“I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
Our feet are standing
in your gates, Jerusalem.” —Psalm 122 1–2
Aliyah is Hebrew for “ascent” or “to go up.” In biblical times, it was used to describe the pilgrimage all Jews made three times a year to Jerusalem for holy festivals. Today, it refers to immigration to Israel. This is one of 12 devotions exploring aliyah and the fulfillment today of biblical prophecy that God would bring back His children to their ancient homeland, Israel. For more teachings on prophecy, download our complimentary study here.
Today, when we talk about a Jewish person returning to his or her homeland, we refer to it as making aliyah. The root word in Hebrew literally means “to ascend” or “to go up.” This word was often used to describe the pilgrimage all Jews made three times a year in biblical times to Jerusalem for the festivals of Passover, Pentecost, and Sukkot.
In fact, Psalms 120—134 are often called “pilgrim psalms,” or “songs of ascent.” These psalms were typically sung by those who journeyed to the Temple in Jerusalem for the annual festivals. Each psalm is considered a step along the journey. It begins with Psalm 120 as the pilgrim sets out from a distant land, surrounded by enemies: “Woe to me that I dwell in Meshek, that I live among the tents of Kedar! Too long have I lived among those who hate peace” (vv.5–6).
The journey continues in Psalm 121 as the psalm writer expresses his hope and trust he had in God’s protection day and night. Read aloud these beautiful words of God’s ever-present watchfulness: “indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (v.4). In Psalm 122, the pilgrim acknowledges his entrance into Jerusalem itself, “Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem” (v. 2). In the remaining psalms, the pilgrim moves toward the Temple itself — the very spiritual center of Israel.
The psalms of ascent can also be seen as a metaphor for our own spiritual journey. Just as getting to Jerusalem, to the Temple, required an arduous physical climb so, too, does spiritual growth. If we are to grow closer to God, we must commit to hard work, long hours, introspection, and perseverance.
We will encounter obstacles along the way. We will be detoured and frightened at times. We will need to look for our Help among the mountains (Psalm 121:1-2). We will need to keep our eyes fixed firmly on the goal before us. But when we arrive, what joy! We will join with the other pilgrims who succeeded in completing the journey: “The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” (Psalm 126: 3). We will echo the sentiments of the psalmist as he wrote, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD” (Psalm 122:1).
So where are you right now on your journey? Still in enemy territory? In need of help and guidance along the way? Rejoicing with others in the house of the Lord?
Remember, just as the mountains surround and protect Jerusalem, “so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore” (Psalm 125:2).
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