Distress from Deceit and Desire for Peace
by Sarah Ivill
In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me.
In many ways I felt like I was in a ditch with my car broken down and nobody around to help. I was facing different kinds of suffering as well as my own sin and others’ sin. But when I came to these Songs of Ascents (Ps. 120-134) I felt like someone had pulled over on the side of the road, towed me out of the ditch, repaired my car, and put me on my way again. These psalms taught me where to turn for peace, help, unity, forgiveness, restoration, strength, blessing, hope, humility, contentment, and a life of prayer and praise. I hope the same will be true for you this week, as we study the first six of the fifteen Songs of Ascents (Ps. 120-125). These songs are pictures of our journey to the heavenly city we look toward to with hope. More importantly, these songs are about the One who left His home in glory to fulfill His Father’s plan.
In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.
Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.
What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you,
you deceitful tongue? A warrior's sharp arrows,
with glowing coals of the broom tree!
Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar!
Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace.
I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!
Distress from Deceit (120:1-4). Oftentimes we don’t know where to take our distress, but the psalmist knew where to take his. He turned to the Lord, and he was not disappointed. The Lord answered his cry for deliverance from deceitful lips that surrounded him. Perhaps you have felt the pain of deceitful lips around you. What do we do? The psalmist knew God’s judgment would ultimately come to his enemies. Vengeance is the Lord’s; He will repay (Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:19). Recognizing this is the road to freedom from anger, bitterness, depression, and a host of other emotions that come with holding onto wrongs others have done to us. Christ was surrounded by deceitful lips, and yet He willingly took our place in the judgment seat. We can forgive others because God has forgiven us in Christ, and we can leave judgment to the Judge, Jesus Christ.
Desire for Peace (120:5-7). Have you ever dwelt among people who seem to constantly stir the pot, try to get the final word, and often look for the next fight? The psalmist dwells among those who hate peace. This is hard for someone who desires peace. The Israelites returning from exile would have identified well with the words of the psalmist. They too faced deceit from without and the desire for peace from within, but peace would not come for four hundred more years.
When Jesus was born, there was a righteous man living in Jerusalem awaiting the peace of Israel. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit he went to the temple at the same time Mary and Joseph arrived to present Jesus. So he took the Christ child in his arms and blessed God, recognizing He was letting him depart this earth in peace because he had seen the salvation of the Lord (Luke 2:25-32). Before Jesus was crucified He extended His peace to His disciples making it very clear to them that His peace was completely different than what the world offered (John 14:27). Paul tells us that Christ Himself is our peace because He has reconciled both Jews and Gentiles to God in one body through the cross (Eph. 2:14-17). Since Christ is our peace and proclaimed peace, we are to extend peace to others and proclaim the gospel of peace. To whom in your life do you need to extend peace today, and who needs to hear you proclaim the gospel of peace?
Father, thank you for Your peace, for the invitation to experience Your peace and the calling to extend that peace to others. I gratefully accept your invitation to exchange my anxiety for Your lasting peace and your exhortation to share the peace that comes from knowing Jesus.
Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is the author of several Bible studies and books, including The Covenantal Life: Appreciating the Beauty of Theology and Community. She is a wife, mother to four children, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more about Sarah, visit her website: www.sarahivill.com.