be a surprise to us as Christians; they are promised to us.
Think About It: What is the psalmist’s response to the trouble in which he finds himself? What trials and tribulations am I having right now? Am I following the psalmist’s example? The Hebrew word for “cried” is used for calling out to someone we meet on the way. What does this imply about God’s involvement in our trials and tribulations?
Prayer: Lord, help me in my time of trouble.
Read: Psalm 120:1; 99:6; 118:5; Jeremiah 29:12; 33:3
When the psalmist cried out to God, God answered. The King James Version translates this as “He heard me,” but the Hebrew anah refers not just to His hearing, but to a response. Psalm 120 affirms an oft-repeated promise of Scripture.
Think About It: When and how have I experienced God’s answers to my prayers? How would I put God’s promise to answer prayer in my own words?
Prayer: Thank God for hearing and answering my prayers.
Read: Psalm 120:2; 59:12; Isaiah 32:7; Proverbs 14:8; 20:17; Ephesians 4:15
In Psalm 120:2 the psalmist named his trouble: those who lied and spoke deceit against him. The psalmist cried to God for his soul to be delivered from lying and deceitful words. The soul – nephesh— is the mind and very life of the person, the seat of the emotions and passions. A malicious slander attacks the essence of the person in a soul-destroying way.
Think About It: Have I ever been the victim of slander? Have I ever given in to the temptation to slander? Ephesians 4:15 provides the imperative that is the antithesis of slander: speaking the truth in love. What is the difference between “speaking the truth” and “speaking the truth in love?”
Prayer: Lord, help me to speak the truth in love.
Read: Psalm 120:3 – 4; 12:3 – 5; Job 6:4; Revelation 22:15
Psalm 120:4 describes both the impact of falsehood and the nature of God’s retribution against those who practice lying and deceit. Like an arrow, a lie cannot be called back once it is released — it speeds on to its damaging conclusion. The coals of the broom tree were said to retain their fire for a long time; like those coals, lies have a long-lasting effect.
Think About It: How does God’s punishment of liars “fit the crime”? What is a truly Christian way to respond to those whose lies and deceit harm me (1 Corinthians 4:12 – 13; 1 Peter 2:23)?
Prayer: Lord, grant me the grace to respond to reviling with blessing.
Read: Psalm 120:5 – 6; 2 Peter 2:8; Hebrews 11:9 – 10, 14 – 16
Psalm 120:5 – 6 contains the psalmist‘s lament, “Woe is me!” The people of Mesech lived, in biblical times, roughly in the vicinity of Sochi, Russia, site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. They were considered vicious barbarians. The “tents of Kedar” were dwelt in by sons of Ishmael, herdsmen with a bad reputation for being argumentative and litigious. In response to this predicament, the Psalmist regarded himself as a sojourner — as moving through the bad neighborhood in which he found himself, not as a partaker of its culture or its crimes.
Think About It: Based on the example of Lot and Abraham, how am I to regard this sinful world in which I live? How can I keep the corruption of our culture from infecting my life?
Prayer: To be preserved from the corruption which infects this world.
Read: Psalm 120:7; Romans 14:9; 2 Corinthians 13:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:13; Hebrews 12:13; James 3:18; Romans 10:15, Ephesians 6:15
Though he lived among men of war, the psalmist continued to speak for peace. While regarding ourselves as pilgrims bound for the heavenly Jerusalem, we must continue to speak peace to the world through which we move.
Think About It: What are some situations and circumstances in my life where I need to be a spokesperson for peace?
Prayer: Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.