As a prelude to the church camp on Strangers and Pilgrims, we will begin a series of short studies on the Songs of Degrees (Psalms 120-134). The term “degrees” hama‘aloth comes from the verb ‘alah’ which means “to go up”. Thus, these Psalms are also often termed the “Songs of Ascent”.

Interestingly, the Mishnah (a written collection of Jewish oral traditions) notes that these Psalms were sung by the priestly singers, who stood at the top of the fifteen steps in the Court of the Women, which leads into the Court of Israel. Others think that these songs were sung on the newly excavated Southern Steps of the Temple. Thus, some visitors to Israel would recite the first verse of each Psalm as they ascend the Southern Steps.

The general consensus though is that these Psalms were sung as the children of Israel embarked on their pilgrimages to ascend Jerusalem for their three yearly feasts – The Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles (see Deut. 16:1-17; Lev. 23:4-44). These songs would serve as a reminder of the spiritual reality and hope of the pilgrims. They would also serve to encourage the pilgrims in the LORD along their arduous trip to Jerusalem—thus the “Pilgrim Psalms”.

On a broader picture, these songs present many different aspects of the pilgrim’s life upon the earth. As we study these Psalms, we will better understand what it means to be “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” (Heb. 11:13)

For the themes of the individual Psalms, please refer below.

Psalm Theme
120 The Pilgrim’s Tongue
121 The Pilgrim’s Help
122 The Pilgrim’s Companions
123 The Waiting Pilgrim
124 The Grateful Pilgrim
125 The Trusting Pilgrim
126 The Restored Pilgrims
127 The Pilgrim’s Family
128 The Fearing Pilgrim
129 The Vindicated Pilgrim
130 The Repentant Pilgrim
131 The Humble Pilgrim
132 Remember Thy Pilgrim!
133 The Pilgrims’ Unity
134 The Praising Pilgrims

May these Psalms encourage you in the Lord, just as they did for the faithful pilgrims of old. Reading them will serve as good preparation for the upcoming camp.

(2 KINGS 4:8-17)
In the last sermon on the life of Elisha, we saw how the Shunamite wom-an and Elisha engaged in the ministry of hospitality. To supplement the sermon, here is Rev. Timothy Tow’s commentary on the passage, preached in a message at the FEBC Bible Conference, 5th September 1988, in Awana Country Club, Genting Highlands.

“Let’s us now look at the prophet’s life and work, then at his twin miracles at the Shunamite home. A true man of God, wherever he goes in his itinerant ministry, must bring blessing of peace to his host. Jesus says to His disciples, ‘And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.’ (Matt. 10:11-13). Elisha’s blessing led to the birth of a son to the childless woman and Elisha’s blessing led to the birth of a son to the childless woman and Elisha’s prayer raised the same son who died of a severe headache. Whenever we (pastors) visit a house, let us never leave our host or hostess without praying, “according to Thy Promise, let Thy blessing rest and abound in this place.’ ‘ And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you’ Matt 10:13.

“As for the lay people who delight to entertain God’s servants, here are our Lord’s reciprocal blessings, ‘He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward . . . And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. (Matt. 10:41-42)

“Sad to say, there are those of the Chinese Church who treat pastors like amahs while Deacons make themselves overlords. Can such haughty Church administrators be blessed? This is one sin in the Church denounced by John Sung.”

3 John records two contrasting examples for our learning. First, we have Gaius, whose charity was seen in his receiving of those who received “strangers”, who were on their way to preach the gospel. By doing so, he became a fellowhelper to the truth (3 John 5-8). On the other hand, we have Diotrephes, who loved to have the pre-eminence among men. Fearing that the Apostle John might still his thunder, he refused to receive John and his associate into the midst of the brethren. Who do you think will be blessed? Be a Gaius and not a Diotrephes.

Lovingly in Christ
Pastor Clement Chew