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Psalm 131 is one of the fifteen Psalms of Degrees. These psalms within the Psalms begin with Psalm 120 and continue through Psalm 134. It is believed that Psalms of Degrees originated with the sacred music and singing that accompanied David’s bringing up of the Ark of the Covenant from the house of Obed-Edom to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 15). The Hebrew word used for “bring up” in 1 Chronicles 15:14 means “degrees” or “ascents.” Thus, this sacred music appears to have been performed and sung as David and his entourage ascended and grew ever closer to Jerusalem with the Ark of God.  

The four Psalms of Degrees which were written by David—Psalms 122, 124, 131, and 133—may have been among those performed and sung as David neared Jerusalem with the Ark of the Covenant. Others, such as Psalm 127, which was written by David’s son Solomon, appear to have been composed at a later time. All of these psalms, however, are believed to have eventually served as the Pilgrim Psalms or the “Songs of the Going Up,” songs sung by the Jews on their three annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem to observe the Jewish Feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles.

These Pilgrim Psalms teach us two important truths. First, one can only grow closer to God by degrees. Intimacy with Christ cannot be achieved over night, but must be cultivated over a lifetime of communion with Him. Second, as Psalm 100 teaches us, we “come into God’s presence with singing…into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise.” It is worship that wafts us into the heavenly Holy of Holies and into the very presence of God.

The majesty of calmness cannot be swiftly acquired. It only comes over time to those in continuous and worshipful communion with Christ.

Don Walton