Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Jonathan Bernis » Jonathan Bernis - Prepare Your Heart with the Psalm of Ascent

Jonathan Bernis - Prepare Your Heart with the Psalm of Ascent

Jonathan Bernis - Prepare Your Heart with the Psalm of Ascent
TOPICS: Psalms

Jonathan Bernis: Shalom and welcome to Jewish Voice. I'm Jonathan Bernis, and I'm joined today by my co-host, Ezra Benjamin. We're so glad that you're joining us today. Well, one of the things that we love to do on this program is to look at biblical texts through a Hebraic or a Jewish context, because that brings the scriptures to life in a whole new way, and that's what we're going to do today. Ezra, we're going to look at a group of Psalms called "The Songs of Ascent". Now, many of you perhaps have never heard this term. Some of you have. But it's listed in your Bible. You may not have even been aware of it or just passed over it. Ezra, introduce us to the "The Songs of Ascent".

Ezra Benjamin: Right. And Jonathan before we do that, let's talk about the Psalms in general. And some of our audience may know, some may never have heard, that Psalms are actually songs. And the idea in Bible times was the average man or woman didn't have a printed copy of the scriptures to carry around with them. There were no Bibles in print. The only copies of the words of God, the Torah, were literally written by scribes on sheepskins. So these weren't really, you know, something you throw on the back of your camel, you know, and ride around with. You had to...

Jonathan Bernis: It's a funny picture.

Ezra Benjamin: Right. You had to hide the Word of God in your heart through other means. And so, one of the ways, and maybe you can relate this, one of the best ways to memorize a large chunk of words is through song, through melody. And so, the Psalms, most of which we read today, if we read English, or Spanish, or whatever your heart language is, we read, but there's no melody, and yet the Psalms themselves were songs. And so, from generation to generation, a father or a mother would teach their son or their daughter, "Here's the melody by which you can remember an entire Psalm".

Jonathan Bernis: You know it's an interesting point because the same is true today. I'll be reading the Psalms and when I hit a Psalm that has, that's been put into song...

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: That I've learned over the 30 plus years, actually over 40 years that I've been a believer, 43 now, it triggers something, and I don't even need to read it.

Ezra Benjamin: You remember the melody.

Jonathan Bernis: I remember the melody. So, the melody really supports the memorization of the words.

Ezra Benjamin: Exactly. You know, I'm thinking Jonathan of the Aaronic benediction, "The Lord bless you and keep you". And until the pandemic began and this song came out called "The blessing" maybe people, it was hard to recall it, and now it seems like the whole world can sing, "The Lord bless you and keep you". And we know the whole thing. How do we know it? Because it became a melody, and that's the idea with the Psalms. Specifically, we're gonna talk about the Psalms or "The Songs of Ascent" which are Psalm 120 through 134. And if you notice in your Bible, chances are in tiny print beginning at Psalm 120, it says, "A song of ascents" or "A Psalm of ascents". And we read that, and maybe we do or don't understand that, and then move on and we read the Psalm itself. But that's actually an instruction that's thousands of years old, Jonathan. The idea is, these are the Psalms that you say when you go up. They're also called "The songs of Pilgrimage". But maybe you're asking yourself, "Well, where am I going up to? What's this Pilgrimage"? Jonathan, these were the Psalms, these were the songs that Jewish men, and women, and their children would literally sing as they were making their way up to Jerusalem. So, you and I have been to Israel more times than we can count, and you know, you land near the sea, but then at a certain point, you start to go up, and we're doing that on a highway now, but in Bible times, you had to do this one foot. And about 15, 20 miles outside Jerusalem, you start going up.

Jonathan Bernis: And what we haven't done, what I haven't done certainly, is to walk up to Jerusalem...

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: Or even to go by horseback or on a donkey.

Ezra Benjamin: Exactly.

Jonathan Bernis: It's always been by bus or by car.

Ezra Benjamin: Exactly.

Jonathan Bernis: But you're talking about hours of walking up hill.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: And you've gotta occupy your mind with something, right?

Ezra Benjamin: Exactly.

Jonathan Bernis: Or it's just, you're just gonna grow tireder and tireder.

Ezra Benjamin: Exactly. The Psalms of Pilgrimage or the Psalms of ascent. So, one is to pass the time while you're making this, in many cases, multi-day journey, up to the presence of the Lord. Can anybody relate? Anybody feel like you're on a journey or a Pilgrimage in life trying to get closer to the Lord, but it's going slower than you thought? But the other function of these Psalms of ascent, these songs to be sung while going up Jonathan, was to prepare men and women to be in the presence of the Lord. Remember, in ancient Israel, in Bible times, when the temple stood, this was the one place on earth where the presence of the Lord literally, permanently, dwelt with men, dwelt with the children of Israel. And we understand, you don't just haphazardly go into the presence of the Lord. I think that's something maybe we've lost today in our modern understanding of faith, is, you know, we pray very casually, we say whatever we think. But this idea of preparing yourself to go into the presence of the Lord.

Jonathan Bernis: I think this is so great to provide the context for these Psalms.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: That there's some that are actually, specifically, for the entrance into Jerusalem.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: I think of Yeshua entering, Jesus entering Jerusalem, and they were specifically quoting a Psalm over him, "Baruch haba beshem Adonai". "Blessed is he who comes".

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: Waving palm branches which was before Passover...

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: And my rabbi said, "They were off because this is Sukkot". No, Sukkot was simply adding the Messianic component...

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: Of recognizing the Messiah's entrance into Jerusalem.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: And they were, they may have been singing that, Ezra. They may actually have been singing "Baruch haba".

Ezra Benjamin: They very well may have, and that's actually a couple Psalms before the Psalms of ascent. That's Psalm 118 you're speaking of. But it says, "Lord, save. Oh Lord, deliver"! And that's being proclaimed as Yeshua comes down the Mount of Olives. "Blessed is he who come in the name of the Lord".

Jonathan Bernis: Ezra, how did they have access to these songs? How did they learn these songs?

Ezra Benjamin: Yeah, well, again, it was melody passed down from generation to generation. And actually, in Psalm 120-124, we see a theme here, you know? Psalm 120 begins with verse one, "I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me". Psalms 121, and remember they're going up. They're looking at the mountains as they're heading towards Jerusalem, and it begins, "I lift my eyes up to the mountains, where does my help come from? It comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth". So, if we can imagine in our mind's eye the historical context, that you're literally going up, up, up, preparing to encounter the Lord, and the way that you're doing that is you're rehearsing your history in God and your forefather's history in God, and their father's history in God of who he is and who he's made Israel to be, all of his people to be, and what he's done for us.

Jonathan Bernis: I see the scenery around this.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: I hope you're making this connection between the words and the context. The geographical context that these songs are being sung in.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: It fits perfectly. I bet you never thought about this before, very few of you.

Ezra Benjamin: Jonathan, I think there's a model here in these Psalms of ascent that contradicts, in a healthy way, in a challenging way, some of the way that we think about prayer today. And what I mean by that is Psalm 100:4 is prescriptive. It says, "Come into his gates with thanksgiving, and come into his courts with praise". And so, we can understand, right, that the way we're supposed to approach the Lord is with thanksgiving and praise. And I know in my own life sometimes, you know, I get busy, I get stressed, and I say, "Okay, I'm gonna pray". And then we just rapid fire just start telling God what we need and what we want. And I wonder if maybe we're missing something there. That coming into his presence isn't accessing a spiritual atm, it's coming into the presence of a holy God.

Jonathan Bernis: Some of you remember the song, "I will enter his gates with thanksgiving in my heart".

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: "I will enter his courts with praise", that's how I have it memorized.

Ezra Benjamin: Yep. I know the melody, too.

Jonathan Bernis: You do, huh?

Ezra Benjamin: I do. I do.

Jonathan Bernis: I thought it was a baby boomer thing.

Ezra Benjamin: No, no, it sticks with my generation, because it's melody and we remember melodies like we were saying. But this idea, right, maybe before we're coming, telling God what we need and what we want, it's not a bad idea to acknowledge who he is and what he's already done for us, for people we know, for the people of Israel, for the whole household of God, Jew and gentile alike.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, very good point. Very good. And the Bible's clear that we make our request known with thanksgiving.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: We come into his courts with praise and thanksgiving. You know, Ezra, I was just skimming Psalm 121, another song of ascent.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure.

Jonathan Bernis: This is very typically read, by the way, at funerals, at Jewish funerals. Sadly, I've done far too many in the last couple of years.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: But it says, "I'll lift my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth". The context of this is not that my help comes looking up to the mountains...

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: It's the mountains around Jerusalem because this is the house of God. This is the dwelling place of God.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: So, we're entering Jerusalem, and we're declaring in song, "My help comes from the Lord".

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: Look up to Jerusalem because the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob dwells there in the temple. His shekinah, his glory, and he's the solution to all of my problems.

Ezra Benjamin: Exactly. We're not looking at, remember in ancient religions, people would worship idols literally built on the top of mountains. And the scriptures are clear, it's not the mountains that save us, it's the God whose presence dwells beyond them.

Jonathan Bernis: We could go on and on here. This is so rich. We have to take a quick break though, and let our announcer share how you can partner with Jewish Voice as we help ministries in Israel, in Jerusalem. So, please consider partnering with us and becoming a monthly shalom partner today. It's an investment that will change lives forever. We'll be right back.

Jonathan Bernis: Welcome back to the program. We're talking today about The Songs of Ascent. Psalms that are actually songs that were recited, that were sung as the Pilgrims of Israel traveled to Jerusalem, and entered into the temple. It's an amazing topic. Something that I think has been overlooked by so many. Before we jump back in though, we wanna say thank you to you for your commitment to sharing the gospel through Jewish Voice to Jewish people and their neighbors around the world. Your ongoing support of this ministry is so valued, and we want to say thank you. We are really grateful. You're the reason that we're able to do what we do. Your prayers and financial support are transforming lives.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: It's about transformation, Ezra.

Ezra Benjamin: It is.

Jonathan Bernis: It's about transformation. Let's jump back into the Psalms.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure.

Jonathan Bernis: In particular, we wanna look at one of the Psalms that are mentioned in every program, and that's Psalm 122, in particular, verse six, where we're exhorted to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: The context is Christians praying for the peace of Jerusalem. How does this all fit, Ezra?

Ezra Benjamin: Right. Well, there's this idea, and by the way, Psalm 122 is attributed to David. It might even say in your Bible "A songs of ascents of David". They weren't all written by David between Psalms 120 and 134. Some were written by Solomon, and then some, the author is unknown, but this one we know is David. David was passionate for the tabernacle of the Lord, you know? He didn't get to build the temple, but he was passionate for creating a place where God would dwell, and he understood that God had chosen Jerusalem for that place to be in. And so, David here is exhorting the reader, or we should say, exhorting those who would sing it afterwards, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem". And then, there's this promise, "May they prosper who love you". So, there's a blessing associated with this. But the question for our audience is, you know, as a Christian, you don't have a Jewish background most likely, why should you pray for the peace of a city that's thousands of miles away? And even more, why should you pray for the peace of a city which from everything you see on the news is one of the least peaceful places on the face of the earth? That's the question. And I think Jonathan, there's two things I'm thinking of. The first is that God has chosen this place. God loves this city. Now, God loves all people and God's created the world in love, and yet he said that he's chosen this place for his presence to dwell, some scriptures say forever. Now, we might say there's no temple standing today. It was destroyed in 70 ad and for nearly 2000 years, there's been no place where the presence of God is dwelling continually in Jerusalem, but now I'm thinking of Yeshua's words, Jonathan. I'm thinking of Jesus' words, okay. And I think David, looking ahead in faith to the days of one who would come through his line who would be the Messiah, understood this. Jesus said to Jerusalem, you know, "How often I've longed to gather you like a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wing. You weren't willing. So, you won't see my face again until you cry out, 'blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord'". That's Psalms 118 again. And the idea here, the reason that we wanna exhort you at home to pray for the peace of Jerusalem is because the Prince of Peace, Jesus, has promised that he will come back to Jerusalem to rule and reign over the nations of the earth from there.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah. And let's be clear about this. This is not a new Jerusalem.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: This is not a heavenly Jerusalem. This is not a metaphoric Jerusalem. This is physical Jerusalem. He's not coming back to New York. He's not coming back to London, or Rome, or any other world capital. He's not coming back to some newly created world or city.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: He's coming back to physical Jerusalem.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: That's why the Lord says that there, he said, "Watchmen on the walls, over Jerusalem and to give him no rest until he makes Jerusalem a praise on all the earth". That's the heart of God. Do you care about what God cares about? If you do, then you care about God's destiny for Jerusalem. Why is there so much warfare around Jerusalem concerning Jerusalem? Why have very few countries acknowledged Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? And by the way, I just saw on TV that Australia has pulled their embassy out of Jerusalem and back to Tel Aviv.

Ezra Benjamin: Wow.

Jonathan Bernis: And Benjamin Netanyahu said, "We don't care if Australia recognizes this as capital. It's been our capital for 3000 years". It will be the capital not of just Israel, but of the world when the Messiah returns. And so, "We give the Lord no rest until he makes Jerusalem a praise on all the earth". That's God's heart. That's God's intent. That's God's destiny for the city and that's why we pray for Jerusalem.

Ezra Benjamin: Right. And one interesting thing you may not have heard or thought about is we need to look at the Hebrew word for Jerusalem. Jerusalem's name in Hebrew is "Yerushalayim", which the root of that words is "Shalom". It's peace. And so, Jonathan, another reason we pray for the peace of Jerusalem is because the Bible's, it's almost a play on words here in Psalm 122:6. David's saying, "Pray for the peace of the city of peace". It's the destiny of Jerusalem to be a city of peace, and we understand, I think you watching the news can see very clearly, that's not happening until the Prince of Peace comes back to rule and reign.

Jonathan Bernis: And let me add one more thing that I think is so relevant. Ezra was referencing the words of Jesus that are so critical to understanding what has to happen before he returns. "You will not see me again until you say, 'blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord'". But in acts 3, when Peter is exhorting the people of Israel in the temple, in Jerusalem, after Pentecost, he says, "You men of Israel turn to God so that your sins might be wiped out, and times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord". And then we're told that Yeshua, Jesus is waiting to return, until the restoration of all things.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: Part of that restoration is the restoration of Jerusalem and the people of Jerusalem back to God, recognizing Messiah, the blindness coming off of their eyes. So, I exhort, you when you pray for Jerusalem pray for the salvation of the people of Jerusalem and Israel, the people of Israel to experience a transformation where the blindness comes off of their eyes, and they recognize that Jesus is the promised Messiah.

Ezra Benjamin: Jonathan, I'm thinking of another one of the Psalms of ascents along these same lines of Israel having hope, right, Israel having redemption. This is Psalm 130. It says, "Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord: Lord, hear my voice". So, it's from a place of despair, but then, and remember, the Pilgrims of Israel, as you said, are walking up to Jerusalem and they're saying these words, "If you Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand"? This is verse three. "But with you there is forgiveness, so that with reverence we can serve you". And so, part of preparing to enter the presence of the Lord, these men and women in Israel, preparing themselves to enter the presence of the Lord, was a recognition that if God looked at our sin we couldn't approach him, we couldn't stand, but with him, there's forgiveness. And Jonathan, the majority, I'll even say, of Jewish people on the earth today, don't have an assurance that God is in fact a God of forgiveness, and how can we, a people call to serve and worship the Lord, serve and revere him if we're not sure our sins are forgiven?

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah.

Ezra Benjamin: That's part of the urgency of reaching Jewish people with the good news of the Messiah.

Jonathan Bernis: It sure is. I know that many of you watching have a Jewish friend, a Jewish coworker, a Jewish neighbor, maybe even a Jewish family member, extended family member, and we get lots of letters asking, "How do I share my faith with them"?

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: Well, it begins with prayer.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: It begins by you interceding for the Lord to reveal himself to them. Remember what Jesus told Peter, "Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you. This came from the Spirit of God, from my father". That's how Jewish people come into a saving knowledge of Jesus as their Messiah. It's by revelation. Yes, you need to share with them that sin is separated them from God. Yes, you need to share with them that the wage of sin is death, and the gift of God is eternal life. Yes, you need to share with them that blood is required for sacrifice for atonement from sin, but prayer that God reveals himself is the key. We could go on with this, but we need to step away again for another minute while our announcer offers you resources that will further your study of the song of ascent. So, stay with us. After this short message, Ezra and I are coming back to pray with you and stand in agreement for your needs. Stay tuned.

Jonathan Bernis: I wanna repeat one of The Songs of Ascent, "I look to the hills-from where my salvation comes. My help comes from the Lord". It's not looking to the hills. It's looking to Jerusalem because that's where the God of Israel dwells. That's where the miracle working God dwells. And he is listening now. Jesus is at his right hand making intercession for us as we pray. So, we're gonna stand together with you for your needs right now, and they're vast, but God is more than able, more than able. Right, Ezra?

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: More than able.

Ezra Benjamin: Amen.

Jonathan Bernis: So, let's agree together. I know that some of you are facing some very, very serious challenges, and we wanna stand with you right now. So, I'll begin Ezra, and then you jump in.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure.

Jonathan Bernis: We look to the God of our salvation. We look to the God of scripture, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God who declared Jerusalem as the place where the Messiah would dwell. Lord, we pray for healing. We pray for miracles. We pray for provision. We pray for family restoration, and we pray it in the name of Yeshua. We look to you, Lord, now. Thank you Lord.

Ezra Benjamin: Lord, we thank you that you would intervene in the circumstances of our brothers and sisters watching today, and that you would reveal yourself as the ever present help in time of trouble. Thank you that you would manifest your help in the circumstances. Circumstances that seems like they can't be helped, they're helpless. Lord, manifest yourself as the God of all help and even comfort in the midst of difficulties and we pray it in Yeshua's name.

Jonathan Bernis: And be healed. Hearts be healed and mended in Jesus' name, in the name of Yeshua. Amen and amen. Hey, if you'd like more information about our ministry, you could log on to You can also send us your prayer request right on the website. We have a team here at Jewish Voice committed to praying over your requests by name. We believe in the power of prayer, and we care about you, and more importantly, God cares about you.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: Do you believe that? God cares about you. As we close our program today, I wanna remind you, Psalms 122:6, we talked about it today. "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem". And now, you know why. And the blessing attached, "May they prosper who love thee". Until next time, this is Jonathan Bernis with Ezra Benjamin saying, "Shalom and God bless you".
Are you Human?:*