A Stark Contrast

Read Psalm 120

Featured Verse: Psalm 120:6-7

“I am tired of living among people who hate peace. I search for peace;  but when I speak of peace, they want war!”

Perhaps you scratched your head when you read this psalm, as I did, unable to pull out much application from it other than the psalmist’s upset with the deceitful, hateful people he was forced to endure. But digging into the title of the psalm sheds some much needed light on the rest of the psalm.

This is what is called a psalm of assent. There were fifteen of them, and they were songs to be sung by pilgrims on their way up to Jerusalem (the city had a relatively high elevation for the Promised Land, sitting at 2,700 feet above see level). These psalms were written in a time when Israel had only one central location for corporate worship—the sanctuary of the tabernacle/temple in Jerusalem—and they were required to go there three times each year for one of the religious festivals prescribed in the law of Moses.

As they made their journey, they were to worship—not a bad idea for you and me as we make our way to weekly worship at our church. In this particular psalm of assent, these pilgrims had to make a long journey since they lived in Meshech, way to the north in Asia Minor, and Kedar, which was in Ishmaelite territory in Arabia. (Psalm 120:5) Both places were known for violence, and in each godless location deceit (Psalm 120:2-3) was an acceptable way of life.

So now we see how this psalm of assent is a little more applicable to our lives. We, too, live in a culture that stands in stark contrast to the culture of God. Hostility and deceit are simply a way of life, even if you don’t live all that far from the church where you worship. That godless culture forces its way into your life every day through the television, radio, or through your computer, and of course, through the people with whom you must interact. And like me, you are probably sick and tired of having to endure a culture God never intended for mankind.

One day, we will no longer have to endure such hostility and dishonesty. One day, perhaps sooner than we think, the Son of God will break through the clouds and call the people of God to their eternal home where truth and peace are as close as the air we will breathe. And what a day that will be!

But in the meantime, God has given us a place to which we can run and find truth and peace—the sanctuary of our church. There God’s Truth is proclaimed, and there through our worship, the peace of God transcends the chaos from without and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7) And best of all, you aren’t limited to three times a year, you can go at least once each weekend to get your defense shields recharged as you gather with the rest of God’s children to offer your worship and receive his grace.

Now that the psalmist has reminded you of this stark contrast between culture and church, perhaps you ought to sing a song of assent on your way to worship this coming weekend.

“The consciousness of being borne up by a spiritual tradition that goes back for centuries gives one a feeling of confidence and security in the face of all passing strains and stresses.”
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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