Pilgrims. Whether you picture the Mayflower and a colony in black outfits and buckled shoes, or a religious group gathering to make a journey, I bet you see peace and harmony. I bet you do not picture a pilgrim with sword and spear, training to be a warrior.
Yet in Psalm 120 the two combine, just a little.
Psalm 120 is the first psalm, or song, in a series. Somewhere along the line of publishing the Psalms, chapters 120 – 135 became called the “Songs of Ascents” or the “Songs of Degrees” or as The Message translates it “A Pilgrims Song”. It is speculated that these psalms were songs that the Jews would sing during the stages of their pilgrimage to Jerusalem or since there are 15 songs, they would be sung on each of the 15 steps leading from the outer court of the temple to the inner.
But what does this have to do with being a warrior?
“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips,from a deceitful tongue. 3 What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue? 4 A warrior’s sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree! 5 Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! 6 Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace.7 I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!”
We are pilgrim warriors. The first time I read through this psalm I saw God as the warrior, waging battle against our tongues, our deceitful tongues and our sinful nature. As I read it again I saw it as God, and his children, being warriors against all of the deceit and sin in our world. And by “our world” I mean the world that we are passing through, the one that we are pilgrims in. We are making a journey through a land that hates peace, to find ourselves at peace with God.
The Psalmist, probably David, feels like he is trapped in the lands of Meshech and Kedar, two nations known for being barbarous people. Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever have days where it feels like everyone is against you, that you are being attacked from all directions, and all you are trying to do is get through your day, accomplish your job, get through school, or just order your cup of coffee.
That is our pilgrimage. Our journey to God will have us waging war on our own sinful nature, because sometimes we attack ourselves as well as others. Our pilgrimage will have us journeying through some treacherous places and meeting some malicious people. This malice, however, comes from our enemy, who is not our fellow man. Our enemy are the forces of Satan and his accomplices. They know that they closer we get to God the more powerful we are. The further along in our journey the more dangerous we become.
This song, the first song of 15 is already talking about troubles and war. Be prepared for quite a pilgrimage, it is not bound to get easier. Some days the only thing that keeps my feet moving is knowing that in the end, we win. We have already won. Jesus is already our champion, and we are called to be his warriors.