A song of the degrees
A Prayer for deliverance
1: In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me. 2: Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue. 3: What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue? 4: Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper. 5: Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar! 6: My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. 7: I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.
A song of the degrees
Help comes from the Lord
1: I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. 2: My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. 3: He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. 4: Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. 5: The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. 6: The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. 7: The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. 8: The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.
Today we are reading Psalms 120 & 121. From 120 – 134 we have group of songs known as the songs of the degrees. 1
The first Psalm No 120 speaks of the distress of Hezekiah and all Israel at the invasion of Sennacherib and the siege of Jerusalem. He says, in my distress, I cried unto the LORD and he heard me. Sennacherib sent Rab-shakeh to speak lies to the people of Jerusalem - over the head of Hezekiah hoping to create an internal rebellion. Hezekiah pleads that the Lord will deliver him from these lies and deceit. Hezekiah asks what would we wish for to come upon our enemy but sharp arrows from the men of war dipped in poison. He says how terrifying it would be if he was delivered into the hands of this murderous and destructive people. He says I am a man of peace. I don’t want war but peace. In Psalm 121 Hezekiah speaks of his trust in the Lord. The hills were traditionally the place where God dwelt and there were the place of solitude from men and communion with God. It is from the Lord the covenant God - Jehovah, that he looks for help. The Lord will not cause Israel to stumble nor will he sleep in the day of trouble. The Lord is his defender and his shade so that he will not suffer in the day or night. The Lord will preserve him from all evil. He will save his life. The Lord will keep him safe and give him liberty for now and eternity.
- How does the Psalmist describe the troubles he faces?
- Where does the Psalmist look for help?
- How does he describe the Lords blessing and guidance?
1 There is a very great deal of debate about what these degrees are, but we must notice that these are the songs of THE degrees. The only indication in scriptures as to the use of the word ‘degrees’ is in the sundial of Ahaz. In which the sun went down by degrees. The sun went backward in the days of Hezekiah as an indication that he would be delivered from sickness and national destruction. 2Kings 20v8-11. Hezekiah spoke in Isa 38v20. ‘Jehovah was ready to save me therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of my life In the house of Jehovah’.
There are 15 songs of the degrees which reflect the 15 years that the Lord in grace granted to Hezekiah. It’s interesting that Hezekiah puts Solomon’s song in the centre with David’s songs either side. There are five groups of three Psalms. The first of each group speaks of ‘Distress’, the second of ‘Trust in Jehovah’ and the third of ‘The blessing and peace of Zion’. And so we have fifteen events in the closing years of Hezekiah’s life which are linked to each of the fifteen songs.
The subjects of the songs are as follows..
1. Rab-shakeh’s blasphemous tongue – Isa 37v4 2Kings 19v16 Psa 120v2,3 Psa 123v3,4
2. Sennacherib’s reproaches 2 Kings 19v25, 26. Isa 37v26,27 Psa 129v5-7.
3. Sennacherib’s shame 2Chron 32v21 Psa 129v4,5
4. Hezekiah’s prayer Isa 38v3,10-20. 2Chron 32v20 2Kings 19v2,4, 15-19. Psa 120 v1 123v1-3 130v1,2
5. God the maker of heaven and earth This was a reply to Rab-shakeh’s railings. 2Chron 32v19 Psa 121v1,2,6 123 v1 2Kings 19v15 Isa 37v16 Psa 124v8 Psa 134v3
6. Hezekiah’s desire for peace Isa 38v17 Psa 120v6,7 2Chron 32v1-3
7. Jehovah’s promised help 2Kings 19v32-34 2Chron 32v10,15,17 Isa 36v20, 37v11 Psa 121v2-8 Psa 124v1-3 Psa 125v2 Psa 126v2,3 Psa 127v1
8. ‘For my servant David’s sake’. 2Kings 19v34 2 Kings 20v5,6 Psa 132v1-10
9. Jehovah’s sign to Hezekiah 2Kings 19v29 Isa 37v30 Psa 126 v5,6 Psa 128v2
10. Hezekiah’s trust in Jehovah 2 Kings 18v5 Psa 121v2 Psa 125v1-3 Psa 127v1 Psa 130v5-8
11. Hezekiah ‘like a bird in a cage’. This expression is found on the Cylinder of Sennacherib 607-583BC which can be found in the British Museum. This cylinder of clay describes the eight military expeditions of Sennacherib and it contains these words..I fixed upon him And of Hezekiah (the king of) Jews, who has not submitted to my yoke… …(Hezekiah) himself like a caged bird within Jerusalem his royal city, I shut in etc. See Psa 124v7 ‘Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers. The snare is broken, and we are delivered’. This Psalm takes us back to Hezekiah’s day but it also goes much further back to David’s day when he was shut up into high places.
12. The captivity of Zion. Hezekiah is referring to those who escaped the captivity of the siege of Jerusalem. 200,150 were taken captives, but Hezekiah refers to the remnant.
13. Hezekiah’s zeal for the house of Jehovah. He was the first to open the doors of the house of the Lord. 2Chron 29v3 Isa 37v1,14 2Kings 20v8 Isa 38v20,22 Now read Psa 122v1,9 and Psa 134, 1,2
14. Hezekiah childless Hezekiah had no heir when he became sick. The promise of 2Sam 7v12 seemed to be about to fail. He trusted in God not only to deliver him from his enemies but also to keep his promise that there would always be a man of David’s line to sit on the throne of Israel. Psa 132v11 the Lord sent Isaiah to Hezekiah with the promise of a son. 2Kings 20v18 Isa 39v7 Manasseh was born after three years. Read Psa 127v3-5 and Psa 128 with Isa 39v8.
15. The Passover for all Israel. The time of Passover had already gone but he resolved to celebrate it in the second month instead. See Num 9v1-11 2Chron 30v1-3. Hezekiah insisted that it would be for all Israel so the northern tribes came down to celebrate it. 2Chron 30v5,6,11,18, 25,26. Psa 133 celebrates this great event in Israels history. It was a Psalm of David when he also managed top unite all Israel as one man. How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together as one. (Ref to The Companion Bible)