A healthy way of viewing the biblical Psalms of the Old Testament is to look at them as the church’s prayer book. The Psalms give voice to the experiences of our lives, especially when we have become mute with overwhelming circumstances. One of the ways in which the ancient Israelites remained faithful was to take at least one annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. As they walked the slow journey to the city, and ascended the mountain to its pinnacle where the Temple stood, the Jews used the psalms of ascent to help them remember the Lord’s faithfulness and praise God.
The actual physical trek up the mountain would mimic the spiritual experiences of the Israelites coming from the valley of the shadow of death, only to rise above seeming tragedy to the heights of God’s deliverance. Israel was often alone in the world, with many enemies and only God to help them. Imagine a large coterie of Jews joyfully ascending the temple mount shouting to heaven: “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” Picture them searing the character of God on their hearts through loudly proclaiming: “If it had not been the LORD who was on our side… then they would have swallowed us up alive.”
If you have a flight of stairs in your house or your church, try a little exercise in this week: leave a small copy of the Bible at the foot of the staircase and each time you ascend to the next floor say Psalm 124 or one of the other psalms of ascent aloud as you go up. At the end of the week, take some time to discuss your experience with your spouse, friend, or pastor. Think about how to further engraft the Psalms into your life so that they form and shape you in fresh ways.
Saving God, just as you delivered the ancient Israelites from their bondage and brought them into a good land, so help me to rise above my circumstances and see your guidance in all things, through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.