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A CASE OF DISTRESS
The first of the Songs of Ascents, sung by the devout Hebrews, as they gathered from the farthest parts of the land to the great annual feasts. Ah, ye now desolate hills and valleys of the Holy Land, how blithe ye were in those happy days, when successive bands of pilgrims joined from the adjacent valleys in the great accumulated multitude that swept up to the Temple with their songs to keep the feast!
I. The early stages in our journey towards the New Jerusalem are not always the happiest.—We are beset with the persecutions of our relatives and associates. Our enemies are they of our own household. The father is set against his son, and the mother against her daughter; the brother against his sister, and the friend against her friend. There are, as the psalm indicates, lying lips, and a deceitful tongue; sharp arrows of sarcasm and hatred, with coals of juniper, which may stand for jealousy and spite. Woe is unto us then! From morning to night our ears are assailed with flouts and sneers, with taunting words and venomous suggestions. We seem to sojourn in Meshech, and dwell among the tents of Kedar, who represent alien and hostile souls. How greatly we long for congenial and pious surroundings! We say that for too long our soul has had its dwelling with those that hate peace; and we hardly dare speak of peace lest we stir others up more vehemently to war.
II. In such circumstances, and in your distress, cry unto the Lord.—He may not at once extricate you, because you may be needed where you are as His witness and confessor, but He will strengthen you with His grace so that you may be able to stand. He will make you a brazen wall, and an iron pillar, against which your enemies shall not prevail. And the most abandoned of these shall, one day, come and sue for mercy.
‘It is a bitter experience to have to live where there is no sympathy, but carping criticism and incessant innuendo. O lily among thorns, this is no new experience! Thy Lord hath been through these paths before thee: see the bent twigs which prove that He has passed this way. But thy loneliness can never be quite as sorrowful as His, for thou hast always Him. And remember there is a compensation, in that the strict scrutiny of thy foes makes thee ever so much more watchful and prayerful, and drives thee oftener to the bosom of God.’
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Psalms 120". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13