Psalm 120 is the first of 15 “song of ascents” concerning the pilgrimage to Jerusalem of the faithful believers in Yahweh to worship God in his temple. So, this psalmist here seems to be a long way from home (in far-off Meshech… in distant Kedar) and feeling homesick and longing for home and to be free of the unbeliever’s negative attitudes around him. So, he writes:
A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.
1 I took my troubles to the Lord;
I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer.
2 Rescue me, O Lord, from liars
and from all deceitful people.
3 O deceptive tongue, what will God do to you?
How will he increase your punishment?
4 You will be pierced with sharp arrows
and burned with glowing coals.
5 How I suffer in far-off Meshech.
It pains me to live in distant Kedar.
6 I am tired of living
among people who hate peace.
7 I search for peace;
but when I speak of peace, they want war! (New Living Translation)
He begins confidently. He has experienced God’s faithfulness in answering his prayers in the past (v. 1) and so believes, because God has not changed, He will again intervene in answer to prayer. Today, you might need to do the same as the psalmist, in your troubles, remember God’s faithfulness in the past and so move on confidently in the future.
Our psalmist’s issues concern people around him who lie and deceive (v. 2) and, although knowing that they will one day face the consequences of their lies and deceit (vv. 3-4), he is very tired of their activities and tired of living among them! (v. 6) Have you ever had this experience? People who call black, white? Who really do not appreciate your stand on certain issues of morality or justice or God? And so, give you a hard time and even spread rumours about you to try to discredit you best they can?
Our psalmist is a man of “peace,” a follower of Yahweh, the One who desires that his people are peacemakers and peacekeepers on the earth, as far as possible. (Jesus said: God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God – Matt. 5:9 NLT) But, those around the psalmist, in this far away land where he is presently living (Meshech and Kedar), are all troublemakers! In fact, They want war! (vv.6-7)
I guess, he would love if his presence with them would somehow impact them positively, but at the time of writing, all they are doing is causing him to suffer and to be in pain (v. 5) and so his desire to have a break from them and go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem to be refreshed by those who see things as he does.
Sometimes in life, the possibility of “escape” for such a break is not available. But what is hopefully possible is to spend time alone with God, telling Him everything and remembering that “The New Testament proclaims that Christ is the very presence of God, and he sends the Spirit to dwell in us. So, we can be in God’s presence, even in [Meshech and Kedar]” (# 30)
In a call to persevere, the author of Hebrews says:
19 And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.
23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. (Hebrews 10:19-25 NLT)