The Songs of the Pilgrims

One day I was watching TV, when I found one of those infomercial programs. They were selling a collection of CDs from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. I could not believe it. It was the first time that I was seeing the singers of those songs that marked my youth. We listened to them on the radio, but I never saw them. I did not know if they were young, old, black, white, and even man or woman.

Those songs made me travel back in the past and revisit a time hidden in my memory. I started remembering places, people, events that I had forgotten a long time ago. Music has this ability to touch you, not only with the lyrics, but also with the sound. It touches us in our hearts in a very special way. 

Probably this explains why the Book of Psalms is the most cherished book in the Bible. People read the other parts, but they keep coming back to the Psalms. Music and poetry have this kind of power, no matter where it comes from. It is almost a spiritual thing.

In the book of Psalms there is a very special group of songs called “The Psalms of Ascents.” They are 15 psalms form 120 – 134. They are also called the Psalms of Degrees, or the Psalms of the Pilgrims. The scholars are divided on the reasons for this name. Some believe that it is because of the steps to the Temple, so each Psalm would be sung in one of the 15 steps to reach the Temple. That was never proved. Some believe that the ascent was related to the metric of the psalms, but that would be a stretch, since we do not know the music of those psalms.

Many interpreters believe that the pilgrims coming to Jerusalem to worship during the annual feasts sang those Psalms. The people of God were supposed to go three times a year to Jerusalem for the Spiritual Festivals. 

These are the commandments from God:

“Deuteronomy 16:16 Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed:” (See also Exodus 23:14-16) Here are the Festivals: PassoverPentecost, and Tabernacles.

During those journeys they would memorize and sing these songs. They would express their feelings, fears, desires and commitments to the Lord and His Temple. Probably this explains why most of them are short; it would be easier to memorize and teach them.

These psalms express the challenges that the people of God were facing in their personal lives and in their journey to Jerusalem. They describe the experiences that every child of God faces in his or her journey. They worship, they share their hope, they sing their sadness, they cry for help, they exult jubilantly, and they pray.

These psalms were memorized, taught, and sung, not only by individuals, but also by the community, the pilgrims and their families. They would tell their stories and learn from each other.

Do you have a cherished Psalm that you learned when you were young, or you recite when you are facing certain situations in life? Throughout these meditations based on the Psalms of Accents we will embark on a journey that I hope will lift your spirit and help you in your Christian journey.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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