Old Testament law specified that the men of Israel were to present themselves at the place God caused His name to dwell three times a year (see Exodus 23:17; 34:23; Deuteronomy 16:16). It would seem that Psalm 120 is the beginning of fifteen specific psalms, known as “Psalms of Ascent,” that the pilgrims sang while on their journey.
It is significant first, that this collection begins with the Psalmist living in the “hinterlands” of Mesech (far eastern Asia Minor) and Kedar (Arab tribes in the eastern deserts between Jerusalem and Babylon. Not that the writer lived in these two places, but they song he is writing is to be sung by those at the furthest reaches from the Holy Land. It’s only fitting that this psalm begin the Psalms of Ascents.
The hymns were sung in preparation for their arrival at Jerusalem and served as reminders of how life was supposed to be lived in view of God, and the fact that the pilgrims were His people. It is significant that, as the journey begins, the Psalmist begins with notice of the dangers of our speech. Lying lips and deceitful tongues cannot approach God in worship. As we think about preparing to worship the Lord on Sunday, let’s remember the words of the Psalmist and pay attention, first, to the speech that so often betrays a heart that is less than holy and determine to do better as we see the day of worship approaching.