A Long Obedience In The Same Direction (Part 1)

The following content is a summary and partial abridgement of Eugene Peterson's book "A Long Obedience In The Same Direction." It is based solely on Peterson's work and any help that this content gives should be credited to God’s grace through Peterson’s effort. In other words, give God glory, thank Eugene Peterson and consider buying the book. DISCIPLESHIP: WHAT MAKES YOU THINK YOU CAN RACE AGAINST HORESES?

The fifteen “Songs of Ascents" (Psalm 120-134) provide the study for developing discipleship in an instant society. The use of these Psalms is to aid in encouragement for a life of obedience to God. This obedience takes root over a long period of time and is often anything but instant. As you journey through these God-sung “songs” may your affections be stirred as you see your Savior and find in Him satisfaction in every sphere and season of life.

Tourist and Pilgrims: One aspect of the world that is harmful to Christians is the assumption that anything worthwhile can be acquired at once. It is not difficult in this environment to get someone interested in the message of the gospel; it is terrifically difficult to sustain the interest. People have developed the lifestyle of a tourist and only want the high points. There is no desire to wait patiently and devoutly for a true relationship with God.

An essential thing in heaven and earth is that there would be a long obedience in the same direction resulting in something that makes life worth living. For recognizing the world’s ways there are two biblical designations for people of faith that are extremely useful: disciple and pilgrim.

Disciple: Says we are people who spend our lives apprenticed to our master, Jesus Christ. We are in a growing and learning relationship, always. A disciple is a learner, but not primarily in the academic setting of a school-room, but rather, at the work of a craftsman. We don’t just acquire information about God but skills in faith.

Pilgrim: Being a pilgrim means being a person who spends their life going someplace, going to God, and whose path for getting there is the way of Jesus Christ. This is because Jesus is the “way and the truth and the life” (see John 14:5-6).

A Dog Eared Songbook: The shiray hammaloth, or Songs of Ascents, is a resource to guide people in the Christian way and direct people of faith in the conscious and continuous effort that develops into maturity in Christ. The songs are numbered 120-134 in the book of Psalms. These fifteen songs were likely sung, possibly in order, by Hebrew pilgrims as they went up to Jerusalem to the great worship festivals.

However, the song was not only literal, it was also a metaphor: the trip to Jerusalem acted out a life lived upward toward God, an existence that advanced from one level to another in developing maturity. Three times a year faithful Hebrews would make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. While doing this they refreshed their memories of God’s saving ways at the Feast of Passover in the spring; they renewed their commitments as God’s covenanted people at the Feast of Pentecost in early summer; they responded as a blessed community to the best that God had for them at the Feast of Tabernacles in the autumn. This picture of the Hebrews gives us a good look at life as a faith-journey. These songs convey a wide range of emotions and ideas to God. Singing them is a way both to express God’s amazing grace and to quiet fears. Since many essential items in Christian discipleship are incorporated in these songs, they provide a way to remember who we are and where we are going. Ultimately, the Songs of Ascents, teach us who we are in Christ because of the Gospel of Christ and that our ultimate destination is Christ so we can be with Christ.

Between the Times: Everyone who travels as a pilgrim needs assistance and encouragement from time to time. Christians will recognize how appropriate these songs are during the between times. They are songs of transitions, brief hymns that provide courage, support and inner direction for getting us where God is leading us in Jesus Christ. For those who choose to live no longer as tourist but as pilgrims, the Songs of Ascents combine all the cheerfulness of a travel song with the practicality of a guidebook and map.