By David Faust
Psalms 120 through 134 are known as “Songs of Ascent.” Jewish tradition connected these 15 chapters with the 15 steps of the temple where worshippers stood and sang; but there’s another reason they’re called “Songs of Ascent.” The Israelites sang these psalms as they ascended the hills toward Jerusalem to attend festive occasions like Passover and Pentecost. Just as we enjoy favorite songs at Christmas or Easter, the Jews sang the Songs of Ascent as they climbed the hills toward the Holy City. It’s likely that the 12-year-old Jesus sang these words as he traveled to Jerusalem with his family and friends for the Feast of Passover.
The Songs of Ascent inspire us to keep climbing higher in our own walk with the Lord. When we pursue “the upward call of God,” the Lord himself is our hiking partner.
The Source of Our Help
Psalm 121 begins with a question: “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?” (v. 1). Snow-covered peaks look beautiful, but the ancient Hebrews believed there was something sinister about mountains. Pagan worshippers built shrines on the “high places,” engaging in immorality and idol worship there.
When we lift up our eyes, we see all kinds of spiritual options that offer to make our journey safer and better. But our help doesn’t come from the mountains; it comes from the one who made the mountains. “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (v. 2). If we think the next election will solve all our social problems, and a scientific breakthrough will fix everything that’s wrong with our environment, and a pay raise will solve all our worries, we’re not looking high enough.
The Lord’s Watchful Care
“He will not let your foot slip” (v. 3). Oh, we might stub a toe or twist an ankle, but God’s love supports us on the journey and his purpose guides the way.
“He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (v. 3, 4). We miss a lot because we need to sleep. We’re basically unconscious about one-third of our lives, but the Lord never gets tired. Instead, “The Lord watches over you . . . . The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore” (vv. 5-8).
Isn’t it reassuring to know that God watches over “your coming and going”? He watches your “coming”—when you launch a new career, move into a new home, start your freshman year of college, begin married life, or commence some other journey of faith. And he watches when you’re “going”—when you retire, graduate, or attend a loved one’s funeral. He’s there when fortunes ebb and flow, and when friends come and go. He’s there when life on earth begins, and he’s there when it ends—and beyond.
William Faulkner described the difference between monuments and footprints: “A monument only says, ‘At least I got this far,’ while a footprint says, ‘This is where I was when I moved again.’” Is the Lord calling you to take another step—and climb higher?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
THELOOKOUT’s Bible Reading Plan for June 24, 2012
2 Kings 16, 17
2 Kings 18, 19
2 Kings 20, 21
2 Kings 22, 23
2 Kings 24, 25
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