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Grace Notes

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FROM WORRY TO WORSHIP, FROM PROBLEMS TO PRAISE
by Philip Owen

 

             
I noticed today that I have made notations in my Bible on one hundred forty-seven of the psalms. I have made no notes on three of them—Psalms 120, 125, and 134. That absence cannot be the fault of the psalms, so I determined to mine those three for the blessing they assuredly contain. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.
 
These three psalms are part of a group of fifteen known as “Songs of Ascent,” and believed to be sung by the Jewish pilgrims as they went up to Jerusalem for their various feasts. Arno Gaebelein makes this additional observation about this group of psalms: “Spiritually they mean the ascent of the believing heart into the things of God, bringing forth inspired praise and worship for his grace and mercy to His people.” As might be expected, the group begins with burden and supplication for deliverance: “In my distress I cried unto the Lord . . .” (120:1). But it ends (Psalm 134) exclusively with praise. Naturally, the progression of these psalms pictures the pilgrims leaving the trials of their daily lives, enduring the burdens of the pilgrimage, and finally coming into the precincts of the temple and its sanctuary.
 
Psalm 134, the last in this series, is also the shortest psalm (only three verses). But it expresses the heart of a pilgrim who has left his cares (though they are still real), is fellowshipping in the presence of the Lord, and now perceives things with the eye of faith, leaving room for nothing but praise. I will quote Gaebelein’s comment at length.
 
This is the final song of ascents. It takes us into the sanctuary, and there is never ceasing, constant praise and worship. In Roman Catholic Churches frequently worship is held for twenty-four hours, uninterrupted. They call it “perpetual adoration.” At best it is nothing but a dead ceremony, lip worship. So many “Our Father’s” and so many “Ava Maria’s” blabbered as quickly as possible. Different will be that coming praise in Israel’s earthly sanctuary. There will be indeed a perpetual adoration of Him who made heaven and earth and who became Immanuel, God manifested in the flesh, and who is now as the true Melchisedec, the King of Righteousness, the King of Peace and the Priest in the midst of His redeemed Israel. Such praise awaits Him in Zion.
 
During this age those who are redeemed by His blood and made nigh by the same blood have for their highest occupation praise and worship. We do not lift up our hands in an earthly sanctuary, but we worship in spirit and in truth, enabled to do so by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the tabernacle above, where He still sitteth at the right hand of God. May we give Him perpetual praise and adoration.
 
Thus, the series that began with earnest expressions of distress and need ends with devout exclamations of praise and worship. The series that began with pilgrims smothered by the persistence of their trials ends with them surrounded by the Presence of the Lord. Burden becomes blessing. Pleading becomes praise. Their rejoicing lies, not in the fact that God has removed all earthly burdens, but that they have come into His presence. “Behold, bless ye the Lord, all ye his servants of the Lord, which by night stand in the house of the Lord” (134: 1). We will surely bless Him if we stand in His presence. May you be provoked to read this blessed series of Songs of Ascent.

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