Getting your rant on — Psalm 120

Don’t let them gaslight you

At the beginning of the year, after reading through the Bible twice in two and a half years, I felt that this year was to be one of prayer and worshipping God. One of the things I decided back then to do, once the major festivals of the year were done, was to write on the Songs of Ascent, Psalms 120–134, the songs sung by the Jews on the way to the Jerusalem temple.

Road with light

Psalm 120

A song of ascents.

I call on the Lord in my distress,
    and he answers me.
Save me, Lord,
    from lying lips
    and from deceitful tongues.

What will he do to you,
    and what more besides,
    you deceitful tongue?
He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows,
    with burning coals of the broom bush.

Woe to me that I dwell in Meshek,
    that I live among the tents of Kedar!
Too long have I lived
    among those who hate peace.
I am for peace;
    but when I speak, they are for war.

image

The Songs of Ascents or Songs of Degrees are calls from the world to God. In the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, the Songs of Degrees make up the Eighteenth division of the Psalter and are read on Friday evenings at Vespers throughout the liturgical year.

Every journey has to start somewhere

Where this journey starts is with a shout of anger. The Psalms are full of laments, but this is not one of them. Laments in the psalms move from a place of crying against injustice to a place of trust in God and praising God. Psalm 120 starts with “I call to the Lord in my distress” and ends with “I am for peace, but they are for war.” This is not a lament, this is an angry rant against the injustice of being ruled over by liars. This could in that respect be a modern rant. Rulers using lies to condone their injustice has never been absent in the world. It applies now.

“Save me from the liars, Lord,” is the prayer of the Psalmist then and my prayer now.

Recently a number of Church of England bishops were vocal about the injustice of the Prime Minister’s chief advisor bending the rules of the lockdown1 and ministers standing up for him when many people in the same position had to suffer the stress and hardship of not seeing loved and often vulnerable family members. “Christianity is about forgiveness and that is not very forgiving is it?” came the chorus of government supporters. Others accused them of being unkind. I am with the bishops.

I’m getting my rant on here: It is triggered by this particular crisis but applied generally. As it is said, there are lies, damn lies and political slogans.

Injustice is unkind.
Speaking out against injustice is a kindness.
Trying to stifle the voice that speaks against the unkindness of injustice is being unkind.
Using kindness as the excuse to try to stifle the kind voices that cry against injustice is hypocrisy.

Do not let these evil people gaslight you.
The centre of Christianity is not forgiveness, it is repentance.
When John the Baptist was preparing people for Jesus his message was “Repent”2
When Jesus started his ministry his message was “Repent.”3
On the day of Pentecost when Peter stood up with the eleven disciples, he preached “Repent.”4
Repentance is at the centre of the Christian faith.

No and yes

Repentance is not an emotion, it is not feeling sorry for what you have done. It means stepping away from the lies of the world. It is saying no and yes at the same time. No to the world with its injustice, hypocrisy and lies and yes to God. Psalm 120 describes this process. Meshek and Kedar were foreign places, Meshek was a tribe in southern Russia, thousands of miles from Judah. Keder was a warlike tribe on the edge of Judah. They represent the strange and the hostile. The world feels like a strange and hostile place to our psalmist. He makes the decision, he hates the world of lies and turns towards God.

Repentance is the start of the journey to God. It is saying No to the worlds lies and Yes to God’s truth. Repentence is where our journey to God must start. Repentance opens us up to God’s forgiveness.


The Songs of Ascents

Psalm 120 | Psalm 121 >


References:

1 https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/bishops-sent-death-threats-speaking-22085990

2 Luke 3:7–8

3 Matthew 4:17

4 Acts 2:38

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