I am in the middle of a short sermon series on the Songs of Ascents (Pss 120-134) at Grace Presbyterian Church in Vienna, VA. Here is a link to the first sermon last week on Psalm 120.
I was also involved in a project about these psalms at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and funded by Eli Lilly.
From that work:
On the whole, the songs deal with folksy issues like family, work, travel, and social standing. Their form is short and their rhythm is heavily standardized which suggests a liturgy of low register, pithy enough to be memorized and recited during travel. Still, perhaps the most explicit explanation of the songs’ function can be found in Psalm 122:
Our feet have been standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem!
Jerusalem–built as a city
that is bound firmly together,
to which the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
The first person plural of v. 2 is carried throughout the song, substantivized in v. 8 as “my brothers and companions.” Here the image is of a pilgrim cohort approaching and now entering the city of Jerusalem for the purpose of worship. Their duty to “go up” is not peculiar, but rather a fulfillment of their own tribal identity. To be a tribe of Israel is to be a pilgrim bound for worship.
I will post the rest of the series on this page as they are posted.
Update: Here are the links to the sermons as they come out.
Psalm 120 “Worship in a Strange Land”
Psalm 121 “Where is Our Help”