STUDY IN THE ASCENT PSALMS
September 29, 2020
Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford
Today is our third day in the study of the “Ascent Psalms” – Psalms 120-134. I encourage you to try to read them in one or two sittings. You will find RICH STUFF (now THAT is a super spiritual phrase!) in here! Enjoy!
OUR THEME VERSE
“Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage. (Psalm 84:5 NKJV). Pastor Eugene Peterson, famed editor of “The Message”, described the Ascent Psalms as “a long obedience in the same direction”. That is what our journey with the Lord should look like. Journey = “discipleship”.
HOW are you doing?
Today we are in Psalm 122. This is a most timely psalm, a timely hymn. It is timely not only for the stage set in Jerusalem. It is especially timely for the stage set here in the United States. We better pray NOW!
“Father – this is a brief psalm but an heartfelt psalm. It is one which begins in Your heart and returns TO Your heart.
Give us Your heart, we pray, concerning where You have wisely placed Your children, Your church today.
With thanksgiving, in Jesus’ Name. Amen”
OUTLINE OF PSALM 122 (Dr. W. Graham Scroggie)
- Jerusalem the Home of Worship (vs. 1-2)
- Jerusalem the Center of Life. (vs. 3-5)
3. Jerusalem the Subject of Prayer. (vs. 6-9)
SOME INTERESTING INSIGHTS
- True or False: True Christians worship only when they feel like it.
2. Notice the different forms of action in this psalm:
#1 “Talk” – In verse 1, the psalmist expresses his delight that a group of people suggested to him to “go into the house of the Lord.”
That reminds me of the story of how old Mrs. Jones wasn’t feeling well, so she asked her husband to go on to church without her. When he returned in the early afternoon, she asked him some very pointed questions:
“Charlie! Was Mabel wearing that awful yellow hat again?” Charlie said, “I don’t know.”
“Well what about Hazel – did she wear that dress that makes her look really FAT?” Charlie once again said, “I didn’t notice Hazel.”
“Well what about Izora? Did she sing her usual off-key soprano in the choir this week again?” And Charlie returned, “The choir was really good. I didn’t happy to notice Izora – they all blended together as one voice.”
Finally Mrs. Jones heaved a GREAT sigh. “Then WHAT did you go to church for?”
“Talk” – it is more than just gabbing. It is ENCOURAGEMENT, the JOY of worship.
And talk leads to…
#2 “Walk”! In verse 2, “Our FEET have been standing within your gates…”. The Bible says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of SOME [not ALL], but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25). Put with that Nehemiah 10:39, where the end of the verse is a similar word of challenge and prompting, “we will NOT neglect the house of our God.”
“Stand” “our feet have been STANDING…”. This is a picture of being in a position of conviction. NOTEZ BIEN! There is an HUGE difference between OPINION and CONVICTION. There is an HUGE difference between PREFERENCE and CONVICTION! When we “take a stand” for something, it should be because the stand is an agreement with the direction vividly given in the Word of God.
Not to get royally political on y’all, because I am NOT a royally political type person…but shouldn’t we be supporting candidates not because of their party but because of their conviction?
Can I give a personal illustration? I know of a lady who struggled back in 1960 as for whom she would vote. She was a staunch Republican, but she could NOT stand the party’s candidate [Richard Nixon, for you young uns]. But at the Presidential Debate, Mr. Nixon said, “Vote for the man, not for the party.” And she said, “Thank YOU!” And she promptly voted for his opponent, Jack Kennedy. Oh yes, and that lady was my mum.
From a Christian viewpoint, we are challenged this year to do our homework. What is the candidate’s view on abortion? On human rights? On euthanasia [NO, not on “youth IN Asia”, but “euthanasia”!]. On the constitution? On many of the issues which have as their foundation the Word of God? Have we done our homework? And then have we prayed?
“Talk” and “Walk” are good encouragers for the local church today!!!
3. Note that in verses 3-5, Jerusalem is the true center of life. Israel today is still a hotbed of activity in the Middle East, isn’t it? But in practical terms, is the Lord Jesus the center of YOUR LIFE? And is the local church the visible center of your weekly life?
Once again my wise mother-in-law had some sharp insights: “Back in the day, whenever the doors of the church were open, we would be there.” Sunday school? Yep! Morning Service? Yep! Choir practice? Yep! Youth meetings? Yep! Evening service? Yep! Prayer meeting? Yep! Missions outreaches? Yep! Hospital visitation? Yep! Visit shut-ins? Yep! That was the spirit upon which she and my father-in-law raised their family. And I think my wife turned out pretty ok (she married ME, didn’t she?). Good foundation.
Have you given your family a foundation which says that the Lord Jesus, His Word and fellowship is the true Center of your life? And does your family know that ALL you do throughout the week is done “as unto Him”? Do they know that in more than just word? Do they know that without your having to tell them? Can they SEE that true heart of yours through your life? CAN THEY?
4. Note verses 6-9, “Jerusalem is the subject of prayer.” These kinds of lines are typical of many of the psalms, and are often zeroed in near the end of many of the Ascent Psalms. What do they mean?
Once again, listen to the wise insights of Eugene Peterson:
“Pray”: “It is not the word ordinarily used in formal worship, but the everyday Hebrew word ‘ask’. It is an informal asking as we go about our business between Sundays. [my emphasis]. It is the word Hebrews would use to ask for a second helping of bread if still hungry, or for directions if lost.”
“Peace”: an almost undefinable word; “It gathers all aspects of wholeness that result from God’s will being completed in us. It is the work of God that, when complete, releases streams of living water in us and pulsates with eternal life.”
“Prosperity”: “It has nothing to do with insurance policies or large bank accounts…The root meaning is leisure – the relaxed stance of one who knows that everything is all right because God is over us, with us, and for us in Jesus Christ.”
This week, I can’t help but think that, in reading this psalm and hoping to put it into practice, there are several things I will have a fresh heart for:
I will be glad to be invited and to invite dear ones to come alongside together to the house of the Lord, as well as to sweet fellowship with Him.
I will stand upon those things that are important to the Lord, for which He has given clear direction for His church and for our nation.
I will ask – my daily walk with God will be a daily communion with Him to keep our nation ever before Him.
With our everyday asking of God, and the subsequent “peace” and true “prosperity”, aren’t you encouraged today to pray fervently for the country in which the Lord has wisely placed YOU?
Father, forgive us wherever we have treated Your heart for the local church in a lackadaisical manner. Thank you that You have surrounded us with those who love Your church, who love Your visible representation on earth of Your heart.
And thank you for the challenge to take a STAND for You, one that has the encouragement of Your Word upon which to stand.
And Father, we pray for the good of Jerusalem. And we pray for the good of our nation.
And we give You all the praise.
In Jesus Name. Amen!