Worship Does Not Come Naturally: Intro to the “Psalms of Ascent”

Today begins a weekly, Sunday-only series on the “Psalms of Ascent.”  But what are they and why write about them?

Each Psalm from 120 to 134 is titled as a “Psalm of Ascent,” referring to pilgrimages to the three annual feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Booths, where every male (often bringing their extended families) was required to “ascend” up to Jerusalem.  Together, these Psalms form a type of hymnal or liturgy that these groups could sing or recite on their way to these festivals from the sometimes-distant areas where they lived.

These were reminders that their well-being depended on God’s blessing, that even though they were living in the “Promised Land” they were still pilgrims in this world, and that in spite of affliction and persecution they could rely on God to deliver them, if they worshiped Him faithfully.

Driving Toward Morning is a place to “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2), and also about encouragement “to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).  Local churches are the ideal place to do the same and discussing these Psalms here will hopefully prepare pilgrims everywhere for their weekly (and daily) worship and fellowship.

Just like the travelers in ancient Judah and Israel, who could not just show up at the temple in Jerusalem and expect God to magically transform them, the church today does not benefit from merely physically showing up to church.  The three annual pilgrimages were time-consuming, costly, and deliberate.  They provide us a model for intentional preparation for group worship.

In the words of early 20th century evangelist Billy Sunday: “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car”

This post is the beginning of a series on the Psalms of Ascent. The next post in the series can be found here.

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