A few days ago, we began reading the “Psalms of Ascent”. If you’ve seen that in your Bible before but didn’t know what it meant, you’re not alone. I’d like to walk you through the meaning and importance of them today. Especially having been to Jerusalem four times, they’ve struck a special chord in my heart.
First, let’s remember the purpose of these psalms. Each year, Jewish men in Israel had to present themselves at the Temple on three different occasions:
“Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that he has given you.” (Deuteronomy 16:16-17 ESV)
Each of these gatherings were centered around worship. They made the Israelites remember the Lord and all He had done for them. This was non-negotiable. Yes, built into the calendar were three non-negotiable seasons of worship. While this might seem like ritual, the Jews were passionate and serious about it, and they were faithful to keep it. Jesus and His disciples also took part in this. It was a regular part of Jewish life.
Jerusalem was set on a hill which is why it’s called “Mount Zion”. All of the Jews coming from anywhere else in Israel had to ascend to get to it. These psalms were written in order to focus their hearts during this ascent. The ascent would often take hours, maybe even days. Families would join together in lifting their voices in preparation for worship. They would sing Psalms 120-134. They worshipped to prepare for worship!
What’s the take-away for us today? I am simply challenged to put more thought into preparing for worship. Too often, I get to Sunday service without examining my heart. How different would our worship services be if we were ready to be there, not just physically, but spiritually too? Just a thought… chew on it with me this week as we worship to prepare to worship.
By: Todd Thomas — Worship & College Pastor