Songs of Ascent - Fall 2020 - Reflection 3 of 6
By Pastor Matt Bisel
Read each psalm and discuss the questions below. Each Small Group is different, some tend to be more talkative, other not as much. Do your best to manage time; its okay if you don’t make it through all the questions.
Psalm 125 - Security
The people who trust in the Lord
are like Mount Zion:
never shaken, lasting forever.
Mountains surround Jerusalem.
That’s how the Lord surrounds his people
from now until forever from now!
The wicked rod won’t remain
in the land given to the righteous
so that they don’t use their hands to do anything wrong.
Lord, do good to people who are good,
to people whose hearts are right.
But as for those people who turn to their own twisted ways—
may the Lord march them off with other evildoers!
Peace be on Israel!
Common English Bible
Those who trust in God
are like Zion Mountain:
Nothing can move it, a rock-solid mountain
you can always depend on.
Mountains encircle Jerusalem,
and God encircles his people—
always has and always will.
The fist of the wicked
will never violate
What is due the righteous,
provoking wrongful violence.
Be good to your good people, God,
to those whose hearts are right!
God will round up the backsliders,
corral them with the incorrigibles.
Peace over Israel!
“The people who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion: never shaken, lasting forever.” Most people who rock climb use ropes and harnesses. These keep you safe and securely fastened to the mountain in case you were to fall. I say most people use ropes when climbing because there are a few who don’t. Free Solo is a documentary that follows free solo climber Alex Honnold as he prepares to climb, without ropes, Yosemite’s dizzying 3200-foot El Capitan. If you didn’t catch that, I’ll say it again…3200-feet without ropes! Now, the psalmist describes a person of faith as being “never shaken,” an immovable “rock-solid mountain.” But if you’re like me, you sometimes feel less like El Capitan and more like the free climber, exposed and precariously perched on feelings like anxiety, fear, doubt or depression. In what ways do anxieties, or fear, or doubts, or depression effect your faith?
Alex Hannold not only climbs without ropes, but he also climbs alone. When things in life don’t seem to be going the right way, it’s easy to feel as though you are climbing alone. But climbers who ascend the highest peaks, like Mt. Everest, don’t climb alone. They make their way up the mountain in a group, roped together. They do this because if one loses their footing, stumbles and begins to backslide they are anchored by the rest of the group. You are most likely reading this reflection together in a small group. How is being in a small group beneficial to your faith?
“Mountains surround Jerusalem. That’s how the Lord surrounds his people from now until forever from now!” The Bible is full of stories about God’s steadfast and faithful “rock-solid” love – in spite of our inconsistencies. One day Israel followed God boldly through the Red Sea, the next they were wondering in circles through the desert. The disciples lounged in an upper room, breaking bread with Jesus, listening intently to his commands and soaking up his love. By the next morning they had betrayed, abandoned and denied him. But in all of these stories there is something immovable, unchangeable, unshakable, rock solid like the mountain: We are God’s people and we stand like Mount Zion because Christ stands before us, behind us and all around us.
Psalm 126 - Joy
When the Lord changed Zion’s circumstances for the better,
it was like we had been dreaming.
Our mouths were suddenly filled with laughter;
our tongues were filled with joyful shouts.
It was even said, at that time, among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them!”
Yes, the Lord has done great things for us, and we are overjoyed.
Lord, change our circumstances for the better,
like dry streams in the desert waste!
Let those who plant with tears
reap the harvest with joyful shouts.
Let those who go out,
crying and carrying their seed,
come home with joyful shouts,
carrying bales of grain!
Common English Bible
It seemed like a dream, too good to be true,
when God returned Zion’s exiles.
We laughed, we sang,
we couldn’t believe our good fortune.
We were the talk of the nations—
“God was wonderful to them!”
God was wonderful to us;
we are one happy people.
And now, God, do it again—
bring rains to our drought-stricken lives
So those who planted their crops in despair
will shout hurrahs at the harvest,
So those who went off with heavy hearts
will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.
“We laughed, we sang, we couldn’t believe our good fortune.” I had a coffee meeting the morning after Super Bowl Sunday. The person I was meeting hardly had a voice, he had lost it after cheering the Kansas City Chiefs on to a comeback victory the night before. Little work got done but we had a great time recalling plays, highlights from the game and postgame celebrations. As we finished our conversation his face turned dim, he looked down into his empty coffee mug and sighed, “Well, I guess there’s not much to look forward to next weekend, with football being over and all.” The game had come and gone and with it those intense feelings of joy, excitement and celebration. Perhaps you’re not into football, but can you recall a time where you experienced excitement and joy, only to feel a bit let down after?
“And now, God, do it again…” Halfway through the Psalm, the psalmist pivots from the past into the present and looks forward to a joyous future. But the psalmist’s present circumstances do not seem worthy of celebrating, nor does a joyous forecast seem certain. Is joy conditional? The psalmist’s joy doesn’t seem to be in jeopardy, saying contently, “we are one happy people.” The Apostle Paul also seems to have known an unconditional kind of joy, one not contingent on his present circumstances. Writing from a prison cell, he ends his Philippian letter by saying, “Rejoice, in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice! (Phil 4:4)” How is it that the psalmist and Paul have a joy that continues long after the game is over, a joy sustained through all times and in all things?
Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society (Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 2000).