A SONG OF ASCENTS
In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. 2 Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue. 3 What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue? 4 A warrior’s sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree! 5 Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! 6 Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. 7 I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!
A few thoughts for meditation:
This is the first of the Songs or Psalms of Ascents (Ps 120-134), which were sung by the Jewish pilgrims on their way to the feasts in Jerusalem. Psalm 120 and 121 focus on the pilgrim’s journey to Jerusalem while the rest focus upon the arrival and worship time within Jerusalem with God and his people. Psalm 120 begins with a worshiper living far from Jerusalem surrounding by a hostile culture. He cried out to the Lord for deliverance and received an answer even though he dwelt far from the temple. God is Lord and Judge over the whole earth. He hears the cries of his people and answers their prayers no matter where they may be. The worshiper faced two particular problems here. He was harassed and homesick.
1) First, he as harassed by the wicked tongues of his enemies. Though they did not necessarily attack him physically, they attacked with lying and deceitful words. We don’t know what the specific offenses were. Perhaps they mocked him for his faith in the Lord or his refusal to participate in the cherished sins of that culture. Perhaps his neighbors were spreading rumors about him which damaged his reputation. Perhaps people were making promises and breaking them simply because he was a foreigner or religious minority. Perhaps it was a combination of these things. Whatever the case, it was a bitter and painful experience. Contrary to the nursery rhyme, words can hurt you, sometimes even more than sticks and stones. They can crush your soul or damage the opinion people have of you, making life miserable.
2) Second, he was homesick. He longed to be with God and his people again. He wanted to be in church. He cried out “woes is me” because he lived far away. Meshech was far northeast from Israel in Asia. Kedar was far to the southeast where the Arab tribes lived. So perhaps the worshiper is speaking as a representive of all believers who live among the Gentile world in that day. Or perhaps he is only giving voice to what he feels like spiritually, estranged from God and his people, even though he may actually not live far from Jerusalem. What makes him long for home is the constant state of conflict with his unbelieving neighbors despite his efforts to live at peace with them. They will not stop attacking him even though he poses no threat and seeks to reach out in kindness. Such is often the case with many believers. They strive to be kind and turn the other cheek and let God return vengeance whenever he deems it wise, but still face opposition. But Jesus reminded us in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” When you live in a culture hostile to God, it will often be hostile to those who seek God. And very often, the only refuge we have in those times is when we gather for worship with God and his people. That is what this worshiper longed for, another feast in Jerusalem, where he could reunite with his fellow believers in the presence of God, be reminded of the story of their salvation, and enjoy a moment’s rest from the attacks of the enemy.
What about you? When you strive to live faithfully to God, do you feel like a foreigner? Do you cry out to God in your time of need or discouragement? Does it make you homesick for those times of public worship with God and his people? Jesus warned us that though we live in this world, we are not of it. But through those times of public worship and fellowship we get a refreshing taste of our heavenly community and receive grace from God to continue on. Let us pray those times of public worship can resume soon.