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WHY PSALM OF ASCENTS POST 3

Whenever you hear the phrase, “the pilgrim road,” used in antiquity, it was usually referring to a particular road or path to a holy place. This is somewhat true with Jewish pilgrimages to the temple in Israel. If you were coming from lands North or East of Israel, you wound up coming through Galilee. From Galilee, there were two paths to Jerusalem and they were the closest things to a pilgrim road for the Jewish believer.

One path went through Samaria and that was the most direct path, but traveling in Samaria had its drawbacks that we’ll talk about later. The other road went through Perea and was much longer, but you were among Jews most of the way.

Because the trip was long and could go through some unfriendly places, travelling was generally done in groups – the larger, the better. As they travelled, they would encounter other groups of pilgrims and merge into even larger, safer groups. That’s one of the huge advantages of having designated paths of pilgrimage. The closer you get to your destination, the more likely you are to encounter help and friendship.

Eventually, the pilgrim reaches his goal, which is a holy place. In the case of our Jewish friends, it is the Holy City and the Temple. But the place is not the actual goal. Getting right with God is the goal. Knowing you’ve fulfilled your obligations to your faith and to your fellow believers, knowing you are as right before God as you can be, that is the goal. It is a worthy goal. A goal for which pilgrims still travel today.

Of course, in Jesus, the whole thing gets turned around. Jesus says He is The Way, The Gate, The Narrow Path. In other words, Jesus is THE Pilgrim Road for us who believe. And once we have Jesus — or better, He has us — then we already have everything. I become as righteous as I can ever be because I gain His righteousness. I become as close to God as I can be. I’m one with Him. The obligations set forth by my sin are fulfilled by His sacrifice for me which is awesome because I could walk back and forth to the Temple a billion times and not begin to cover the distance sin had created between us. Now, I am the Temple; for His Holy Spirit resides in me.

So, when we believe in Him, we are automatically on the the pilgrim road. Our goal is no longer the destination. It is the road itself. It is getting to know The Way, The Truth and The Life. It becomes about understanding the bends and bumps and ups and downs, and how many of those came from me taking shortcuts. And of course, the closer you get to the Road, the more likely you are to encounter help and friendship; but also, the more likely you are to BE help and friendship. For us, the Road is not taking us to a physical destination, but rather we are moving to a place where we become indistinguishable from The Road Himself.
Pilgrims of this world start towards a destination in the hopes of redemption. The Christian pilgrim starts with the destination — with redemption — and then travels until all the things that are not Jesus have fallen away.

– Keith Troop