The collection of Psalms 120-134 are titled, “songs of ascent”; that is, they are psalms sung by the people of God as they made the ascent from their hometowns to the great city of Jerusalem where they were to gather three times a year to worship at the Temple.
All sorts of reasons and excuses, no doubt, were offered and acted upon as to why one could not make the journey. Even once on the journey, there is no assurance that one would continue. The author of Psalm 125 reminds the pilgrim of the end of the pilgrimage, its fruit or consequence in the life of the one, who by faith, undertakes such a journey.
If the struggle to arrive were not struggle enough, we must remember that pilgrims live in a world of wicked rulers, duplicitous companions, and crooked dealings. How can all of this add up to the peace and rest promised in Psalm 125? How does our continuing in obedience along the pilgrim way make for one’s being fixed, strong, and immoveable like Mount Zion? The author’s simple answer is faith.
You may have heard Jesus’ words on faith and mountains. Mark 11:23 says, “Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.” I wonder if the point is not the movableness of the mountain (how far one’s faith may throw the mountain?), but rather that even for the weakest, faith in God makes one immoveable even though buffeted by mountains? When life falls apart we are told (when “the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea”, Psalm 46:2) that the one who trusts in the Lord is not moved, but abides.
In the images of pilgrimage, faith, and mountains, I am drawn to Abraham for whom all three came together in a perfect storm of fear. In the sonnet below, I make use Abraham and his offering of Isaac to fill out the words of Psalm 125 which reads,
1 Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore.
3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous stretch out their hands to do wrong.
4 Do good, O LORD, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts!
5 But those who turn aside to their crooked ways the LORD will lead away with evildoers!
Peace be upon Israel!
If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet here,
Footsore, ready to be done with this walk—
Three days of wrestling, weary with waiting;
Afraid, fear like a lion lurks and stalks,
To pounce on my chest, its pressure suffocating.
Was it that much worse doing it myself?
Take the wife’s maiden? Do it our way?
Not cast off, forgotten, left on some shelf?
Get what I want, have our day, when I say?
You promised the stars if I trusted your word,
Yet this road’s end, leads to losing laughter;
Even though the Nations be blessed, how Lord,
That offering one’s son, secures rest after?
The Lord on Mount Zion provides us a place
Abiding and laughter, peace, rest, and grace.
© Randall Edwards 2017
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
artwork: detail from an illustration of The Pilgrim’s Progress or Christian’s journey form the City of Destruction in this evil World to the Celestial City; Published July 1, 1813 by J. Pitts No 14 Great St Andrews Street Seven Dials.