SONGS OF DEGREES

What is a song of degrees?  Some have suggested these relate to pilgrims approaching the temple site in Jerusalem.  Others suggest a prophetic message of messiah coming.  I wonder if these may have been a bit of both.  Could we all be on a pilgrimage as we approach eternity?  Do our lives pass milestones that mark our growth of faith?  Perhaps this is the pilgrimage of all of mankind as we draw near the end of days and the beginning of eternity.

Psalm 120

(A Song of degrees.) In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me.  Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.  What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue?  Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper.  Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar!  My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace.  I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.  Psalm 120:1-7

Have we ever known distress?  If you are reading a bible study you have considered God to be a possible source of help in bad times.  Betrayal by people we should be able to trust is a threat.  We hope for justice against the people who live to be evil.  We hope the police will bring their weapons against the violent men.  Don’t we live in evil times, surrounded by the criminal element?  Meshech is a grandson of Noah who faces an evil end.

Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood.  The sons of Japheth; Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras.  Genesis 10:1-2

A prophesy reports that God has spoken against these sons of evil.  Many in the modern world have followed the pattern of these and will share this prosecution by God.

Therefore, thou son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal:  Ezekiel 39:1

Similarly the sons of Kedar are descended from Ishmael even as the Moslems claim to be.  Modern Israel is surrounded by the tents of Kedar.

And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam,  Genesis 25:13

Can we see people who can only want war even when their enemies are willing to have peace?  The psalmist has reported the condition of our time and unmasked the senseless evil of this world.  We can expect no logic to dissuade the zealots around us.  The spiritual realm is at war and we mortals are assailed by forces that were known from the beginning of time.  God is aware of evil, and he has announced his understanding for our encouragement here.  Our journey to faith may well begin in the dark places, but there is a promise for hope.  It was so for the children of Noah and still works among us today.

Psalm 121

(A Song of degrees.) I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.  My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.  He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.  Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.  The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.  The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.  The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.  The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.  Psalm 121:1-8

I love the mountains here in America’s west.  I expect the psalmist may be looking to Mount Zion.  The Lord is the help he is expecting and the one who created our world has promised to keep his children.  We who believe are the Israel he has promised to protect.  He never rests from his guardianship, and we rest in his shadow.  When I walk my dog in the Arizona desert, she may lay down to rest, and I will add my shadow to that of the sparse brush over us.  So the Lord shelters us from the heat of life’s trials.  We are preserved from evil by God forever.

In Wyoming the mountains are the source of the water that fill reservoirs for the crops of summer.  What was the bitterness of winter becomes the waters of spring.  The psalmist looks to the mountain of Zion for the living water of salvation.  Messiah will bring us eternal life as we progress through our journey here.

Psalm 122

(A Song of degrees of David.) I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.  Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together:  Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD.  For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David.  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.  Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.  For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee.  Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good.  Psalm 122:1-8

David is happy to enter the house of worship, the tabernacle of God.  We will stand inside the city Jerusalem which is densely populated.  David’s Jerusalem may have been outside the area of modern Jerusalem but it was already a center for worship.  All the tribes of Israel would gather at this point for worship and government.  We are called to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and for its prosperity.  We know the Prince of Peace, who is the peace of Jerusalem.  For the sake of our Jewish brethren we pray for peace to your city which we favor because of the house of the Lord within it.

Psalm 123

(A Song of degrees.) Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens.  Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us.  Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us: for we are exceedingly filled with contempt.  Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud.  Psalm 123:1-4

As Israel is established in Jerusalem they can look to God for hope because they have seen that hope as they wandered out of Egypt.  God has become their master, and as employees seek to please employers, they know that he is their source.  As the world heaps scorn on them God becomes their only source of mercy and kindness.  Kings and masters have held them in contempt until now.

Psalm 124

(A Song of degrees of David.) If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, now may Israel say;  If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when men rose up against us:  Then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us:  Then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul:  Then the proud waters had gone over our soul.  Blessed be the LORD, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth.  Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped.  Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.  Psalm 124:1-8

Even in the promised land, Israel was under siege.  If it had not been God guarding them they would have been overrun by their enemies.  Bless the Lord who did not turn rebellious Israel over to their enemies.  They escaped the snare of the Philistines then even as they do today among the Palestinians.  They returned from the Babylonian and Persian captivity and they will be delivered again from our modern Persians.

Psalm 125

(A Song of degrees.) They that trust in the LORD shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever.  As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.  For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity.  Do good, O LORD, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts.  As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the LORD shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity: but peace shall be upon Israel.  Psalm 125:1-5

Perhaps the Romans heard of this psalm, they are reported to have removed the hill known as Mount Zion.  But that was not the spiritual mountain, which is un-moved.  While the rod of Rome was on Israel for a season it did not stop the work of God.  Zealots were tempted to rebel, but that was not the work of God.  He does do good to the people who recognized the spiritual revolution of Yeshua.  Those believers eventually conquered Rome with their belief.  When some went in crooked paths with political ambitions that put power in Rome they were taken away from hope.  True Israel knows the peace of Yeshua and they are blessed by their Prince of Peace.