Friday, December 6, 2013

CCXV - Psalms 119-134

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the entire Bible.  However, I do not want to spend a lot of time on it, as I want to cover the songs of ascent, of which there are many (15).  Psalm 119 is the epitome of the “acrostic” psalms I referred to earlier.  This psalm actually does 22 sections of 8 verses acrostically.  There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet.  The first letter is “aleph”, the second is “beth”, the third is “gimel”, and so on.  In the Hebrew, all 8 verses in the first section called Aleph, begin with the letter aleph.  The entire psalm keeps that pattern.  {Of course it was not possible to maintain this acrostic style in the translation to English or any other language.}  This psalm is commonly considered by scholars to have been written during the time when the exiles had returned to Jerusalem from Babylon.  Ezra is often mentioned as the probable author.  Due to the subject, I am inclined to agree.  Ezra was a Levite scribe and dedicated himself to the teaching of the Law.  In this psalm, several words were used for the “Law” ie. Law, Statutes, Commands, Word, Words, Decrees, Precepts, and other words related to God’s laws.  In this psalm, these words are mentioned 170 times.  The whole psalm is a tribute to the Law and an appeal to the adherence to it as the Jews reestablished their nation.  {Interesting to note one of my favorite songs was taken from verse 105, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path”.}

I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post “the songs of ascent”, often referred to as songs of climbing.  These are Psalms 120-134.  They have many authors, including David, Solomon, and perhaps Hezekiah, Isaiah, Ezra, and/or Nehemiah.  But whoever among these possible authors, there is no doubt that these were written at different times, possibly spanning 500 years.  I like these psalms.  They are short and easy to grasp their meanings.  They were written to be put to music, and well-suited as such.  As to the reason why they are titled “songs of ascent” has been a subject for discussion for centuries.  The two prevailing thoughts are:

1)   1)   There is a section of the Temple which has 15 steps.  As the men would climb these steps, they would stop on each step and sing one of these psalms in order as they are written.

2)    2)  Jerusalem sat atop a hill called Zion.  As Jews made their pilgrimages to Jerusalem, they would sing these psalms as they “ascended” up the hill to enter the city.

Psalm 120 is easy to understand.  The psalmist is forewarning liars what God is going to do to them.  {God hates a lying tongue.}

You will like Psalm 121.  It is tradition among many Jews to place a copy of this psalm in the labor and delivery rooms to promote easier labor for the mother by asking God for His mercy.  Then, the copy is placed in the baby’s crib or carrier, then to its room to protect the child and surround him/her with Scripture.  Interesting, huh?

Psalm 122 is written by David as he established Jerusalem as the capitol of the new nation Israel.  He prays God’s blessings on Jerusalem, and mentions that all twelve tribes will go “up” to Jerusalem to worship.  David acknowledges that God will make Jerusalem His home also.

Psalm 124 was written by David apparently as he was in battle with the Philistines, over which God gave him victory.

The next three psalms seem to be written by the same author.  They deal with the subject of enemies trying to take over the nation Israel.  126 tells of the enemies fleeing, but with a “scorched earth” manner, leaving problems for Israel’s people.  Both 126 and 127 acknowledge that God (not their own arrows) has protected the city and will continue to.

Verse 3 in Psalm 128 shows that one of God’s blessing is many children.

It says in the opening verse of 129 “They have greatly oppressed me from my youth”.  This is not speaking of a person, but rather the nation Israel, as the psalmist prays for God’s protection from all enemies of Israel.

Psalm 130 is a song of repentance, confessing great sin and sinfulness, asking for God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Psalm 131 is one in which David proclaims his unworthiness.  David never laid claim to being anything special, or having special talents.  David lived his life in awe of God having chosen him for such an honorable task.

Psalm 132 is all about the Ark of the Covenant, and how David longed to bring the Ark back to Jerusalem, his failure the first time, then from verse 11 to 18 it speaks of Jerusalem being its proper home.

Psalm 133 is a call for unity among all of Israel, all twelve tribes.

And finally in the songs of ascent, Psalm 134 is an appeal for all of Israel to praise the Lord, which is short and probably considered fitting as the final song for the final “step” as they climbed toward the Temple in Jerusalem.

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