The Psalms of Ascent

The Psalms of Ascent is a collection of Psalms in the Psalter.  There are other collection or groupings of Psalms. This collection is not unique in that sense.  However, this collection was a well-worn collection.  This dog-eared collection was taken by pilgrims to Jerusalem three times per year on their pilgrimage, hence the title, Psalms of Ascent. These pilgrims were going up to Jerusalem! Some have viewed the 15 Psalms that make up this collection (Psalms 120-134) as the fifteen steps leading up to the temple in Jerusalem.[1]

What is more, this series of Psalms is finely structured.  Psalm 127 is the middle Psalm leaving seven on either side.  This middle Psalm is the only one in the collection written by Solomon.  It is as familiar as it is loved. This is the Psalm that reminds us that “unless the Lord builds the house, those how build labor in vain.” Advice Solomon himself should have paid close attention to during his reign.  Yet, the Psalm drives us beyond Solomon to think of Christ.  The Lord Jesus built a house and He as the builder has more glory than the house (Hebrews 3:3)!

But on either side of this psalm, we find seven Psalms. In each of these sections of seven psalms we find two from David (Ps. 122, 124 and 131, 133) and five anonymous psalms. Thus, we have something of a pyramid structure. The Psalms of David are striking. In Psalm 122, we are reminded of the joy of being in the city of our God. In Psalm 124, we are reminded that the Lord was on our side and that he did not leave us prey to our enemies. Psalm 131 counsels us in humility and Psalm 133 directs our attention to the unity that we enjoy in this great city, which is our God. These concepts of humility, joy in the Lord’s city and our unity with one another remind us of what we possess in David’s greater son, a son greater than Solomon.

Brothers and sisters, the Psalms of Ascent are a reminder of what we possess in Christ.  So, let us take up these Psalms.  Let us read and remember that Christ built His house, laying Himself as the chief cornerstone.  What is more, each of us are living stones situated one beside another creating a beautiful house temple to His glory. Therefore, let each psalm take us on a pilgrimage to our Christ.  And there let us be glad and rejoice for we are safe in Him who is our God!

Jeffrey A Stivason (Ph.D. Westminster Theological Seminary) is pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gibsonia, PA.  He is also Professor of New Testament Studies at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA. Jeff is the Senior Editor of Place for Truth (placefortruth.org) an online magazine for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. 

 



[1] O Palmer Robertson, The Flow of the Psalms (P&R: Phillipsburg, NJ, 2015), 210.

 

Jeffrey Stivason

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