One day when I was little, all of us children (4 of us) were eagerly looking forward to dinner. The reason was we were going to get to drink Coca Cola! But, right before dinner, 3 of us played a joke on our younger brother. Instead of pouring Coca Cola into his glass, we poured prune juice. We sat down. Eyes on him. We prayed…then watched. And, perfect! He reached for his glass and took a huge gulp. Oh, I so wish iPhone cameras were around then. The look on his face was priceless! And, I bet they heard him even down the street cry out: “Prune Juice!!!” He hoped to taste something pleasing but was deceived into tasting something disgusting. (Sorry prune juice lovers.)
Psalm 120 says: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.
Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue. … Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!”
This Psalm begins the Ascent Psalms, which pilgrims would encourage each other with on the way to Jerusalem for the three annual feasts. It’s a Psalm of repentance, specifically that shift in our hearts when by grace we discover in ourselves, sometimes to our surprise, a healthy distaste for the world. The Psalmist is tired of sojourning in Meshech and weary of dwelling in Kedar. These were violent, antagonistic communities. Interestingly, though, Meshech is in the far north and Kedar is in the far south. So, he couldn’t be in both places at the same time. It’s not an exact address. The point is this: He feels the world pressing in all around him feeding him lies hoping for his fall. Maybe he has bought the lies before. But, what he thought would taste sweet instead turned out bitter. Now he sees clearly. He’s had enough. He finds a healthy distaste for the world. He wants to leave it behind, start the pilgrim journey, join up with God’s people, and go and meet with God. He is beginning to taste and see that the Lord, not the world, is good. Let’s pray today that the Lord would do the same in us. Amen.
Rev. Bill Bradford
Pastor of Lawndale Presbyterian Church