Summary: In this sermon, we will see how Psalms 126-128 fit into the larger book of Psalms. We'll also look at what they say about the blessings of God.
I know what you are thinking. You see the screen that says Psalm 126-128 and you’re thinking, “Come on. It took us two weeks to cover Psalm 19, and now we’re going to cover three Psalms in one week? Right!”
Oh ye of little faith! Yes, we really are. And not only are we going to cover three Psalms, but you are also going to see how these three Psalms fit into the larger book of Psalms. And on top of that, since we talked about how Psalms is a book of practical poetry, we are going to do all of this while at the same time sharing how to raise godly children, live longer, love your spouse well, and sleep better. I know that sounds ambitious, so we had better get to it!
Go ahead and turn in your Bible to Psalm 120. You can use YouVersion if you want to, but it will actually be easier to see this with a physical Bible. I want you to notice, right off the bat, that Psalm 120 is the first of fifteen Psalms to have a certain title. From Psalm 120-134, all fifteen Psalms begin by telling you that these are what? That’s right, Songs of Ascent. In. Hebrew, the verb MAH-oh-loht means “to go up.” Its actually also the same root word for offering. (ohlah) There’s a reason for this double meaning.
In the law, God decreed that every Jewish male was required to go to Jerusalem three times a year. If you’ve been to Isarael, you know that no matter which direction you are coming from, north, south, east, or west, in order to get to Jerusalem, you have to go up. You have to ascend in elevation. You were also “going up” spiritually. You were going up to the Temple. This was spiritual higher ground.
Once you got to the Temple, you would climb the Southern Steps to the Temple Mount. There are fifteen wide steps, alternating between one or two narrow steps. And there is a lot of evidence to suggest that pilgrims would sing or chant the songs of ascent on the fifteen wide steps leading up to the Temple. Even today, a lot of tour groups will do the same thing when they go to the Southern Steps [slide]
So the Songs of Ascent were the road trip mix. They were the songs families would sing together while they were on pilgrimage. They are the songs Jesus sang with His disciples while He was on His way up to Jerusalem for one of the feasts. Think about this: Jesus had about a three year ministry with the disciples. So they went up to Jerusalem maybe as many as nine times together.
There’s one more thing I want to show you about the Songs of Ascent before we get into our Scriptures for this morning. The fifteen Psalms seem to fall naturally into five sets of three Psalms each. And each cycle of three has a similar pattern. The first Psalm in the cycle talks about TROUBLE or hardship. The second talks about TRUST in the Lord. And the third promises TRIUMPH for those who do so.
I think this is worth pointing out because like we talked about a few weeks ago, the Christian life is really one long pilgrimage. All of us are “going up” to higher ground. Which means all of us are on various stages of this cycle. Some of you may be here this morning and you’re saying, Yep, I’m in the trouble phase. (some of you are trouble!). Others might be on the trust cycle. And some of you may be in a great stage of life, and you are experiencing the victory of the TRIUMPH of Christian living. The good news is that the Bible gets you. The Psalms get you. And specifically, these pilgrimage Psalms, the Psalms of Ascent, they get you!
I want you to flip over from Psalm 120 to Psalm 126. We’re starting here because 126 is the first Psalm in the third cycle. And if you look at our chart, what are you going to expect to hear in Psalm 126? That’s right. There’s going to be something in here about trouble. Let’s listen for it.
126 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad.
4 Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like streams in the Negeb!
(The Negev was the south country in between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. It’s dry and rocky most of the year. But during the rainy season, streams rush down between the cliffs and the desert blooms.)