For many years, I was always curious when I came across the Psalms known as the “Songs of Ascent” (Psalms 120-134). I wondered what this special title meant and the story that sets these psalms apart. Over time, I discovered that these psalms are known as the Pilgrim Songs. Some scholars believe they were sung by worshippers as they ascended the road to Jerusalem to attend the three pilgrim feasts (Deuteronomy 16:16). Others believe that the songs were sung by Levitical priests as they ascended the steps of the Temple in Jerusalem. Another theory suggests they were written after the rebuilding of the Second Temple. Finally, there are scholars who think these songs were individual poems that were collected and given a title that would connect them to the Jewish pilgrimage after the Babylonian captivity.
As I have studied these psalms and even listened to them when they were put to song, something beautiful happened as I meditated on them as a picture of our spiritual pilgrimage. I had already done many studies of Scripture through a Hebraic lens; I was in awe of lengths that God has gone through to honor His promise to Abraham to bring his children back to the land of Israel—the land of promise. From the forefathers of the faith to the different generations in captivity, God would always create a road for them to return to the Promised Land and to Jerusalem, the very place of His throne. He created a way for them to dwell in His Presence.
Now, as much as the land of Israel is a physical land set apart by God, I couldn’t help but see in the Songs of Ascent that the process of return required a spiritual ascent of the soul. Truly, this road echoes a higher call that we have in Christ. For our Kinsman Redeemer has freed us from the captivity of sin, making a way for us to “ascend the hill of the LORD” again. Our inner man is called to make the pilgrimage to the Jerusalem Above as we submit to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
To me, the Songs of Ascent are a reminder of what inspires our praise and worship. We worship God because He has made a way for us to dwell in His Presence again. We rejoice over His continual deliverance. We express our gratitude that He has chosen us and sanctified us as His kings and priests in His eternal Kingdom. Praise and worship elevates the soul as we set our mind our higher things and our upward call in Christ.
1 Peter 2:4-5, 9 (NKJV) Coming to Him [as to] a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God [and] precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. … But you [are] a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;