I’ve been reading through an excellent short book by Erik Routley, “Ascent to the Cross.” The book presupposes to meditate on the thoughts of the Lord as he sang the Psalms of Ascent(Psalms 120-134) on his last journey to Jerusalem. It is a wonderful devotional to use as a source for a sermon series, or as a place to use the Psalms in planning and leading worship for Lent.
“Psalm 120-134, by tradition, we call the Psalms of Ascent (or Psalms of Pilgrimage). …They are songs of the sort we affectedly call folk-songs. Short songs, dealing with the elemental human experiences of life; songs of the church, songs of the home, songs of history. They are a half-and-half mixture of a book of folk songs and a book of hymns; pilgrim-shanties; much more domestic than your hymn book, more tolerant of human unregenerate, unrefined feeling; yet more profound, more open to the pressures of glory, than what you find in your secular song-book.” (pp. 15-16)
“And of course the Psalter was not a manual of congregational praise, for they did not sing congregationally as we do. (How could they? They could not read, they could not print, they could only remember.) But when a man reaches for his hymn book along with his Bible as he is being taken to the hospital; when a man uses his hymn book as he says his prayers; when a man cheers a lonely journey or a long wait at Crewe junction by saying over to himself hymns that he knows by heart and loves; and when a church lifts up its voice in praise and penitence, responding to the word and Act of God in a mighty shout of joy — then, at such times, we are using our hymn book as faithful Israel used its Psalter.” (pp.14-15)
“If there was any part of the Psalter which a faithful Israelite could be expected to know by heart, it was this group of psalms. May we not be sure that they will have been especially precious in our Lord’s remembrance? It is our purpose, then, to draw out, if we can, their religious teaching through the ministry and passion of Jesus Christ.” (p.16)