Save me, Lord, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues. Psalm 120:2
“Christian consciousness begins in the painful realization that what we had assumed was the truth is in fact a lie,” Eugene Peterson wrote in his powerful reflections on Psalm 120. Psalm 120 is the first of the Psalms of Ascents (Psalms 120–134) sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. And as Peterson explored this in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, these psalms also offer us a picture of the spiritual journey toward God.
That journey can only begin with profound awareness of our need for something different. As Peterson puts it, “A person has to be thoroughly disgusted with the way things are to find the motivation to set out on the Christian way. . . . [One] has to get fed up with the ways of the world before he, before she, acquires an appetite for the world of grace.”
It’s easy to become discouraged by the brokenness and despair we see in the world around us—the pervasive ways our culture often shows callous disregard for the harm being done to others. Psalm 120 laments this honestly: “I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war” (v. 7).
But there’s healing and freedom in realizing that our pain can also awaken us to a new beginning through our only help, the Savior who can guide us from destructive lies into paths of peace and wholeness (121:2). As we enter this new year, may we seek Him and His ways.
How have you become accustomed to destructive ways? How does the gospel invite you into ways of peace?
Loving God, help me yearn for and work for Your ways of peace through the power of Your Spirit.
Psalms 120 and 121 are among the Psalms or Songs of Ascents (Psalms 120–134), which were most likely memorized and sung as the Israelites traveled to Jerusalem for the feasts of Passover (Unleavened Bread), Weeks, and Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 16:16). Some of these ascent psalms are assigned to David (Psalms 122, 124, 131, 133) and one is attributed to Solomon (Psalm 127), but most have no listed author. This diverse group of psalms includes lament psalms, thanksgiving psalms, a royal psalm, wisdom psalms, and more. Yet although they may not have been written to be used as ascent psalms, they were later used for that purpose. Psalm 120 is an individual psalm written by someone far from home longing for the peace of Jerusalem (vv. 5–7), while the reassuring words of Psalm 121 instill confidence in pilgrims making the journey to Jerusalem. Today, the Psalms of Ascent continue to be significant in worship for both Jews and believers in Jesus.