Emotion. Feeling. Sensation. Experience. What role do these play in the Christian life? We may push away emotion, experience, and feeling as too easily deceived by present circumstances, but the Psalms show us that God created us as emotional beings. Although we should avoid emotionalism, where our emotions drive our view of God, we also must avoid the opposite of this state, a stoic view of God and theology, where we grow in knowledge but our knowledge doesn’t affect our emotions or experience with God1. The Psalms show us a healthy middle ground, and this is where this particular set of Psalms, the Songs of Ascent (Ps. 120-134), come into play.
It was May 24th, 2020. Our church had paused in-person worship for nine-weeks as we were gaining understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic. May 24th marked our first time gathering back in-person. We took a one week break from our series in the Gospel of Mark to praise God for gathering His people back together. Psalm 134 was the passage selected for this momentous occasion. It is the final Song of Ascent. This section of the Psalms piqued my interest. Questions circled my mind. What is this collection of poems? What is the purpose? Why are they so varied? It was at this point I concluded, we needed to teach a series through this group of Psalms. Fast forward to February 2022 and here we are.
The Songs of Ascent are believed to have been a select group of Psalms gathered together for the purpose of being recited as God’s people journeyed. We’re not entirely sure if the journey was one coming back from Babylonian captivity, or the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for various festivals. We do know that they were the source of lament, praise, and anticipation as God’s people traveled along the way.
This grouping captures the full gamut of life experience. From deception, to displacement, to blessing, to anticipation of the ending, they remind us that we are on a journey. We are heading somewhere. We have our eyes fixed on a better end. But, we still live in the present Kingdom tension of the already but not yet. Salvation has come through Jesus, but we still struggle with sin. God’s Kingdom has been inaugurated, but darkness still appears to be “winning.” In this journey we cry out, we groan, and we praise.
My hope is that we learn and appreciate the role of emotion and experience in the Christian life. I hope that these Psalms will deepen your love for Christ, His Church, and your relationship with Him, all in anticipation of the trials and triumph that accompany the journey of life. As we make our pilgrimage we will be mindful of the ending, the time where we declare, “Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord” (Ps. 134:1).
- Joe Thorn, “Don’t Pursue Feelings, Pursue Christ.” https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/dont-pursue-feelings-pursue-christ