“Take a Hike” – A Journey through the Psalms of Ascents
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
“These are those who follow the Lamb wherever He goes.”
Life is movement. We are born traveling. All of us. You may be sitting down as you read, but you would be dizzy. After all, this earth is spinning around at 1,040 mph, racing around the sun at 66,660 mph. And brace yourself; we are at this very moment traveling through space at 1.3 million mph. That’s 361.1 miles per second. You and I are on a journey.
Though I enjoy the thrill of exploring without maps, most journeys require at least a general idea of where we’re going. It’s wise to bring a guidebook, chart or at least verbal instructions from someone who has “been there.”
Our chart for this hike is found in the biggest book in your Bible, the book of Psalms. In fact this guidebook is actually a songbook within that larger songbook. It’s a collection of fifteen psalms known as “The Songs of Ascents,” or sometimes known as “Pilgrim Songs.” Four of them are credited to David and one to his son Solomon. The rest are anonymous. Most likely they were compiled to be used during worship as God’s people gathered for the Jewish festivals of Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost) and Sukkot (Tabernacles). But these songs would have also been sung on the road as these pilgrims traveled to the place of worship in Jerusalem. In that sense we might call them a “road mix” or travel songs.
So allow me to act as your docent on this road trip. I’ll point out milestones, which are typical in every believer’s experience, perhaps in different order, but rarely will any of the themes touched upon in these fifteen tunes be absent from the life story of all who “follow the Lamb wherever He goes.”
As we walk through these songs, we’ll find ourselves thinking to ourselves or shouting aloud, “Hey! I’ve been there. Yes, I’ve felt like that too.” Our hike will, at times, be difficult and even painful. We will be forced to look back, look forward, look around and most importantly, look within as God takes us to astounding heights and depths of friendship, partnership and transformation.
Yes, there will be challenging climbs and foreboding deserts, but be comforted by this––Jesus, our Guide, will be there every step of the way. He will never abandon us. He will remain closer than Gandalf to Frodo. He is after all, truly for us, with us and in us.
This brings us to Jesus’ words, “Follow Me.” These two simple words encompass the entire, intended trajectory of human life. We can’t get deeper or higher, and can’t do any better than that, because you and I were created to know, love, serve and follow Jesus, which means a bit more than occasionally checking His Facebook or Instagram feed.
“Following” infers movement and progress toward a destination. Not random activity, but intentional movement in a direction set by Jesus, whom we follow. We are not called to wander, we are called to follow, advance and grow.
“Follow Me” were the first two words spoken to a foul-mouthed fisherman named Simon Peter who sat stunned over a miraculous catch of fish after simply casting his net on the “other side of the boat.” Once on shore with Jesus, this traveling preacher calls Simon to abandon his fishing business and accompany Him on a new journey. It all began with, “Follow Me.”
Fast forward three-and-a-half years and hear Jesus repeat those same words, “Follow Me,” to the same fisherman. Simon was fishing again. He’s not just out for a relaxing evening with friends; he’d actually tossed in the “apostle towel” and returned to his old occupation, taking six other apostles with him. So at the end of this heart-searching chat, Jesus made it clear that Peter’s fishing days were over. His new life mission was to feed and lead his Master’s flock of followers, which would soon explode into a megachurch. Jesus’ message was, “Peter, if you really love Me, follow Me.”
I am convinced that these are the same directives given to every soul on this planet. Some enthusiastically respond, abandon their own plans and launch out into a wonderfully redirected life following Christ. Others stay the course of their best-laid plans, sadly refusing the greatest faith adventure of all.
We have no choice in our cosmic speed or direction. We will go where our planet takes us. However, we have much to say and daily choices to make about our journey on this “terrestrial ball.” So let’s slow down a bit and carefully consider where we are going with Christ and what He is determined to accomplish in our lives on this road trip.
Let’s take this hike together, following Jesus and discovering the big story, the meta-story that explains all the little stories of our lives. Let’s strap on our sandals, quiet our heart, take a deep breath and listen for the whisper of your Master’s still small voice. Do you hear it? He says today what He said yesterday and what He will say tomorrow. “Follow Me.”
This mandate may sound frightening, but be comforted by this: Jesus never sends us out to blaze a trail, He never deploys us to explore on our own. He’s promised to be with us to the end, not just as “one of the guys,” but as our personal Guide. He tells us what He told Peter, Andrew, James, John and the rest, including Judas. Two words for every step, every day, year after year, in the midst of every relationship and every challenge, Jesus says simply, “Follow Me.” There are no other marching orders for us. Just “follow Jesus.” That will be enough. That will get it done. That will lead us home.
I’ll see you on the trail.