The Woe of Sojourning Here

The Woe of Sojourning Here

A Song of Ascents . . .
Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! (Psalms 120:5)

The first "Song of Ascents" tells us Israel is in exile.

Glance through the surrounding pages to see this same superscript is repeated. In fact, Psalms 120–134 are all introduced "A Song of Ascents." Understood in its context, this refers to Israel's "coming up" out of Babylonian captivity. As each psalm shows us a little more we begin to see the journey from exile to Jerusalem.

Psalm 121 reminds us that the Lord is our keeper, he'll keep our going out and coming in (verse 8). Psalm 122 directs us to a restored Jerusalem as our hope and prayer (verse 5). And a "restored Jerusalem" is a Jerusalem under the kingship of Messiah (verse 6). Then Psalm 123 defines our hope — "our eyes look to the Lord our God." (verse 2). The Lord alone is our salvation. And Psalm 124 assures us of this by recounting Israel's deliverance from Egypt (verses 1–5). Psalm 125 interjects a vision of Jerusalem once more. Mount Zion (Jerusalem) is the picture of one who trusts in the Lord. This person, like Jerusalem, will not be moved but abides forever. Psalm 126 longs for this reality, "Restore our fortunes, O Lord !" (verse 4).

But wait. Right now we're in Meschech. Reading Psalm 120 puts us surrounded by the tents of Kedar. Where they hate peace.

And as it was with the psalmist so it is with us, the readers. "We mourn in lonely exile here." But it's not lonely because the Son of God has come. He came and lived and suffered and died and was buried, then raised and ascended and enthroned. That's when he sent the Spirit, the Helper, who indwells us now as a guarantee and validates our sonship by his witness (John 14:15–17; Ephesians 1:14; Romans 8:16).

So we're not lonely, but we are waiting.

Jesus said he'd come back (John 14:3) — we've not yet seen his face. Paul said our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20) — do you read the paper here?

Then Peter gives us (yes, all Christians) a helpful phrase: "elect exiles" (1 Peter 1:1, 17). That's what we are. We're exiles. We're waiting.

And waiting is hard to do. We get the sorrowful part in 2 Corinthians 6:10. It is an age of groaning (Romans 8:23). It feels a lot like Meschech.

Tomorrow is Part 2, Psalm 127.

Jonathan Parnell (@jonathanparnell) is a writer and content strategist at Desiring God. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Melissa, and their four children, and is the co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary .