Jewish pilgrims journeyed to Jerusalem three times a year to refresh their memories of God’s saving ways and to renew their devotion to Him (Exodus 23:14-17; 34:22-24).  This travel took place at three Feast times…Passover (spring), Pentecost (summer), and Tabernacles (fall).  These three Feasts were representative of the original seven Feasts instituted by God in Leviticus 23.

The “Songs of Ascent,” or shiray hammaloth in the Hebrew, were likely sung by Jewish pilgrims as they went up to Jerusalem for these worship festivals. This collection of Psalms begins with Psalm 120 and concludes with Psalm 134.  There are other ways in which these Psalms have been described: “Songs to Take You Higher,” “Songs of the Stairway,” “Songs of Degrees,” and “Songs of Homeward Marchers” are a few.

The sojourners made the trip to Jerusalem (the highest city in Palestine at 2700 feet in elevation), until they reached the Temple to complete their worship.  This ascent was not simply typographical or literal, but it was a metaphor of a life lived upward to God, an existence that advanced from one level to another in the development of spiritual maturity.  David may have sung these psalms as he brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.  These 15 songs may also have been sung on the 15 steps that worshipers would take up and into the Temple area.  Jesus also traveled to Jerusalem for these feasts.

A LONG OBEDIENCE IN THE SAME DIRECTION, by Eugene Peterson is recommended as a source for further application of these psalms in our lives.  He states, “They are not monuments, but footprints.  A monument says, ‘At least I got this far.’  A footprint depicts, ‘This is where I was before I moved again.’”

We will look briefly into each of these Psalms in the next four posts.