Psalm 120 – Wherever You Go, There You Are

Psalm 120 Bible with Lily's 55 Percent Cocoa Almond Dark Chocolate on snowman plate

Today’s Chocolate:  Lily’s 55% Cocoa Almond Dark Chocolate

Today’s PassagePsalm 120

Today’s psalm is, as the NASB summarizes it, a “Prayer for Deliverance from the Treacherous.” The psalmist asks the Lord to deliver him from “lying lips” and “a deceitful tongue” (120:2). For the time, he’s living in a foreign land with war-hungry inhabitants, so he turns to God for safety.

The psalmist hates being far from home, and mourns having to travel among violent peoples. He laments: “Woe is me, for I sojourn in Meshech, for I dwell among the tents of Kedar!” (120:5). If you think about it, the sentiment is kind of shocking to modern sensibilities. Imagine reading a poem or hearing a song with the lines, “I’m doomed to live in Portugal, cursed with a home in Lagos” (120:5, The Messageexcept with Portugal). It seems xenophobic, doesn’t it? I don’t have an easy resolution to that one, except that I didn’t live in the psalmist’s world. We are separated by vast gulfs of time and space, and I have no idea what the people of Meschech were like. Perhaps they really were hostile and violent and living among them as a Jew was to live with daily threats to your safety.

The psalmist sees threats from the outside: liars and warhawks. But when I read it, my mind couldn’t help seeing me as a country, with my soul praying to God for deliverance from my own tongue and internal opponents. The psalmist prays, “Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue” (120:2), but the lying lips from which you are saved may be your own. And when he mourns, “Too long has my soul had its dwelling with those who hate peace” (120:6), I imagine trying to escape those who hate peace, only to find that wherever I go, there I am. What part of my soul is an inveterate liar? What part of my soul despises peace?

That’s not what the psalmist means at all. He’s feeling oppressed by the liars and violent men of Meshech. But where he is driven to pray for rescue, I’m driven to ask forgiveness. That’s just where I am today. Sometimes that’s how it goes.

 

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