We are beginning a four-week series on the Psalms. We begin this week with a Psalm of Ascent. Psalm 120 is the first on the pilgrims’ journey to the house of the Lord.
I cried out to the LORD
when I was in trouble
(and he answered me):
“LORD, deliver me from lying lips
and a dishonest tongue!”
What more will be given to you,
what more will be done to you,
you dishonest tongue?
a warrior’s sharpened arrows,
coupled with burning coals
from a wood fire!
Oh, I’m doomed
because I have been an immigrant
because I’ve made my home
among Kedar’s tents.
I’ve lived far too long
with people who hate peace.
I’m for peace,
but when I speak, they are for war. (Psalm 120 – CEB)
Why do we want to go to the house of the LORD? What makes us get in the car to drive to worship on Sunday, or nowadays, go to the computer, turn on the TV, or join a Zoom call?
I believe it’s our need for God. Something has happened in our life that causes us to change our daily routine. And like the psalmist, it is often the recognition that we are in over heads. In this way, confession is always the first step of our pilgrimage. Confession brings us to cry out to the Lord. And here, we are given our first word of hope: God hears and answers.
The psalmist’s petition is to be delivered from lying lips and a dishonest tongue. This isn’t a “Calgon take me away” moment, for the “me” to be delivered is our very soul. This is a deep lament and supplication to God. The psalmist recognizes that more is at stake then comfort or piety.
I don’t always think about my sin that way. There are moments I have found myself crying on the floor before God in confession and then thanksgiving. But on most days, “forgive my debts as I forgive my debtors” rolls easily off my tongue. I don’t actively and consciously consider the risk to my soul. Without this honest introspection, can I be moved to go before the Lord? Will I take time out of my life to seek out the presence of God? Am I willing to give up anything in order to do so?
The psalmist is aware of what’s at stake. The consequence of sin is recognized as well as the need for the sin to be put to death. Not just with a sharpshooter’s deadliest weapon but also with the refining power of fire.
Meschech and Kedar represent places away from the community of faith, away from God. Somehow, the psalmist recognizes there is no peace, no shalom in these places far from God, and is shaken out of their ignorance, apathy, or even participation in a society that prefers war to peace. What are the things we tell ourselves that make us ignore a culture that loves war?
In our lives it is probably not actual war. But war represents the things that are not of God. War is born out of greed, envy, and pride; the need for power; the willingness to oppress others. We see these in our culture every day. Have we lived too long with people who hate peace? Have we forgotten what peace is?
The culture of war is any culture that does not seek peace. To live in the presence of God, to say, “I’m for peace,” requires action on our part. We don’t just send our thoughts and prayers. At some point, our feet need to move. We need to show up.This doesn’t mean we leave this country and move somewhere else. Our physical location does not move us closer to God. Peace is not a place we can go.
Peace is a way we live.Peace is a way we live. #peace #generosity #compassion Click To Tweet
To live in God’s peace, shalom, is to live with generosity, humility, justice, and mercy. It is a recognition that we constantly need God to deliver us from the lies and dishonesty around us — and in us. Our pilgrimage, our ascent to the house of the Lord, is one we make throughout our lives. It is our constant striving for the Kingdom of God.
To say, “I’m for peace,” is to be willing to cry out to the Lord in confession and need. It is to be willing, to move away from the comfort of pretending we are not surrounded by those who only want to talk about war when we speak of peace. It is the willingness to step out of our daily routine and comfort and begin the pilgrimage that we may bring peace to the war zone. May God guide our feet and our hearts as we begin our ascent.
Lord, our deliverer; Lord, creator of peace:
We cry to you in both confession and supplication
to silence the lies and end the culture of war this world loves.
Teach us, first in our souls,
what it means to be for peace.
And from this place of communion with you,
may we be bold to speak and courageous to act for peace.
The complete worship service is here: