A Song for Every Season

I love the Psalms. They’ve been my ‘go-to’ in many times when I just don’t know what to pray. In times of great rejoicing, when God seems so awesome and mighty and my futile words don’t seem enough, there’s Psalm 145. In turmoil and uncertainty, there’s Psalm 91. When I need strength for life’s journey, there’s Psalm 18.

The psalmists understood that life and history have many seasons: strength and weariness, joy and suffering, gain and loss. And in turn, praise takes many forms: repentance, reflection, confidence, thanksgiving, and lament. But through all seasons of life the character of God, the truth of his word, and his commitment to his people remain unchanging. This is the firm foundation for confident faith at all times.

Worship never was, never is an optional extra for God’s people. It is the heart’s proper response to who God is and what he has done. Worship recognises God’s ‘worth-ship’.

Psalm 121 is a favourite psalm for many Christians. It’s part of a collection of fifteen psalms all linked by the same title, “A song of ascents”. The Hebrew word for ascents also means ‘pilgrimage’ – a journey by worshippers. It is generally thought that this collection formed a little hymnal for pilgrims to use on their journeys up to Jerusalem for the three great annual festivals: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.

Jerusalem was the highest city in the country. The temple stood within it on Mount Zion. Therefore, any journey there was always spoken of as “up”. It might take several days and could be dangerous, so families travelled together. Jesus took these annual journeys as a boy with his family and later with his disciples. These Psalms we read are the very same ones Jesus would have sung when here on earth.

God’s word is central to the pilgrim journey: our compass for the untravelled road. The ascents collection, as a whole, presents a kind of summary of the pilgrim life: what it means to live faithfully in relationship with God. These psalms are a handbook for worshipping God in every circumstance along that journey.

Through faith in Jesus Christ, our pilgrimage now is to an eternal city, not an earthly one. There we will enter the very presence of God, and only praise will remain. So, what are you going through today? Use the Psalms to bring your heart to God.