SONGS FOR THE ASCENT
1 Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night in the house of the Lord. 2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord. 3 May the Lord bless you from Zion, he who is the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 134:1-3
As we are coming closer to the end of the journey through the Psalms, I hope and pray that you may think about continuing to seek hope and peace throughout the Psalms. I pray that we have been able to open your eyes and minds to see that these songs and poems are meant to help encourage and teach us in life's most difficult times. I pray that we have all seen that we are not alone in this journey and that as we begin to take some final steps, we have reached the base of the mountain of the Lord and we are beginning our ascent. We have building on the foundations of trust, hope, grace, love, peace and joy. We have been discovering some of the deepest hurts that we have been through and recognized the joy we can find through our strength and dependence on God. We have been able to step into the story of so many that have gone through the battles only to realize that many times as we read the Psalms we have found ourselves truly staring in a mirror. We have seen as God has been walking with us through this journey of true self-evaluation and reflection as we prepare to take the next steps in our faith journey.
The purpose of the title today is to remind us that regardless of the situation that we may be in, there is always a way to look up and see God. As the Psalms are poems, prayers and songs, we can use them to allow us to draw strength during any situation that may arise. The word ascent means that we are going to rise up out of the current situation we may be in and realize that we will begin to climb out and look up to God. As we have mentioned many times, we find ourselves in the posture of humility and praise that leads us to being the climb out of the conditions that we have found our lives to be stuck in. To ascend means that we are moving upwards in some form of fashion. It means that we are beginning to move out of
the doldrums or stagnation that the uncertainties have placed us in and we are beginning to once agin climb the mountains. We are coming out of the valleys and beginning to realize that joy does come in the morning. We are beginning to look up towards the heavens and focus our eyes on God's plans and feel the resiliency that has been placed deep within our hearts when God knit us together. We were never meant to stay in the valleys, but the valleys were designing to test our faith and fortitude as we rely on God and look to Him for strength and guidance. Just like the myth of the phoenix, we too will rise out of the ashes of these uncertainties stronger because of the lessons we have learned and the faith in an ALMIGHTY GOD that will continue to guide us every step of the way.
Just a quick lesson on the writings found in Psalm 120-134, they are known as the Psalms of the Ascent. As God's people were preparing to go on long journeys, they would recite or sing these songs as a constant reminder of God's presence in their lives. They would raise their voices in unison and draw strength from each other as they took every step. The word ascent may also be called a degree in which an upward movement, such as going up a hill or climbing stairs was a need. These Psalms were originally put to music and sung by Jewish families on their journey to Jerusalem. It was a way to encourage them and push them when their physical nature wanted to stop. They were words that encouraged them to take spiritual steps through prayer and petition as they were facing situations in which they felt they could not overcome alone. It was a reminder of the steps that they took as they were climbing the steps of the Temple to go and worship God. It helped to focus their minds in worship and allowed them to draw strength from the community of faith that was brought together for a common purpose. We see this in the same way when we come together in worship. We draw strength when we are in community. We lift our hands and our voices in praise and adoration for the journeys that we have all taken each week and bring back the glory to God for helping us to overcome the mountains of despair. We draw strength from community in the midnight hours when we call out in need and our brothers and sisters are their to walk by our sides. We ascend out of the ashes of uncertainty and are restored to full strength because of the power of a community filled faith.
So my encouragement to us all is to hold tight to these Psalms of Ascent. May they be a constant way that we may draw strength from God's word and a reminder that we are never alone in the journey. May we allow the words to resonate in our hearts and mind and connect us to the Christians of the past. May we draw strength from the community of faith that has overcome so much during this time that we feel as though we know so little of the situation that we are currently in. May these words continue to be a constant reminder of the faith that it takes to step out of the pits of despair and begin the journey towards heaven. We are so blessed to be able to join in the song of the community of faith, but the words only have the ability to encourage us if we are willing to apply them in our lives. As we have said many times on this journey, we are never alone. We have those that have gone before us, those
that are waling with us, and those that will come behind us. Some times I think that we forget the power of how our stories and testimonies of our personal journeys and how it can and will be used to help future generations in their time of need. Similar to us reading these Psalms of Ascent, others will hear and witness how we responded during these times of uncertainty and hopefully draw strength and assurance that they too will be able to overcome any situation. May these words today be song that resonates in your hearts. May you draw strength and peace knowing that others are also desiring community and connection and one way they can experience this is through reading these words together. Even though we may not be physically together, it does not mean that we cannot join together on this journey and draw strength knowing that we are not alone. Sing to the Lord a new song... lift our eyes to heaven... and know that HE IS GOD!