The book of the Psalms has over centuries, before and after the birth of the Lord Jesus, touched the hearts of countless saints. The writers reached for their pens, expressed their feelings, and declared their understanding. It is a rich and beautiful source from which to seek truth, and takes us through dark days and grips us as it shines.
One of the groups of the Psalms is found from Psalms 120 to 134. This is mainly viewed as being "The Songs of Degrees". Such an expression declares them to be the songs that were sung as the Israelites travelled up to Jerusalem to bring their offerings to the altar. The feasts for which they travelled were the Feast of Passover linked with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which took place on the first month of Israel's year, the Feast of Pentecost which took place on the third month, and the Feast of Tabernacles which took place on the seventh month.
This cluster of fifteen psalms has been known as "The Psalmist's Pilgrim's Progress", starting in the world and ending in the sanctuary, or starting in distress and ending in worship. The psalms can be seen in five groups: preparation for the journey (120-122); preservation on the journey (123-125); praise expressed on the journey (126-128); progress on the journey (129-131); privilege at the end of the journey (132-134).
One feature quickly noted is that these psalms commence with distress - "In my distress I cried unto the Lord" (120.1) and conclude with blessing at the end of the journey - "Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord" (134.2).
Look at the first three as being preparation for the journey. The first psalm is marked by distress, the second by deliverance, and the third by delight.
The psalmist's distress is brought about by the sad condition of the world around him, and Psalm 120 asks how lying lips and deceitful tongues, still found in society today, have to be dealt with. They grieved the pilgrim. Not only so, but where he sojourns "Mesech" (Ezek 27.13) and "Kedar" (Ezek 27.21) were both strong and mighty parts of the world's commercial society. Living with them, listening to them, and noting their behaviour causes him sorrow. Thus it is today. We must all be careful as to how we behave. With endurance, refuse to follow the ways of a society that makes wealth, worldly enjoyment, entertainment and ungodliness the objectives which the adversary desires that we follow. Take heed! Do not let society mould us by displaying that which is ungodly.
The next Psalm (121) observes that this psalm gripped him! The deliverance of the godly is declared as he writes twice of the confidence of "my help". Confidence in Him cannot fail because He is the "Lord which made heaven and earth". He it is who "keepeth thee", and "keepeth Israel", He who will not "slumber nor sleep". Let us be confident that when anxiety grips us we know to cast this upon the Lord. Remember that "The Lord is thy keeper" (v.5).
The third of these psalms (122) is an anticipation that gladdens. How its opening words give joy. "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord" (v.1). Distress there had been, followed by deliverance, but now there is delight. In the house of the Lord there was beauty (v.3), unity (v.4) and authority (v.5). There will be a day when in Jerusalem there will be the house of the Lord when there will be "Peace…within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces" (v.7). What a joy for the nation of Israel on the Millennium day of glory when the Lord is here.
Even for today there are lessons to be learned. How often do we feel distress about what surrounds us? How often are we thankful that the Lord can indeed preserve us? How often are we glad that we can enter the presence of the Lord, confident in His promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us? This is not the era when in the Temple at Jerusalem we can see His presence, but we can approach and enjoy that presence. We rejoice with thankfulness that to Him we can draw near in praise and prayer. Let us seek that daily.