We have the privilege through the summer Sunday mornings to look at a cluster of 15 psalms known as the Psalms of Ascents - Psalm 120 - 134. They are sometimes called 'Songs for the Journey'. It is thought that they were most likely written to accompany the people of God as they did the pilgrimage up to Jerusalem to worship at the 3 great feasts of the calendar year. They are songs which speak of the real messiness of life in honest and frank language; they are songs which point to Yahweh as the only source of hope, peace and courage.
Psalm 120 is the first of these psalms. It is not a particularly happy song, but it is honest and real in its description of the place of distress in which the psalmist finds himself. Within the language of distress there are 2 hopeful responses we may identify and identify with: first is a response of prayer (I cried out to the LORD, and he answered me - verse 1); and second is a longing for peace, or shalom (I am for peace - verse 7). In our times of distress (perhaps even now!) may we too find a way to respond in honest prayer and an expression of longing for shalom!
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Audio Available from June 2 - Acts 12:1-24 "Renewed Opposition; yet the Word of God Spreads and Flourishes"
Following a season of peace (see 9:31), the church comes under fire once again - this time from King Herod. The story of chapter 12 is a drama filled with mystery, intrigue, irony and humor. The loss of James at the hand of Herod is tragic. The rescue of Peter has many elements of humor but stands as a testimony yet again to the the reality that all of this is the work of God from beginning to end. He is saved only by the grace and supernatural power of God. From this story we receive a call to prayer and a call to worship. The appropriate 'kingdom' response to opposition is earnest prayer! Sometimes those prayers are mysteriously unanswered (James' death) while in other cases God sends along an answer that we are not even ready to receive (Peter's deliverance). We are called to pray expectantly without presumption. The call to worship is evident as we pay attention to the unstoppable work of global redemption that God is continuing to accomplish even in the face of opposition from powerful human kings! We can take verse 24 and put it into the present tense: The Word of God is continuing to spread and flourish! Glory to God!