Repentance: I'm Doomed To Live In Meshech (Part 2)

Psalm 120 (ESV)1In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. 2Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.

3What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue? 4 A warrior’s sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree!

5Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! 6Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. 7 I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!

A person has to be thoroughly disgusted with the way things are to find motivation to set out on the Christian way. They have to be fed up with ways of the world before they acquire an appetite for the world of grace. Psalm 120 is the product of such a person. This person, sick with lies, and crippled with hate. Cries out with pain that penetrates despair and stimulates a new beginning—a journey to God that becomes a life of peace.

The fifteen Songs of Ascents describe elements common to all those who apprentice themselves to the Lord Christ and who travel in the Christian way. The first of them is the prod them gets them going.

Lies Without Error: I’m in trouble is the opening phrase. The last word is war. This is not a happy Psalm but an honest and necessary one. The distress that begins and ends the song is the painful awakening to the no-longer-avoidable reality that we have been lied to. The lie, everything is o.k. This lie covers up and perpetuates the deep wrong, disguises the violence, the war, and the rapacity.

Christian consciousness begins in the painful realization that what we had assumed was the truth is in fact a lie. Rescue me from the person who tells me of life and omits Christ, who is wise in the ways of the world and ignores the movement of the Spirit. They are lies because they claim to tell us who we are and omit everything about our origin in God and our destiny in God.

Lightning Illuminating the Crossroads: God, revealed in his creative and redemptive work, exposes all the lies. The moment the word God is uttered, the world’s towering falsehood is exposed; we see the truth. The truth is that God made and loves us. The point at which we need illumination is the point at which the paths of our lives fork. Psalm 120 is the decision to take one way over another. The people who follow the same path as the psalmist are people who take delight in God and are Christians.

A No That Is a Yes: The first step toward God is a step away from the lies of the world. We move away from things that are strange and hostile. We recognize that this world that we live is not our homes. The biblical word that describes our desire to say no to the world is repentance. Repentance is not an emotion. It is a decision. It is deciding that you have been in the wrong in supposing that you could manage your own life and be your own God. It is a realization that what God wants from you and what you want from God are no going to be achieved by doing the same old things, thinking the same old thoughts. Repentance is the most practical of all the words, and the most practical of all the acts.

Repentance, the first word in Christian immigration, sets us on the way to traveling in the light. It is a rejection that is also an acceptance, a leaving that develops into an arriving, a no to the world that is a yes to God.

(This post 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.)