Journey to the Temple – One in a series Songs of Ascent

Journey to the Temple
Psalm 120
Introduction: Today starts a 15-step lesson that brings us up to the Temple of God. In the 120th Psalm, the writer is telling God about his struggle with the den of liars in the community. The writer’s struggle is nothing new as many can stand and testify how real the struggle is. More than one person has been hurt by lies and deceit. In our political scene, it is common practice for good people to be cast as wretched while bad people are depicted as “honest Joes”. I know, it is not fair that the wrong person gets hurt. Unfortunately, it is the reality in the world we live in.  Sometimes, though, the perpetrator of the trouble is good old #1.
Point 1: We cannot counteract the lie unless we know the truth before we hear the lie.
In the first and 2nd verses, the writer is crying out to God that he is living with liars. When I first read this, I wanted to know how he knew he is living among liars? The answer is by the fruit (the outcome) and by knowing the truth in the first place. Paul proposed this argument to the church at Rome, “But how will people call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how will they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher (messenger)?  And how will they preach unless they are commissioned and sent [for that purpose]? Just as it is written and forever remains written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news of good things!” (Romans 10:14-15 Amp).  So, the writer had a relationship with God before he uncovered the true intent of the people around him.
In our daily walk, having a solid relationship with the God of the universe is not only practical but our life depends on it.
Point 2 – Stay or Go – it is up to us
The writer did not need to the leave the land he was in to get peace in his life.  All he had to do was give the people of the land what they wanted, “a punching bag”; this calls for a compromise.  Consider the case of Nicolas of Antioch the recent convert to Judaism who was elevated to the position of “elder in the church” before he was ready for it; this was done to appease the people (Acts 13).  Unfortunately, he had learned the ways of “compromise” as an easy path to leadership. Nicolas taught the ways of compromise to the people he led which culminated in condemnation of the church (Rev 2:6, 14-15). Multiple times throughout the Bible, God calls his people to leave the land of earthly kingdoms and be the difference (2nd Cor. 6:17, Rev 18:4, and Exodus 3:8). The choice is up to us though as God will never strong arm us out of trouble, we will either come of our own volition or we will not go. It is not, nor ever will be, God’s best that man would perish in sin but, that does not imply that he will coerce us into accepting his salvation.
Point 3 – Watch out for Bad Goods
In the book of Job, we read of an honest and upright man, three friends, an adversary, and a God who trusts his servant Job.  His three so-called friends who had known him for some time were the same ones who launched a smear campaign against Job. There was no man like Job whose entire life was so devoted to Jehovah God. Better men than Job might have caved in and accepted the bad bag of goods at face value.  Unfortunately, all too often we accept the bag of bad goods because it sounds good. The goods consist of judgment, bad theology, and supposed flaws in our character. The only reason Job was able to out-argue the three counselors, is because he knew where he stood in the Kingdom of God. Every time we look in the mirror, we see this bag of goods and use it to beat ourselves up. We carry this bag around us from the day we first can think for ourselves to the day we die, if we choose to.  The enemy of our soul, the Devil, tells us lies about who we are and if we are very quiet, we can hear these lies being uttered in our ears. Tragically, we sell the same bad bag of goods onto our children and their children; some call it a generational curse, I call it exactly what it is “a lie”.
Point 4: When God gets you out of trouble, don’t go back!
As the writer spoke of the horrors of the land he was living in, two things you do not see: how he got there in the first place and if it was his second tour. Many of us get into positions that we really don’t want to be in. The problem with choices and self-will is that we are indeed asking for trouble without one time specifically asking for it; this is the law of unintended consequences. Just as the young man in Luke 15 left home with a pocket full of change only to end up in a pig pen, we too go to places either out of curiosity, anger, frustration, or for a thrill only to find ourselves, through a course of time, broke, beaten and/or abandoned (Vs 11-31). Once God gets us out of trouble through the process of salvation, we owe it to ourselves, our family(is), and to God to stay out of the place of trouble. The first time we get saved, it is a time of great joy and freedom as the song of Moses and Miriam speak in Exodus 15. The second time may take a long time and will be filled with hard lessons as you will read in the book of Judges.  The third and beyond, there will be walls you may never climb as the lesson of the Babylonian exile in 586 BC would play out.
Conclusion: You ought to hear the Devil laughing at how man is duped into a lie and then kicks him/her as he walked away.  The Devil chides man into believing the impossible and, oddly enough, the man buys into it. I will tell you when he will stop laughing at you and start running the other way: when you take seriously the word of God and live according to its principles instead of dogma or “that’s how we always did it”. Nobody likes to be lied to, or be misused, or another other negative behavior because it is demeaning. If we want truth in our life, we must go to the place of truth, not the place that will lie to us; I have never seen an alcoholic cured while sitting at the bar downing a drink. In the book of John, it is recorded “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy but I came that you might have life and that more abundantly”. If we do not go to the place of truth, then we accept the alternative by default.

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