Psalm 120. Ascending Song: Step #1.

Today’s Lectio Divina: Excerpts from Psalm 120. (MsgB)

A Pilgrim Song.

I’m in trouble. I cry to Goddesperate for an answer.


The Songs of Ascent.

Fifteen psalms (120-134) written for the explicit purpose of providing God’s ancient people with some traveling music as they plod their way up the hills toward God’s Holy City, Jerusalem.

Biblical scholars have assigned different titles to this set of 15 songs over the years. Some call them Gradual Psalms or Songs of Degrees. Other define them as Songs of Steps. Eugene Peterson, author of the Message Bible, calls them Pilgrim Songs, dedicating an entire book to these fifteen tunes, a classic called A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.

Just as the title varies among scholars, so do the opinions on how these fifteen songs were used. Many believe, as we said earlier, that these were songs sung by God’s people as they headed from their hometown toward Jerusalem for the three Holy Feasts: the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles.Others believe them to be songs sung in Jerusalem by the priests as they walked up the fifteen steps of the Temple entrance.

Whatever the use, the fact remains that Psalms 120-134 are short little songs filled with big wisdom and big hope. Take Psalm 120, for example. Seven short verses, but spot-on accurate when it comes to helping God’s people get focused as they are preparing to take their very first steps toward God.

I’m in trouble. I cry to Goddesperate for an answer.

As I see it, every time I find myself in desperate times of trouble, the very best solution is always found when I immediately turn to God for help. Truthfully, I must admit that as a ‘doer’ for God, I often try to take things into my own hands when times get tough. I panic. I see things going down, and my immediate action is to step up to the plate and give my very best at solving the problem. All the while, there is God, standing off to the side, waiting patiently for me to grow tired and frustrated in my valiant efforts.  A powerful friend who has amazing ways to take problems and bend them into blessings. But me? I go right ahead and try to repair things myself. And in the process, I get bloodied and bullied, trying to handle something on my own instead of doing what Pilgrim Song #1 suggests.

I’m in trouble. I cry to Goddesperate for an answer.

Too bad I fail so often at listening to and obeying this simple first step of pilgrimage toward God. Here it is. Written clearly in my Bible. Maybe after all these life lessons of failing when I try to fix things by myself, I’ll learn to do step #1 well.

Trouble arrives. I bow down in worship. I turn my eyes heavenward and cry out to Abba, my Father in Heaven.

Help Daddy, Help. Come rescue me from troubles that are beyond my ability to solve. Desperate for a solution, I look to You, the Master of solving desperate problems. For Your Name’s sake!

My prayer: God, I’m so glad that Your Word is so simple. Clearly, in times of trouble, You never expect me to strike out on my own to fix my problems. Instead, it’s Your desire that I come, first and foremost, to You, crying out to You for help. Thank You, my Rescuing King, for the awareness that step #1 in any ascent toward You is to humble myself and allow You to be in charge. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: So how am I striking out on my own right now, trying to fix problems without first, coming to God and asking for His powerful help and clear direction? How can I cement in step #1 in my life? When found in times of trouble, stop, look upward and ask for help from above.

So what is God speaking to you today as you ponder the Psalms?


Over a 50-week period, you and I will take a deeper look at The Psalms: God’s Songbook of Prayers. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Contemplating the Psalms home page for ease of use. Keep in mind that one of the best ways to explore the on-going applications of this blog series is to walk alongside a biblically-based, Christ-centered spiritual director who is familiar with how to make material like this part of your overall spiritual formation in God. Many of our directors in our Contemplative Activist network are available to companion you in your journey with Jesus. Click here for more info.

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