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WHY PSALM OF ASCENTS

So we’re in the middle of a series of sermons about the Psalms of Ascent and right about now, you’re probably thinking, “will the Predators go all the way?” For those of you thinking about things actually going on in church, you might be asking, “what are the Psalms of Ascent and why are they called that?”

 

I’m so glad you asked. They are called the Psalms of Ascent because they all start with the phrase, “A Psalm of Ascent.” Well, I hope that clears everything up for you. Next week, we will tackle the difficult topic of…what, that wasn’t enough of an explanation? …(sigh)…Fine.

 

So the big answer to the question of why they are called the Psalms of Ascent is that we’re not 100% sure. There, feel better? Okay, how about this? Jewish and Christian scholars have a consensus of ideas about these psalms. The two biggest ideas are that they were Psalms sung by pilgrims on the approach to The Holy City or that they were sung by the High Priest as he brought the offering into the temple. These two ideas are not mutually exclusive, we just don’t know 100% if either or both are correct. But if the religious scholars are betting men, then they’d put their money on these two. They’d also be lousy religious scholars, but I’m not here to judge.

 

“But why does this make them Psalms of Ascent?” I answered that already, that phrase is at the beginning of each of the psalms, that’s why we call them that. But it is that name that gives us our strongest idea as to their meaning. You see, Jerusalem is the highest point in ancient Israel. The Temple is the highest point in Jerusalem (or it was until Herod and the Romans came along, but that’s another story). If you’re going to The Temple you are going to have to climb or ascend (the word in the Latin literally means “to climb”). When you consider it is God who resides where you’re headed, then it makes even more sense. When you look to the heavens, you don’t look down. If you do, we can talk about it in private next Sunday. We may have a ministry for that.

 

At this point, you may be asking yourself (in your deepest and most spiritual voice), “Why do I, a Christian and therefore temple of The Lord and residence of the Holy Spirit, need these psalms? After all, I am already seated with Him in the Heavenly realm.”

And you’d be right about your position, but that is what makes these psalms so very cool. These psalms are about our attitude on a long, dusty and difficult climb toward intimacy with God. These psalms tell us how we should approach our daily difficulties as we approach greater understanding with our very approachable God. If Psalm of Ascent messes you up, try Psalm of Approach. The Latin origin of approach means to “draw near” which is also what one does when one ascends towards something, only without all that miserable climbing. So for our modern understanding, these psalms teach us the attitude we should have as we get closer to The One who made Himself the only approach.

 

Do you feel overwhelmed by your situation? You need these psalms. Do you think God has abandoned you? You need these psalms. Do you think your brothers and sisters in the faith are dunderheads? You need these psalms. Do you feel like you’re scrambling and fighting and struggling but never moving forward? You need these psalms. You need these psalms, not because they change your circumstances, but because they change your perspective on your circumstances. These psalms change your approach.

 

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