Psalms of Ascents Family Devotional Guide: Introduction & Psalm 120
If we want to bring up a godly family, who shall be a seed to serve God when our heads are under the clods of the valley, let us seek to train them up in the fear of God by meeting together as a family for worship. –Charles Spurgeon
Having a family devotional time is essential to teaching our kids how to follow Jesus. At Anchor Way we want to support parents in their disciple making endeavor. This summer, on Sunday mornings, we will be going through the Psalms of Ascents. Theses Psalms are perfect for family devotions because they are clean, short and relevant to our heart’s pursuit of God.
Every week I will post a short devotional guide for your family devotional time. You can use it on the road as you head out on vacation, at the dinner table or any other time you find it convenient to intentionally talk to your kids about following God.
CONTEXT OF THE PSALMS
The Psalms were the songs sung by the Israelites to worship God. They are part of the “wisdom books” of the Old Testament. Other wisdom books include; Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, and Job.
Check out this video to see the likely location and use for the Psalms of Ascents:
Psalms of Ascents
Psalms 120–134 is a special collection. Each of the fifteen psalms has at the head the words “A Song of Degrees” or “A Song of Ascents” (shir ha-ma˓aloth).
PSALMS USED TO “APPEAR BEFORE THE LORD YOUR GOD”
Jewish people were commanded to travel to the Temple at least three times a year for festivals that worship God.
16 “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. – Deuteronomy 16:16
Before the Temple was built by Solomon, the Israelites are given freedom on where and how they approached God. This freedom changed over the years.
The context for the Psalms of Ascents is Israelites traveling to Jerusalem for annual sacrifices at the Temple.
THE THREE FEASTS
- Feast of Unleavened Bread
Celebrates the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt in the early spring.
- Feast of Weeks
An agricultural celebration. Falling exactly seven weeks after Passover.
- Feast of Booths
Celebrates the wandering of the Israelites in the desert for 40 years, when they had to rely only upon God for food and protection. Occurs five days after Yom Kippur, usually in mid-autumn.
JESUS FULFILLED ALL THESE FEASTS
- Feast of Unleavened Bread (Jesus is the Passover lamb)
- Feast of Weeks (Jesus is the Bread of Life)
- Feast of Booths (Jesus, tempted in every way, suffered for our sins)
Because of Jesus, we don’t have to do these anymore. In the same ways, our encounter with God is no longer dependent on a Temple. Jesus is the fulfillment of Temple worship. When Jesus died on the cross the Bible tells us the curtain separating man from the presence of God in the Temple was torn. His presence now rests in all of us through the Holy Spirit. Now, in Christ, we are always with God.
HOW CHRISTIANS CAN APPLY THE PSALMS OF ASCENTS
What does this mean for the Psalms of Ascents? They’re songs for the journey. They’re to be used to search our hearts and prepare us for the activity of God in our life. Highly spiritual. Introspective. Yet centered on God. It would be wise for us to review these Psalms annually to detox our hearts, enhancing God’s presence in our life.
PSALM 120 – Deliver Me, O Lord (A Song of Ascents)
In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. 2 Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.
3 What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue? 4 A warrior’s sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree!
5 Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! 6 Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. 7 I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!
MY DISTRESS (verses 1-2)
In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.
- “distress” (v. 1), a word that has the idea of a narrow or confined place. He is saying here that he was feeling trapped by others’ words (lying lips and deceitful tongues)
- How can words trap someone? Do you feel like you are trapped by someone’s words? If words are this powerful, how should we speak to one another as a family?
PRAY FOR DELIVERANCE
When we feel trapped our instinct is to fight back. But that’s never a good idea, in the words of George Bernard Shaw;
“Never wrestle with a pig. You both get muddy but the pig likes it.”
- Based on this Psalm and what you know about the teachings of Jesus. How should we pray for our enemies? How should we pray during a time of distress?
HONEST BEFORE GOD (v. 3-4)
What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue? A warrior’s sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree! Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar!
The psalmist is now telling God how he would like to be delivered.
…warrior’s sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree!
Take that tongue and pierce it with an arrow that has the flames from a broom tree. A broom tree was used for firewood because it burned longer and hotter than many other woods. So this is going to hurt for a long time!
Also, the psalmist laments that he lives among neighbors who are so hostile.
- “Meshech” was a barbarous people living between the Black and Caspian Sea.
- “Kedar” the dwelling place of wild Ishmaelite tribes which roamed through the Arabian desert.
The Psalmist is being very honest with God.
- What can keep us from being honest with God about our feelings? How could being honest with God in prayer help our relationship with our Heavenly Father?
I AM (6-7)
Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!
Finally, the writer comes to a realization.
“I am for peace”
At the beginning the Psalmist says, “I called to the LORD, and he answered me” (verse 1). However, the last words of the psalm are, “but when I speak, they are for war.” So his prayer is not answered by the removal of enemies. They still exist. But the psalmist is moving on and trusting God with the situation, “I am for peace“.
- How did God answer his prayer, if God didn’t make the enemies go away?
- How can we learn to be content with God “answering” our prayers in unique ways?
- Have you ever been so worked up you forget who you are in Christ? Why is it important in our pursuit of God that we don’t let someone else’s words hold us captive like that?
- Who does the Bible say, “you are” in Christ?
To hear the complete sermon on this topic go to http://anchorway.com/sermon/psalms-of-ascents-psalm-120/ or subscribe to our podcast!