We’re discussing seven different types of psalms and how to make them a regular part of our worship. Today we consider pilgrimage psalms. A pilgrimage is a journey to a place that holds special spiritual value to the person making the pilgrimage. In ancient Israel those who lived outside of Jerusalem would make several pilgrimages each year to come to Jerusalem to worship at the temple and celebrate various feasts which commemorated important elements of Israel’s sacred story. We know that Jesus was arrested and crucified at the beginning of the Passover celebration.
As people made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem they would sing joyful and festive psalms that would help them recall God’s goodness. If you’ve ever travelled to a special place and event like Fuel, or General Conference, Christian Worker’s Seminar, or summer youth camp, you know that the excitement builds as you journey and get closer to the event. Sometimes people sing some of the songs that gave meaning and joy to their previous times at those places.
Imagine as the pilgrims get closer to Jerusalem. As Jerusalem is on a mountain they can see it from a distance. As they climb Mt. Zion to get closer to the city and the temple of God their excitement grows and they begin enjoying an attitude of worship by singing and recalling God’s blessings.
Psalm 121 is a great example of a pilgrimage psalm:
A song of ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
This serves as a reminder that as you journey on your way, God is with you. God is your helper who watches over you wherever you go. How comforting and assuring to know that God is with you on your journey through life. Even during those times where you might not know what’s waiting for you around the next corner or over the next hill, God is there, and he doesn’t go to sleep on the job.