Pilgrim Songs

In the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, Jerusalem, this arch commemorated a many-times destroyed Synagogue. It’s last destruction was in 1948 during the Arab-Israel War. After retaking the Old City in 1967, plans were made to build a new synagogue. The arch was erected in 1977. Finally, in 2010 a new synagogue was built and dedicated.
by Wil Robinson. 1987

For the last fifteen days, JonahzSong has looked at Psalms 120-134 collectively as the Songs of Ascent. In doing so, each has been seen from the perspective of The Temple service and Levites ascending the steps that led from the Court of the Gentiles upward toward The Temple, where Gentiles are not allowed.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary on Psalm 134 references this collection as the Pilgrim Psalms. Prior to the destruction of The Temple, Jews were to come up the Jerusalem for three Appointed Times. These are Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Weeks or Pentecost), and Sukkot (Tabernacles, Tents or Booths)

I infer from the JFB commentary that the Pilgrims would be singing these Psalms as they made there way to Jerusalem.

How wonderful such a pilgrimage would have been, too. The words of Psalm 133, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brethren dwell in unity!” would echo through the hills. So marvelous!

I expect one day to make a final pilgrimage Jerusalemto a New Jerusalem where King Yeshua reigns. Oh, to sing those song with Brethren, to come The Feast, to dine with our L-RD, our King. Oh, how good it will be, how pleasant it will be, to truly dwell together in UNITY with King Yeshua.

Priestly Blessing

Song of Ascent: Fifteenth Step

At the Western Wall, upon which The Temple once stood, people gather to listen to a man’s prayers.
by Wil Robinson. 1987

Song of Ascent. Psalm 130

1 Come, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD, who stand by night in the house of the LORD!

2 Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the LORD!

3 May the LORD bless you from Zion, he who made heaven and earth!

The final step, what a wonderful and joyous call! It’s an invitation. The call is for me. The call is for you. Are we not grateful we are called? Jew and Gentile alike. A call by our Heavenly Father made possible by His Son, our Savior, Yeshua Jesus! Blessed be His Name forever!

The pilgrim bands arriving at the sanctuary call on the priests, who stand in the house of the Lord—at the time of the evening sacrifice, to unite in praising God in their name and that of the people, using appropriate gestures, to which the priests reply, pronouncing the Mosaic blessing which they alone could pronounce. A fit epilogue to the whole pilgrim-book, Psalms 120-134. —Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

Priestly Blessing

Song of Ascent: Fourteenth Step

At The Western Wall, Jews and Christians gather during The Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles).
by Wil Robinson. 1987

Song of Ascents.
Of David. Psalm 133

1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brethern dwell in unity!

2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!

3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

The first verse is beloved by many, and contained in favorite praise songs.

How lovely if we could hear the joyous voices of Levites on this fourteenth step of their ascent.

“. . .unity among brethren, whether civil or religious, is productive both of profit and pleasure. Of profit, because therein consists the welfare and security of every society; of pleasure, because mutual love is the source of delight, and the happiness of one becomes, in that case, the happiness of all. It is unity alone which gives beauty, as well as strength, to the state; which renders the church, at the same time, fair as the moon, and terrible as an army with banners, Song of Solomon 6:10.” — Horne, as quoted in Benson Commentary.

Priestly Blessing

Song of Ascent: Thirteenth Step

A blocked doorway. Temple Mount.
by Wil Robinson. 1987

Song of Ascents. Psalm 132
1 Remember, O LORD, in David’s favor, all the hardships he endured,
2 how he swore to the LORD and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob,
3 “I will not enter my house or get into my bed,
4 I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids,
5 until I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”
6 Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah; we found it in the fields of Jaar.
7 “Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool!”
8Arise, O LORD, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.
9 Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let your saints shout for joy.
10 For the sake of your servant David, do not turn away the face of your anointed one.
11 The LORD swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: “One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne.
12 If your sons keep my covenant and my testimonies that I shall teach them, their sons also forever shall sit on your throne.”
13 For the LORD has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place:
14 “This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
15 I will abundantly bless her provisions; I will satisfy her poor with bread.
16 Her priests I will clothe with salvation, and her saints will shout for joy.
17 There I will make a horn to sprout for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed.
18 His enemies I will clothe with shame, but on him his crown will shine.”

Do not the Levites step up and view The Temple and sing of a time when the The Ark was lost, and when found, remained in a tent?

They sing, too, of King David’s guilt at himself having a palace but no lasting House for Adonai.

Jewish commentators believe this is a “prayer David composed upon discovering the future site of the Bet Ha’mikdash (The Temple). As we read in the Book of [Samuel II (chapter 24) and the Book of Chronicles I (chapter 21), G-D delivered a deadly plague upon the Jewish people, and the prophet instructed David that he could end the plague by offering sacrifices in the granary of a Jerusalemite named Aravna (who was also known as Arnan). David purchased the land, built an altar and offered sacrifices, and the plague immediately came to an end. Thereupon David declared, “This is the House of the L-RD G-D, and this is Israel’s altar for burnt offerings!” [Chronicles I 22:1]. Indeed, that spot became the site on which the Bet Ha’mikdash was built during the time of David’s son and successor, King Solomon.”—Daily Tehillim.

In verse 14, according to Expositors Bible Commentary, “the psalmist asked for favor to the anointed, and God replies by expanded and magnificent promises. The “horn” is an emblem of power.”

And “Victory will attend the living representative of David, his foes being clothed by [G-D] with shame-i.e., being foiled in their hostile attempts-while their confusion is as a dark background, against which the radiance of his diadem sparkles the more brightly. These large promises are fulfilled in Jesus Christ, of the seed of David; and the psalm is Messianic, as presenting the ideal which it is sure shall be realized. and which is so in Him alone.

Priestly Blessing

Song of Ascent: Twelfth Step

Child in Old City Jerusalem.
Photo by Wil Robinson. 198

Psalm of Ascent. Psalm 131

1 O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.

2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.

3 O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.

On this step, we hear the Levites sing a song of David in which he “briefly testifies that he did not conduct himself with the kind of arrogance and egotism that are generally associated with leadership and author.” (Daily Tehillim)

All who govern are under the ultimate authority of G-D. Israel’s King David modeled the proper relationship of a governor, which is one of being a dependent subject to the G-D of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Father of Yeshua our Messiah and King.

Priestly Blessing

Song of Ascent: Eleventh Step

Looking down, 2500-year-old stones in an excavated area of Old City Jerusalem.
Self-Portrait. Wil Robinson. 1987

Song of Ascent. Psalm 130
1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!
2 O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.
7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.
8 And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

In their ascent from the Court of the Gentiles, the Levites step now onto the eleventh step. They enter the last section of five steps.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary begins:
“In a very emphatic sense this is a song of ascents, for it climbs steadily from the abyss of penitence to the summits of hope. It falls into two divisions of four verses each, of which the former breathes the prayer of a soul penetrated by the consciousness of sin, and the latter the peaceful expectance of one that has tasted God’s forgiving mercy. These two parts are again divided into two groups of two verses, so that there are four stages in the psalmist’s progress from the depths to the sunny heights.”

Priestly Blessing

Song of Ascent: Tenth Step

Sign pointing the way. Outside the Old City Jerusalem. Photo by Wil Robinson, 1988

A Song of Ascent. Psalm 129.

1 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth”— let Israel now say—
2 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me.
3 The plowers plowed upon my back; they made long their furrows.”
4 The LORD is righteous; he has cut the cords of the wicked.
5 May all who hate Zion be put to shame and turned backward!
6 Let them be like the grass on the housetops, which withers before it grows up,
7 with which the reaper does not fill his hand nor the binder of sheaves his arms,
8 nor do those who pass by say, “The blessing of the LORD be upon you! We bless you in the name of the LORD!”

“There is nothing in [this Psalm] which would forbid us to suppose that it was composed on the return from the Babylonian exile, but there is nothing to fix it definitely to that event. Why it was made one of the “Songs of Degrees” is equally unknown. It merely refers to the fact that Israel had often been roughly and severely treated; and it contains a prayer that those who were the enemies of Zion might be punished in a proper manner.”
Barnes’s Notes

Despite Rev. Barnes’s statement regarding not knowing why this Psalm is included among the Psalms of Ascent, it has been included. Therefore, G-D sees it as fitting, and fitting for the tenth step in the Levites ascent. They’ve climbed two thirds of the way from the lower section of the Court, the Court of the Gentiles. They are leaving behind the worldly, ascending toward the divine. Yet they also have in their minds where they’ve been and how it has been the L-RD Who has enabled every step.

L-RD Bless, Keep, Shine. . .

Song of Ascent: Ninth Step

Prayer at the The Western Wall, Old City Jerusalem. Photo by Wil Robinson, 1986

A Song of Ascent. Psalm 128.

1 Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways!

2 You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.

3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.

4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD.

5 The LORD bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life!

6 May you see your children’s children!
Peace be upon Israel! 

On the ninth step the Levites sing out that “everyone who fears the L-RD, who walks in His ways” shall be blessed. Everyone. There are rewards for those who respond to G-D. When G-D spoke to Abraham, telling him to leave his home, Abraham was to be the father of a great nation that would be a blessing to all families of the people of Earth.

I will bless those who bless you, But I will curse those who curse you. And through you I will bless all the nations.

Genesis 12:3

“This psalm very probably was written by the same hand as the former, and seems to have some connection with it; as that shows that all things depend on the providence and goodness of God; and that all blessings, particularly children, are the gift of God; this points out the blessings, civil and religious, that belong to good men; and, among the rest, a numerous offspring. According to the Syriac version,

” ‘it is said concerning Zerubbabel, prince of Judah; and the care of the building: and it intimates in it the calling of Gentiles.’

“Many things in it may be applied Christ and his church.”

–Gill’s Exposition.

L-RD Bless, Keep, Shine. . .

Song of Ascent: Eighth Step

The Western Wall, above which once stood The Temple. Photo by WIl Robinson, 1986

A Song of Ascent. Of Solomon. Psalm 127

1 Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.

3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.

4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.

5 Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

“A number of commentators explain this Psalm as a poem David composed upon being informed that his son Shelomo (Solomon), rather than he, would be given the privilege of building the Bet Ha’mikdash [The Temple. In rabbinical literature the temple is Beit HaMikdash, “The Sanctified House”, and only the Temple in Jerusalem is referred to by this name.].” Daily Tehillim Commentary.

Except the Lord build the house — That is, assist and bless those that build it, whether an artificial house, such as the temple, or the royal palace, or any of those numerous structures which Solomon raised; or rather, a natural or civil house, a family or kingdom; they labour in vain that build it — They will never succeed well in their attempts, bring it to perfection, or have any comfort in it. The success of all our undertakings depends so entirely upon God’s blessing, that it is in vain to attempt any thing without it: in vain is it to build houses and cities, or to endeavour (sic. British spelling) to uphold families, or establish states, unless he prosper the design: and the care of the watchman, of the soldier, or magistrate, is to no purpose, unless the divine providence be likewise the guard.” Benson Commentary

L-RD Bless, Keep, Shine. . .

Song of Ascent: Seventh Step

Looking out from one of the west gates of the Old City, Jerusalem, to the Mount of Olives. Photo by Wil Robinson 1987

A Song of Ascent. Psalm 126

1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.

2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”

3 The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.

4 Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negeb!

5 Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!

6 He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

Here upon the seventh step in their ascent, the Levites look back once more to the work of G-D in their history, which is our history, too. This time we hear them sing of Israel’s rescue from exile, and return to their rightful homeland.

The setting for this song is understood from Ezra chapter one.

1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:

2 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the LORD, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”

Ezra 1: 1-4

In the first verse we are told that Zion’s fortunes were restored, which is true. Here’s another translation:

When Adoniye brings about the return of Zion, we will have been like dreamers.

Daily Tehillim

They were the returned ones. It was wondrous. They were overjoyed. There was much work to do, but they were ecstatic nonetheless.

L-RD Bless, Keep, Shine. . .