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The starting place for our spiritual pilgrimage is seeing the world for what it is in order to turn from it.” – Eugene Peterson

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In my distress I called to the LORD,
    and he answered me.
Deliver me, O LORD,
    from lying lips,
    from a deceitful tongue.
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!
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 begins The Psalms of Ascent. Old Testament law commanded Israelites to appear before the Lord in keeping three distinct biblical feasts (Exodus 23:14-17, Deuteronomy 16:16) – the feast of Tabernacles, sometimes called Feast of Booths (John 7:23), the feast of Weeks or Pentecost (Acts 2:1), and Passover (Luke 22:7). Fulfilling this command for someone living in a distant land meant a pilgrimage to God’s Temple. The Psalms of Ascent, Psalms 120-134, were recited by pilgrims as they made their way “up” to Jerusalem. Regardless of actual elevation, Jerusalem was always considered a high or holy place, and thus, one “ascends” towards God’s dwelling.

The pilgrimage to Jerusalem was sometimes long and tedious – even dangerous when traversing foreign lands. Yet, out of love for God and a desire to keep His commands, devout Israelites would make the trek knowing and perceiving the cost it would require. The psalmist here is figuratively using Meshek and Kedar as distant lands known for their paganism and war-like tendencies. He doesn’t literally live in both places, but recognizes their worldliness and acknowledges he dwells among worldliness too. Now it’s time to ascend toward Jerusalem for the feast and set his face toward God.

As we consider our own pilgrimage in this world, we can also set our face toward God. By turning from the world and starting our ascent toward his holy city, we take a similar – tense and dangerous – pilgrimage as we yearn to be with God, learning how to be in the world but not of it. Such a pilgrimage does not happen overnight, but is a life-long process. Eugene Peterson, in his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, says, “The starting place for our spiritual pilgrimage is seeing the world for what it is in order to turn from it.” Today, think about the culture the Psalmist lived in and notice how he dealt with his frustrations in this Psalm. Then, think about the culture you live and how you deal with your own frustrations.[/vc_column_text][us_separator height=”25px” size=”custom”][vc_column_text]

By Cole Comstock 

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