FAR FROM HOME
‘You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.’*
Read PSALM 120
A song of ascents.
1 I call on the Lord in my distress,
and he answers me.
2 Save me, Lord,
from lying lips
and from deceitful tongues.
3 What will he do to you,
and what more besides,
you deceitful tongue?
4 He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows,
with burning coals of the broom bush.
5 Woe to me that I dwell in Meshek,
that I live among the tents of Kedar!
6 Too long have I lived
among those who hate peace.
7 I am for peace;
but when I speak, they are for war.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD’.1
My travels have sometimes taken me to very remote places far from home, where the sense of being cut off has been emphasized by the very strangeness of the culture surrounding me and by having no means of communicating with home. That feeling of isolation is echoed in this psalm, the first of 15 psalms sung by pilgrims on their way to the festival in Jerusalem.
The psalmist voices his distress, crying out to God for deliverance from an environment that is hostile to a worshipper of the Hebrew God. He describes the hostility in two ways. First, he accuses the people around him of lying, deceiving, and hating peace. Second, he speaks of living, at least for a time, in Meshek and Kedar, place names chosen for their symbolic power rather than their literal geography. They are both far from Jerusalem, inhabited by nomadic tribes. Meshek is probably in the far north, part of East Asia and the kingdom of Magog, whereas Kedar, in the southeast, is populated by warmongering Arabs. Neither is hospitable to true believers. Yet, without lessening his angst, the psalmist is confident that God will answer his prayer and that those who are corrupt and violence-prone will face justice one day. He longs to resumé his pilgrimage and arrive at his true home in the temple in Jerusalem.
Today, Christians find themselves in equally hostile environments, whether because of a culture of secular unbelief or outright persecution. The way to face such circumstances is to pray for God’s intervention, like the psalmist does, but also to long for the day when we will enter our true home and receive our inheritance in full. The time to worry is when we are no longer disturbed by our surroundings and feel at home already.
How does your true home, ‘kept in heaven for you’,2 influence how you live? Does it bring joy and hope? Does it encourage perseverance and a longing for God?
Dear God, I ask Your help to continue loving and offering respect to
those who are against me and what I believe (Tim Keller).
1 Ps 84:2 2 1 Pet 1:4