There are 15 psalms that are called Psalms of Ascent (or Degrees) which were sung by the Jewish people as they ascended to Jerusalem for holy festivals three times a year. Psalm 120 is the first of these. It begins with a lament – a call for the Lord to save the psalmist from “lying lips and deceitful tongues”. He was surrounded by a wicked world. In fact there are clues in the psalm as to exactly which part of the wicked world encircled him: verse 5 says “Woe to me that I dwell in Meshech, that I live among the tents of Kedar!”
Meshech was the son of Japheth whose descendants inhabited a barbarous area which is now the northern parts of Moscow, Russia. The tents of Kedar refers to descendants of one of Abraham’s sons who were nomads and plunderers … not very nice people.
The psalmist ends this short cry declaring that he is a man of peace, but when he speaks they (his evil neighbors) are ready for war. How distressful. This sounds utterly hopeless yet I would refer you back to the opening verse: “I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me.”