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Psalm 120: Dissatisfaction

It is often said that ‘life is a journey’. For years we can be oblivious to the fact that we’re moving in a particular direction; in other phases of life, we are more deliberate about our direction of travel. What is it that awakens us to these more intentional parts of the journey?

The ‘Psalms of Ascent’ (Psalms 120-134) were a collection of travellers’ songs for religious pilgrimages, sung by the Israelite people on their journeys up to Jerusalem for the Jewish festivals. They are full of imagery of the spiritual journey of life we often embark on.

What’s striking about the first song on the list, Psalm 120, is where the journey begins: in dissatisfaction. There is a world-weariness about this psalm: distress (v1); a need to be saved from untruth and deceit (v2); the reality of judgment (v3-4); the woe of dwelling for too long with bad people (v5-7).

People’s search for God often begins with such a sense of dissatisfaction with the world, a desire for something more in life, a realisation of our need of God’s forgiveness and help. Psalm 120 gives us an opportunity to press the reset button, to cry for help (v1), and to examine where we have been sucked in to empty promises (v2-4) and the influence of ‘those who hate peace’ (v5-7). 

Jesus was a Jewish man, who also made the journey to Jerusalem with his friends. It is thought that they also would have sung these psalms together on their way there. On this journey (recorded in Luke 9:51 to 19:28), he taught what it was like to walk with him. Christians believe that he is still alive today, that he invites us to journey through life with him, and that his way of life is the only true way for us to move from dissatisfaction into peace. 

If you are feeling dissatisfied with the world around you, why not read what Jesus claims to offer you? And why not ask him today to show you what it is like to follow him? He loves to answer the calls of those in distress, and save us from lies and deceit (v1-2). 

PRAYER Thank you Jesus that you are there, that you know about my deep sense of dissatisfaction in life, and that you care for me. Please show me how you can meet all my needs and deep longings in life. Help me to trust you and journey with you, starting today. Amen.

A song of ascents.

1 I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me.

2 Save me, Lord, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues.

3 What will he do to you, and what more besides, you deceitful tongue?

4 He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows, with burning coals of the broom bush.

5 Woe to me that I dwell in Meshek, that I live among the tents of Kedar!

6 Too long have I lived among those who hate peace.

7 I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.


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