This past week I have spent much time chewing and thinking on Psalm 120, the first of fifteen Songs of Ascent. These fifteen psalms (120-134) were possibly at one time a small book of songs that pilgrims would sing as they journeyed to Jerusalem to the temple three times a year for feast holidays.
Psalm 120 is the first in this section of Psalms.
Proverbs 24:19-20 says,
“Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked,
for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.”
The psalmist here seems to be a pilgrim who lives in the midst of a people who hold not his beliefs in God and are actually vocally abusing him with scorn and deceitful lies. They speak behind his back and are doing whatever they can to destroy his integrity, his joy, and his faith. He lives in the midst of an unbelieving people.
I can understand this prayer for God to deliver.
As Christians, we can learn a few things from this psalmist and his prayer for deliverance.
1) When we find ourselves in distress, we must seek God in prayer and trust Him to hear and answer us. (vv. 1-2; Cf. Psalm 64)
“In my distress I called to the LORD,
and he answered me.
Deliver me, O LORD,
from lying lips,
from a deceitful tongue.” Psalm 120:1-2
2) The righteous will be planted in the Word, watered by the Word, rooted deep in the Word, and producing fruit according to the Word. The wicked will not stand in the judgment. Their way will perish. (vv. 3-4; Cf. Psalm 1)
“What shall be given to you,
and what more shall be done to you,
you deceitful tongue?
A warrior’s sharp arrows,
with glowing coals of the broom tree!” Psalm 120:3-4
3) As Christians, we must realize that we too live among a hostile people who are against God. (vv. 5-7; Cf. 1 Peter 2:9-12)
“Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech,
that I dwell among the tents of Kedar!
Too long have I had my dwelling
among those who hate peace.
I am for peace,
but when I speak, they are for war!” Psalm 120:5-7
4) We, as Christians, are different and should not act the same way the pagan does. (1 Peter 3:8-22)
“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:10-12
5) We should expect this kind of reaction from the world that the psalmist describes himself in. (1 Peter 3:14-17)
“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” 1 Peter 3:14-17
Here’s a hymn that suits this idea very well:
I am Resolved – Palmer Hartsough
I am resolved no longer to linger,
Charmed by the world’s delight;
Things that are higher, things that are nobler,
These have allured my sight.
I am resolved to go to the Savior,
Leaving my sin and strife;
He is the true One, He is the just One,
He hath the words of life.
I am resolved to follow the Savior,
Faithful and true each day;
Heed what He sayeth, do what He willeth,
He is the living way.
I am resolved to enter the kingdom,
Leaving the paths of sin;
Friends may oppose me, foes may beset me,
Still will I enter in.
I will hasten to Him,
Hasten so glad and free;
Jesus, Greatest, Highest,
I will come to Thee.