Life-Study of Psalmsby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we will begin to consider a particular group of psalms, Psalms 120 through 134, which are known as the Psalms of Ascents.
Whereas Psalm 119 talks about the law, in these fifteen psalms the law is not mentioned. Instead of speaking concerning the law, these psalms refer to the matter of captivity. The people of Israel loved the law, but they did not live according to the law. After they received the law, their sins, offenses, and transgressions increased. They even went so far as to turn from God and worship idols. For instance, Judges 17 tells us of a man who set up idols in his home, who appointed one of his sons to be his priest, and who later hired a Levite to be a priest in his house. Since the people of Israel wanted to worship idols, God caused them to go into captivity in a land of idols. As the people were suffering in captivity, they forgot many things, but they could not forget Zion and Jerusalem.
At that time, Mount Zion and Jerusalem, which was built on Zion, were the only signs left on earth of God. Zion was the place where Abraham offered his son Isaac; it was also the place chosen by David. God is invisible, mysterious, and very deep. No one has seen Him. Nevertheless, Zion and Jerusalem were earthly signs of God's existence. As indicated by Psalms 120 through 134, Zion, the center, and Jerusalem, the circumference, remained deeply in the consideration of the people of Israel. For this reason, I have entitled the two messages on these psalms "The Preciousness of Zion and Jerusalem in the Experiences and Praises of the Saints." Because of their experiences, the saints could not forget Zion and Jerusalem, and in their praises they did not neglect them. The saints were concerned not for godliness or comfort but for the fate of Zion and Jerusalem.
Israel was first invaded by the Assyrians and later by the Babylonians. Unlike the Babylonians, the Assyrians did not destroy the city of Jerusalem or devastate the temple. When the Psalms of Ascents were written, both the city and the temple remained, and the saints in captivity remembered them as signs, as symbols, of the very God whom they worshipped.
Why are these fifteen psalms called Songs of Ascents? To answer this question we need to see that when the people of Israel were captured, they were in a downward situation. To return to Jerusalem and to Zion was to be in an upward situation. Furthermore, they had to climb, to ascend, the hill of Zion, and as they were ascending they sang a song of ascents, a song of degrees.
When we were saved, we were in an upward situation and thus could not sing a song of ascent. However, we may eventually become "down" or "low" for a period of time. At such a time we are in a kind of captivity. But when the Lord gains us again and we are revived, we will sing a song of ascent. As a result of our experiences of the ups and the downs, we will no longer uplift the law, appreciating it in a natural way. We will realize that the law does not help us. Rather, the things that truly help us are Zion and Jerusalem.
Let us now consider these fifteen psalms one by one.
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