The School of Hard Knocks

The One Year Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), July 13

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1-2).

imagesThe songs of ascents were probably written during the Return Era. The message of these psalms captures the revived hearts of the exiles as they return from Babylon and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Their seventy-year exile has taught them a number of life lessons about trusting God:

  • Relying on the aid of other nations instead of the Lord is futile. King David understood this truth, but kings arose after him who relied upon alliances made with the Egyptians and other nations. Judah’s exile has cured them of trusting in the strength of other nations. They have finally learned, as the result of the Babylonian captivity, that their help comes from the Lord (121:2)—that help comes vertically, rather than horizontally.
  • The worship of idols is useless. King David worshiped the God of Israel, as did his son Solomon at the beginning of His reign. Sadly, in his later years Solomon worshiped the idols of his wives, as did many of Israel’s kings. The Babylonian captivity has taught Judah a hard lesson. They have learned to lift up their eyes to the LORD, whose throne is in heaven. Israel has also learned that worshiping the Living God in the house of the LORD distinguishes Jerusalem from all other cities. They understand that the LORD is greater than all gods.
  • God is good and faithful, even during times of judgment. King David knew this truth, and Israel learned this truth as they experienced the watchful care of God during their exile when He provided leaders (Daniel, Ezra, Mordecai, and others) and raised up kings and authorities who were sympathetic to their cause. Israel acknowledged God’s unfailing love and full redemption.
  • Every generation has the option to obey the Lord and experience the outpouring of His blessings, or disobey Him and experience the cursings of disobedience. King David obeyed the Lord and experienced the outpouring of God’s blessing. Judah, however, experienced the consequences of disobedience when they were carried into captivity by the Babylonians.

David was an apt student and learned to trust God as a young man. Sadly, most of the kings who descended from him learned to trust the Lord in the school of hard knocks.

Every man struggles with pride and self-sufficiency, while God waits to work on behalf of those who trust in Him.

Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Ps. 120; 121; 123; 125; 126):
The 10 Songs of Ascents were probably written to be sung during Israel’s annual trips to worship in the temple in Jerusalem.
What attitude toward God do these psalms reflect?
What character of God do these psalms highlight?
What do these psalms reveal about the role of Jerusalem in worship?