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Psalm One Hundred and Twenty

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

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A Song of degrees.

Psalm 120:1 In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me.

In my distress. Psalms 120 through 134 are the “songs of degrees,” fifteen short psalms supposedly sung by pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem to sacrifice and worship in the temple. Five psalms were written by David (Psalms 122, 124, 127, 131, 133); the other ten are anonymous. It could well be that Hezekiah was the author, as the word “degrees” (which appears in each superscript) is the same as the “degrees” on the dial of Ahaz (Isaiah 38:8). As a sign to King Hezekiah that He would add fifteen years to his life, God had supernaturally caused the shadow on the sun dial to go back ten degrees (Isaiah 38:5, 7). In commemoration of this gracious miracle, Hezekiah promised to “sing my songs ... all the days of our life in the house of the Lord” (Isaiah 38:20). It would be appropriate for him to compose ten songs, one for each degree moved by the shadow, then add five of David's songs to make fifteen, one for each year added to his life.

he heard me. The fifteen songs of degrees occur in a beautiful sequence. One could read them either as outlining the “hope of Israel” for future restoration and eternal blessing, or as a sort of “Pilgrim's Progress,” applicable to each believer as he or she progresses through the Christian life. The first in the series, Psalm 120, is essentially a cry for salvation, Psalm 121 gives assurance of salvation, Psalm 122 speaks of fellowship with other believers, and so on, with Psalm 133 finally speaking of the end of the journey and the last one, Psalm 134, of eternal praise and blessing.

Psalm 120:2 Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.

Psalm 120:3 What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue?

Psalm 120:4 Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper.

Psalm 120:5 Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar!

Mesech. Mesech (same as Meshech) was far north of Israel, now probably represented by Moscow, whereas Kedar was far south, in Arabia. Both are prophetically indicated as enemies of Israel in the last days. They may also represent the state of someone living far away from God's will but longing for salvation.

Psalm 120:6 My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace.

Psalm 120:7 I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.