My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

07 June 2005

Spiritual Songs - Psalm 120

Psalm 120 - Homesick Pilgrims


Homesick, heavenly pilgrims in a land of lies and wars, the church is to set her eyes on the throne of grace through the worship of God, calling to Him, confident of His answer and deliverance.


This is the first of the “Songs of Ascent” (Pss. 120-134), songs collected to be sung by the Hebrews on their yearly journeys to Jerusalem for the Divine feasts. Because these original pilgrims were headed toward Jerusalem for worship, the worship of God, through Christ and by the Holy Spirit, should be seen as the backdrop or context of each Song of Ascent.

And so it is with Psalm 120. At first glance, it may seem like everyday discontentment. But at the heart of it, this is a song sung by those deeply distressed – distressed not just at the state of this world, but because they feel, deep down, “this is not my home. I don’t belong here, I’m not happy to stay here.” Has the church become too comfortable here? Have God’s people forgotten that we are travelers, destined for a far greater country? Have we taught our children that this isn’t our home? This song will help remind us, will help by calling us to a divine dissatisfaction with this world, even while we love the lost sheep wandering here.

First, we see that God hears the prayers of such homesick pilgrims (v. 1), and for this we can give thanks. The Lord will give ear to your cries from this lonely world. He will hear you and lift you up. Second we see the song’s first area of complaint: that this is a world of lies. Surely, few of us have to be convinced of this. Lies are the food of much advertising, the theme of most sitcoms, the backbeat of radio hits, the heartbeat of human-centered philosophy. Where in this world can we turn to find the truth? Who will give us the plain, unvarnished truth that we need to hear? Aren’t you yet frustrated with this world of lies? If so – good! Lies are not the innocent creatures they would have us believe; they are sharpened arrows, destructive coals.

Our final piece of dissatisfaction is this world of war. Dwelling with Meshech and Kedar refers to living among heathens committed to warfare instead of God. Perhaps nothing has characterized the history of man more than war. Mankind has never been without war, never been free from factious tribes or fighting nations. Despite the frequency of the word “peace” in the mouths of politicians, we have no reason to anticipate peace in this world. And that’s precisely it – this world is destined to be redone, dismantled and reassembled into a glorious, heavenly place where peace will reign. Let us sing with Divine discontentment, longing for that day, calling God to save us from lies & wars.


“The song reminds us that if we are Christians, this world is not our real home. We cannot settle down in Meshech or be at home in Kedar. So if you are, stop trying to conform to this world’s lies and ways of life. Put on your hiking boots, Strap your pack on your back. Say good-bye to your sins, and start marching to Zion. The King of Glory is waiting for you.” James Boice

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