A Song of Ascents
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
This psalm has been the source of great comfort and hope for so many of us Christians when we have walked through difficult seasons. It is a beautiful reminder that the all-powerful God who made heaven and earth is also our tender-loving provider and defender. It begins with the superscription, “A Song of Ascents,” making it one of fifteen songs in the Bible with such a designation (Psalms 120-134). As a genre, these songs serve a unique role in the psalter and teach us something about how God intends to shape our souls through multisensory worship.
Songs of Ascent
In the Jewish tradition, worshipers would sing songs of praise along the way of pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem during the three annual festivals that were required in the Law. Since Jerusalem was elevated among the mountains and the Temple was at its summit, the journey to worship involved a literal ascent up a fairly steep slope. Thus, these particular psalms became known as “Songs of Ascent” or “Pilgrim Songs,” because they were sung on the way to the house of the Lord.
God created us with multiple input channels for the absorption of knowledge, and we learn at higher levels when more than one of our physical senses and psychological pathways are engaged. Today’s psychology and education textbooks acknowledge seven distinct “learning styles”: Visual, Logical, Verbal, Aural, Physical, Social, and Solitary. Worshipers ascending the Temple mount would have experienced worship through visual, logical, verbal, aural, and physical stimulation, both individually and as a corporate body.
My mom and dad can attest that, as a young student, I was the poster child of a physical (“kinesthetic”) learner. I typically did my homework with a guitar on my lap, music blaring, and makeshift pencil-drum-sticks slamming the textbook laid open in front of me. Of course they assumed, as any parent would, that no matter what I said I was accomplishing in those moments, there was absolutely no way any information was making its way from my textbook page to my memory in such a frenzy of motion. Right? To their astonishment, it took me much longer to finish assignments and retain the information I studied when I put the guitar down and tried to study in silence.
When worshipers would ascend the hill to Jerusalem and up the Temple steps, singing praise songs like Psalm 121, God was actively writing new knowledge of Himself on their hearts by His Spirit, flooding every single one of their sensory and memory pathways with the Gospel all at once.
Mind, Body and Spirit
So it is on Sundays that we should seek the Lord with every one of our faculties — mind, body and spirit — so that we might know the fullness of Christ by singing out loud, hearing the congregation’s voices, marching our feet, seeing and feeling the water of baptism, smelling and tasting our communion, clapping and raising hands in surrender, kneeling in humility, standing in reverence, sitting in attentiveness and moving in the joy of His Spirit.
Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD! (Psalm 150:3-6)
Ryan Brasington is the Worship Leader at Rio Vista Fort Lauderdale. If you’re a worship leader interested in getting involved with Village Hymns, please email [email protected] or visit our website at villagehymns.com.
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