Monday, February 15, 2010

my songs in the house of my pilgrimage

Pilgrims need songs for their journey. The pilgrims that went up to Zion at the three appointed feasts in the year had an ample store of divinely inspired psalms in the Songs of Degrees (or Ascents) (Pss. 120–134). The songs that we need in this valley of Baca are those which are the word of God or the statutes of God. 'Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage' (Ps 119:54).

The psalms are the Scriptures in miniature; everything that is necessary and appropriate for our use is found there in its sufficiency. There are psalms appropriate for each stage and experience of the journey. Songs for the valley and the heights; the rough path and the plain; the day and the night. The story is told of the Scotsman who was accustomed to travel 20 miles in order that, as he put it, "he might get a guid sing at the auld psalms". Evidently he had at least 20 miles worth in memory, it would be well for us to get our 20 miles worth in memory for even in that selection there will be a diversity to suit our needs. The time may come when the written page is not to hand or if it is, we cannot read it. 'I will
never forget thy precepts, for with them thou hast quickened me'.

The Church Father Jerome mentions how the psalms had their own influence on daily life where he lived in Palestine: "The Psalms were continually to be heard in the fields and vineyards of Palestine. The plowman, as he held the plow, chanted the Hallelujah, and the reaper, the vinedresser, and the shepherd sang something from the Psalms of David. Where the meadows were coloured with flowers, and the singing birds made their plants, the Psalms sounded even more sweetly. These psalms are our love songs, these instruments of our agriculture".

Two books have sought to gather up the fragments of the impact that the psalms have made within Church history and upon individuals. There is Roland Prothero's 'The Psalms in Human Life'. James Kerr in 'The Psalms in History and Biography' writes:

What a wonderful story they could tell if we could gather it all from lonely chambers, from suffering sick-beds, from the brink of the valley of the shadow of death, from scaffolds and fiery piles witnessing in sunlight, from moors and mountains beneath the stars, and in high places of the field turning to flight the
armies of the aliens!

The book of Psalms, beyond every book of man, and most parts of the book of God, can be brought into this connection with life. We can take passage after passage and write out for it some grief it has comforted, some doubt it has solved, some deliverance it has wrought or celebrated.

If we can read the hook, or a part of it, in the light of such experiences, we may be helped to make it more our own, to take it home to our heart and to keep it for a possession. There are promises in the Bible which seem beyond our reach; we have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. But some one, like ourselves, has been there before us, and has left a cup to be let down with his name and story engraven on the rim: 'For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found'.

George Horne's valuable commentary on the psalms shows that they have three applications; David/psalmist's life and experience; the individual believer and the Church; and Christ. The psalms arose from the experience of David and as the divinely worded transcript of that experience they speak to our own experience also - "deep unto deep doth call". As James Kerr puts it, the altogether fitly spoken words of the psalms are the apples of gold set in the pictures of silver of our own experience.

This is true of none more than Christ Himself, Whose inner thoughts, emotions and experiences are recorded in the psalms. He could say that they were His songs in the house of his pilgrimage, as He tabernacled amongst us in a house of clay in the days of His flesh. O to have Christ yet with us on our Emmaus pilgrim road to draw along side us and open up to us all the things concerning Himself in the psalms. The journey will not be long as the well-known psalm will then become a new song put in our hearts to magnify our God.