Introduction to the Psalms of Ascent


In the Old Testament there are fifteen psalms called the "Psalms of Ascent," which together make up one of the most precious and beautiful portions of the Bible. These psalms were to be sung when the children of Israel came to Jerusalem and ascended to the top of Mount Zion three times a year, where they would hold a feast before the Lord. The physical ascent of the Israelites up Mount Zion is a type, or a picture, of the spiritual ascent of Christian believers through their growth in life and experience.

The first Psalm of Ascent, Psalm 120, begins, "In my distress I called out to Jehovah." This is a picture of regeneration. When we first cried out to the Lord, we were saved. The last Psalm of Ascent, Psalm 134, begins, "Bless Jehovah now, all you servants of Jehovah who stand by night in the house of Jehovah." Here we see servants of the Lord who are no longer in the world, but in the Lord's house. They stand "by night," which refers to the time immediately before the Lord comes back. These servants are those who are standing for God's testimony and are exercising in the church life to bring the Lord back. Therefore, these fifteen short psalms give us an overall picture of our Christian growth from regeneration to the Lord's return.

We can divide these fifteen psalms into five "stages" of three psalms each. We are not looking at these psalms from a scholarly point of view. Rather, we will treat them in a simple way according to our experience.
  • Psalms 120-122 are the first stage, the stage of "vision."

  • The second stage, Psalms 123-125, focuses on our consecration. Out of our vision we come to a consecration.

  • The third stage, Psalms 126-128, is the stage of enjoyment. Our consecration leads to a rich enjoyment of the Lord.

  • The fourth stage, Psalms 129-131, we will call the stage of enlargement. Our enjoyment of the Lord eventually causes us to become an enlarged person.

  • Then from our experience of enlargement we enter the final stage, the stage of maturity (Psalms 132-134).
The second and third stages can also be grouped together as one portion. Even though we are separating them, this doesn't mean that we go through the stage of consecration and afterwards enter into the stage of enjoyment. We should not think that in the stage of enjoyment consecration is over, so we can love the world and love the Lord together. In our experience, whenever our consecration is gone, then our enjoyment of the Lord is also gone. If we want to enjoy the Triune God then we must be a consecrated person all the time. The moment we are away from consecration we are also out of the enjoyment. Sometimes we think, "I did quite well yesterday. Today I can be relaxed." Then our enjoyment is gone. Consecration and enjoyment come together in our experience. However, we will still treat them as two separate stages of three psalms each.

We will share five messages. Each messages will cover one stage, or one group of three psalms. Our ability to apprehend these messages is based on our level of experience. Some of these messages may be beyond our grasp. If we appreciate the first message the most, that probably means we are recently saved. If we enjoy the second message the most, that means we have gone farther in our growth. If we get lost by the fifth message, that means we still have a long way to go. The more we understand a message, the more we know we have experienced it. Our experience will determine our ability to understand.

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Long version of this message

To purchase the book Journey of Life; the Psalms of Ascent and Song of Songs

 

Other messages of the Psalms of Ascent

Stage of Vision The first stage of the Psalms of Ascent is the stage of vision. We need to have a vision concerning the world, a vision concerning the Lord, and a vision concerning the church life.

Vision of the World     Psalms 120 gives us a vision of the true nature of the world. The world is first a world of lies, deceit, and vanity but eventually it wars against those who want what God wants.


Vision of the Lord     In Psalm 121 we come to the very God who is the Maker of heaven and earth. Leaving the world behind, we begin our spiritual ascent up Mount Zion.

Vision of the Church as God's Testimony Psalm 122 shows us a vision of the church, the Body of Christ. We need to see this vision as we continue our ascent. We must realize that the vision of the church can only come after the vision of the world and the vision of the Lord.

  Copyright 2001 T. Chu, The Church in Cleveland