Cross Points 4.3.22

I Am in Trouble, Psalm 120

In this new series starting today we will look at some of the Songs of Ascent, which were Psalms written to be sung as Jews made their way ascending from the countryside to the mountain that Jerusalem was located on.  No matter where they came from, as they neared the city they would ascend (go up) to the capital and the temple.  A theme that can be put to these Psalms is “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.”  And that pretty much defines the Christian life.  In faith we keep following Jesus, with all that entails, good times and bad times, blessings and persecution, whatever life holds, we follow.

“If you’re worn out in this footrace with men, what makes you think you can race against horses” Jer. 12:5.  This long obedience involves fighting against sin, against Satan’s temptations, against those who want no part of our “religion.”  Contending with people can be tough, contending with Satan impossible!  Unless.  Unless you submit to the Lord appropriately.  Still, this long obedience is hard for those serious about it.  Unfortunately, many are not.  There is a great market for religious experience in our culture, but there is little enthusiasm for patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination for the long apprentice-ship the Bible calls holiness.  That’s too bad.  The ascent to worship in Jerusalem was a metaphor for the ascent necessary to truly live with faith in God.  It is a climb.  It takes effort.  We are aided by God’s Spirit, but it is difficult none-the-less.  And Psalm 120 speaks to this.

“I’m in trouble.  I cry to God, desperate for an answer. Deliver me, God!  They smile so sweetly but lie through their teeth…. My whole life is lived camping among quarreling neighbors.  I want peace, but they go to war!”  Psalm 120 (The Message).

I want peace, the Psalmist cries.  And we do too, don’t we?  As long as the next election holds hope, maybe the new government will provide peace and stability.  As long as Ukraine resists Russia, maybe things will improve.  But things don’t go as I want politically, or with many other things. Then again maybe they do, and yet I am still not at peace.  In fact, I’m in trouble!  I cry to God, desperate for an answer.  Deliver me, God!  And he will, but maybe not in the way I want, maybe not with the timing I had in mind.  “Not my will, but your will be done” we pray.  That doesn’t mean smooth sailing.

To be within God’s will, for the Jew of old and for the Christian today, requires first that we repent.  Repentance means we quit going our way, cultures way, Satan’s way, and we turn to go God’s way.  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” John the Baptist preached.  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is here” Jesus told his early audiences.  “Repent and be baptized” the Apostle Peter told those who first accepted the good news of Jesus on Pentecost.  Repentance is not just an emotion, it is a decision, a call to action!  A movement.  Are you ready to move?  It is required for God’s way & peace.

As the Jews started the incline toward the temple in Jerusalem, this Psalm was on their lips.  Have you found such words on your lips too?  I’m in trouble.  I cry to God.  I want peace.  Take heart, my friend, this is the beginning place for true worship, being honest about the battle, about your need.  Let us progress up the heights to the temple summit.  Stay tuned.  The songs continue.
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