Lent 2 (2012)–Listen: Expect Opposition

 A song of ascents. I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me.  Save me, O LORD, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues.  What will he do to you, and what more besides, O deceitful tongue?  He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows, with burning coals of the broom tree.  Woe to me that I dwell in Meshech, that I live among the tents of Kedar!  Too long have I lived among those who hate peace.  I am a man of peace; but when I speak, they are for war. (Psalm 120:1-7)

When I was in elementary school, we had music class and would sing songs.  Isn’t it interesting how a song from decades ago can still be memorable?  One song popped into my head instantly as I was thinking of pilgrims singing on their journey: The Happy Wanderer.  The lyrics went, “I love to go a-wandering, along the mountain track.  And as I go, I love to sing.  My knapsack on my back.”  The chorus was always our favorite: “Val-deri,Val-dera,Val-deri,Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.”  We especially liked the ha-ha part and sang it with gusto even if the words were total gibberish.

The pilgrim songs in the Psalter (the Hebrew hymnal) begin with Psalm 120 (above) and are called the Songs of Ascents.  Fifteen psalms are listed this way and there is plenty of discussion over why they are called this.  Was it because these psalms gradually built upon prior ideas?  Or are they related to the fifteen steps up to the sanctuary?  Or maybe a description of the pilgrims returning to Israel at the end of the Babylonian exile?  Many writers consider that these fifteen psalms reflected the pilgrimage to the three annual festivals: Pesach (Passover), Shavu’ot (Pentecost), and Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement).  Just as we sang new and old songs in elementary school, it is thought that the pilgrims going to the Passover and other feasts would remember God’s Word and sing as they made their journey “Up to Jerusalem.”

The discipleship lessons taught by these Songs of Ascents were well remembered, too.  Psalm 120 is the first Song of Ascents and might be titled, “Discipleship Lesson 1: Expect Opposition.”  Not exactly The Happy Wanderer as a subject for Psalm 120.  So why start here?

First, the message reminds us that our journey may start in a place that feels like the pits, but as we seek God’s presence, our spirits can soar.  After all, doesn’t it feel good to get away from a bad place and head toward a place of joy?  Doesn’t it bring you comfort to see how far you’ve come despite feeling like a target of sharp arrows?

Moreover, it prepares us by recalling that opposition happens when you’re on a spiritual journey to the presence of God.  Opposition will come in both words and deeds.    People who reject God can speak against us in a variety of ways and will often demonstrate their disdain through their actions as well.  For American Christians, actions against us are relatively minor in comparison to other areas of this world in which persecution against Christians is commonplace.

For the pilgrims in Israel heading “Up to Jerusalem,” opposition was a familiar experience and hearing this song echoed by other voices would encourage each pilgrim to persevere against opposition.  After all, they were on a spiritual journey to the presence of God.

Questions for meditation:
In what ways have you experienced opposition for your faith in Jesus?
Before following Jesus, were there ways in which you took aim against or opposed Christians?
Think of the Apostle Paul’s life.  How did he understand the expectation of opposition (Acts 9:1-27)?


Categories Articles and Devotionals, Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on February 23, 2012

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  1. by Naomi

    On February 25, 2012

    Please add my name to your list to receive the Lenten devotionals. Thanks.


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