What does it say?
Psalm 121 communicates that the person who trusts God knows where to turn in time of trouble. Mercy is the theme of Psalm 123, while Psalm 124 praises God for being the Savior of Israel. Peace and security of those who trust in God is the focus of Psalm 125.
Psalm 128 celebrates the fruit and the blessings of the individual that lives a life of obedience to God. In Psalm 129 the psalmist anticipates the downfall of those who persecute God’s people. Psalm 130 is a humble, patient waiting upon the Lord for mercy and redemption.
What does it mean?
We cannot be certain that David is the author of all of the psalms we read today, but for those that have no specific name attached to them, David is as good a guess as any. Nor is it possible to connect any of these psalms to specific events of David’s life. Psalms 120-134 are called collectively Psalms of Ascents or Psalms of Degrees. The arrangement of the Psalms in this order dates back centuries before Christ, so we don’t know why they are referred to as Psalms of Ascents or Degrees. One of the most prevalent ideas is that these are songs sung by pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem for the feasts.
The hills mentioned in Psalm 121 might be the hills upon which Jerusalem sits. In Psalm 128 the vine and olive symbolize peace and plenty – the very fullness of God’s blessing.
Whether these psalms were a special collection sung by pilgrims or not, all of the psalms are pilgrim songs, no matter who wrote them, how or when they were sung. We are all pilgrim along the path of God’s mission. If David wrote all or most of these psalms, it seems they were written at a different moment of his life, after his time of running from Saul.
We don’t need to imagine that psalms spontaneously and immediately came into existence in the seasons of life to which they correspond. They came about in the meditative and creative process within the psalmist as inspired by God’s Spirit and written to be sung and engaged by the entire community of the faithful.
How will I respond?
I am a pilgrim in the community of believers. In the West we tend to think of the Psalms as some intensely private, personal experience and forget the community aspect. What can I learn to more fully participate in and benefit from community worship and praise? What one passage from today’s reading spoke to me and why?