Monthly Archives: July 2018

Psalm 121

Title: The Lord is my Keeper

Text: Psalm 121

Introduction: A kindergarten teacher told every student to draw a picture of what was important to them. In the back of the room, Johnny began to labor over his drawing. Everybody else finished and handed in their picture but Johnny didn’t. He was still drawing. The teacher graciously walked back and put her arm around Johnny’s shoulder and said, “Johnny, what are you drawing?” He didn’t look up; he just kept on working feverishly at his picture.

He said, “God.”

“But Johnny,” she said gently, “no one knows what God looks like.”

He answered, “They will when I’m through.”

 

Today I want to describe God to you in such a way that you’ll know Him better. I can’t say you’ll know what he looks like when I’m done, but I hope you’ll have a deeper, richer understanding of Him.

 

Open your copy of God’s Word to Psalm 119. I want to show you the flow of Psalms. Psalm 120;

This morning we move from Psalm 120 – a statement of distress and struggle, to a psalm of God’s magnificence. This Psalm is really all about God: His greatness and His goodness.

What a great lesson – even before we begin – to take our eyes off of us, off of our problems and focus in on God.

In this situation of distress and struggle, the Psalmist changes his tune (pardon the pun).

The Psalmist asks a rhetorical question to begin with: rd v 1 – I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?

Let me give you some context quickly. This Psalm was originally set in the context of the King asking this question and responding to himself. In v.2 he answered himself. Then, in v.3, the Priest would take over the Psalm with this amazing declaration of God’s greatness. When the Israelites returned from exile, they used this Psalm in the context of themselves – those returning from exile. They would speak in v1-2 and the Priest would make the declaration in v3-8;

  • Confession of Faith: Where does my help come from?
  • Confidence in His Character:
    • He is steadfast, causing us to be Immoveable,
    • He is faithful. People will let you down. A Human Guard will fall asleep while on duty, while on the wall. Not so with God.
    • He is your protection, your guard, and your keeper.
    • Not just in this moment, but in your future, He can be trusted.

Transition: so, let’s begin with this first section – the voice of the people who are beginning their journey.

From where does my help come? They know.

I.     A Confession of Faith in the Creator God. (1-2)

exp.: rd v 1a; the hills, or mountains. There is this idea of lifting up the eyes to see where God is. You’ve probably noticed that Israel – against God’s demands, by the way – offered sacrifices on the ‘high places’. These folks had a perception that God dwelt on high and wanted to offer their sacrifices on high. But God told them that sacrificing on the high places was what the previous occupants of the land did and they weren’t to be like those people. The Israelites were given specific commands about sacrificing. Again, I don’t think this is a concerned question (i.e., like I’m scared and I don’t know where I’ll get the help I need.) I think this is rhetorical in nature. Rd v 1a again; rd 1b; I love this word ‘help’.

  • Help: We often think of help as that assistance that makes work or toil easier. That isn’t what this word means in Hebrew. Help in Hebrew doesn’t mean assist. It means without assistance, without intervention I would die or I would fail – I would not make it. The English idea of help has weakened this word. Consider: rescue, redeem or
  • Lord: Yahweh. God’s covenant name. And then, there is an answer you might not expect. My help comes from the Creator God – Yahweh. This is the very first characteristic we learn about God in Genesis 1.1 – In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

ill.: As one stands in Jerusalem, at the Temple, you can see the mountains which surround the city – or, I guess in today’s understanding, make up the city. I was told there are 7 of these summits. I was drawn to them one day while I was at the Dan Hotel in Jerusalem. I was rooming up on a higher floor and stepped out onto the balcony where I was counting cell phone towers and noticed how the hills looped around the city. They are indeed impressive. I imagine a king making this statement and being encouraged and enthused, as he would see these mountains tops that God created. This same Yahweh, who created these massive, impressive features, is the same God who will rescue the king in his time of need. And it would be the same for the Israelite pilgrims as they made their way to Jerusalem. It would be a tremendous visual aid.

app.: This first, opening statement then wouldn’t be a question of concern, but rather a Confession of Faith.

t.s.: Based upon this confession, the priest would now declare his confidence in God. And this confidence is based upon God’s Character. Let’s look at that now:

II.   A Declaration of Confidence in the Character of God’s (3-8)

exp.: rd 3a; He will not let your foot be moved; this definitely fits with the journey motif of the pilgrims. For the king, the idea was that the king might be assassinated if his human guard failed him; rd 3b; He might ‘slip’ into Sheol or tumble into Sheol if his human guard fails him. But, as a reminder, The Creator God we serve is not like the ‘gods’ of the people or the human guards of the king. God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the one who keeps Israel, he will neither slumber nor sleep. Rd v4; So, here is our first characteristic as presented in Psalm 121:

  1. He is Steadfast. He will not be moved. So then, neither will you be moved.
  2. He is Protection. Rd v 5-6; The Lord stands to your right hand. Therefore, you are covered in the shade created by such a great God. Modern-day statements similar to this one: He hides you in the shadow of the Cross. Now, take yourself to the desert areas of the Holy Land. Try to walk from Jericho to Jerusalem in the heat of the day. The Sun would eat your lunch. I’m guessing that none of us could make that journey. First, we’d probably get lost. 2nd, we would become dehydrated and overheat. We would die out there in the barren land. The night wouldn’t be any better for us. It gets cold at night.

I see two different spheres of influence here. One is that of people. God protects his king in the one instance, and God protects his people in the 2nd instance. The 2nd sphere deals with nature. The elements can bring destruction, but God protects his king or his people from nature, too.

This isn’t the only time we see characteristics of God. The Bible is filled with “the Lord is” statements:

Today we read that the Lord is your keeper. I thought of some other verses that describe what the Lord is to me, to us and I decided to search my Bible for statements about the Lord. This is what I found: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. The Lord is my strength and my song. The Lord is my refuge. The Lord is my banner. The Lord is holy. The Lord is with us. The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in love. The Lord is our inheritance. The Lord is mighty. The Lord is among us (in our midst). The Lord is Peace. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer. The Lord is righteous. The Lord is able. The Lord is a stronghold. The Lord is king. The Lord is my cup and my portion. The Lord is my light. The Lord is my shield. The Lord is powerful. The Lord is upright. The Lord is good. The Lord is near. The Lord is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. The Lord is robed in majesty and glory. The Lord is merciful and gracious. The Lord is at your right hand. The Lord is high above all nations and his glory above the heavens. The Lord is on my side. The Lord is faithful. The Lord is a fountain of life. The Lord is the Maker of all. The Lord is safe for all who trust him. The Lord is justice. The Lord is exalted. The Lord is the judge. The Lord is the lawgiver. The Lord is our righteousness. The Lord is Awesome. The Lord is God. The Lord is the everlasting God. The Lord is the true God.

And I didn’t even type up all of them! I wonder how many there are? Someone could take each of those statements and create a devotional book expounding upon all of the declarations of who God is!

3. He is Eternal. In this 3rd declaration, the Psalmist moves from images and metaphors to generalizations with the purpose of expressing God’s steadfastness and his protection, not just for this moment, but forevermore. Rd v7-8;

  • For the king – this would be a statement that God would be with the king as he went out to battle and as he returned home.
  • For the Israelites – it would be a statement that God would go with them in their going out to the field to work and when they returned in the evening to their home.
  • For those in exile – it would be a declaration that God was indeed with them as they were sent away and that he would be with them as they returned.
  • For the pilgrims – it would be a declaration that God was with them as they traveled from their homes to festival or feast and that He would be with them as they returned home – until the next festival time. I think the context would be closer to say that he was with them as they left the festival or feast and be with them until they returned for the next festival or feast.

Conclusion: Consider the vivid imagery of the Psalm for a moment. If you were watching this Psalm on a TV screen, you might see the opening verses from outer space. God, the Creator God, Created all things. You could stay in outer space for some time observing the vast universe and slowly move in toward the earth as you take in the vastness of God’s creation. You might move in beyond the oceans to the land. You would see the mountains and lakes. You might move in closer and see the animals that dwell there: all the birds of the skies and the beasts of the fields and all that passes through the sea. You might move in even closer to the people, zooming in past all of the people to where you are. And, zooming in even closer to your foot you would see that this Creator God, who created all of that, he will not let your foot to stumble.

What a great picture of God. He is so great and grand, tremendous and magnificent. You can fly to the farthest, most remote part of our Universe and not escape his eye. Indeed, so close is he that he can move beyond all of those created things to see you right where you are. He knows your needs, your pains, your fears.

Ill.: You need a little perspective. Chuck Swindoll tells the story of a new member of the British Parliament took his 8-year-old daughter on a brief tour of his beloved London. They came to Westminster Abby and the awesomeness of it struck that little girl. She stood looking way up at those columns and studying the beauty and grandeur of the Gothic church building. Her father was struck at her concentration. He looked down and said, “Sweetheart, what are you thinking about?” She said, “Daddy, I was thinking how big you seem at home and how small you look in here.”

Psalm 121 gives us some perspective – of who we are and who we are to God.

Application: So, what are some take-a-ways from all of this?

  1. The Lord is your *helper. And I mean that in the Hebrew sense of the word: without him, you would not make it. You would surely fail. When I say ‘help’, I don’t mean to assist you. He’s not Onstar! He is your salvation, your rescue, your redemption.
  2. The Lord is your keeper. He is your guard. He is your eternal, steadfast, immovable protector. He guards your going out and your coming back in. In him, we live and move and breathe and find our very existence.
  3. But The Lord is only this to you if you’re His. If you’ve never surrendered your life to Him, you’re just out there on your own. Would you surrender your life to him today if you never have before?

Here’s how we do things at Calvary. I want to call you to surrender your life to Christ. I’m not going to ask you to come forward in front of everyone, but I am going to ask you to come to talk to me. If you want to know what it means to be a Christian, come to visit with me. If I’m talking with someone, be patient. I really want to visit with you.

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Psalm 120

Title: Longing for Home

Text: Psalm 120

Introduction: We’re in Psalm 120 this morning. We’ll also turn to Nehemiah and look at a couple of verse in chapters 2 and 4. Go ahead and mark those two places now.

A longing for Home; (my freshman year). 2nd story, night fire while in the army.

Let me ask you this morning: Have you ever been homesick?

In preparing for this series, I was moved by different authors and commentaries on the Psalms. Dr. Leslie Allen, a professor at Fuller said that he experienced a ‘trauma’ in his family, which led him to serve as a hospital chaplain for a few hours each week. I suppose it was a sort of therapy for him. I don’t know what the trauma was nor the experience of his life. But what he said about the Psalms in connection to that time in his life has stayed with me. He said: My own experience of trauma, and the consequent addition to my life of a few hours per week working as a hospital chaplain, have underlined for me the ongoing value of the Psalter in relating believers to their God. What an accurate description of God’s Word as found in the Psalter and how fitting it is at various times to each believer in his or her trials.

All of us have felt betrayal, anger, vengeance, the searing pain of losing a loved one, worry, doubt, confusion, hurt, and the like. These Psalms hit every believer at some point on the life spectrum. You may read a Psalm today that you’ve read a hundred times, but, because of where you are at the moment, it could really speak to your heart.

There is something interesting going on here in Psalm 120 that I found no help within my many books on the Psalms. I’m sure I’m not the first to notice it, but I want to point out to you something very interesting about this form of poetry… Lord (1), Lord (2), deceitful tongue (2), deceitful tongue (3); Verse 4 would then be the middle of the climax if this were seen as some chiastic structure; dwell (5), dwell (6), peace (6), peace (7):

  1. Lord: Yahweh, the focus of his prayer.
  2. Deceitful tongue: The conflict or difficulty he is facing.
  3. Dwelling: The struggle with living in a foreign land because he has been exiled from his homeland.
  4. Peace: Shalom, his desire, his request.

That will make 4 different areas of focus in this Psalm if this is significant. A fifth area would be verse 4, the climax of the Chiasm: 4A warrior’s sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree!

There is another focus here that I’d like to bring out and I think this is the teaching point of the Psalm: Speech. Words. It flows through the Psalm. Words. What we say. Words represent emotion, feeling, anger and what lies inside of us. Jesus said that what comes out of the mouth is an overflow of the heart.

  1. He calls to Yahweh (v1). His words are directed at Yahweh.
  2. His request is deliverance from speech, or more specifically, ‘hate speech’, ‘smear campaign’ (i.e., lying lips and a deceitful tongue in v2.)
  3. Verse 3 represents speech as presented in a vow or perhaps a curse. Rd v 3; it is a formula we see in the O.T. You read often times in the form of “may God do so to me if I don’t…
    1. 1 Kings 19.2: Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.”
    2. Probably the most popular verse where you’ll remember this is found in Ruth 1.17: 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
  4. Arrows are sometimes used as a metaphor for words or speech. The picture here is that these words are wounding the psalmist and setting his world on fire – in a bad way. In a real battle, warriors would light their arrows with fire because the arrows that didn’t pierce an enemy would land on a roof and start a fire, a fire that would burn down the house and probably those other homes and businesses within close proximity, causing major destruction. Thus are the words of the psalmist’s enemy. Some of his words are landing and wounding him and others are bringing destruction to his home and his community.
  5. In verse 7, the Psalmist speaks for peace. In Psalm 35.20, David uses deceit in contrast to peace: 20 For they do not speak peace, but against those who are quiet in the land they devise words of deceit. In Psalm 27.3, David uses an army and war as metaphors for someone who rises up against him. That’s the picture we see in v 7.

If you take these pictures, illustrations or metaphors from Ps 120, you can see that this Psalm might just be all about the harmful words someone is using against him. It is at this point we might ask who is the speaker? The Thompson Chain Reference Bible attributes this Psalm to David, when Doeg, the Edomite, on behalf of King Saul, was harassing David. That might just be the context, but the compilers of this collection of psalms want this Psalm to be sung with the exile in mind because they have endured much of the same difficulty. Those who hate them have maligned them time and time again. I think Haman in the book of Esther illustrates this perfectly for us.

So, what? Are these people just disgruntled because someone is saying something nasty about them? Well, yes, but it is so much more than that. These folks have sojourned in a foreign land for decades. Do you see that in v5? Rd v 5; Meshech is to the North and west of Jerusalem in what we would consider modern day Turkey. Kedar is to the East and South of Jerusalem. This can’t possibly be the same person speaking of being exiled in two different places. There is no way they were exiled to these two locations so very far apart and in different directions. So, while it is true that the Jews were scattered in the dispersion, what is the writer telling us?

John Goldingay references Michael Goulder’s work in his article in the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament (1998) at this point. He connects these locations in v5 with Sanballat, the Horonite, and Geshem, the Arabian found in Nehemiah (2.10, 19). We don’t know very much about either man and a lot of speculation goes into this. But, there is some powerful archeological evidence to strengthen Goulder’s hypothesis.

  • Sanballat, the Horonite: His name is Babylonian and translated as – Sin, the moon god, and ballat means he gives life. Haran, was the seat of worship of Sin, the moon god. History teaches us that Sanballat had power from the Northwestern areas of Samaria and beyond. We know that he was governor over Samaria at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, even though he would have been very old at that time. His sons would have done most of the work for him. So, Sanballat’s power would have been North and west, maybe even as far as Modern Day Turkey.
  • Geshem, the Arab: We know nothing of him except through extra-biblical material. Inscriptions have been discovered in archeological finds from Arabia to Egypt. He must have wielded great power. One inscription mentions him as “King of Kedar”.

Look what they say; rd Neh 4.1-4; Now, Nehemiah knows this isn’t the first time the people of the land have tried to stop God’s work. They did it a few years back when Ezra was rebuilding the Temple. And, evidently, it worked for a while, because in Ezra, we read that the rebuilding of the Temple ceased for a period of time until Haggai and Zechariah (the minor prophets) intervened.

So here is the theory: maybe, just maybe, these two towns (Meshech and Kedar) are meant to represent the very people who are disseminating venomous lies with their deceitful tongues. Ezra had suffered in his mission from men who were like Sanballat and Geshem because of their lies to the king and to the people who would rise up against Ezra and the Jews. Maybe, just maybe, those men saw the success of their predecessors and now they figured they would lie and jeer and taunt Nehemiah, too.

You know the story. The wall was rebuilt and in record time. But it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t difficult for Nehemiah and the families who worked. If you read the book of Nehemiah, you know it was very difficult.

So, keeping this bit of information in mind, I want to get you to feel what the psalmist is doing here. And I plan to do this by pointing out a few principles from the text that applied to those people and to the people of God today. In this Psalm’s complexity, in its beauty, in the genius of its composition, I want you to feel what they felt. So, the first principle I see here is:

I.     The prayers of the people of God are born out of the faithfulness of God. (1-2)

exp.: note that verse 1 is in the past tense. He had been in distress and he is in distress again; this is simply a cry for help that comes from the confidence that God has acted before and he will surely come to the rescue of his people again.

ill.: Ps. 37.25: I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. My faith is stronger now that I am older. I wish I could have been more faithful when I was younger. However, as the years have passed, I have seen God remain faithful time and time again. Older believers, if you hear me and you agree, say “Amen.”

app.: Oh, young people, Trust the Lord with all your heart. Do not lean on your own understanding. I know that’s hard, but that is the way to go. In all of your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight. Let your prayers be strong and specific. Most of all, pray God’s Words back to him. Repent where you rebelled.

And when you see the work of God in your life, that will move you to come back time and again to the faithfulness of God. That’s what the Psalmist does here…

t.s.: Now, he turns from his distress and his plea for God to deliver him, to confront his enemies. We see this in verse 3&4;

II.    The battles of the people of God are fought through the faithfulness of God. (3-4)

exp.: rd v 3; the verbs in v. 3 are passive. That means this author isn’t the one who brings about the action. God is the one who brings about the action. He will turn back upon them the very plot they have against him. rd v 4; that’s what shall be done to you!

I don’t think this is an imprecatory psalm. Yes, the psalmist is hoping for God to defend him. One could easily make the first two points of this message be: deliver me and defend me.

ill.: Recently we saw the movie: Paul, Apostle of Christ. I loved the many storylines flowing through the movie. There was the dilemma of staying or going. Persecution was rampant and severe. Pricilla wanted to stay and minister in the face of this persecution. Aquilla wanted to leave – his reasons were good. Some believers got weapons and stormed the prison where Paul was. Others were passive, praying their lives would influence and persuade their persecutors.

app.: you and I are faced with this same dilemma when we face persecution – that is, persecution on a different level. Someone may not like your ideas or be jealous of you and say things about you that aren’t true. How do you defend yourself? One thing you don’t do is behave in that same manner! You don’t tell lies about others just to get back at them. It is God who avenges. And, man, oh man, how fearful to fall into the hands of an angry God.

ill.: I was reading up on the coals of a broom tree and evidently, these coals burned very hot and very slowly. There is a Jewish story about these coals, obviously presented with hyperbolic language. The story is that these two men where camping and they kept warm through the cold night with the coals from a broom tree. The next morning the men continued on their journey home. According to the story, they returned a year later and the coals were still hot enough to start a fire!

app.: Well, like I said, that’s hyperbole for effect. But, the point is that the coals of a broom tree were hot! And, they burned for a long time. In effect, the writer here is saying that Yahweh is going to deal with these enemies, because of their deceit – because of what they wanted to do to the Jews.

exp.: let me remind you of what Paul said: For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. Paul also said: 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

t.s.: The Prayers of the people of God are born out of the faithfulness of God and The battles of the people of God are fought through the faithfulness of God. Finally, the third principle:

III.   The hope of the people of God is not in where we are now, but where we shall be one day. (5-7)

exp.: And that is with God. This is not our home. We’re not designed to live here and we’ll never truly be happy here. rd v 5-6; the psalmist isn’t on Mt. Zion… yet! The psalmist is a wanderer and he dwells in a land that is not his own and he dwells among a people who are at home where they are. He dwells among a people who don’t like him and his God.

ill.: When he ‘sings’ this psalm, he elicits an emotion… let me demonstrate…

Beulah Land

I’m kind of homesick for a country

To where I’ve never been before

No sad goodbyes will there be spoken

For time won’t matter anymore

 

Beulah land I’m longing for you

And someday on thee I’ll stand

Where are my home shall be eternal

Beulah land, sweet Beulah land

 

I’m looking now across the river

Where my faith will end in sight

Just a few more days to labor

Then I’ll take my heavenly flight

 

app.: The purpose here isn’t to sing a song, but to elicit a response.

t.s.: Let me ask you: Have you ever been homesick?

Conclusion: One day this life will end for each of us. For some, it will be sooner than later. Are you absolutely positively sure where you’ll spend eternity? If you’ve never given your life to Christ, I’d like to give you a chance to do so this morning.

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Introduction to the Psalms of Ascent

Title: Psalms of Ascent

Text: Psalm 120-134

Introduction: Ezra (and Nehemiah)

When you read the books of Ezra and Nehemiah you get an understanding of the intense passion these two men had. Their desire was for their heritage. Their passion was for their God and the city he gave them – Jerusalem, Mt. Zion, the Temple. Ezra was responsible for leading the rebuilding of the Temple. Nehemiah was responsible for leading the rebuilding of the wall around the city.

The journey these men took began in Persia. It is believed by some that this is where the small collection of Psalms that we know as the Psalms of Ascent originated. We don’t know this for sure, but it is a very good theory. The idea behind this theory is that the Psalms of Ascent were compiled by Ezra (or priests working with him). The same word is used in Ezra 2.1 (7.9) as in this title telling of how the people “went up”. So, Ezra then compiled these Psalms and the priests then taught them to the people as they journeyed to Jerusalem. At least that’s one theory. I like it. It would have been inspirational and motivational. And so after the people returned from exile, they kept the tradition alive and would sing the Psalms of Ascent whenever they would journey from their homes in Israel to the Temple in Jerusalem for their seasons of feasts and festivals. This is how their children and their children’s children would learn.

There is a 2nd theory and this is the one I learned as a young man. The theory is that the priests would make their way to the Temple and as they ascended the 15 steps to the Temple, they would stop and recite one Psalm for each step. The 1st step would be Psalm 120. The 2nd step would be Psalm 121, and on up we go.

Let me show you some pictures.

I would propose to you that both of these happened: the priests reciting the Psalms as they climbed the stairs to the Temple and the People singing them as they journeyed to Jerusalem to worship in the Temple. Theory probably isn’t the right word. There is evidence both happened, it is just that neither one became a prominent tradition practiced through the years.

This leads to a question you might have: Why are we working through them? Why the Psalms of Ascent? Why did we leave Romans? Well, it is hard! Romans 8-11 are probably some of my favorite passages in Romans. Two Reasons: 1. I calendared it this way months ago. But really, the simple answer is Worship; I want to focus on worship for a season – that is the reason I put it on the calendar. Consider our three areas of focus as a church:

  • Worship: One Passion
  • Discipleship: One Mission – the Great Commission
  • Mission/Ministry: One Body serving in ministry and mission.

So, for this season, we’ll keep an eye on this task of worship.

Let’s approach it from the same standpoint as Ezra and Nehemiah. Consider their lives; where they were and what they were going through:

  1. Israel has been in exile for the past 70 years or so. So, these guys were born in exile. They’ve never known a Temple. All they know is what they’ve been told. There is much of their past they don’t know about or they don’t understand.
  2. They are in exile because of their sin and their rebellion; Daniel 9.3-19; Wow, what a prayer, an acknowledgment of why they were where they were. Consider this: God’s actions were so real, so evident and so very effective, that the Israelites never again had trouble with worshipping idols.

Let me ask you as you consider the prayer of Daniel: Do you want God’s blessing on Calvary? Do you desire for God to pour out his blessing on this Body of Believers? Do we deserve for God to bless us? No, and we must remember that we cannot appeal to God because of our righteousness, but only because of his mercy. Let us keep this in mind and ask God to draw us closer to him in the coming weeks as we focus on him, as we experience his mercy and forgiveness, and as we are moved to worship.

The plan is to sing the Psalms, study the Psalms and hopefully be moved in our worship.

A Word about the whole book: The Book of Psalms used to be understood as a random collection of Songs. But, today, more and more scholars are seeing the organization of these Songs.

  1. Outline of Psalms – 5 books
    1. Book 1: 1-41 tell of David’s reign
    2. Book 2: 42-72 is more of David’s reign and the transition to Solomon’s reign.
    3. Book 3: 73-89 is about the divided kingdom and the eventual conquering of the Northern Kingdom by Assyria and the Southern Kingdom by Babylon and being carried into exile.
    4. Book 4: 90-106 covers the years Israel was in exile.
    5. Book 5: 107-150 is post-exilic in nature.
  2. You could break that down even further with an Introduction (1-2) and a conclusion (146-150)
    1. Psalm 1 is about the torah and Psalm 2 is about the King of Israel. So the idea is of delighting oneself in the Law of God and following God as their King.

Speaking of organization, there are even smaller segments with different types of focus. Let me show you some famous segments.

  1. Segments
    1. Hallel (113-118)
    2. The Law (Psalm 119, Psalm 19)
    3. Psalms of Ascent (120-134)
    4. 103-107

Let’s talk about this particular segment, the Psalms of Ascent, for just a moment, as we prepare to study them in the coming weeks. I want you to see there is flow here, too. There are smaller segments that demonstrate cohesion.

  1. It appears that these songs were selected with their theme of the Temple:
    1. 7 of the 15 Psalms mention Zion. 125, 126, 128, 129, 132, 133, 134
    2. Psalm 122 mentions Jerusalem.
    3. Psalm 121, 123, 124 use formulations related to Zion.
    4. Psalm 127 mentions the ‘city’ and 130 and 131 mention the faith community of Israel gathered in the Temple complex.
    5. Only the 1st Psalm (120) doesn’t mention the Temple in any fashion. So, what does that mean?
  2. From the Jewish viewpoint, the Psalms of Ascent begin with the Jews at war and ends with the priest’s blessing them in the Temple. So, the flow appears to be a journey. The people are in a foreign land (120.5), Meshech and Kedar as the Psalms of ascent begin in 120 and they are in the Temple worshipping in Psalm 134. Read those passages.
  3. The high points: popularity and familiarity
    1. Psalm 121: 1-2
    2. Psalm 122:1
    3. Psalm 127:1, 3-5a
    4. Psalm 130: 1-4
    5. Psalm 133: 1

Conclusion: So, what am I hoping to accomplish here?

Well, I mentioned earlier the purpose of this study is worship. But where does worship come from? How does it well up within and boil over? I mentioned earlier that the introduction to the book of Psalms in Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 are about delighting in the Law of God and following God as their king. But, I think it is deeper than that. I think that both of these two themes are all about Jesus and He’s the one I want us to see as we make our way through the Psalms of Ascent.

Look at Psalm 1 with me. rd v 1; Blessed is the man who… rd 2. …Blessed are all who take refuge in him. So, you see these already go together with these bookends. Go back to Ps. 1: read v 1; Really, who is that? Anyone here do that perfectly? Anyone you know of? Only Jesus. Look at v 5-6; who is the only one who can stand on his own in the judgment? Only Jesus, the perfect man.

Look at Psalm 2 with me. rd Ps 2.1-9; This is about the King – The Lord’s King, who according to v 7 is – His Son. Blessed is everyone who takes refuge in Jesus.

I propose to you that the Psalms of Ascent, as with all of the Psalms, point us to Jesus – God’s Anointed One. He is the theme, the purpose, the reason for those songs. It is Him we will see and it is Him we will be inspired to worship. In the Psalms of Ascent, you’ll see themes of:

  • Peace
  • Unity
  • Mercy
  • Protection
  • Rest and Restoration
  • Family and Community and how they impact each other
  • Discipline
  • Redemption
  • Faithfulness
  • Blessing

Application:

  1. Read through the POA
    1. You can read through them in one easy sitting.
    2. Read half on one day and the other half on the manãna.
  2. See how they go together. Is there a familiar theme in the previous Psalm or in the next Psalm? Is there a flow here? See if there are bookends to different Psalms, like I showed you in Psalm 1 and 2.
  3. Be praying about your worship.
    1. As an individual
    2. As a family
    3. As a community

Ask: Do I come in here Sunday after Sunday without having prepared my heart for worship? What is your Sunday morning routine like? Does it include yelling? Scrambling to get here in a fashionable time? Be praying about your worship and how you contribute to this time on Sunday. Also, pray about what God might be doing in your life concerning worship. Where does he want to take you? What does he want you to see? Is there anything about your worship he doesn’t like – that he wants to refine?

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Filed under Bible Reading, Christian Living, Psalms, Psalms of Ascent, Scripture, Sermon, Worship