Our home in Tucson was beautifully situated in the foothills of the Pusch Ridge Mountains in Oro Valley. All we had to do was walk out the front or back door and our eyes would be “lifted up” naturally because of the grandeur of the hills and mountains before us. Three or four times a week I would walk up and down the hills praying, singing to worship music and listening to the Daily Audio Bible before going to my office at the church.
If time allowed, I would push myself to go the extra mile to a quaint church that had a little prayer garden outside of their sanctuary. From that quiet place full of God’s presence, I would look up at the mountain and hear the voice of the Psalmist say, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
It was a pilgrimage each time I walked that journey. It was on that walk where I wrestled with God when I was going through every kind of difficulty, where I cried out for healing for our daughter, for wisdom in the stress of ministry and asking for every good thing. It truly was where I had to believe that God was the One who watched over my coming and my going and would guard and guide and never let me stumble or fall. At different times in life, it can feel like we are living in exile. The last few months have felt that way for most of us. That feeling that there is more to life than this and that this is not our forever home.
The Psalms of Ascent were written for God’s people as they came out of exile and were able to once again take a pilgrimage to their sacred place of worship in Jerusalem. These songs reminded them who they were, who their Creator was and the future that was before them.
As we move through the next few weeks, I wonder if we can see this time as a pilgrimage. A time for personal prayer, worship and soaking in God’s word as we prepare to come together to do the same. Can we picture ourselves on this journey of pilgrimage together to a sacred place called Eden Church, a place where we bring the sacrifice of praise, prayer and word as we remind one another who we are as God’s people and who He is as our Creator God. In all of our need to understand where He is leading us, may we sing together, we realize our true help and protection come only from the Lord, our Creator who made the heavens and the earth.
Singing with you,
Reflect: Look up some definitions of exile and pilgrimage. Reflect on your life. Has there been times when you have felt a sense of not being at home. What would a pilgrimage look like for you that would include a time for prayer, singing and worshipping God and listening to His word? Can you add these times to your calendar?
Encourage: Some Bible scholars identify 2-3 speakers in this psalm. Speaker one talks in verses 1-2, and speaker two responds to him with a prayer or blessing in 3. Then speaker 3 gives words of assurance in 4-8. What strikes me is that there is relationship and encouragement going on – as it should be among us. We do need to remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness and love toward us, but it really helps when friends come along-side us and offer words of encouragement and faith. Who is God asking you to come alongside this week?
Gather: Spend some time sharing with your Life Group, Triad or a friend what exile feels like to you and your plans for making pilgrimage a part of your life with God.