The Psalms of Ascents. You might have heard of them. They are a small collection of 15 psalms inside the book of Psalms. These 15 psalms are so named because they each have a heading attached to them: “A Song of Ascents.”
Like anything else in the world, it is debated why these psalms are called songs of ascents. Your Bible might say “A Song of Degrees” (KJV) or “a pilgrimage song” (CEB) or something more interpretive like “A song for those who go up to Jerusalem to worship the LORD” (NIRV).
Early in Christian interpretation this collection of Psalms was viewed as a symbolic ascent of the soul to God. Historically, it is likely that these psalms were in fact used by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem for festivals 3 times each year. It is also plausible that these songs were performed by the Levites on the steps in the temple. In fact, the word “ascents” is argued by some scholars to better be translated as “steps,” which is fascinating because there were exactly 15 steps on the particular set of steps where the Levites would have sung the 15 songs of this collection.
The debate continues, but I wonder if maybe we can have our cake and eat it too. Why can’t this collection refer to the historical pilgrimage of Israelites to Jerusalem, the songs the Levites sung to welcome those coming to Jerusalem, and also our own soul’s ascent towards God? After all, this collection is called the Psalms of Ascents (plural).
You might have heard before, “You are what you eat.” There is an excellent book by James K. A. Smith called You Are What You Love. I have heard a modern proverb that claims, “You are the sum of the five people you hang out with the most.” In a world where music is readily available like never, maybe we can argue, “you are what you listen to.”
You may have also heard “there’s an app for that!” Or, sadly, “there’s porn for that!” Now days we can also say, “there’s a playlist for that!” Everything from “push up playlist” to “knitting party playlist” are available in seconds.
If “you are what you listen to” and you want to be on your way to God, then I’ve got the playlist for you – “there’s a playlist for that!” It is called the Psalms of Ascents. If you need a playlist for your pilgrimage to God, this is a great place to start.
Here is a link where you can read the Psalms of Ascents.
Here is a list of some of the weirdest Spotify playlists out there.