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Posted By Nan

Psalm 122
This beautiful Psalm is the third in the triad, so it covers the recognition of Security in the Lord.
It starts with the words “I rejoiced with those who said to me ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’.” (NIV). When the pilgrims heard those words they desired to go to the temple to meet with God and Worship Him because that was the only place they could come into God’s presence. Now that we have the gift of the Holy Spirit we can worship God anywhere. But the words still carry the same excitement. Let us be in God’s presence and worship Him.
This first verse also speaks of the duty of the pilgrim to thank God. We have that same duty and it is an important one. If we do not spend time thanking God for what He has done then we can easily forget what He has done and fall away from faith in Him. In verse 6, we are also asked to pray for peace for our fellow believers and verse 9 tells us we do this for God’s sake. It is important we have unity as fellow believers. This unity is despite our nationality or culture, and despite the place a person worships in or even if the fellow believer worships in any organised congregation. Fellow believers are fellow believers. They matter to God, so they matter to us.
In The Message this verse is written as “for the sake of the house of our God, GOD, I’ll do my very best for you”. So do your best, because God loves you and you seek to please Him and serve Him.
Isaiah 21:1-5 speaks of the last days when people and nations will come to God in streams. We will all come before God’s throne and before He returns all whose names are written in the book of Life will come to God. What a wonderful thought!
As our ancient pilgrim speaks this psalm he may already be at the temple. Or he may be still trudging up the road to Jerusalem praising God for the time when he will be at the temple. He would be praising God that he can come to Jerusalem to worship God. The thought of being able to worship God in the temple results in the prayer of delight.
Isaiah 26:1-4 speaks of how we live by faith within the ‘strong city’ of Jerusalem (Jesus). His strength allows us to move forward in this life through all the perils and difficulties we face. All the pilgrims who enter the stronghold are individual people from different nations and cultures. In Jesus there is unity of faith and we are followers of Jesus together. What we have in common is our faith. We are motivated by obedience to Jesus’ call to take up our crosses and follow Him. Our aim is to praise Jesus and Jesus blesses us by revealing Himself to us.
In time all will be made whole. Our Jerusalem is that place that is not of this world but is to come (Revelation 21:1-5). Until that day comes we can be as the pilgrim and live in His Joy and look forward to the day when we can reside in Jesus’ perfect Joy with Him.
I leave you with some verses from Isaiah 26. If you get a chance the entire chapter is wonderful to read.
V9a “My soul years for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you.” (NIV)
V1-4 “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal” (NIV)
Thank you God that you are the Rock eternal and you keep us in your perfect peace.

 

 
Posted By Nan

Psalm 121
This psalm is the second in the triad, so it talks about how God keeps us secure.
In the time these psalms were written, journeys carried risks as travellers passed through lawless areas containing bands of robbers waiting to prey on travellers. The roads were also little more than tracks with many slippery and rough patches that could cause a traveller to fall and suffer injury.
As the small groups of pilgrims climbed the road to Jerusalem, they must have anxiously scanned the hills, looking for those robbers. They would lift their eyes to the mountains and ask themselves “where shall I find help? Does my strength come from the mountains?”(v1) The answer is given in verse 2 when they reply to themselves “no, my help comes only from God, the one who made heaven and earth, as well as the mountains.”
In verse 3 the pilgrims remind themselves that God will not let them stumble. He never sleeps and is constantly vigilant, even to watching over them while they sleep. It is interesting to note that the verb “to keep” is used six times in the verses 3 to 8. Here in verses 3 and 4 the pilgrims remind themselves that God redeemed Israel and will watch His people on their way home. Not only will He watch over the pilgrims as they pass robbers, He will also watch over them as they traverse the rough, treacherous roads.
In Verse 5 the pilgrims speak of God being their guardian, “your shade at your right hand” (NIV). In Israel the term shadow used in this context referred to being protected against oppression. It was often used to refer to a King. Here is it used to refer to the King of Kings. The reference to right hand is a reference to the fact that the soldier would carry his shield in his left hand and would need protecting on his right sword side. Here God is offering protection where there is none.
Verses 5 to 6 refer to the way God stands between us and every threat, whether at night or by day, whether physical or spiritual.
The pilgrims conclude the psalm by reminding themselves of the way God guards them from all harm and guarantees their personal security as well as being with us in the busyness of life. This He promises He will do now and forever. After all, He is our Redeemer and Companion.
How beautiful it is to have this Psalm. To be able to read and contemplate the wonderful message of it. Never forget:
“I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven and earth and mountains … God guards you from every evil, he guards your very life. He guards you when you leave and when you return, he guards you now, he guards you always” (The Message 1-2, 7-8)
Praise God for His eternal and unquenchable love.

 

 
Posted By Nan

Psalm 120
As discussed in the last blog, this psalm fits into the triad of distressing situation, God’s power to keep secure or deliver and security in God.
This is the distressing situation psalm. It is also a prayer for deliverance from false accusers that is answered by God.
This psalm is attributed to David. It speaks of a time when he was forced into exile by those who were charming and lovely to his face but behind his back spread lies about him. The result of this was his exile. In Psalm 57, also attributed to David, verse 4 speaks of the tongue being as deadly as the sword. This is something Jesus emphasised in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-26) where he spoke of it being more harmful to murder someone’s reputation through slander than to kill them. We all suffer from that type of behaviour. Some more than others. As with David, we do not know the lies spoken about us. We only know that bad things have been said and people think worse of us for it. It is impossible to fight against such subterfuge. All we can do is ask God for help.
In verses 3-4 David speaks of God’s assurance that He will act to defend or exonerate David. (see also Psalm 6:8-10 and 3:8). However, the lies have forced David into life in a bad place where he suffers prolonged harassment (5-7). Often, when we are slandered like this, our prayers are heard but our situation does not change. It reminds me of the metaphor of falling over a cliff and clinging to a small plant growing out of the cliff. I cannot get back up to save myself. All I can do is cling to that plant and wait for God to save me, knowing that He will.
Verses 5-7 and the complaint of living in such a difficult place speaks of a man who is not happy there, but he accepts he is there and will continue clinging to the plant until God saves him. It is an application of the saying “Let go and let God”.
Oh to have such faith!

 

 
Posted By Nan

Today I am commencing a new study on the Songs of Ascents, Psalms 120-136.
A few months ago, I studied the Songs of Ascents as part of my daily devotions. I have always loved these psalms but never thought much about how they fitted together. I had never even paid attention to the words “Songs of Ascents” at the top of the psalms. I was intrigued to realise that most of the psalms I loved fitted into this section and I was curious to learn more, so I decided to study them for myself in my blog.
Most commentators agree that psalms 120-136 were songs sung by pilgrims on their way up to Jerusalem on the annual pilgrim feasts. These psalms spoke of the return of the pilgrims to God and a restoration of the relationship between them and God. Remember, before Pentecost the Holy Spirit was not freely available for all people. People went away to their homes and sought to live their lives as well as they could in the local synagogues. The three feasts they could attend in a year were important times to reconnect with God. After all, the Ark of the Covenant resided in the temple. This was the place to worship God. Whereas we can worship God anywhere, the Israelites had to attend the temple. This made these special times in the temple very important to the people. This was when they would attend the temple, offer sacrifices for their sins, and be in God’s presence.
Just as we often prepare for Easter and Christmas by setting aside time during Lent and Advent to study the events and reflect on what God has done for us, the pilgrims spent their time travelling to the Temple for these special events reflecting on God.
The psalms have been grouped into five groups of three and 135-136. For psalms 120-131 the threes comprise the first psalm discussing a distressing situation. Following this the second psalm talks of the Lord’s power to keep secure or deliver from, build up or give hope to the distressed. In conclusion the third psalm talks of security in the Lord. The aim appears to be to keep the travellers focused on God and why it is important to come before Him to offer praise and seek forgiveness for sin. Great material for reflection and preparation!
The last triplet of psalms (132-134) are psalms of arrival in God’s presence, fellowship with fellow faithful and blessings from God. In their way the psalms journey from the darkness of the world of psalm 120 to the security of being in God’s house and under His blessing of 134.
The last two psalms in the songs of ascent trace the steps of the journey from Egypt to Canaan. In 135 it is portrayed as a great pilgrimage. Certainly the Israelites spent 40 years in the desert getting to know God and being prepared for entry into the Promised Land. The overwhelming message of these two psalms is the benefits of being God’s people. The benefits due to God’s nature which is love that endures forever. What a beautiful focus for the pilgrim and an essential truth for us to understand!

 

 
Posted By Nan

Verse 8
For thy virgins’ robes of snow,
For thy maiden Mother mild,
For thyself, with hearts aglow,
Jesus, Victim undefiled,
Offer we at Thine own Shrine
Thyself Sweet Sacrament Divine.
When I first read the original words of Pierpoint, I read this verse and thought it was a good verse to have removed in the more modern versions. How foolish that thought was! Having studied this verse and consulted the Bible, I realise how beautiful these words are. I will admit one of the problems I had with this verse was its reference to Mary. Especially when I realised Pierpoint was a great believer in many aspects of Catholic doctrine. I cannot understand the adulation and ‘god worship’ of Mary that occurs in some religious institutions and I felt this verse was worshipping Mary. Having prayed about it and studied the Bible I realise this was not what the words were saying at all.
Perhaps the best Bible verses to read to understand Mary’s attitude to events is found in Luke 1:34-38, 46-55. Mary considered herself blessed. She was a humble woman with a deep faith in God. She sought God’s glory, not her own and sought at all times to serve God, no matter what the cost. The cost to her of being pregnant when unmarried was possible exclusion from society and a life of poverty, if she was not stoned. She did not know when the angel came to her that she would be protected by Joseph. She only sought to accept what God wanted for her life. Her response to the angel was to say that she was the Lord’s servant and she accepted what He was going to do in her life. (Luke 1:38). Twice in Luke she is spoken of as being “favoured by God” (1:28,30). As with other people of faith in the Bible, God sought them out because they were faithful to do His work and were humble. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (NIV).
In Hebrews 11 we read that Abel had faith and offered his gift to God with generosity. His motivation and heart attitude were to serve God humbly (v4). In Genesis 6 we read that Noah led a Godly life, had faith in God and sought to live a life pleasing to God. Hebrews 11:3 tells us that the people of faith understand the universe was formed at God’s command. Those who have faith seek to please God. To have faith we must believe that God exists and rewards those who earnestly seek Him (v6). We must also admit we are aliens and strangers on earth (v13). We must long for our heavenly country (v16). When we have faith God is not ashamed to be called our God and we find favour in His eyes. A good example is Moses, who was prepared to suffer in God’s name and put self last and God first (v24-26). Of course that is what Jesus referred to as denying self, taking up our cross and following Him (Mark 8:34-38).
This leads us to the best example of faith, of denying self and of finding favour in God’s eyes. Jesus. He was the victim undefiled. The man who did not sin but offered Himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sin. So, in response to this, we offer a sacrifice of praise and seek to take up our crosses, to die to self and live for Jesus because we have faith in what is to come.
“Christ Our Lord, to Thee we raise
This our sacrifice of praise.”
In the next blog I will be commencing a study on the songs of ascents – Psalms 120-134.

 

 


 
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Nan
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