Many things change radically for believers once we are born again. By the mercy of God and the work of Jesus Christ, we are transformed into citizens of heaven. This transformation creates in us a profound sense that we belong somewhere else. We no longer belong in this world. And this sense of earthly alienation produces in us a heavenly homesickness to be with our God.
This sense of earthly alienation is captured vividly for us in Psalm 120. Psalms 120–134 make up a collection of psalms that all have the title “A Song of Ascents.” Ascent simply means “going up,” and many scholars believe these psalms were sung by faithful Israelites as they made their yearly pilgrimages to Jerusalem. But these psalms also speak powerfully to the pilgrim experience of all God’s people as we travel up to our heavenly home.
In Psalm 120, we see a pilgrim journey that begins far from home. The psalmist tells us that he is in Meshech and Kedar (v. 5). Most of us do not have the slightest clue where these places are. Interestingly, the two places are nowhere near one another. Meshech is far to the north of Israel on the Black Sea, whereas Kedar is southeast of Israel in the Arabian desert. The only thing these two places have in common is that they are far from the Promised Land. Together, they paint a vivid picture of a place that is far away from home.
Not only is the psalmist far from home, but he is surrounded by hostile people. The psalmist is in the midst of enemies and strangers who hate him and will not live at peace with him or anyone else. These people want nothing to do with the psalmist or his ways (vv. 6–7). These enemies surround him with lying lips and deceitful tongues that betray hateful hearts. The psalmist is experiencing the depths of distress and woe in this place among these people (vv. 1, 5).
What hope can this sojourner find when home is far away and evildoers are all around? He can find refuge in the fact that the Lord is not far off. This psalm reminds us that God is always within earshot of His people. He hears us when we call to Him. Our God answers the call of those who are in distress (v. 1), and He will avenge the evil that has been done to His people (v. 4). God’s justice will one day put an end to the peace-hating wicked, and then only those who love peace will remain (v. 7).
The psalmist may be in a faraway, hostile place, but the good news is that he is not staying there. God is bringing him up and out of that place and bringing him home. And because the psalmists on his way home, he can sing praise to God, even in this dark place.
Christian, you may likewise be feeling this same homesickness for God in the midst of the alienation and hostility of this world. But take heart; we are on our way up and out of this world. Christ is leading us up to Zion.