Going Up to Jerusalem With Singing (Week 17)

In biblical times (and still today), it was such a joy and privilege to go to Jerusalem that it was done with singing. A special series of psalms were sung during these pilgrimages to the Holy City and are called the Psalms of Ascent.

The ascent to Jerusalem is obviously a physical one since the city is on a hilltop and sits 2,595 feet above sea level. This explains why throughout the Scriptures it was described as going “up to Jerusalem.” But the ascent was far more than a physical one for the pilgrims going there to make sacrifice and come before the Lord. It was a spiritual ascent.

The purpose of going to Jerusalem was to enter the temple and appear before the presence of God. The religious pilgrim made the journey up to Jerusalem in awe and considered the entire city and mountain it sat on as the dwelling place of God: “Great is our God and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in his holy mountain” (Psalm 48:1 NIV).

Psalms 120–134 were sung during that annual ascent but were also sung by the exiles as they made their way back from Babylon to the Land of Israel. This explains why these psalms begin the journey with a prayer for the Lord’s protection and rejoice that “He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4).

As the pilgrims enter Jerusalem, the Psalms of Ascent describe the beauty of the Holy City, surrounded by mountains, and include a prayer for the peace of Jerusalem (122:6). Psalm 125:1 boasts that “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.” The pilgrim has now arrived and beckons, “Let us go into His tabernacle; Let us worship at His footstool” (Psalm 132:7). The song series ends with the worshiper lifting up hands in the sanctuary and blessing the Lord (Psalm 134:2).

These beautiful psalms take on new meaning when seen through the eyes of a pilgrim, ascending the mountain to come before the Lord. If you would like to learn more about the psalms and experience them as those pilgrims did, join me for this week’s Out of Zion podcast, “Going Up to Jerusalem With Singing.” Walk Thru the Bible with me each week by downloading our Bible reading plan, and get started reading right away!

Invite your friends and family to join us! I can’t wait to Walk Thru the Bible with you!

About this episode:

The Book of Psalms is made up of 150 songs used in prayer and worship. Most were written by King David and reflect his prayers during various times in his life. Some were written by priests and extol the beauty of the house of the Lord and serving in His presence. The Psalms of Ascent were sung by pilgrims joyfully making their way up to Jerusalem. This episode complements the daily readings from our Walk Thru the Bible reading plan for May 24-30, covering various Psalms.


Links for Week 17: