In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and the Lord heard me. —Ps. 120:1
I am about to embark on a study of Psalms 120-134. Together these psalms are known as the Psalms of Ascent (or Song of Ascents), due the Hebrew ascription at the beginning of each: Shir Hama’aloth, “song of ascent.” (In the King James Version, this phrase is translated “a Song of degrees.”) I look forward to reading, reflecting, and exploring this group of psalms. A discipline of lectio divina, allowing myself to be immersed in the words, will be both inviting and challenging.
For background, I will revisit some of my favorite books about the Psalms:
Uncommon Prayer by Daniel Berrigan (beautiful, heartfelt reflections)
The Message of the Psalms by Walter Brueggemann (highly readable scholar of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament)
The Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (theologian who drew sustenance from his powerful practice of daily psalm reading)
I would not mind reading The Psalms in Israel’s Worship by Sigmund Mowinckel, but my library doesn’t have it. It looks like excellent historical background. Also, there are competing impulses: filling myself with knowledge to enhance the reading experience, and stripping my mind of assumptions so I can see what the text has to offer my heart.
To lighten things up (while keeping it real), musician Bono has written an introduction to a pocket psalms volume that touches on a lot of the power held by these poems.