PSALM 136 TALK: THE GOD OF ENDURING LOVE

PSALM 136 TALK:  THE GOD OF ENDURING LOVE

(A Psalm or ancient Hebrew worship song or hymn that appears to be an Old Testament form of liturgy in that one group or person makes a statement and another group of people respond with a continual refrain that thanks God for being a God of enduring love).

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INTRODUCTION

I have read of many stories of people lost in the darkness of sin and despair turning in prayer to God for help and finding a God who loves them despite the wretched state of their lives. In this Psalm talk I will refer to the famous conversion story of the 18th century former slave trader who became an Anglican church minister whose name is John Newton.

I love John Newton’s story for a number of reasons and one is the hymn he later composed when he was the minister in a church in a small English village called Olney. The hymn is of course “Amazing Grace” in which Newton calls himself a wretch.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.

The book of Psalms contains Psalms that are obviously designed as congregational corporate prayers and hymns designed to be read or sung Antiphonally or in a responsive manner. Psalm 136 is an excellent example of such a Psalm. It has the first part of a verse that is a reason to thank God for something specific followed by a set refrain that says,

“His love endures forever”

This specific response in this Psalm speaks of the kind of love John Newton discovered when he called out to God in the midst of a terrifying storm. He prayed something like God if you are really there to save me. The God of the bible is there and wants to save all sinners who turn to him and his Amazing enduring love.

Interestingly this congregational response in an act of worship recorded three times in the history of Israel, God’s ancient chosen people. The first is during the time of dedication of the Temple during the reign of King Solomon recorded in 2 Chronicles 7: verses 3 and 7 in the 10th century B.C.

Two hundred years later in the reign of King Jehoshaphat in the southern Kingdom of Judah we have another record of this refrain,

“His love endures forever”

This time it is part of the song Jehoshaphat appointed singers to sing as they led the army of Judah into battle agains the combined attacking armies of Moabites, Ammonites and Meunites. That day God fought ahead of this army and these attacking armies were routed and turned away from Jerusalem.

Then around four hundred years later we find this same refrain sung again and this time the refrain is sung at the celebration of the laying of the foundation stone of the re-building of the Temple in Jerusalem recorded in Ezra 3: 11.

So, God’s enduring undeserved love is celebrated at least three times over a 600-year period and it seems that around the time of Ezra this well -known congregational response to acts of God’s goodness and love became the Psalm we now call, Psalm 136.

It is believed that the first part of each verse of this Psalm was spoken or sung by a priest in the Old Testament Temple and the refrain was said or sung by the entire congregation present at that worship service. This makes Psalm 136 not only unique but I believe a powerful statement of the central theme of the entire bible, namely the enduring love of the God of the bible.

Only the Jewish – Christian religion presents their God as a God of enduring love and for the Christian the central message of God’s enduring love is summed up in one famous verse, John 3: 16,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

It has been said that only the Christian faith and message is not based on what we do for God to get into his favour but is simple based on what God has done for us. The fact both the Old and New Testaments presents the God of heaven and earth as a loving saving God and Psalm 136 does this not only in its refrain but in all it says from its beginning to its end.

Psalm 136 calls on us to constantly and regularly thank God for his powerful saving enduring love. Paul made it clear to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18 to praise and give thanks to God always and that this is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus,

“Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

With the enduring love of God and the call to give thanks to God in all circumstances in mind my outline for this Psalm talk is:

1. (1 – 3) THANK GOD FOR HIS GOODNESS

1. (vs. 1) The God of goodness and love
2. (2 – 3) The God of God’s

2 (4 – 7) THANK GOD FOR HIS CREATIVE POWERS

1. (4 – 5) The creative wise God
2. (6 – 9) The God who made the world

3 (10 – 15) THANK GOD FOR HIS REDEMPTION

1. (10 – 12) The God who saved Israel out of slavery
2. (13 – 15) The God who saved Israel but judged Egypt

4 (vs. 16) THANK GOD FOR HIS GUIDANCE

5. (17 – 22) THANK GOD FOR FIGHTING FOR US

1. (17 – 20) The God who fought off two kings
2. (21 – 22) The God who gave Israel its inheritance

6. (23 – 26) THANK GOD FOR LOOKING AFTER US

1. (23 – 25) The God who helps us and provides for us
2. (vs. 26) Thank the great God of Heaven

Let’s then have a close look at this Psalm with theses headings:

1. (1 – 3) THANK GOD FOR HIS GOODNESS

1. (vs. 1) The God of goodness and love

The opening line of this Psalm 136 is the first call for thanks or praise of the God of heaven and earth. The God we only know because he has made himself known through the events of history when he got involved in it recorded for us in the pages of what we call the bible.

These words, we believe were spoken loudly by a chosen priest in the Temple worship service in Jerusalem in ancient Israel.

The topic of this opening reason for praising or thanking God is The Goodness of God expressed like this,

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good”.

Many times, in the book of Psalms we have read of the goodness of God and in the previous Psalm, Psalm 135 we read in verse 3a,

“Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good”

I stated in my Psalm talk for Psalm 135 and this verse that the Goodness of God is,

“Mentioned in at least five other Psalms, Psalm 25: 8, 34: 8, 73: 1, 86: 5 and 100: 5″.

In Psalm 34: 8 David issues us a challenge that says,

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him”.

In my Psalm talk for Psalm 34 and this verse I commented this way on the concept of “Tasting” the goodness of God,

“David wants his listeners to experience for themselves what God can do for them. Many non-Christians say to Christians I will not believe unto I can see for myself that God is true and real. The answer to this is why not take God at his word and see for yourself. I remember when I was a teenager attending church fellowship groups I heard a number of times an older leader challenging us after he had presented the Gospel message to pray a simple prayer like, “God if your there please reveal yourself me” and then he said now sit down in a quiet place and read Johns Gospel. I think he had copies of Johns Gospel in a simple plain English version to give to anyone who was willing to take on his challenge. He had the “Taste and See” approach to evangelism.

David like that fellowship leader had great confidence in God’s willingness to reveal himself as he writes,

“Blessed (happy) is the man who takes refuge in him”.

This taste and see form or challenge is not unique to David as Jesus himself uses it to his listeners when he says in Matthew 7: 7 – 8,

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened”.

I have heard the testimonies of many Christians asking God if you are their reveal yourself and as I said in my introduction one is the famous testimony of the 18th century slave Trader John Newton who lived a debouched life but one night was tied to the wheel of his ship by his crew during a powerful storm and in desperation he cried out to God if you’re their save me.

John Newton was saved that night and went on to discover the love and goodness of God and write the famous hymn, Amazing Grace which the first verses says,

“Amazing Grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now I’m found
Was blind but now I see.”

The response or refrain we will see is not a set of mindless words that has no connection to each statement for giving thanks to the God of the Bible and I will show how this refrain relates to each of the statements for giving thanks to God in this Psalm.

So, the refrain says,

“His love endures forever”

You see the goodness of God to us not something we deserve or could ever earn it comes only because the God who is good to us is an enduring God of love. He saved John Newton not because he deserved to be saved but as John Newton wrote it was because of God’s amazing grace that a wretch like him was saved and received the goodness of God.

Paul says in Ephesians 2: 8 – 9,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast”.

The goodness of God which is the grace or undeserved love of God is the first reason Psalm 136 suggests as a reason for thanking God.

2.  (2 – 3) The God of God’s

Again, like the previous Psalm, Psalm 136 the supremacy of the God of the bible over all other God alternatives is presented in the two phrases,

“Give thanks to the God of God’s” (vs. 2)

And

“Give thanks to the Lord of Lords”. (vs. 3)

These statements of reasons for thanks are similar to verse 5 of Psalm 135 that says,

“I know that the Lord is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods”.

I will now give you what I said about verse 5 of Psalm 135 which I think is also an excellent commentary on verses 2 and 3 of this Psalm 136,

“This verse is not saying there are other God’s as we will see in verses 15 – 18, the supposed other God’s represented by the great idols people made of them are nothing but false and unreal.

However, the God of the bible is very real and very great and our writer probably has Exodus 18: 11 in mind here that simply says,

“Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.”

These words were spoken by Moses after the God of the bible had defeated the supposed God’s of Egypt and in the end a whole army inspired by these gods was destroyed when they sought enter the red sea or sea of reeds to pursue and destroy God chosen people, Israel. Interestingly God used forces in nature to destroy this non -God of the bible opponents.

Today we face a society aggressively running away from the God of the bible and turning to other ways of thinking about the origins of life and the great questions of why we exist and how they should live. Paul tells us in Romans 1: 21 – 25

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen”.

Paul is saying here that mankind is actively and collectively turned away from God to some other form of God or God’s and in Pauls day these were represented by idols. Today these idols are not usually images made to look like human beings or animals but are things like money, fame, self-glory or even other religions that have as part of their philosophy the denial of the truth of the God of the bible.

Even in the Christian church today we have influential so-called leaders denying the truth of the bible and offering an alternative way of thinking about it. Paul warned Timothy of such preachers and teachers rising up even in the early church in 2 Timothy 4: 1 – 5,

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”.

So, we promote and praise the God of the bible like Paul encouraged Timothy to do proclaiming how our God is “Great” and no other so- called god alternative is as great or greater than him”.

The New Testament presents The Lord Jesus Christ as God become flesh and he is spoken about in the book of Revelations, like Revelations 19: 16 as the,

“King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s”.

We are then, to give thanks to God of God’s and Lord of Lords or king of kings and the peoples response to that was again,

“His love endures forever”

Israel only knew this great one true God because he chose to reveal himself to them and in revealing himself to them he set up an agreement with them which we call the covenant of love. This covenant of love started with the great patriarch Abraham but became clear in the renewed covenant of love made to Abrahams descendants through Moses on mount Sinai.

This covenant of love is expressed in Deuteronomy 7: 7 – 9,

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments”.

This covenant of love was fulfilled and transformed by the coming of God’s Son Jesus Christ as Hebrews 9: 15 clearly states,

“For this reason, Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant”.

So, we thank God for his enduring love expressed in the fact that God is the one and only God who chose to save us through the death and resurrection of his only Son who is God with him and the Holy Spirit one God a great God of enduring love.

The apostle John later we believe in his ministry and life spoke of the enduring love of God as our motivation to both love God and one another in one of his three letters to churches he cared for and we read these amazing words about love and God in 1 John 4: 7 – 12,

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us”

2 (4 – 7) THANK GOD FOR HIS CREATIVE POWERS

1. (4 – 5) The creative wise God

We have already seen that Psalm 136 follows a similar pattern of teaching to the previous Psalm, Psalm 135 and this next little section and the one that follows it is another example of this. For verses 4 – 5 looks at the creative abilities and evidences of the great God of the bible followed by the redemptive activities of the God of the bible in verses 10 – 15 similar to that same pattern in Psalm 135 as a reason for thanks and praise of our God.

In verses four and five the creative activities of the God of the bible is spoken about as showing God’s great wondrous nature and also his wisdom as we read these words again spoken more than likely by a leading priest in the Temple,

“To him who alone does great wonders” (verse 4)

And verse 5,

“Who by his understanding made the heavens”.

Allan Harmon writes,

“Creation is the fruit of many wonders that God performed”.

Today the majority of people believe that our wondrous or amazing world and universe came about by an accident of nature. Let me ask you can you accept that the intricate, complex and perfect design of our genes points to its creation as an accident?

I believe modern science has only pushed us further towards concluding that some kind of designer lies behind the wonderful designs and beauty of nature. Many modern scientists say that out of the chaos of the big bang came eventually the order and beauty of nature as we know it.

May I suggest that this view requires a bigger leap of faith to believe than the belief in a wondrous and great almighty God as the creator and designer of the world and our universe.

There are eminent scientists who believe in a God and still practice good sound scientific study and they do not believe that modern science proves the non- existence of a God but sadly many people today blindly accept this as fact.

Psalm 72 verses 18 and 19 express well marvellous or wondrous deeds in creation that deserves our thanks and praise,

“Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvellous deeds. Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory, Amen and Amen.

The whole earth is filled with God’s glory as we admire God’s handiwork in this world and the universe.

So how did God do it?

According to verse 5 of Psalm 136, he did it by his understanding which could be translated as wisdom,

“Who by his understanding made the heavens”. (vs. 5)
This verse seems to be a summary of what we read in Proverbs 3: 19 – 20,

“By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; 20 by his knowledge the watery depths were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew”.

From the amazing and great intelligence of our God came the creation of the world and the universe. God is almighty, powerful and the highest of any intelligence in the entire universe and John tells us at the start of his Gospel that God’s creative intelligence lies in his Son called in this passage “The word”, John 1: 1 – 5,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”.

John goes on to say in verse 14 that this great word or God became flesh in the form of the Lord Jesus Christ,

“The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

So, we can thank God for his wondrous and intelligent nature seen in the creation of this world and the universe through his only Son Jesus Christ and join in the refrain the people of God in ancient Israel responded with that says,

“His love endures forever”

God is a God of enduring love made evident every day of our lives by the wonder and beauty of nature. I live in the midst of a beautiful expression of the God of nature, the Blue Mountains west of Sydney Australia and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t marvel at the great enduring God seen in the natural beauty that surround my home.

Paul makes a clear statement about the role Jesus Christ played in the creation of the world and his enduring love for us for not only did he made a beautiful creation but he also continues to makes beautiful re-creations, his church all the company of all true believers that was made possible by his great act of enduring love on the cross for the forgiveness of our many sins as we read in Colossians 1: 15 – 20,

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross”.

2. (6 – 9) The God who made the world

Our writer of Psalm 136 then goes on to spell out a bit more of the actual creation God’s wonder and wisdom actually made as further reasons for thanks and praise, he writes in verses 6 – 9,

“Who spread out the earth upon the waters” (vs. 6)

“Who made the great lights” (vs. 7)

“The sun to govern the day, (vs. 8)

And “The moon and stars to govern the night”, (vs 9).

These three verses “echoes” Alan Harman says the words of Genesis 1: 6 – 8 is telling us,

“And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day”.

Spurgeon comments aptly on God’s creation of the great lights of day and night with these words,

“This also is a creating miracle worthy of our loudest thanks. What could men have done without light? Though they had the heavens above them, and dry land to move upon, yet what could they see, and where could they go without light? Thanks be to the Lord, who has not consigned us to darkness. In great mercy, he has not left us to an uncertain, indistinct light, floating about fitfully, and without order; but he has concentrated light upon two grand luminaries, which, as far as we are concerned, are to us “great lights.”

Again, the great refrain of the ancient Hebrew congregation responds to this with the words,

“His love endures forever”.

God’s great enduring love is again proclaimed as a word of thanks and praise for his creation of this world and particularly his provision of light. Not only should we thank God for his enduring love for us expressed in his creation of natural light but also for his provision of spiritual light for because of our many sins we are naturally in the dark about God but John tells us in John 3: 19 – 21 both what God has done about our spiritual darkness and how we should respond to it,

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God”.

We must accept the gift of God’s enduring love of light given to us freely by God through the Lord Jesus Christ because if we turn away from this great gift of light we are condemned to live in spiritual darkness.

3 (10 – 15) THANK GOD FOR HIS REDEMPTION

1. (10 – 12) The God who saved Israel out of slavery

As I said before Psalm 136 follows a similar pattern to the previous Psalm 135 and here is another example of this with the source or God’s acts and deeds of creation followed by his acts of great redemption for his people as a source for great thanks and praise. It was the enduring love of God that led him to free and save his people from slavery in Egypt.

So, we read of this as a source of thanks and praise with these words, again spoken or sung by a leading priest in the Temple worship service,

“To him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt” (vs. 10)

“And brought Israel out from among them” (vs. 11)

And vs. 12, “With a mighty hand and outstretched arm”.

In Psalm 135 verse 8 the striking down of the first born of Egypt is spoken of in verse 8 and again I will quote directly from my Psalm 135 on this,

“The God of the bible is not a God in exile or inactivity he did not create the world and the universe and then remove himself from it. The fact I believe he is actively involved in our world even today leading people to redemption or salvation.

In ancient Hebrew times the proof that the God of the bible was involved in their world in acts of redemption was through his saving of his people out of slavery in Egypt which the writer of Psalm 135 reminds his readers of in verses 8 and 9,

“He stuck down the firstborn of Egypt, the firstborn of people and animals. He sent signs and wonders into your midst, Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants”.

I have seen in many Psalms the story of the Exodus used in many ways on many occasions and here it seems to be used to reveal that Pharaoh’s stubborn refusal to turn to the one true living God. After many signs and wonders that the God of the Bible revealed to Pharaoh only hardened his heart against the God of the bible. Ultimately God judged Pharaoh and he lost the life of his beloved first born son.

Over and over again in the story of the Exodus is used in the book of Psalms to remind the people of God that the God of the bible is a saving God of love but also a God of Judgement for those who seek to oppose him and his chosen people.

There is no better example of the principle of salvation for God’s people and judgment of those who oppose God and his people than Psalm 81: 5 – 7,

“When God went out against Egypt, he established it as a statute for Joseph. I heard an unknown voice say: 6 “I removed the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket. 7 In your distress you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thunder cloud; I tested you at the waters of Meribah”.

Then again and even more clearly in Psalm 106: 7 – 11,

“When our ancestors were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.
8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, to make his mighty power known. 9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up; he led them through the depths as through a desert.
10 He saved them from the hand of the foe; from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them.
11 The waters covered their adversaries; not one of them survived”.

So, God’s great saving hand in the Exodus is referred to in the book of Psalms and in the books of Old Testament prophecies as a concrete example of the Saving Power of the God of the bible”.

Here in Psalm 136 God’s saving outstretched arm is proof of his enduring love God for his people, Israel. This outstretched arm judged Pharaoh and the false God’s he and his people believed in and sought to overcome Israel and their God the one true God of the bibles.

So, God saved Israel out of Egypt just as The Lord Jesus Christ through his death on the cross saved us from the slavery of sin and death. So, like the ancient Hebrews of old we can respond with the same refrain they sang in response to the message of God saving Israel out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt with the words,

“His love endures forever”

The New Testament sees a clear connection between the act of God’s enduring love in the Exodus story and the act of enduring love of The Lord Jesus Christ sacrificing himself on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins as we see from a passage like 1 Peter 1: 18 – 19,

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect”.

And Pauls words in 1 Corinthians 5: 7,

“Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed”.

John the Baptist saw clearly this amazing connection of Jesus and the passover when he called Jesus this in John 1: 29,

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.

We have great cause and reason to thank and praise God because of his enduring love shown to us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which is our hope for our salvation as Paul speaks of in Romans 15: 13,

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”.

2. (13 – 15) The God who saved Israel but judged Egypt

This remarkable story of the redemption or salvation of the people of Israel out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt continues in the next three verses where the salvation of the people of Israel co- insides with the judgement of God on Pharaoh and his non – God of the bible driven army.

We read these grounds for thanks and praise in verses 13,

“To him who divided the Red Sea asunder”

And verses 14,

“And brought Israel through the midst of it,

And finally verse 15,

“But swept Pharaoh and his army into the red sea”.

The story of the Exodus makes clear that Pharaoh after letting the people go had a change of heart and decided to hastily form an army to pursue and destroy the people of Israel.
Pharaoh would have thought he had the people of Israel trapped on the shores of the red sea and all had to do was ride in on his chariots and hack to death the people responsible for the death of his first- born son.

Even the people of Israel felt they were trapped and doomed on the shores of the red sea because we read this in Exodus 14: 10 – 12,

“As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”.

However, as verse 13 of Psalm 136 says God divided the red sea asunder and the people were able to cross in safety. When Pharaoh arrived he decided, foolishly to follow the Israelites into the divided sea and he discovered to his horror that God brought Israel through the midst of the sea, safely as verse 14 of Psalm 136.

However, just as God saved Israel he judged Pharaoh and his non – God of the bible believing army and as verse 15 states,

“But swept Pharaoh and his army into the red sea”.

I mentioned earlier the words of John 3 that spoke of God sending his light, Jesus Christ into the world and just before that in verses 17 – 18 we read these words about how the salvation and judgment of God actually works,

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son”.

Pharaoh and his fellow Egyptian soldiers refused to believe in the God of the Bible even after the many signs and wonders they had witnessed including now the opening of a sea and their stubborn closed minded sinful hearts led to their destruction at the hands of the God they opposed.

This again was wonderful grounds for thanks and praise and so the ancient worshipping congregation says or sings the refrain again that says,

“His love endures forever”

They realised yet again that their ancestors were saved only because their God is a God of enduring love and for that they are full of praise and thanks.

As Christians, we are reminded over and over again through the communion service that Jesus instituted that we are only saved through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ an even greater expression of the enduring love of God. As Paul sets down to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 11: 23 – 26,

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said,
“This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.
” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”.

Paul made it clear in many places that we are saved only in and through the giving of Jesus in his death and resurrection and that this was God’s great act of love and salvation for us as Paul speaks of in Galatians 2: 20,

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”.

This then is central to our continual thanks and praise.

John Newton expressed this central concept of enduring love he called in his hymn “Amazing Grace” and in his second verse of that hymn he says this,

“Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed”.

4. (vs. 16) THANK GOD FOR HIS GUIDANCE

Most of the commentaries I read on this Psalm 136 made verse 16 a separate topic for the bases of our thanks and praise and I agree with this as verse 16 says,

“To him who led his people through the wilderness”.

This verse speaks of thanking God for the guidance of his people Israel in the wilderness period. We will see in the next section that this guidance included God’s fighting for his people against large and aggressive enemies during the wilderness period of around 40 years.

However, this verse is probably a direct reference to the miraculous way God led his people as expressed in Exodus 13: 21 – 22,

“By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people”.

Once the people of the wilderness entered the promised land God stopped this very miraculous form of guidance but he still guided them through the conquest of Canaan and beyond with the Ark of the Covenant going before them.

I once read an article about the word Guidance that our English word Guidance is made up of two parts, 1. Guide and 2. Dance and that this is a picture of how God wants us to be guided in our lives.

We are to look to God for Guidance he promises to Guide us and we are to live our lives believing he is guiding us as we look to him which is like dancing. In ballroom dancing it is the male partner who leads and the female who follows and in the dance of the Christian life it is God who leads and it is us who follow that lead as Proverbs 3: 5 – 6 states,

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”.

The Ancient Israel worshipping congregation on hearing of how God guided the Israelites through the wilderness respond with that refrain again that says,

“His love endures forever”

God chooses to guide us because he is a God of enduring love and this is yet again wonderful grounds for our thanks and praise. I like Spurgeon’s comments on this when he says,

“Their faithfulness soon failed, but his did not: the fiery, cloudy pillar which never ceased to lead the van was the visible proof of his immutable love”,

In the New Testament we, if we truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ are led by his Holy Spirit as Paul speaks so clearly of in Romans 8: 14 – 17,

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory”.

James gives us practical advice of guidance in James 1: 5 – 6 when he says,

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind”.

Personally, I have claimed this verse in the midst of difficult times or times when I felt I did not understand what God wanted me to do or say and I can testify to the fact that in some way or another God always answered my prayer for wisdom and guidance and I have found yet again the love and guidance God has for my life.

God does guide us and this is not because we deserve or earn that blessing but again it is given to us because God is a God of unmerited enduring love. For this also I give God the thanks and praise he deserves.

5. (17 – 22) THANK GOD FOR FIGHTING FOR US

1. (17 – 20) The God who fought off two kings

In verses 17 – 20 two important illustrations of the enduring love of God are stated which are part of the previous point of God guiding his people through the wilderness period. These two illustrations of God’s enduring love and guidance are of the two kings and their nation’s attempt to stop and destroy the people of Israel in their long journey to God’s Promise land of Canaan.

We read of God fighting for Israel against the two kings this way,

“To him who struck down great kings” (vs. 17)

and vs, 18, “And killed mighty kings”

Then vs. 19 and 20 these kings are named,

“Sihon king of the Amorites”

“And “Og king of Basham”.

Albert Barnes explains the significance and application of these verses with these words,

“The idea in the whole passage, in view of the divine interposition in slaying the mighty kings, and in giving their land for a possession to the Hebrew people, is, that it was a proof of mercy and benevolence. It is benevolence to mankind and to the church of God – it is in the interests of humanity, of domestic peace, and of the charities of life, to remove wicked people from the world”.

Of course, wicked people being removed from the earth is never fully done in this present age but in the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as judge rather than as Saviour we will see the total over- throw of all evil and wickedness as we see from a passage like Revelation 20: 11 – 15,

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire”.

However, God does judge evil from time to time in this life especially when evil attempts to bring down his church or people like we see in the case of the people of Israel in the wilderness opposed by powerful evil nations led by their non -God of the bible believing Kings.

In the New Testament, I like Pauls prayer in 2 Thessalonians 3: 1 – 5, here Paul wants his readers to pray for him particularly because of the opposition by wicked people to his preaching the Gospel message and also for his Thessalonian brothers and sisters who like him are caught up in the fight or battle against the evil one (the devil) as they live the faithful Christian life.

“As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honoured, just as it was with you. 2 And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. 4 We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance”.

Not how Paul sees in this pray that the Lord does fight for us or helps us fight the battles we all face against the evil forces of this world and the spiritual world as Paul sets down in Ephesians 6: 12,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

As with other wonderful examples of God’s help and blessing expressed in this Psalm the people or the worshipping congregation respond with the now familiar refrain,

“His love endures forever”.

God fighting for his faithful people is yet another example of the enduring love of God in action. The God of the bible is not just a theory or hope but an active living God of love.
Paul proved over and over again that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ does connect us to God and his loving assistance and no better illustration of this is his words in Romans 8: 37 – 39,

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

John Newton expresses his conviction of the enduring love of God he calls “God’s grace” has and will help him in the rough and tumble of this life in his third verse of his hymn that says,

“Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home”.

2. (21 – 22) The God who gave Israel its inheritance

The writer of Psalm 136 then moves from thanking God for his enduring love expressed in his loving help for the ancient people of Israel in their wilderness journeys to the actual provision and possession of the promised land for them.

The next two verses, verses 21 and 22 express this great gift of God for his chosen people,

First, we have verses 21,

“And gave their land as an inheritance.

And verse 22,

“An inheritance to his servant Israel”.

The first portion of the promised land given to Israel was the Transjordan area that the defeated King of the Amorites and Bashan controlled these were given to the tribes of Gad, Reuben and half the tribe of Manasseh. This land and the larger land called Canaan is known as the Promised Land as way back it was promised to Abraham and his descendants in Genesis 15: 18 – 21,

“On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— 19 the land of the Kenites,Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”

In verses 16 God tells Abraham that this land would not be taken away from these people unto their sinfulness had reached its full measure which means unto their sinfulness was so bad God would judge them and take their land away from them and give it to Abrahams descendants,

“In the fourth generation, your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

God being God knows everything and he knew at the time of Abraham that the sinfulness of the people of the Transjordan and Canaan in the future would reach an unacceptable level and his judgment would fall upon them at the hands of his chosen people who would through God’s enduring love give them this land as a kind of inheritance.

We don’t get inheritance’s because we deserve them but they are given to us in this life because we are the next generation that rightfully can claim them. God’s inheritance of the Land of Israel was not given to Israel because Israel deserved it but it came from the hand of the God of enduring love.

So, the right response of the worshipping congregation is made in the refrain,

“His love endures forever”

The ancient Hebrew congregation is acknowledging that the land they now lived in only came to be theirs because God chose to give it to them out of his enduring and undeserved love.

As Christians, we have a far greater gift of inheritance than a patch of earth to live on as Peter declares in 1 Peter 1: 3 – 5,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time”.

Note how Peter says that this eternal inheritance is given to us out of God’s great mercy and therefore we could never say or claim we deserve the gift of eternal life with God in heaven as we only have it because of God’s enduring love. John Newton claimed that this enduring love of God was his Amazing Grace and in his hymn of that title the last verse speaks of the gift of God’s eternal life in heaven coming from God’s Amazing grace with these words,

“When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

6. (23 – 26) THANK GOD FOR LOOKING AFTER US

1. (23 – 25) The God who helps us and provides for us

In the final four verses the things the writer of Psalm 136 speaks of for thanking God for which he gives freely to us out of his enduring love are more general in nature than the previous verses as they dealt directly with the ancient Israelites.

In verses 23 – 25 we have things to thank God for that relate to what I call God’s promise to look after us in this life.

Verse 23 says,

“He remembered us in our low estate”.

All we have seen so far falls under this general concept of God remembering or helping his people when they needed held and needed it badly or they were in a low estate or in a bad way.

They were in a low estate when they were led by God out of slavery in Egypt and when they faced the Egyptian army coming at them with their backs to the red sea. They were in a low estate when far more powerful kings opposed them in the wilderness. Even as they entered the Promised Land they were in a low estate compared to the numerous powerful Canaanite nations living there.

However, the God of enduring love made the difference between their lowly estate and as verse 23 declares,

“And freed us from our enemies”

Stephen J. Cole makes an insightful spiritual application for us in these words,

“The biggest hindrance to salvation is the notion that you can do something to save yourself. If you think that you are good enough or that you deserve salvation, you don’t get it. Only God can save you from your sins and He does it apart from anything that you can do. You must simply receive it as His gift by faith”.

Israel only had victory over their enemies because the God of enduring love chose to fight for them. On some occasions in the Old Testament Israel went out to battle trusting in their own abilities to save themselves but they were soundly defeated like King Saul towards the end of his reign and life against the powerful Philistine forces he fought against and lost badly. David however trusted in the God of enduring love and God gave him victory over the powerful Philistines.

Paul makes the point that our salvation from sin and death is only made possible by God alone and it is by God’s enduring love he calls grace that we are saved by and that has nothing to do with our good works, Ephesians 2: 8 – 9,

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast”.

Humility lies at the heart of the Gospel and this humility or total reliance on God extends as far as our daily needs of food and water as the writer of Psalm 136 speaks of in verse 25,

“He gives food to every creature”.

God’s enduring love extends to all creatures or everyone in the daily provision of food and sustenance a principle Jesus declares in Matthew 5: 45,

“That you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”.

This general principle of God’s providence to all creatures, good and evil is made even clearer by Jesus in the next chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Matthew 6: 25 – 27,

“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
Jesus however does make it clear at the end of this chapter that God especially blesses those who turn to him and put him first as Jesus declares in Matthew 6: 33 – 34”,

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”.

This seeking God first is an outworking of God’s enduring love in the hearts and lives of those who come to him by faith an act of God to save us as Paul declares to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1: 9 – 10,

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”.

We like the ancient Hebrew congregations of old can respond to these great truths with that wonderful refrain,

“His love endures forever”.

God saw our lowly estate of sin and darkness and lifted us up out of that terrible dark place by his enduring love through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

God saved us from our enemies of sin, death and the devil again through his only Son Jesus Christ and his death for our sins on the cross an act of enduring love.

God provides for us our every need and if we lack anything or need his help he again through his enduring love will give us what we need and we only need to ask for it in faith as Jesus boldly proclaims in John 14: 13 – 14,

“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it”.

Jesus, I believe is saying this couched in the provision of what we ask for is not contrary to the expressed will of God as if we ask for something that God says we cannot or should not have then that prayer will be answered with a big no. God promises to give us all we need not what we necessarily want as Paul makes clear to the Philippians in Philippians 4: 19,

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus”
Recently I proved yet again how God answers the prayers of our needs as for week I suffered some pain and discomfort after I got out of hospital after major kidney surgery and I prayed that a procedure my doctor was going to perform would be successful and relieve the pain and discomfort I was experiencing. God answered that prayer and immediately after my doctor performed the procedure I was pain and discomfort free.

John Newton knew the full extent of God’s enduring love which he called “Amazing Grace” and in his fourth verse of his hymn of the same name he writes,

“The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures”.

2. (vs. 26) Thank the great God of Heaven

The last verse raps up the ancient Hebrew priest call to his congregation to give thanks or praise with the words,

“Give thanks to the God of heaven”.

And interestingly phase only used in the later books of the bible (Ezra 1: 2, Nehemiah 1: 4, 2 Chronicles 36: 23 and Daniel 2: 18) and Leopold explains its significance,

“This title is a reminder of the exalted nature of him who did his people all the mighty works which have been enumerated in this Psalm”.

This Psalm then has made clear that the God of heaven is a God of enduring love and in fact this is his overriding attribute. He is a God of enduring love in that he,

1. Shows himself as Good
2. Created everything
3. Redeemed his people out of Egypt
4. Guided them through the wilderness and into the promised land
5. Fought for them against their enemies
6. Always provides and helps his people.

This means we should give thanks or praise to The God of Heaven for is Amazing enduring love for us.

As Christians, we know far more of the Amazing enduring love of God in and through the Lord Jesus Christ and Paul speaks of the reality of his enduring love in his second letter to the Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 5: 14 – 15,

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again”.

In Pauls prayer for the Ephesian church in Ephesians 3: 14 – 19 we see the power, wonder and praise of the enduring love of the God of heaven seen in Christ,

“For this reason, I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”.

So, we can join the ancient Hebrew congregation one more time and say or sing the phrase used throughout this Psalm,

“His love endures forever”.

We might change it to read,

“Christ love endures forever”

For Christ is God’s ultimate expression of his enduring love as we know this from John 3: 16, that says,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

This is then the heart of the message we as Christians have and should take to the world that there is Good News in such a bad News world as even though our sins lead to death or eternal separation from God, God has made a way for us to know his enduring love by the Amazing love of God seen in sending his only Son to pay the price of our many sins on the cross and through that give us the gift of eternal life.

As the little letter of Jude puts it in verses 24 – 25,

“To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

Before I close I would like to quote one more verse from John Newton’s hymn, Amazing grace, this time verse 5, not often sung these days,

“Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil
A life of joy and peace”.

I close as usual with an original poem and final word of prayer:

THE EDURING LOVE OF GOD
(Based on Psalm 136 and John 3: 16)

(vs’s 1 – 4)

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
God’s love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
God’s love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
For we see great things his done by his words
Yes, he made the heavens and this world
For God’s love endures forever.

(vs’s 5- 9)

God by his understanding made the heavens,
God’s love endures forever.
He spread out the earth upon the waters,
God’s love endures forever.
He made the great lights to send their ray
The sun to govern the day,
Moon and stars at night display
For God’s love endures forever.

(vs’s 10 – 14)

To him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
God’s love endures forever.
And brought Israel out from among them
God’s love endures forever.
With a mighty hand and outstretched arm
He divided the red sea that was calm
And Moses sang of Israel’s deliverance in a Psalm
For God’s love endures forever.

(vs’s 15 – 21)

God swept Pharaoh’s army all away
God’s love endures forever.
He then led his people through the wilderness;
God’s love endures forever.
He struck down all the kings who opposed them
The Amorite king and the king of Basham
Then he led his people to the promise land.
For God’s love endures forever

(vs’s 21 – 26)

God gave his people an inheritance
God’s love endures forever.
He remembered his people’s low estate
God’s love endures forever.
He freed them from their enemies.
And provides food in great quantities
So give to God in heaven wonderful praise
For God’s love endures forever.

(John 3: 16)

God sent to earth his only Son
God’s love endures forever.
He died on the cross to forgive our sin
God’s love endures forever.
And whoever believes in Jesus has eternal life
And we can trust him even in our strife
So, we praise God for his gift of eternal life
Yes, God’s love endures forever.

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

Dear Father up in heaven we thank you for being a wonderful God of enduring love seen clearly in all you have made and how you have saved us from our many sins. We thank you for your love made clear by the sending of your Son, Jesus Christ to die for our sins on the cross and rising to life to give us the gift of eternal life. May we thank you daily by the way we live and what we say because of your Amazing enduring love and we look forward to being with you in your eternal home where we will join with the Angels in praising you for your amazing enduring love. In Jesus Name we pray, Aman.

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PSALM 135 TALK:   PRAISE THE LORD YOU SERVANTS OF THE LORD

PSALM 135 TALK:   PRAISE THE LORD YOU SERVANTS OF THE LORD

 (A Psalm or ancient Hebrew worship song or hymn that directs God’s chosen religious leaders called servants of the Lord to lead the people of God in praise and worship).

(THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

INTRODUCTION

 I am not an ordained minister of my church but years ago after three years training in a Bible College I worked for 13 years in three full time ministry positions in my church, The Anglican church of the Sydney Diocese. Those 13 years gave me among many things an insight into what’s involved in working full time in ministry for God.

In my thirteen years, I realised I had very little time to myself and I was in constant demand from the people I sought to minister to even putting pressure on my time and commitment to my family. I know that people ask a lot of their ministers and sometimes the pressure this causes them leads them to emotional and even spiritual pressure and even physiological breakdowns.

In the pressure cooker atmosphere of full time ministry, it is easy for us as ministers to lose sight of his calling and what should be his ultimate goals in leading the people of God that God has given him to lead.

Psalm 135 is an excellent reminder of what any full- time minister in his church should focus on and I believe if they do focus on this their ministry will get its priorities right and God will bless them and the church they seek to serve.

In this Psalm talk I am interpreting the phrase, “You servants of the Lord” as first and foremost the full -time ministers or leaders in the church today as verse 2 of this Psalm says,

“You who minister in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God”.

 This is a clear reference to the Old Testament Priests and Levites who were also pinpointed in this Psalm in verses 19 and 20.

 However, because the New Testament teaches us clearly that all true believers are priests or ministers, 1 Peter 2: 9 – 10,

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession,

that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

 The special word to servants of the Lord who minister in the house of the Lord has application to all of us. In recent years God has lead me to have a unique ministry in his wider church through music and these studies of the Psalms so I like all who follow the Lord Jesus Christ am a servant of the Lord.

This means that the priorities of ministry Psalm 135 sets down also apply to me as much as they do to one of my full-time minsters at my local church.

I would like to give you one quick word on the general background of this Psalm which deals with how it was written. Psalm 135 has been described as a mosaic or patchwork of thoughts of lots of previous Old Testament Scriptures. Spurgeon writes,

“The whole Psalm is a compound of many choice extracts, and yet it has all the continuity and freshness of and original poem”.

 Because of the use of many Psalms used in this Psalm clearly written after the return from the exile in Babylon this Psalm or song must have been written around the same time. So far as its author we have no way of determining but the suggestion is that the author was probably some kind of Temple priest or Levite which has merit but cannot be proven.

Leupold refers to Nehemiah 9: 4 and 5 as a kind of interesting outworking of the servants of the Lord in the house of the Lord leading the people in praise and worship,

Standing on the stairs of the Levites were Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani and Kenani. They cried out with loud voices to the Lord their God. And the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah—said: “Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.“Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise”.

 With the theme, then of the servants of the Lord leading the people of God in praise and worship my outline for this Psalm talk is:

  1. (1 – 4)  A CALL FOR GOD’S SERVANTS TO LEAD THE PEOPLE IN PRAISE
  1. (1 – 2) Praise him you servants of the Lord
  2. (3 – 4) Praise him for he is good

      2    (5 – 7)  PRAISE GOD’S ACTS OF CREATION

  1. (vs. 5) God is great
  2. (6 – 7) God is creator

      3   (8 – 14) PRAISE GOD’S ACTS OF REDEMPTION

  1. (8 – 12) God’s redemption of ancient Israel
  2. (13 – 14) God’s enduring reputation as a saving God

      4  (15 – 18)  PRAISE THE ONE TRUE GOD NOT IDOLS

  1. (15 – 17)  The truth about God alternatives
  2. (vs. 18) The truth about those who turn to God alternatives

      5  (19 – 21)  A CALL FOR ALL GOD’S PEOPLE TO PRAISE THE LORD

  1. (19 – 20) God’s servants and people are to praise the Lord
  2. (vs. 21) God’s praise is to go out from Jerusalem.

  Let’s then have a closer look at this Psalm using this outline:

  1. (1 – 4) A CALL FOR GOD’S SERVANTS TO LEAD THE PEOPLE IN PRAISE
  1. (1 – 2) Praise him you servants of the Lord

This Psalm opens and closes like so many of the Psalms in book five of Psalms with the Hebrew term, “Hallelujah” which we translate as “Praise the Lord”. This is because the Hebrew word “Hallelujah” is made up of two key concepts:

“Hallelu” which in Hebrews means “praise” and “Jah” which is the start of the Hebrew special name for God most people pronounce as

“Yahweh” which is usually translated in English as “The Lord”.

However, “Yahweh” is a special name for God that carries much deep and significant meaning and Allan Harman points out that “Yahweh” literally means,

“I am who I am” and that this term carries with it the idea of,

“The one who defines himself”.

 We will see from the rest of this Psalm the unique and powerful nature of this God who alone defines himself as good, great, powerful creator, redeemer, real and worthy of praise.

Then we read in the rest of verse 1 of this Psalm 135 that one particular group of people are exhorted to praise the Lord,

Praise the name of the Lord; praise him, you servants of the Lord”.

 The term, “Servants of the Lord” must be referring to the Old Testament forms of full time ministers in Old Testament times, the Priests and Levites which is made clear by what we read they did in God’s service in verse 2,

“You who minister in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of the Lord”.

 You only got to be a priest or Levite by birth as we see from verse 19 of this Psalm that speaks of the,

“House of Aaron”

 This goes all the way back to the time of Moses and we read in Numbers 18: 1,

“The Lord said to Aaron, “You, your sons and your family are to bear the responsibility for offenses connected with the sanctuary, and you and your sons alone are to bear the responsibility for offenses connected with the priesthood”.

 Then in Numbers 1: 48 – 51 we read of God’s decree for the family group known as the Levites as special servants of the Lord in the Temple worship of ancient Hebrew people,

“The Lord had said to Moses: 49 “You must not count the tribe of Levi or include them in the census of the other Israelites. 50 Instead, appoint the Levites to be in charge of the tabernacle of the covenant law—over all its furnishings and everything belonging to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings; they are to take care of it and encamp around it.51 Whenever the tabernacle is to move, the Levites are to take it down, and whenever the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall do it. Anyone else who approaches it is to be put to death”.

So, the Priests and Levites where the God ordained full time leaders of worship in his Temple in ancient Hebrew times.

Note how they are to lead by example in praise of the name of the Lord. The name means all that characterises God, his essence and the rest of the Psalm spells out many of these wonderful characteristics of this God that should cause us all to praise him.

So, the number one priority of a full -time servant or minster of the Lord should be to lead the people in praise of the God of the bible. This means that a minister must have as his focus at all times nothing other than the name or character of the God of the bible.

Paul states in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18 that Praise or thanks to God is God’s ordained will for all believers,

 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

So, it is not strange to say that our full -time ministers must have as their number one priority the leading of the people of God in praise and thanks.

Paul also sets down to Titus the characteristics and Godly qualities of the full- time elders or ministers of the church in his day and says this in Titus 1: 5 – 9,

“The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believeand are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it”.

 The characteristics of these elders I want you to note are the very characteristics of the God of the bible and particularly The Lord Jesus Christ as they both serve and help others to serve.

I see 10 Christ like qualities here:

  1. Blameless
  2. Faithful
  3. Leading a Godly household
  4. Self- controlled
  5. Living a good example
  6. Hospitable
  7. Loving good
  8. Holds firmly to the word of God
  9. Encourages others to know and follow God’s word
  10. Refutes those who oppose God and his word.

To have any of these Godly qualities a person must be putting God first in their lives and always seeking to give him the praise he deserves.

As I said in my introduction I am not an ordained minister of the church I attend in Sydney Australia yet as we are all “priests” or ministers of the Gospel according to 1 Peter 2: 9 – 10,

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession,

that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

 Then we all should seek to exhibit the same Godly qualities of an elder or minister that Paul set down for New Testament ministers in Titus 1: 5 – 9 and we too can only do this if we truly put God first in our lives and “Praise his name”.

  1. (3 – 4) Praise him for he is good

 From verse 3 onwards Psalm 135 then spells out all sorts of reasons why the God of the Bible should be praised. The first reason given is in verse 3 which says,

“Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good”

 The goodness of God is a great theme of particularly the Psalms and we see it mentioned in at least five other Psalms, Psalm 25: 8, 34: 8, 73: 1, 86: 5 and 100: 5. I like the last one of these references Psalm 100: 5,

“For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations”.

 David Guzik writes,

“What would be more basic than this, God is good? Nothing at all, since this is God’s essential nature. Even the word God is a shortened form of “the good”.

 Only this week I experienced the goodness of God, I had one set back from my recovery from Kidney possible cancer surgery and I prayed to God about this and got others to pray for me as well. Only yesterday our prayers were answered by the good God we prayed to and my operations complication went away.

This experience reminds me of two wonderful bible verses that promise us the goodness of God in our daily lives:

Psalm 31: 19,

“How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you”

 Romans 8: 28,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. Who are called according to his purpose”.

 This knowledge of the goodness of God should show itself in our outward daily worship of this Good God as the second half of verse 3 says,

“Sing praise to his name, for this is pleasant”

 The idea that singing God’s praise is pleasant probably comes from Psalm 133 verse 1 which says,

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity”.

We might say the people of God who sing the praises of God together stay together in unity and peace and this is a very worthwhile or pleasant experience.

Allan Harmon speaks of the Hebrew word for pleasant as coming from the idea of graciousness and the next verse speaks directly of the graciousness of God in how he chose Jacob who became Israel as his treasured possession,

“For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession”.

 The Old Testament makes it clear that Jacob and his descendants who became the nation of Israel did not deserve to be chosen in any way and it only happened because of the Grace or undeserving love of God as we see in Deuteronomy 7: 7 – 8,

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt”.

 So, it is with us as Christians we are only chosen because the God who chose us is a God of grace as Paul spells out in Ephesians 2: 4 – 9,

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast”.

 So, this great gift of grace should cause us to constantly praise the great God of grace and love and again praise is not only something we do with our lips but we should show it also with how we live our lives as Paul makes clear from Romans 12: 1,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship”.

 A full -time minister’s priority should always be to encourage and promote the people in their churches to a life lived in praise and thanks to the good God of the bible who is a God of grace or unmerited love.

      2    (5 – 7)  PRAISE GOD’S ACTS OF CREATION

  1. (vs. 5) God is great

The Psalmist then looks at two great ways the God of the Bible reveals why he should be praised by the servants of the Lord and those two ways are:

  1. In his acts of creation
  2. In his acts of redemption

In verses 5 – 7 the Psalmist deals first with God great acts in creation. He starts this by simply stating the greatness of God compared to any other supposed God for in verse 5 he says,

“I know that the Lord is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods”.

 This verse is not saying there are other God’s as we will see in verses 15 – 18, the supposed other God’s represented by the great idols people made of them are nothing but false and unreal.

However, the God of the bible is very real and very great and our writer probably has Exodus 18: 11 in mind here that simply says,

“Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.”

 These words were spoken by Moses after the God of the bible had defeated the supposed God’s of Egypt and in the end a whole army inspired by these gods was destroyed when they sought enter the red sea or sea of reeds to pursue and destroy God chosen people, Israel. Interestingly God used forces in nature to destroy this non -God of the bible opponents.

Today we face a society aggressively running away from the God of the bible and turning to other ways of thinking about the origins of life and the great questions of why we exist and how they should live. Paul tells us in Romans 1: 21 – 25

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen”.

Paul is saying here that mankind is actively and collectively turned away from God to some other form of God or God’s and in Pauls day these were represented by idols. Today these idols are not usually images made to look like human beings or animals but are things like money, fame, self-glory or even other religions that have as part of their philosophy the denial of the truth of the God of the bible.

Even in the Christian church today we have influential so-called leaders denying the truth of the bible and offering an alternative way of thinking about it. Paul warned Timothy of such preachers and teachers rising up even in the early church in 2 Timothy 4: 1 – 5,

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”.

 So, we promote and praise the God of the bible like Paul encouraged Timothy to do proclaiming how our God is “Great” and no other so- called god alternative is as great or greater than him.

            2. (6 – 7) God is creator

 God’s greatness is seen then in verses 6 and 7 in his great power and majesty in creation for the God of the bible is first and foremost the creator God as we see from these two verses,

“The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lighting with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses”.

 Note how God does as he pleases and no one man or spiritual being can make God do what they want as God is sovereign a major teaching that runs right through the whole bible and this psalm mirrors a lot of the teaching of Psalm 115 a Psalm the writer or writers of this Psalm must have known and known as verses 2 and 3 of that Psalm says,

“Why do the nations say, “where is their God” Our God is in heaven, he does whatever pleases him”.

 Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 19: 26,

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”.

 So, God does whatever he pleases and it pleased God to make the heavens and the earth as verses 6 and 7 express and Paul says that God made all this through his Son who is the great supreme one as we read in Colossians 1: 15 – 18,

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy”.

 Our writer speaks of the vastness of God’s creative ability and control by speaking of what we can see in heaven and earth and also what we cannot see the seas and particularly its great depths.

He then in verse 7 eludes to God providing sustenance to the earth like rain or water which come ultimately from God’s vast storehouses,

“He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses”.

 One of the major God of the bible alternatives the ancient people of Israel turned to was the Canaanite God Baal, who is called by its followers as the storm God.

Baal and in fact storms are not to be praised or worship but rather the one true God who is behind them and makes them possible is to be worshiped. Recently our rural sector has been experiencing great lack of rain but I hear nothing of these farmers seeking help from the God of the bible. I’m sure there are churches in our rural areas praying for rain but sadly the general trend in our rural areas for some years now has been the turning away from the God of Bible that shows itself in churches closing down.

We need more servants of the Lord going out into these rural areas to call people to the Lord who is the only answer to the drought our country is presently going through.

My personal thought is that God is using this drought to encourage our country brothers and sisters to turn to him in prayer and praise.

An interesting incident takes place in one of Pauls missionary journeys in the city of Lystra where God leads Paul to heal a man who had been lame from birth. The locals, fixed in their pagan Greek god’s beliefs start thinking Paul and his companion Barnabas are two of the God’s come to earth, named Hermes who they said was Paul and Zeus who they thought was the real identity of Barnabas.

In such a pagan, non – God of the bible world Paul and Barnabas reaction and words to this is very informative, Acts 14: 14 – 17,

“ But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

 My counties rural areas need many men and women preaching this kind of message to people who for a number of generations now have lost faith in the one true God, the God of the bible who Paul says wants us to know the Good News of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

      3   (8 – 14) PRAISE GOD’S ACTS OF REDEMPTION

  1. (8 – 12) God’s redemption of ancient Israel

So, we have seen how the servants of the Lord should reflect on the great God of creation as a source of praise and worship and now a second great reason or source of praise is presented in verses 8 – 14 which I call his acts of redemption.

The God of the bible is not a God in exile or inactivity he did not create the world and the universe and then remove himself from it. The fact I believe he is actively involved in our world even today leading people to redemption or salvation.

In ancient Hebrew times the proof that the God of the bible was involved in their world in acts of redemption was through his saving of his people out of slavery in Egypt which the writer of Psalm 135 reminds his readers of in verses 8 and 9,

“He stuck down the firstborn of Egypt, the firstborn of people and animals. He sent signs and wonders into your midst, Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants”.

 I have seen in many Psalms the story of the Exodus used in many ways on many occasions and here it seems to be used to reveal that Pharaoh’s stubborn refusal to turn to the one true living God. After many signs and wonders that the God of the Bible revealed to Pharaoh only hardened his heart against the God of the bible. Ultimately God judged Pharaoh and he lost the life of his beloved first born son.

Over and over again in the story of the Exodus is used in the book of Psalms to remind the people of God that the God of the bible is a saving God of love but also a God of Judgement for those who seek to oppose him and his chosen people.

There is no better example of the principle of salvation for God’s people and judgment of those who oppose God and his people than Psalm 81: 5 – 7,

“When God went out against Egypt, he established it as a statute for Joseph.I heard an unknown voice say: “I removed the burden from their shoulders; their hands were set free from the basket. In your distress you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thunder cloud; I tested you at the waters of Meribah”.

 Then again and even more clearly in Psalm 106: 7 – 11,

“When our ancestors were in Egypt,they gave no thought to your miracles;they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, to make his mighty power known.He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up;he led them through the depths as through a desert.
10 He saved them from the hand of the foe; from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them.
11 The waters covered their adversaries; notone of them survived”.

 So, God’s great saving hand in the Exodus is referred to in the book of Psalms and in the books of Old Testament prophecies as a concrete example of the Saving Power of the God of the bible.

What does the Exodus story have to say to Christians then?

I came across a very interesting Christian article that answers this question beautifully it was by a man named Silverio Gonzalez and in a short section of his Article called “Why the book of Exodus matters for your life” and under the heading “The Pattern of Salvation” he writes,

“After God saved his people from Egyptian bondage, he began to prepare the world for a salvation from greater slavery. Through the Mosaic Law and Israel’s temple worship, God brought his people into a loving relationship to prepare them for the coming Messiah. The Messiah would come to save the world from sin, death, and the devil. This, Jesus did.

Exodus shapes both Jewish and Christian identity. Its themes are a major part of the Psalms and the Old Testament prophetical books. Many themes in Exodus are taken up in the New Testament and displayed in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection”.

The central Jewish feast that remembers and celebrates the Exodus is called the “Passover” for on the night the angel of death passed through Egypt to kill the first born son’s the believing Jews slaughtered a lamb as a sacrifice and blood from this Passover lamb was sprinkled on the doors of the people of Israel. When the angel of death saw the blood of the sacrificed lamb he passed over and the first -born sons of that house and they were saved.

This concept of the Passover lamb or the lamb sacrificed to save us is picked up right through the New Testament and we first come across it in Johns Gospel right at the very beginning of Jesus ministry that led to his death on the cross we read of John the Baptist saying loudly, John 1: 29,

“Look, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.

At the last supper Jesus institutes a remembrance service that would replace the Passover that helps us look back to what Jesus achieved through his death on the cross in our salvation as Jesus himself said to hid disciple on that last night, Luke 22: 19 – 20,

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you”.

 The God of the bible is an active saving God and he continues to get involved in our lives today if we have faith in him but as we have seen in the case of Pharaoh and the Egyptians the God of the bible is active in our world judging those who refuse to turn to him which the writer of Psalm 135 picks up in verses 10 – 11 which says,

“He struck down many nations and killed mighty kings – Sihon king of the Amorites, Og king of Bashan, and all the kings of Canaan”.

 These two kings mentioned here are the kings and their people who opposed the people of Israel when they were on their wilderness journeys.

Then we read of the conquest of the Promised land again attributed to the God of the bible who struck down the kings of Canaan to deliver to his chosen people what verse 12 speaks of,

“And he gave their land as an inheritance, an inheritance to his people Israel”.

 In all these battles Israel was always the weaker army but God made the difference and gave his people victory.

As Christians, we are involved in a great spiritual battle with all the forces of evil as Paul speaks of in Ephesians 6: 10 – 12,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

 We have not an earthly inheritance but a heavenly one as Peter speaks of in 1 Peter 1: 3 – 5,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”

 So, as servants of the Lord who lead the people in the house of the Lord we need to encourage both knowledge and praise of the great saving God of the bible and remind them that this is only possible because of the mercy or grace of God.

  1. (13 – 14) God’s enduring reputation as a saving God

We have just seen that the God of the bible deserves our praise because he is a great God of salvation or redemption and that all through the bible the saving acts of God in the Exodus from Egypt and in the conquering of the Promised land are remembered and used to inspire trust and praise in him.

So, the writer of Psalm 135 now states this enduring reputation of the saving God in verses 13,

“Your name, Lord, endures forever, your renown, Lord, through all generations.

 In the next Psalm 136 the enduring and never- ending love of God will be dealt with in some detail. However here in Psalm 135 something of the never- ending saving nature of the God of the bible is spoken of in the concept of his enduring reputation.

Have you ever asked the question, can you always rely on God?

The answer to that question according to verse 13 of Psalm 135 is yes you certainly can. This is because the God of the bible is not a man that he can lie as Numbers 23: 19 proclaims. Our Psalm writer could look back to both recent and long way back evidences of God being reliable as a saving God.

I say this because we are fairly certain this Psalm was written after the return from exile in Babylon and our writer could have been a returning Jew or was only a few generations away from people who recently returned from exile through the mighty saving hand of God.

We can look back to far greater evidences of the enduring nature of the God of salvation particularly as we look back at the life and death of the Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sins.

The writer to the Hebrews puts this fact this way in Hebrews 2: 9,

“But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone”.

 However why does our writer of Psalm 135 say this in verse 14,

“For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants”.

 No matter when we live as believers we will always face some kind of opposition and difficulty and if this was written during the time of the return from Babylonian captivity we know from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah that God’s people back in Jerusalem faced great difficulties caused by non- God of the bible believing people so our writer most naturally and properly calls on the Lord for vindication and compassion from his peoples many enemies.

He could be seen in verse 14 as putting into practice what he has just been saying about his God as a God of power, love and salvation that he is now relying on the essence of real faith in God.

As full -time servants of the Lord who serve in the house of the Lord the priority of promoting praise and worship of our God does not diminish in the face of opposition and difficulty but in fact should increase as we prove God in our lives even in the midst of difficulties and strife.

Paul a giant in the field of full time servants of the Lord rejoices in the saving power and love of God in Christ Jesus and also speaks of doing this in the midst of suffering which he sees also is part of God’s loving act of salvation in Romans 5: 1 – 5,

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, wehave peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but wealso glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us”. 

      4  (15 – 18)  PRAISE THE ONE TRUE GOD NOT IDOLS

  1. (15 – 17)  The truth about God alternatives

Verses 15 – 17 are almost a direct quote from Psalm 115: 4 – 8 and as I did quite a bit of work coming to terms with these verses in my Psalm 115 talk I will now directly quote from that Psalm talk to explain these verses in Psalm 135 with some appropriate adjustments that fit better with Psalm 135 than Psalm 115.

“In our writer’s day, the great God of the bible alternative view was usually some kind of god’s that were made of wood or stone. In Myanmar which I visited again recently the idols are usually big Buddha’s often made of gold or at least coated with gold but no matter how big or expensive looking they might be they leave me feeling cold uninspired as they are useless religious structures that have no spiritual power or ability.

 This is what verses 4 – 7 of Psalm 115 is actually saying and is what verses 15 – 17 of Psalm 135 is saying as well.

 “The idols of the nations are silver and gold,made by human hands.16 They have mouths, but cannot speak,eyes, but cannot see.17 They have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths”.

 I love Isaiah’s sarcastic go at the futility of idol worship of idols made out of wood in Isaiah 44: 14 – 20,

 “He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow. 15 It is used as fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. 16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.” 17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, “Save me! You are my god!”

 18 They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand. 19 No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, “Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?” 20 Such a feed on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, “Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”

 Idol worship is condemned in a number of places in the bible, like other passages in Isaiah, 40: 18 – 20, 41: 7 and verse 29, 46: 5 – 7 and even Jeremiah has something to say about this in Jeremiah 10: 1 to 5.

 The story of Elijah challenging the priests of the idol worshipping god called Baal shows both the futility and powerlessness of idol worshippers and of course the value and power of believing in the one true God of heaven and earth, the God of the bible. The climax of that wonderful story is in 1 Kings 18: 36 – 39,

 “At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.

 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”

 Even though idol worship still exists today in the Old Testament form of man fashioning idols as I have seen in places like Myanmar when I visit their other alternatives to the God of the bible is still applicable here.

 Any god view that does not see God as the almighty spirit who dwells in heaven as lord supreme of this world and entire universe and who is both God to be feared and yet God who has stooped down particularly through the Lord Jesus Christ to save us is nothing more than a delusion.

 When Paul was in Athens recorded in Acts 17 he saw the many idols their and reasoned that this was evidence that these people did not know God. All other non – God of the bible views of God are simply elaborate attempts by human beings seeking to know the unknown God and designing from their own minds and imaginations a view of God that is useless and futile.

 So, Paul’s sermon to the top thinkers of the idol worshipping Athenians was to take them from an altar to an unknown God to the message of the God who has revealed himself in his Son, Jesus Christ and Paul says this about him in Acts 17: 24 – 31,

 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.

26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.” As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring’.

 29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

 So how do these four verses in Psalm 135 (15 – 17) taken from Psalm 115 fit into the context of Psalm 135?

We must understand that in Old Testament times only the small nation of Israel believed in one great God who demanded no earthly image be made of him, Exodus 20: 4 – 6,

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments”.

 So, Israel was always surrounded by many Nations who believed in many God’s represented by some kind of idol. Tremper Longman the 111 points out this reality about idol worship,

“These idols were not seen as Gods but represented God’s though through certain ritual (the opening of the mouth) they were seen as physical vehicles through which the God’s made their presence known to the people”.

 The problem with Israel and all believers in the God of the bible making an image to even represent the God of the bible is that no image we could come up with would do him justice. If it was a big giant man idol, God is not a man. If the image was an animal like a large bull God’s strength might be understood but a bull is also dumb and God is supremely intelligent.

So, in the context of Psalm 135 the full- time ministers or servants of the Lord were to discourage the people of God from any form of idol worship and promote true spiritual worship of the God of the bible.

In a previous Psalm talk I spoke of an Anglo – catholic Anglican friend of mine when I was attending Bible College taking me to a highly elaborate High Church service and asking me what I thought of it after the service was finished.

I told my friend that the involved ritual was both unnecessary and dangerous as it could promote a form of idol worship where even the communion elements are held up and bowed down to.

My friends reply was both shocking and surprising, he said, Jim you must understand some people like to worship with smell, touch and colour while others like worship God in spirit and truth”.

I had to strongly say to my friend that Jesus came to change and encourage true worship and quoted Jesus words to the Samaritan women about the answer to what is true worship in John 4: 21 – 24,

“believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

 I am not condemning my Anglo – Catholic Christian friends but as a servant of the Lord I must warn them that the danger of heavily dominated ritual worship services is the worshipper worships the service and not the God who it is directed to, sadly this can become another form of idol worship.

  1. (vs. 18) The truth about those who turn to God alternatives

 So, our writer and the writer of Psalm 115 has said that the idol God’s of the nations that surround them are dead and useless, made by human hands, cannot speak, cannot see and cannot hear.

Now in verse 18 he like the writer of Psalm 115 in verse 8 states that,

“Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them”.

 I like C.H. Spurgeon’s comment on this verse,

“The idol worshippers are as bad as the idol makers; for if there were none to worship, there would be no market for the degrading manufacture. Idolaters are spiritually dead, they are the mere images of men, their best being is gone, they are what they seem”.

 What they seem we have learnt is that they are spiritually dumb, blind and deaf to the true living God who made heaven and earth.

Idol worship is a delusion of the devil and people caught up in it are under the condemnation of God as we see from Isaiah 44: 9 – 11,

“All who make idols are nothing,and the things they treasure are worthless.Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame.10 Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit nothing?11 People who do that will be put to shame;

 such craftsmen are only human beings.Let them all come together and take their stand;

 they will be brought down to terror and shame”.

 And in the New Testament Revelations 9: 20,

“The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk”.

 My wife and I visited the ancient ruins of Ephesus in 2011 and we were amazed of how much adultery can still be seen in the ruins there. Shells of temples to God and Goddesses line the steep and narrow streets of that ancient city yet it was here that God made a stand against idol worship through Paul and his preaching of the Gospel. The makers of idols in Ephesus caused a riot as they saw Paul’s message as a great danger to their trade (Acts 19: 23 – 41).

Years later Paul wrote these words as a prayer to the Ephesian Christians in Ephesians 3: 14 – 20, a prayer that contains the true nature and foundation of God ordained worship as opposed to the dead and useless worship of idol worship,

“For this reason, I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us”.

 So, all true full- time servants of the Lord who work in the house of the Lord (in New Testament terms the church) are to promote spiritual worship based on the Gospel of Christ and to denounce the false, worthless and dangerous worship of idols or any other alternative to worship of the true and living God of the bible.

      5  (19 – 21)  A CALL FOR ALL GOD’S PEOPLE TO PRAISE THE LORD

  1. (19 – 20) God’s servants and people are to praise the Lord

This Psalm 135 started with a call to praise particularly a call to the full -time servants of the Lord who ministered in the house of the Lord and now this Psalm concludes with a call to praise and worship the Lord. This call is also addressed to the full- time servants of the Lord who minister in the house of the Lord but also widens out to all of Israel who believe in the Lord for verse 19 says,

“All you Israelites, praise the Lord; house of Aaron, praise the Lord”.

 The people of God are to follow the lead of their full- time ministers and praise and worship the Lord. If the people of God do this they are fulfilling the desire and motive of their minister’s goals and objectives.

Sadly, most of the Old Testament reveals that the House of Aaron, or the ordained full -time ministers of praise and worship failed to fulfil their God given role and function. Some even led the people of God into idol worship and many Old Testament prophets pronounced God’s judgment on these priests and the people who follow their evil leadership, like Jeremiah in Jeremiah 32: 30 – 35,

“The people of Israel and Judah have done nothing but evil in my sight from their youth; indeed, the people of Israel have done nothing but arouse my anger with what their hands have made, declares the Lord. 31 From the day it was built until now, this city has so aroused my anger and wrath that I must remove it from my sight. 32 The people of Israel and Judah have provoked me by all the evil they have done—they, their kings and officials, their priests and prophets, the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem. 33 They turned their backs to me and not their faces; though I taught them again and again, they would not listen or respond to discipline. 34 They set up their vile images in the house that bears my Name and defiled it.35 They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molek, though I never commanded—nor did it enter my mind—that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin”.

 This judgment of God came on Israel in a devastating way in the form of the Babylonian conquest of Judah and Jerusalem in 598BC.

In the New Testament those who teach and lead the church will be judged with greater strictness as James says in James 3: 1,

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly”.

 Paul sets down very clear and strong guidelines for full time ministers of the church of Jesus Christ, ministers he calls overseer’s and deacons in 1 Timothy 3: 1 – 10,

“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.

 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.“4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.In the same way, deaconsare to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.11 In the same way, the womenare to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything”.

 Paul also warns Timothy of full time ministers who will enter the church to lead the people of God away from the truth in 2 Timothy 2: 14 – 19,

“Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarrelling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”

 Our writer of Psalm 135 repeats this call for the full -time servants of the Lord who minister in the house of the Lord joined by all the people of God to praise and worship the Lord in verse 20.

“House of Levi, praise the Lord; you who fear him, praise the Lord”.

 I like Albert Barnes comments on this verse and the one before it when he writes,

“It is an earnest call on all classes of the people to bless and praise the Lord. It is language expressive of overflowing joy; the utterance of a heart full of exalted conceptions of the majesty, the glory, and the mercy of God; of a heart which feels to the utmost the fitness of praise, and desires that all classes of people – priests and people – that all created things should unite in the praise of Yahweh. Who, in reading the psalm, can fail to catch the feelings of the psalmist, and to say Amen and amen!”

 It has been suggested that the phrase, “you who fear him, praise the Lord” could include non- Jews who are called Gentiles who came to recognise that the God of the bible is the one true God of Heaven and earth and therefore must be feared or respected and therefore worshipped.

Through the coming of Christ Jews and Gentiles can come to God in faith and praise as Paul speaks of in Galatians 3: 26 – 29,

“So, in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”.

 Paul lays down in Colossians 3: 15 – 17 the Christian full -time servant of the Lord’s guidelines for leading worship and praise in his household or church,

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”. 

  1. (vs. 21)    God’s praise is to go out from Jerusalem

This Psalm ends its word of praise in the place the Lord chose to dwell in Old Testament times, Zion in Jerusalem,

“Praise be to the Lord from Zion, to him who dwells in Jerusalem, Praise the Lord”.

 Allan Harmon points out the significance of these words<

‘The temple in Jerusalem was the visible token of God’s presence with his people. From there he blessed them (Psalm 128: 5), and in turn they ascribe praise to him”.

 Harmon points out that from Jerusalem true praise would go into all the world which was only fulfilled by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ who preached the Gospel in Jerusalem died on the cross just outside Jerusalem, rose from the dead and ascended to heaven close to Jerusalem.

From Jerusalem, the disciples are sent out to preach and teach the Gospel message as Acts 1: 8 clearly states,

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”.

 Jesus commissions the disciples from Jerusalem with these words in Matthew 28: 19 – 20,

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 Finally, the Psalm ends with the Hebrew term for praise, “Hallelujah” just as it commenced with this term.

God’s full-time servants who minister in the house of the Lord are to be champions of praise leading God’s people in Hallelujah’s or praise for the God of the bible known as Yahweh”. They in New Testament terms are ministers of ministers or priests to priests as we are all priests of God or ministers of God according to 1 Peter 2: 9 – 10,

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession,

that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

May we all then serve the Lord with praise and love for both who he is and what he has done for us in The Lord Jesus Christ.

I close as usual with an original poem / song and a final word of prayer:

PRAISE HIM YOU SERVANTS OF THE LORD

(Based on Psalm 135 and influenced by the Polyeleous chant)

Give Praise to the Lord all you servants of the Lord

You who minister in the house of the Lord

Sing God’s praises for he is good

All you chosen sister – brotherhood.

Serve him now for he is full of grace

And he treats us like his chosen race.

 

I know that the Lord is a great amazing God

For he is greater than any other supposed God’s

He does whatever he wants to do

In heaven and in this world too

He makes the clouds rise on the earth

And course’s rain to give the earth new birth.

 

God struck down Egypt’s first -born son’s

For Pharaoh ignored God’s many powerful signs

He like many earthly kings stood against the Lord

And God judged them with his mighty word.

He gave Israel the land as an inheritance

And through Jesus one day we’ll stand in his presence.

 

God’s name endures for endless generations

And the Lord gives those who trust him vindications

For our God is a wonderful God of love

Who sent to earth his Son from heaven above

All other God’s are idols with no power

But our God is real and we can trust him every hour.

 

So, all Christian people join to praise the Lord

You minister’s must show how to praise the Lord

Praise God on earth and in heaven above

Praise him for his undeserving love

From Zion God gave us his word

So praise him you servants of the Lord.

 

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 Father up in heaven we pray for the minters of our churches that they would faithfully lead us in praise in worship of you and your dear Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Help them to faithfully teach your word, encourage us in our various ministries for you and correct those who fall away from the truth of your word. It is your glory we seek in and through the wonderful name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

PSALM 134 TALK   BLESS THE LORD DAY AND NIGHT

PSALM 134 TALK   BLESS THE LORD DAY AND NIGHT

(GETTING TO THE FINAL DESTINATION OF THE JOURNEY OF FAITH AND THE CONCLUSION IS THAT WE MUST SEEK TO BLESS OR PRAISE THE LORD ALWAYS)

 (The thirteenth Psalm of the 15 Psalm series in the book of Psalms called “Songs of Ascent” which deals with the ultimate attitude and all -embracing activity we must always be involved in, namely seeking to bless or praise or worship the Lord and he promise is to bless us always).

(THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

 GENERAL INTRODUCTION

 For an introduction to the Songs of Ascent see Psalm talk for Psalm 120

PART 3.   PSALMS 130 – 134 – PERFECTING THE JOURNEY

INTRODUCTON TO PSALM 134

 I was very interested to learn in my study of this Song of Ascent Psalm, Psalm 134 that the NIV translation of the opening words, “Praise the Lord” is better translated as, “Bless the Lord”. This is because the actual Hebrew word used is, “Barakhi” which means literally “Bless the Lord”. This led me to study what it means to, “Bless the Lord”.

Some might say why does God want us to say to him “Bless You” when he is as the Psalm ends with, “The maker of heaven and earth”. Yet, particularly in the book of Psalms the concept of us saying, “Bless the Lord” is found in many places and the most famous of these is of course Psalm 103 verse 1,

“Bless the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, bless (or praise) his holy name”

 This verse was the inspiration for the modern worship song “10,000 Reasons” which commences with the words,

“Bless the Lord Oh my soul

Oh, my soul

Worship His Holy name

Sing like never before

Oh, my soul

I’ll worship Your Holy name”

 In my search for what it means to “Bless the Lord” I came across a YouTube clip by a famous Jewish Rabbi called Rabbi Mardeshai Becker who spoke of the close association of the Hebrew word, “Barakhi” with another Hebrew word, “Bereicho”which means “Pool” or the bubbling source of a pool or stream of water. Mardeshai argues that this is not a coincidence and that when we bless God there is a flow of activity between the Lord and us which is seen in Psalm 134 because the first two verses are us blessing or praising God and the last verse is Lord blessing us.

Other Hebrew scholars also point out that the Hebrew word “Barakhi” or “Bless” is related to another Hebrew word that means “Knee” or “Kneel”, which relates to worship although in Psalm 134 the instruction is for worship to be done by lifting our hands which I will explain the meaning of more fully later in this Psalm talk.

So why does my NIV bible translates “Bless the Lord” to “Praise the Lord”?

The answer seems in the widely accepted meaning for “Bless the Lord” which I found was expressed ver well by another “YouTube” clip by John Piper who says that “Bless the Lord’ is,

“Synonymous with praising the Lord” and he offers Psalm 34 verse 1 to show this connection,

“I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips”.

 Piper goes on to give us a very clear definition of what “Bless the Lord” actually means,

“It is speaking well of the Lords greatness and goodness”.

 So, this final Song of Ascent brings to a close the journey of the ancient Jews to Jerusalem. In this Psalm, they are now at the final destination, Jerusalem and the Temple or Sanctuary as it was called in David’s time.

So, what should they do once they have arrived at their final destination?

The answer is simple, “Bless or praise the Lord” and once they did that they would receive God’s promised blessing who is the maker of heaven and earth.

What does this mean for us as Christians on our journey of faith to heaven?

I will advocate that whether we are in heaven or still on our way our supreme duty and desire should be to seek to, bless or praise the Lord. With this in mind I will now seek to open up this wonderful last song of ascent Psalm, Psalm 134.

My outline for this Psalm talk reflects the idea of us blessing or praising the Lord and the Lord blessing us.

  1. (1 – 2)BLESS THE LORD
  1. (vs. 1)Bless the Lord you servants of the Lord
  2. (vs. 2)Lift up your hands in praise

2   (vs. 3)   THE LORD WILL BLESS YOU

  1. (vs. 3a) The Lord will bless you
  2. (vs. 3b) The Lord the maker of heaven and earth

 Let’s then have a close look at this Psalm with these headings:

  1. (1 – 2)BLESS THE LORD

 So, as I said in the introduction my NIV bible does not fully represents the literal meaning of the original Hebrew which should read,

“Bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night in the house of the Lord”.

There are four things I want to make comments about in this first verse of this Psalm and they are:

  1. Bless the Lord
  2. All you servants of the Lord
  3. Who minister by night
  4. In the house of the Lord

Let me now comment on each of these four things in this verse;

  1. Bless the Lord

As I said in my introduction the NIV translation along with many other translates the Hebrew word for bless, “Barakhi” is translated “Praise the Lord”. It seems that “Bless the Lord” is a concept that non – Hebrew speaking people would have problems with but as Rabbi Mardeshai Becker aptly pointed out in his “YouTube” clip blessing God and saying blessings is a natural well understood thing for a Hebrew speaking Jew.

He speaks of the English tradition of saying “Bless You” when someone sneezes and says we want our sneezing person to not be sick even though they are sneezing. In fact, this tradition started, it is believed in England during the times of terrible plague when sneezing was an early sign of you coming down with the plague.

So, we can understand why we can say “Bless You” to another human being but why would we want to say to God “Bless You”?

It seems that the connection of the Hebrew word for “Bless” to another meaning “Kneel” is the key to how we are to bless God, “GotQuestions.org” says,

“The Hebrew word translated “bless” or “praise” means literally ‘to kneel”, the implication being to kneel in worship”.

 The ancient Hebrews have had a hard and long journey to Jerusalem and the Temple there so what will they do when they finally get there?

The answer is “Bless the Lord” or “Praise the Lord” or better still worship the Lord as they kneel at his feet. I have mentioned in many of my earlier Psalm talks the Westminster Confessions shorter catechism first question and answer that goes like this,

  1. 1.What is the chief end of man?

And the answer is:

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever”.

 When we seek to bless or praise God we are truly worshipping him and that means if we are doing it from our hearts we are glorifying our God. We do this because of what he has done for us in The Lord Jesus Christ through his act of mercy or undeserved love in dying for our sins on the cross.

This is what Paul tells us true worship is all about in Romans 12: 1,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship”.

 Or as the writer the Hebrews says in Hebrew 13: 15,

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name”.

 Note the writer to the Hebrews speaks of this praise or worship offered to God is a,

“Fruit of our Lips”

 Interestingly, I found John Pipers comments on David’s words in Psalm 34 verse one,

“I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips”.

Emphasised the words, “on my lips” or in the translation he quoted “from my mouth”

 Piper says,

“It is though David is eager for his soul to get to work”.

 He explains that David is saying something like, lord my mouth is praising you come on soul get on board and praise or bless you as well.

Praising God and enjoying in him forever is what we are called upon to do now on our journey to God in heaven and it is what we will be doing forever in heaven. As we see from many references of what goes on in heaven from the book of revelations like Revelation 19: 5 – 7,

Then a voice came from the throne, saying:“Praise our God, all you his servants,you who fear him, both great and small!”Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.Let us rejoice and be gladand give him glory!For the wedding of the Lamb has come,and his bride has made herself ready”.

When those ancient Jews got to Jerusalem after their long difficult journey to that place their joy or pleasure was wrapped up in worshipping the Lord for that was the goal of the pilgrimage. We don’t want to go to heaven like a mountaineer wants to climb a mountain, because it is there. We want to go to heaven to join other fellow believers in praise and worship of the Lord.

In fact, why do you want to go to church?

My reason for wanting to go to church on a regular basis is to join with other fellow believers to worship the Lord together and serve one another and in turn be blessed by the whole wonderful experience.

As the writer to the Hebrews says Hebrews 10: 22 – 25,

“let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching”.

2.    All you servants of the Lord

This call to bless the Lord or praise the Lord is addressed to special individuals in the Temple or Sanctuary in Jerusalem who are called,

“Servants of the Lord”

Who then are these servants of the Lord?

The general view of most commentators is that these “servant of the Lord” are in the priests and Levites who continually worked on worship practices in the Temple and we will see soon they performed both day and night.

In the Old Testament, the whole Temple operations had priests and Levites that performed duties from offering up sacrifices, leading the people in prayer, maintaining the temple area and even guarding the Temple day and night.

This special ministry was in the Old Testament given to the descendants of Levi and Aaron as we see in a reference like Numbers 3: 5 – 10,

“The Lord said to Moses, “Bring the tribe of Levi and present them to Aaron the priest to assist him. They are to perform duties for him and for the whole community at the tent of meeting by doing the work of the tabernacle. They are to take care of all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, fulfilling the obligations of the Israelites by doing the work of the tabernacle.Give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to him. 10 Appoint Aaron and his sons to serve as priests; anyone else who approaches the sanctuary is to be put to death.”

 The coming of Jesus and the establishment of the New Covenant through his sacrifice on the cross for our sins changed all this as the writer to the Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 8: 1 – 6,

“Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.

 Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises”.

 Then in Hebrews 9: 11 – 15, the writer to the Hebrews sets down how Jesus changed forever the way God wants us to worship him,

“But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here,he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 

14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,so that we may serve the living God!

 15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant”.

 So, who now are the servants of the Lord?

The answer to this is a wonderful revelation and it is found in a key reference in the New Testament 1 Peter 2: 4 – 5,

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual houseto be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”.

 To make this even more clearer Peter tells us this in 1 Peter 2: 9 – 10,

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

 From these two references came a radical teaching even in the Christian church in the great reformation in the 16thcentury called “The Priesthood of all believer”. The fact is even the Christian church somehow forgot how God wanted them to conduct worship now that he had sent his son and through his death made a way back to him.

We don’t need “Priests” offering sacrifices like the Old Testament we are all priests offering as the writer to the Hebrews said in Hebrews 15: 13,

 “A sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name”.

        3.   Who minister by night

This final Song of Ascent then throws up a very curious phase,

“Who minister by night”

 So, the previous phrase, “servants of the Lord” refers to the Priests and Levites who serve in the Temple but now it is picking out the priests and Levites who do their service at night.

What does it mean then, “who minister by night”?

 On this point, the commentators went all over the place suggesting up two three possibilities,

  1. The Pilgrims often arrived at night time
  2. The Pilgrims often left early in the morning to return thus still night time
  3. The quietness of the night favoured a good time to catch the ear of God

I did not find any of these suggestions convincing to me so here is my theory or idea for you to consider.

First of all, it is clear that Temple activities by Levites and Priest did not stop at night as we see form a reference like Exodus 27: 21,

“In the tent of meeting, outside the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the Lord from evening till morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come”.

 Or Leviticus 6: 9,

“Give Aaron and his sons this command: ‘These are the regulations for the burnt offering: The burnt offering is to remain on the altar hearth throughout the night, till morning, and the fire must be kept burning on the altar.

 So, Levites and Priest would have had to work what we would call today, the night shift to keep those sacrificial fires burning and even the more mundane aspects of Temple maintaining went on at night as we see from 1 Chronicles 9: 26 – 27,

“But the four principal gatekeepers, who were Levites, were entrusted with the responsibility for the rooms and treasuries in the house of God. 27 They would spend the night stationed around the house of God, because they had to guard it; and they had charge of the key for opening it each morning”.

 So, worship of some sorts even took place at night suggesting to me that worship of the God of heaven and earth is not just a part time affair, only during the day but is a day and night activity God wants us to be committed to.

Maybe the writer of Psalm 134 by picking out the servants of the Lord who minister by night to Bless or praise the Lord is saying lets always be in an attitude of praise and worship. Paul makes this point to the Thessalonians in his first letter to them in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18,

“Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

 In all circumstances includes good times and bad or day representing and good time in life and night representing a bad, difficult or dark times in life. The test of our real faith is if we are able to give thanks or worship God in the difficult or dark times in life.

 I’m not advocating physical worship day and night but a life lived in an attitude of praise, thanks and worship like I referred to in Pauls words in Romans 12: 1,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship”.

4.   In the house of the Lord

We have seen all through the Songs of Ascent that the ultimate destination of the Jewish pilgrim travellers was Jerusalem and the Temple there. The Temple was to these ancient Jews, “The house of God” or to be exact, a house or dwelling place for the Ark of the Covenant which was God’s ordained symbol for his covenant agreement to dwell with his people Israel as indicated by Exodus 25: 22,

“There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the covenant law, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites”.

 This is why the Tabernacle became known as the tent of Meeting and therefore the Temple became God’s house where God and his people met through his covenant of love.

It is clear that God did not really want David to build him a house as he said this to David through the prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel 7: 5 – 7,

“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling.

Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’

 Isaiah makes it clear why God in principle maybe did not want an earthly house as all the nations around Israel would have had called Temples as Isaiah says this in Isaiah 66: 1,

“This is what the Lord says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.
Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?Has not my hand made all these things”.

 Stephen in the New Testament in his final speech to the Jewish leaders before he was stoned to death took up Isaiah’s words to say this in Acts 7: 48,

“However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands”.

 So why did God allow Solomon to build him an earthly house or Temple?

The answer to this question lies in the very words of Solomon at the start of his dedication to the nearly built Temple prayer in 2 Chronicles 6: 18 – 21,

“But will God really dwell on earth with humans? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! 19 Yet, Lord my God, give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence. 20 May your eyes be open toward this temple day and night, this place of which you said you would put your Name there. May you hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. 21 Hear the supplications of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place; and when you hear, forgive”.

 Note what Solomon sees the Temple as, not God’s dwelling place or house but a house or Temple of prayer an intermediary place between God as his people and this is what Jesus saw as being so wrong with what the Temple in Jerusalem had become in his day with the money changes and fowl smelling and noisy animals for sale for sacrifice in the Temple.

Jesus says this as he with righteous anger clears the Temple in Matthew 21: 13,

“It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer, ’but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.”

 What is the house of the Lord for us as Christians?

My answer to this might surprise you but I base my answer on what the New Testament says about this.

First of all, Jesus made it clear that his coming and particularly his death and resurrection would do away with the Temple as we see from his words in Luke 21: 5 – 6,

“And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

 Jesus knew that in the very near future the physical Temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed as it was by the Romans in AD 70.

Jesus also predicted that his death and resurrection would establish a new intermediary place or way between God and man as we see from two New Testament reference, John 2: 20 – 22,

“The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple,and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken”.

And 1 Timothy 2: 5,

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus”.

So, without the physical Temple as a house of prayer how do we go to God in prayer as Christians?

The answer to this is given so well by the writer to the Hebrews who says this in Hebrews 7: 23 – 25, using past Old Testament context to how we should now pray because of what Christ has done for us,

  “Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completelythose who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them”.

 Why do we as Christians always end our prayers in the name of Jesus?

It is because we go to God in prayer only through the Lord Jesus Christ and not through anyone else as Roman Catholics might teach.

Finally, what does the New Testament say about what is the Temple?

Paul made my most radical aspect to my answer to what is the house of the Lord on earth is when he writes in 1 Corinthians 6: 19 – 20,

 “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore. honour God with your bodies”.

 It seems up to the coming of Christ the house of prayer was limited to one place, The Temple in Jerusalem but through Jesus death and resurrection and the giving of his Spirit to all who have put their faith and trust in him God can now go into all the world through living Temples. We are therefore dwelling places of God on earth who take his message of Salvation to the world and act as his ministers of love.

When we travel to Heaven by faith in the Lord Jesus we are God’s special servants or ministers who offer God our blessing or praise.

  1. (vs. 2)   Lift up your hands in praise

The second verse of Psalm 134 speaks further about what we as God’s servants or ministers must do as we seek to worship him, that verse says,

“Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord”

 Again, the word for praise here is “Barakhi” or bless the Lord but it is a form of praise telling the Lord of the mighty and wonderful things he has done for us.

So as the Priests and Levites did this they were to “Lift up their hands” and Tremper Longman 111 points out that lifting your hands was,

“A common gesture of prayer in ancient Israel”

 It was an outward expression of what we should be doing inwardly when we bless or praise the Lord as David seems to indicate in his use of this expression in Psalm 28: 2,

“Here my cry for mercy as I call to you for help as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place”.

 The Most Holy Place David is speaking about here was in his day called, “The Sanctuary” as verse 2 of Psalm 134 calls it. This could mean that this Psalm was written in David’s time as the term Sanctuary seems to have changed to Temple once David’s son Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem.

I am not one who uses the raising of hands in prayer myself but that does not mean I think it is wrong to do but what is more important is what this lifting of hands means here in this Psalm which I found C.H. Spurgeon expressed for me the best when he writes,

“Hands, heart, and every other part of their manhood must be upraised, elevated, and consecrated to the adoring service of the Lord. As the angel’s praise God day without night, so must the angels of the church be instant in season and out of season. And bless the Lord”.

 Paul tells Timothy this in 1 Timothy 2: 8,

“Therefore, I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing”.

 Maybe I should consider adopting this practice of lifting my hands in prayer and particularly praise when I worship the Lord day or night.

2   (vs. 3)   THE LORD WILL BLESS YOU

  1. (vs. 3a) The Lord will bless you

As I said earlier this little final Song of Ascent has two distinct parts, us blessing God and God blessing us. Just like Rabbi Mardehai Becker theory of the Hebrew word for bless being very similar to the Hebrew word for the flowing or bubbling source of a pool or stream there is a flow between God and man when we come to him in prayer in the proper way and since the coming of Christ that is through faith in him.

So, the first part of verse 3 says,

“May the Lord bless you from Zion”.

 These words seem to be a blessing from the Priests who we were read about in verses 1 and 2 and for them to bless people from Zion means they are pronouncing this blessing form God’s special place on earth called Zion or the place where his house or temple sat.

This could mean that the last thing the Pilgrims to Jerusalem and the Temple there received from God before they left to return home was his blessing given by the Priests who served him in that place.

The priestly blessing God gave to Aaron and his sons to give the people which was also given through their descendants is in Numbers 6: 24 – 26,

“The Lord bless you and keep you;25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;26 the Lord turn his face toward youand give you peace.”’

 The Lord blessing from Zion is the Lord blessing his people from his dwelling place and as we have seen from references like Isaiah 66: 1 that is the Lord blessing his people from heaven where he actually dwells.

Zion in the New Testament is a loaded name place and represents heaven, the church and even Jesus the mediator of a new covenant as Hebrews 12: 22 – 24 expresses so clearly,

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”.

 So, what is God’s blessing on us as New Testament believers?

The answer to this is mind blowing and it is found in the writings of St Paul in Ephesians 1: 3,

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ”.

 I have mentioned before my experience many years ago when two Mormon Missionaries came to my door and asked if they could enter my home to give me and my home a blessing. I said no and quoted Ephesians 1: 3 but they said to me, ‘but don’t you want our blessing”.

I replied I simply don’t need it as Christ has blessed me with every spiritual blessing from the heavenly realms. They then left muttering something like, ‘and he doesn’t want our blessing”.

Paul goes on in Ephesians one to give us a bit of a rundown of what all the blessing in the heavenly realm might entail in verses 4 – 9,

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonshipthrough Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 

 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ”.

 So, as we continue on our journey of faith that leads to God in heaven we are blessed by God through Christ and this blessing comes from him in the heavenly Zion and is what saves us, equips us and gives us hope and constant inspiration throughout this life so why would I want any more blessing than that.

  1. (vs. 3b) The Lord the maker of heaven and earth

 We have read the final words of Psalm 134 before in Psalm 121 verse 2 that simply says,

“He who is the Maker of heaven and earth”.

 In Psalm 121 we looked to our destination heaven pictured in the Old Testament as being in the Mountains or the Hills. We also learnt that when we face the difficulties in this life, the Mountains or Hills, then we have the help of the Lord who is the maker of heaven and earth.

Here in Psalm 134: 3 we are blessed by the same Lord who is the maker of heaven and earth. This gives the blessing he gives power and authority. David Guzik quotes a commentator name F.B Meyer who writes,

“Is it possible for him to have made heaven and earth, and not be able to bless the soul whom he has not created only, but redeemed! He cannot fail to bless those that bless”.

 So, we have this flow of blessing, we seek to bless God in Zion and from Zion God seeks to bless us. Jesus is that maker of heaven and earth as John spells out in the opening of his Gospel calling the pre- incarnate Jesus Christ as The Word, John 1: 1 – 5,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”.

 We learnt from Ephesians 1 that God blesses us from heaven through his Son, Jesus Christ who John speaks of coming to this world in John 1: 14,

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

 We then who have received Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour have received from God his grace and truth guaranteed by the fact that Jesus is the Maker of Heaven and earth and made our salvation possible by his death and resurrection.

We walk the way of faith to God in heaven because Jesus made for us that way to walk as we see from two final verses:

  1. John 14: 6,

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. 

  1. Hebrews 12: 1 – 2,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”.

 CONCLUSION

 We have moved through the past 15 Psalms all with the title “Songs of Ascent”. 15 Psalms that we believe were sung by ancient Jews when they made up to three long and dangerous journeys a year up to Jerusalem and the Temple there.

We have learnt from these 15 Psalms about how that at every stage the Lord Jesus Christ is our helper and guide. We have learnt in this final Song of ascent that God wants us to bless or praise him and he promises that he will in turn bless us drawing on all his vast resources as the maker of heaven and earth to do so.

May we all come to the starting line of this great journey to heaven through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. May we continue this great journey to heaven through trust in The Lord Jesus Christ who promises to be with us even to the end of the age or the world. May we seek to bless him for all he has done for us and in turn receive his blessing that is so vast and wonderful and is more than we need to reach the shores of heaven itself where we will join with many other believers and the Angels in endless praise and blessing.

I close as usual with my original poem / song and a final word of prayer.

I’M HEAVEN BOUND

(Based on Psalm 134 and the tune of “I’m pressing on the upward way”)

 Oh, Praise the Lord you servants now

Yes, praise his love and mighty power

For he will bring us to his home

And no more will we have to roam.

 

Refrain:

 

Oh, praise him now day and night

Praise his power and his might

For through his Son salvation found

And through his death I’m heaven bound.

 

May all who minster for God

Be helped by him to upward trod.

For we must praise him day and night

And he will bring us into his light.

 

Refrain:

 

Oh, praise him now day and night

Praise his power and his might

For through his Son salvation found

And through his death I’m heaven bound.

 

Lift up your hands in joyful praise

For all the Lord’s great, loving ways

Look up to God in heaven above

And thank him for his wondrous love

 

Refrain:

 

Oh, praise him now day and night

Praise his power and his might

For through his Son salvation found

And through his death I’m heaven bound.

 

The lord will bless you every day

As you come to him and pray

He will bless you through his Son

Who made this world and every one.

 

Refrain:

 

Oh, praise him now day and night

Praise his power and his might

For through his Son salvation found

And through his death I’m heaven bound.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Lord help us to look always to you in heaven above with praise seeking to thank you day and night for all you have done for us. We lift our hands in praise Lord for how you sent down to earth your Son to become a man and die for our sins on the cross. We thank you Lord for how you promise to bless us in Christ and we look forward to the day when because of what your Son has done for us we will live with you in your eternal home ever praising you as you bless us with eternal life. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

PSALM 133 TALK   UNITED WE STAND IN THE BLESSINGS OF GOD

PSALM 133 TALK   UNITED WE STAND IN THE BLESSINGS OF GOD

(GETTING TO THE FINAL DESTINATION OF THE JOURNEY OF  FAITH   UNITED TOGETHER FOREVER)

 (The thirteenth Psalm of the 15 Psalm series in the book of Psalms called “Songs of Ascent” which deals with being united before God and experiencing his many blessings together).

(THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

 GENERAL INTRODUCTION

 For an introduction to the Songs of Ascent see Psalm talk for Psalm 120

PART 3.   PSALMS 130 – 134 – PERFECTING THE JOURNEY

INTRODUCTON TO PSALM 133

 I usually don’t like jokes about heaven but this one is not only funny it has a very good point to it. The joke goes that a man dies and meets St Peter at the Pearly gates and Peter then takes the man into heaven to show him around. They first come across a large group of people with books in their hands with half of these people saying prayers that the other half respond to. The man being shown around heaven asks St Peter, “who are those people”? and St Peter says “they are our Anglican or Episcopalian Christians”.

St Peter and the man move on a bit further into heaven and they come across some people together playing instruments like tambourines and all kinds of brass musical instruments and the man asks St Peter, “who are those people”? and St Peter says, “They are our Salvation Army Christians”.

They go a bit further into heaven and come across people waving their arms in the air shouting out Hallelujah and Praise the Lord and the man asks St Peter, “who are those people?” and St Peter says, “they are our Pentecostal Christians”.

Finally, they travel on a little further into heaven and the man sees people walking around bumping into each other and other people but not acknowledging any of them and the man asks St Peter, “who are those people” and St Peter answers, “they are people who think that no one else is up here but them”.

As I said I usually don’t like jokes about heaven but the point of this joke is the way some Christians act and live in this life is that they alone know the truth about God and they alone will be going to heaven.

One of the joys of my life and ministry has been the fact that I have had the privilege of ministering and fellowshipping with Christians from all kinds of churches and denominations and on my recent short- term mission trip to Myanmar I taught the message of the Psalms to people in churches and Bible Colleges in Anglican, Baptist, Pentecostal, Brethren and even a Seven Day Adventist Bible College. In all of these different Churches and Bible Colleges I experienced the blessing God gives to those who gather together united in The Lord Jesus Christ and his inspiring word to us.

I am often called “Brother Jim” and I have grown to like this title and often refer to and sing Richard Gillard song “The Servant Song” and the first verse that song says this,

“Brother, let me be your servant.
Let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I might have the grace
To let you be my servant, too”.

 Psalm 133 is short Psalm like a number of the Songs of Ascent Psalms but it might be short but it is certainly very beautiful and its central theme is “The unity of God’s People”. The Hebrew title says that David wrote it probably in his early reign when the unity of his people was extremely important as his country for the first few years of his reign as king did not recognise him as king only his tribe in the south of Israel, Judah recognised him as king. Then in 2 Samuel 5: 1 – 5 David is recognised even by the people of Israel in the North as the king of a united Israel.

Only David son Solomon would reign over both South and North Israel and experience fully the unity that Psalm 133 speaks of. However, as the people who did not live in Jerusalem travelled up to Jerusalem and the Temple there they would have travelled and joined together in Jerusalem as one Nation or in unity as this song encourages them to. I’m sure in those times of unity they would have experienced the blessing God promises us if we live in unity with other fellow believers.

My joke about haven is nothing more than a joke as all of our so called denominational differences will not exist in heaven and no one will be there bumping into people and not knowing they are there for all our often-petty differences will be a thing of the past in heaven. In heaven, we will be one people standing before the Lord united in our common love for the Lord Jesus Christ and the Father who sent him to earth to die for our sins on the cross that actually made it possible for all of us to be there.

My challenge to all bible believing Christians is if unity is what we will experience in heaven why don’t we experience it here on earth as we are all journeying to heaven by faith like the ancient Jews did when they journeyed together to Jerusalem and the Temple there?

Just as Paul said to the Corinthians who themselves lost this sense of unity even in the days of the early church in 1 Corinthians 1: 10,

“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought”.

 With this theme of Christian unity in mind then my outline for this Psalm is:

  1. (vs. 1) HOW GOOD IS UNITY
  1. (vs. 2) HOW PRECIOUS IS UNITY
  1. (vs. 3a) HOW FAR REACHING AND REFRESHING IS UNITY
  1. (vs. 3b) HOW BLESSED ARE WE UNITED

 We will now look at Psalm 133 with these four sections in mind:

  1. (vs. 1) HOW GOOD IS UNITY

The first verse of this Psalm is dedicated to the benefits of the unity of God’s people and it reads like this,

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity”.

 David apparently according to commentators who know Hebrew say that his opening Hebrew word of this Psalm literally means “Behold” or “Pay attention” which means David is saying what I am about to say is very important.

So, what is David actually saying to his people in this opening verse?

Allan Harman sums the over- all meaning of what David is saying with these words,

“Unity in the family is extolled as a very precious thing”.

 I first experienced this wider sense of unity with Christians when I went to an interdenominational Bible College in my early twenties. Many of my Anglican friends asked me why I was not going to The Anglican Theological College and my answer was that I wanted to get a broader understanding of the bible and along with that have the precious experience of fellowshipping with Christians from a variety of churches.

Through my wonderful experiences of my three years of theological training at an interdenominational Bible College I became life time friends with men and women from Baptist, Brethren and Reformed churches and they helped shape me into a person who loves to work in unity with Christians from all kinds of denominational backgrounds.

Again, the actual Hebrew word for “God’s people” in this verse actually literally means “brothers” and this could mean both direct family associations but also distant family relationships as ancient Hebrews all would have had.

For us as Christians many verses in the New Testament speak of us as belonging to God’s family and we too are all brothers and sisters in Christ as the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 13: 1,

“Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters”.

 And as John teaches in his first letter chapter 3 verses 1 and 2 that when we come to Christ by faith we are now children of God,

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is”.

\And Paul says we are children of God and therefore brothers and sisters in Christ through adoption in Ephesians 1: 5,

“He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will”.

 So, what’s so good about unity in the family of God according to the first verse of Psalm 133?

David says that unity is both”

  1. Good
  2. Pleasant

So, let me explain what these two words or terms mean:

  1. Good

The word good in Hebrew Ray Fowler points out means something like “Excellent” or “Agreeable” or “Beneficial”.

When Christians act together or work together in unity they are presenting to the world the very nature of God which is love as Jesus told his disciples in this in John 13: 34 – 35,

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

So, Jesus wants us as his followers to be characterised by love and love can only be seen when we as Christians work together and appear to be working together in unity.

After my time at Bible College I worked as a church Youth worker and a few years after Bible College when I worked as a Church Youth Worker I experienced another wonderful experience of Christian unity when I worked with many Christians from many different denominations working together at the Billy Graham Crusade in my home city of Sydney Australia.

I think one of the reasons these amazing crusades where so effective was God was able to use them to show non – believers how Christians do both love one another and the world. It is sad that we only have a few times when we as Christians work together in unity for when we do it is very good or beneficial.

  1. Pleasant

David not only says unity is good or beneficial but it is pleasant which could also be translated as “Precious” and David Guzik writes,

“It is pleasant because it makes life together as God’s people so much more enjoyable than seasons when constant bickering and conflict dominate”.

 I’m sure we have all experienced Christians bickering and conflict and I remember at our church years ago two families had a nasty dispute over discipline. It seems one mother decided to speak strongly to a miss behaving boy in another family and the other boy’s mother overheard the mothers angry rage. Then both sets of parents bickered opening after church about this for a number of weeks. This was a very unpleasant thing to witness and it was very upsetting for our entire congregation. Our minister eventually was able to privately settle this dispute between these two sets of adults.,

 This is an illustration of the opposite experience David is speaking about in this verse for disunity is very unpleasant and is a disappointingly negative and unhelpful experience.

Why does the Christian church sometimes suffer from disunity?

The answer for me comes from an older Christian writer and theologian named Michael Griffiths who I had the pleasure of meeting many years ago at a large Christian conference. Michael wrote a book about the church called “The Cinderella with Amnesia” and in that book Michael advocated that there are two ways of seeing the church.

The first way is seeing the church as a museum of perfect specimens or the church is a group of righteous perfect people that meet together to worship a righteous perfect God.

The second is that the church is a hospital for sinners.

If you think the church is full of righteous people or people who think they are righteous and perfect then you will be sadly disappointed. For when some kind of conflict occurs in your church like we had years ago between those two Christian families then your faith in God and particularly your church could be shattered.

However, I agree with Michael Griffiths the church is not a museum of perfect specimens but a Hospital for sinners and sadly Christians can fall into sin both inside the church and out of it as well. The bumper sticker is correct, “Christians aren’t perfect just forgiven”.

In Romans 14 Paul deals with the problem of disunity in the Roman church. In Paul’s time its seems Christians had disputes over what should or should not eaten and what sacred days should have observed or not observed but Paul gives us advice on how we can maintain unity in the church when we have differences of opinion on non-essential Gospel issues.

Paul starts this advice with these words in Romans 14: 1,

“Accept the one whose faith is weak without quarrelling over disputable matters”.

 In verse 13 Paul lays down this charge which I find very helpful when I encounter other Christians who disagree with me and want to argue with me about it,

“Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put stumbling block or obstacles in the way of a brother or sister”.

 When I encounter someone with a different theological point of view than me who wants to have an argument with me about it I try and put my point forward to this brother or sister in Christ in a loving way but then I refuse to carry on the argument seeking to respect the opinion of my fellow brother or sister in an attempt to do what Paul says we should always seek to do in verse 19 of Romans 14,

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification”.

 The fact is I agree with David in Psalm 133 when he says,

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity”.

Give me unity any day and for the sake of it and its benefits I will continue to seek to avoid arguing with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ even if I think I am right and they are wrong.

2   (vs. 2)  HOW PRECIOUS IS UNITY

David then gives us two Old Testament vivid images of what unity is like and the first of these two images has the point of the preciousness of the experience of unity. David writes in verse 2,

“It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe”.

 Christian unity is not only good and pleasant it is also precious and this Old Testament image speaks volumes of that. To get the full impact of this Old Testament image or illustration I must explain a few things first.

The image deals with the anointing of oil which Tremper Longman III explains was used to,

“Anoint priests, kings and occasionally prophets to their office”.

 Longman goes on to explain that the oil,

“Represents the gift of God’s Spirit that would enable these important officials to exercise responsibilities”.

Ray Fowler cleverly pin- points the message of the illustration being the preciousness of unity which runs all through the way this image is presented. Let me take up Ray’s theory to open up the meaning of this image.

  1. The Oil itself is precious

The image is described as,

Precious oil”

 Oil particularly the special oil used in the anointing of Aaron (Exodus 30: 22 – 25) would have been both expensive and the products to make it rare to get a hold of. So, it is with unity among God’s people it is hard to achieve and therefore precious when you experience it.

I spoke earlier of the dispute between two families at my church years ago and how that dispute created a feeling of disunity. Once that dispute was resolved and the bickering stopped the feeling of unity again came back into our church and that was a very precious feeling. So, unity is precious and we all should work hard and prayerfully for it to be a living reality in our churches and within the wider Christian community today.

  1. It is precious oil spread on the head

This would have been a vivid aspect to this illustration of preciousness as the custom even in the time of Christ was that when you visited someone’s house you helped them wash their feet and for a special guest you would refresh your visitors head with oil.

We should be willing to anoint one another’s head with oil which is the image of humble service to one another because God has anointed our head with oil as Psalm 23: 5 says,

 “You (God) anoint my head with oil”

 This is an Old Testament image of God blessing us like a person anointing a special guest with expensive precious oil.

So, to anoint one another with oil is like Jesus washing the disciple’s feet an act of humble service to anyone and everyone but especially to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. So, if we fail to unite in service with our fellow brothers and sisters maybe our problem is that we lack both humility and the willingness to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ.

As Paul says in Colossians 3: 13 – 14,

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity”.

Unity is precious then like the act of anointing the head of a special guest to the home of an ancient Hebrew person.

  1. Running down on the beard

This is running down of the oil is said twice I think for emphasis and Ray Fowler believes this part of the image or illustration is speaking of,

“God’s blessings flow down to us from heaven”.

 Fowler then quotes James 1: 17,

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows”.

 Fowler adds,

“Living together in unity is a gift to be received from God”.

 If Christian unity is a gift from God then it is precious and we should thank God for it when we experience it. I thank God continually for my on- going opportunities for experiencing and promoting Christian unity.

  1. Down to the collar of his robe

This precious oil not only is poured on the head of the high priest but it runs down his beard and flows onto the top of his garments and David Guzik explains the significance of this when he writes,

“What abundant blessings unity is! It is like oil poured out so richly that it flows from head, to the beard, down to the very edge of the priest’s garments”.

 Unity among fellow Christians is very precious and it should flow down from God on to us and then out to each other and then on and on to the world at large.

Peter gives us the formula for how the church can experience the preciousness of Christian unity, the church working as one in 1 Peter 4: 8 – 11,

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen”.

 Note how Peter in this reference speaks of the gifts and grace coming from God but being shared out to others not kept selfishly for oneself.

  1. (vs. 3a) HOW FAR REACHING AND REFRESHING IS UNITY

The second image or illustration of the effects of God’s people experiencing unity is at the start of verse 3 which simply says,

“It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion”.

Like the first image or illustration of the effects of Christian unity this second one does not make sense to us until we realise some very real Old Testament realities that people living in ancient Israel would have known.

This verse uses two mountains in its illustration of the effects of unity of God’s people and both mountains are miles apart. Mount Hermon is in the very North of ancient Israel now on the border of Lebanon and Syria. While Mount Zion is in the southern region of ancient Israel in of course Jerusalem. Mount Hermon is a high snow-capped maintain with lots of dew or rain water while Mount Zion is a smaller dryer mountain to the south.

This means dew falling on Mount Hermon then falling on Mount Zion is impossible and is therefore an image meaning something. That something is I think two things:

  1. The far- reaching nature of unity
  2. The refreshing nature of unity

Let me explain:

  1. The far – reaching nature of unity

With the two mountains, so far apart in this image the good effects of unity in God’s family, the church is therefore pictured as being far- reaching as Ray Fowler again so well explains,

“The fact that Hermon and Zion are united by the dew in this image also reminds us that in the church we are all one. It is a unity of the great and small, the high and the low, the north and south brought together, it is unity that crosses all human boundaries and divisions”.

 I have been speaking about in this Psalm talk some of my own experiences of Christian unity and another one that stands out for me is the first time I attended The Christian Conference Centre at Katoomba a couple of hours drive west of Sydney and near where I currently live. As you walk into the very large auditorium there you see directly in front of you over the elevated stage where the speaker stands to preach a sign that reads, “All One in Christ”.

This sign really struck me in a very inspirational way the first time I saw it as I was there with many of my Bible College friends who came from many different denominational backgrounds yet we were all working together ministering to many young people and that feeling of unity in Christ was a wonderful experience I will never forget.

That sign comes from Pauls letter to the Galatians, in chapter 3: 28,

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. 

  1. The refreshing nature of unity

The second aspect of this image is its obvious refreshing nature of the image particularly for someone in or thinking of Mount Zion as that mountain was not only smaller than Mount Hermon but dryer as well. David Guzik explains this aspect of the image of unity well when he writes,

“It is like the rich dew that covers Mount Hermon, making it green and moist. It is an almost complete contrast to the dry wilderness found in other parts of Israel. Unity among God’s people makes life thriving and healthy”.

When we as Christians move out of our holy huddles and into the wider world we can have such an impact. I have visited churches all over the world and when I have had the privilege of sharing God’s word and joining in the fellowship with these sometimes-small church gatherings the refreshing nature of Christian unity is so wonderful.

Not too long ago my wife and I went on a road trip around Australia for over four months and every Sunday while we were away we went to church in the towns we were visiting. A lot of those towns were in remote dry and not so populated parts of my country Australia and many times members of the churches we visited spoke of how refreshing and up – lighting it was when Christians like us visited and worshipped with them. We were like the dew of Mount Hermon falling on dry Mount Zion to those Christian people living in dry remote parts of my country.

As Paul advices, the Philippians in Philippians 2: 1 – 4, which reveals how we should work on Christian unity with loving refreshing service,

“Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others”.

       4.  (vs. 3b) HOW BLESSED ARE WE UNITED

The final words of David’s little song on the value and impact of unity in the family of God sums up all he has been saying about unity,

“For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore”.

 I told the joke in my introduction about all the different types of Christians in heaven and how one group thought that non- one else was up there but them. This is a joke as the pictures of heaven particularly in the book of Revelations are of a great united oneness that knows no earthly divisions like denominations. Like the scene of heaven described in Revelation 7: 9 – 10,

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:“Salvation belongs to our God,who sits on the throne,and to the Lamb.”

 Note how this picture of heaven sees us united as one because it speaks of the vast multitude coming from every nation, tribe and language but speaking as one in praise of our salvation found only in God and the lamb which in the book of Revelation is name for The Lord Jesus Christ who died for our sins on the cross.

David says that unity bestows blessing on us and this blessing and the unity that produces it is forevermore. David Guzik quotes here James 1 : 9 – 10,

“Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower”.

 He then writes,

 “In other word’s it doesn’t matter how high or low you are in the eyes of the world. In Christ we are one, and we have a special unity through Christ and the Holy Spirit”.

 One of the greatest causes of disunity in the church is what I call classism or snobbery when some people think they are better than others and look down on them causing a breakdown in unity in the Church. The reality is that in heaven there is no class or looking down on others.

The disciple themselves got heaven wrong when they asked Jesus about being seated higher in heaven than others in Mathew 18 and Jesus reply is quite radical, Matthew 18: 2 – 5,

“He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me”.

 The Christian Gospel started to radically change society in the first century with slaves coming to Christ in big numbers and in the church and they were generally accepted as brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Gospel radically started to change the status of women which continues to this day. So, it is in the Christian Gospel message we find our grounds for common unity.

Like the ancient Jews travelling to Jerusalem and the Temple their unity and the oneness of being part of God’s family was good, pleasant, precious, far reaching and refreshing so it is for us travelling to heaven by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are eternally blessed when we stand and walk together to God in heaven. I close with one more reference on Christian Unity, Romans 6: 5,

“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his”.

 I close as usual with my original poem / song and a final word of prayer:

UNITE US ALL IN-GOD’S LOVE

(Based on Psalm 133 and the tune of “The Old Rugged Cross)

 

How beautiful it is to live in peace

With those who love and serve the Lord

For our unity comes through the grace of God

Which transforms us by God’s life- giving word.

 

Chorus:

 

So, come to the Lord Jesus Christ

Who came down from heaven above

To die for our sins on the cross

And unite us all in God’s love.

 

How precious is the unity we share

In the God who sent his Son down to earth.

It’s like the oil of God’s holy Spirit’s power

Who comes in to give us Spiritual rebirth

 

Chorus:

 

So, come to the Lord Jesus Christ

Who came down from heaven above

To die for our sins on the cross

And unite us all in God’s love.

 

How far reaching is the unity we share

In the undeserved love of the Lord

For we can go to the end of the world and find

A love for God’s wonderful word.

 

Chorus:

 

So, come to the Lord Jesus Christ

Who came down from heaven above

To die for our sins on the cross

And unite us all in God’s love.

 

For united we stand in the love of the Lord

With our brothers and sisters, we will come

To the shores of a place where we’ll live for evermore

With God and our Saviour his Son.

 

Chorus:

 

So, come to the Lord Jesus Christ

Who came down from heaven above

To die for our sins on the cross

And unite us all in God’s love.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

We look to you Father up above to unite us all in your great love. When we are tempted to bicker and fight help us by your Holy Spirit to seek peace and love. When we see a brother or sister in Christ going the wrong way in life help us to lovingly guide them back to walking your way with love and care for them. When we feel disappointment, and hurt caused by a fellow Christian help us to reach out with love and forgiveness. So, may we all who love your word and your Son, The Lord Jesus Christ walk together united in our love for you to the shores of your eternal home where we will be together united forevermore. In Jesus name we pray this, Amen.

 

 

 

 

PSALM 132 TALK   GOD’S ETERNAL DWELLING PLACE OF REST

PSALM 132 TALK   GOD’S ETERNAL DWELLING PLACE OF REST

         (GETTING TO THE FINAL DESTINATION OF THE JOURNEY OF FAITH)

 (The thirteenth Psalm of the 15 Psalm series in the book of Psalms called “Songs of Ascent” which deals with the final destination of the Christian journey Zion God’s eternal dwelling place).

(THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

 GENERAL INTRODUCTION

 For an introduction to the Songs of Ascent see Psalm talk for Psalm 120

PART 3.   PSALMS 130 – 134 – PERFECTING THE JOURNEY

INTRODUCTON TO PSALM 132

 One of my first holidays overseas was in Fiji a beautiful set of Islands in the south Pacific. For the first week, we went to a large and busy resort on the main island but on the second week of our holiday we went to a small private Island actually owned and run by Australians. This tuned out to be my first experience of the kind of holiday where you sit around a pool with a cool drink and read a book and simply relax.

For the first couple of days I loved the rest and relaxation but soon I wanted to get up and do something. I even walked around the Island, which only took an hour or so and one day we went on a small boat trip to an uninhabited Island where we swam in super clear water and had a delicious BBQ on the beautiful scenic beach.

So, what is your idea of resting?

Psalm 132 deals with the twin ideas of resting and dwelling and speaks of David’s passionate desire to build God a house or Temple on earth a house or significant dwelling to place the Ark of the covenant in which is the symbol of God’s dwelling with his people on earth.

Then it deals with taking the Ark of the Covenant up to Jerusalem and placed in what would have been only a large Tent called the Tabernacle. The Ark had been taken in battle by the Philistines who sought to give it back because it caused so many problems for anyone who had it in their town. Before David eventually got it successfully up to Jerusalem it spent a number of years in a place Psalm 132 calls “the fields of Jaar” which is another name for a place in ancient Israel called Kirjath – jearim.

The last part of the Psalm speaks of how God promises David a house instead of him building a house for him and God’s house for David is an eternal dynasty from which God will bring to earth The Lord Jesus Christ who will make the way for all who trust and obey in him to enter God’s eternal dwelling or resting place.

God’s eternal dwelling or resting place will be far superior to any earthly resting place like an exotic Island paradise like Fiji as when we are in it that resting place according to verse 16b,

“Her faithful people will ever sing for joy”

 This Psalm seems to be a Psalm written early in reign of the Davidic kings and could have been written by David’s Son Solomon or someone else in Solomon’s time as verses 8 – 10 are part of a direct quote from Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple he built in Jerusalem recorded in 2 Chronicles 6: 41 – 42.

So far as how it fits into a “Song of Ascent” is I believe in its subject matter about the final destination of the ancient pilgrim journeys namely Mount Zion in Jerusalem and the Temple there.

For us as Christians on the great journey of faith the ultimate destination is the eternal heavenly Zion or dwelling and resting place of God where we will find both eternal dwelling and rest. We will get there by trusting and obeying throughout our life the greater Son of David The Lord Jesus Christ who is the king of kings and Lord or Lords and our saviour.

With the theme of God’s dwelling place of rest in mind then my outline for this Psalm is:

  1. (1 – 10)DAVID’S DESIRE TO BUILD GOD’S DWELLING PLACE OF REST ON EARTH

 

  1. 1. (1 – 5)David’s desire to build God’s house or dwelling place on earth
  1. (6 – 10) Taking the ark of the covenant to God’s dwelling place

 

  1. (10 – 12)GOD PROMISE OF AN ETERNAL HOUSE FOR DAVID

1.  (11 & 12b) God promises to establish an eternal house for David

  1. (vs. 12a) A house or dynasty conditional on obedience to God

 

      3.  (13 – 18)   GOD’S CHOOSES ZION AS HIS DWELLING PLACE OF REST

 

  1. (13 – 16)God chooses Zion as his dwelling place
  2. (17 – 18)God promise of a future greater king and dwelling place of rest

Let’s then have a closer look at this Psalm using these headings,

  1. (1 – 10)DAVID’S DESIRE TO BUILD GOD’S DWELLING PLACE OF REST ON EARTH
  1. (1 – 5)David’s desire to build God’s house or dwelling place on earth

 To understand what these opening verses are really telling us I need to explain the historical events that led to them being written. David had become king of Israel and started to establish the nearly conquered mountain top city of Jerusalem as the capitol of the nation of Israel he now ruled.

Jerusalem story in the bible goes back as far as Abraham who met its king in his day called Melchizedek a mysterious character called in Genesis 14: 18, a priest of the God most high. Jerusalem was called Salem at that time and Salem means, “King of Peace”.

Then in Genesis 22 we have the story of Abraham taking his Son to Mount Moriah which is the old name for the hill in Jerusalem that became mount Zion. God stops Abraham at the last minute and provides a lamb for sacrifice.

Then we come to David’s time David conquered Jerusalem by defeating the Jebusites in 1052 BC/BCE (1 Chronicles 11:4-9).

David then goes on a massive building project which includes building himself a palace (2 Samuel 5: 9 – 12) and not long after this moves the neglected Ark of the Covenant up and into Jerusalem. The Ark of the covenant we will see represented the spiritual reality of God dwelling with his people Israel through his covenant of love an agreement between God and his chosen people Israel.

The Ark of the Covenant had been on the move, not resting for a long time but now it finally came to rest in God’s chosen place, Jerusalem on God’s chosen place of sacrifice, Mount Zion which we will see later was selected by God as the place of sacrifice in Abrahams day but also in David and Solomon’s day as well.

So, David now has the Ark of the covenant in what seems a temporary dwelling, the tent or Tabernacle with its inner sacred and holy place called The Holly of Hollies which is where the Ark of the covenant rests.

David argues that I live in a palace but God’s dwelling place is a tent so I want to build God a great house, dwelling place or Temple to house God’s special Ark of the Covenant.

This leads to our first verse of Psalm 132 that says,

“Lord, remember David and all his self-denial”.

 So, we can see these words are spoken after David’s time as the verse speaks of “remembering” David and as I said in the introduction this could have been written by Solomon or someone else around that time.

But what does the writer want God to remember?

This question is partially answered by what we read at the start of verse 2,

“He swore an oath to the Lord”

 An oath it seems concerning the building of a house, dwelling place, Temple for the Lord in Jerusalem as verse 5 says,

“Till I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob”.

 This “self-denial” which has been also translated as hardships Allan Harman proposes were inward troubles as he writes in his commentary,

“David’s troubles or hardships endured were not outward ones but rather the inward of distress that the ark of the covenant was separated and that the ark did not have a permeant resting place”.

 We get a glimpse of this inner troubles of David from the words of 2 Samuel 7: 1 – 2,

“After the king was settled in his place and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, ‘Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent”.

 So, David was inwardly troubled that his God who he calls, “The Mighty One of Jacob” a name for God meaning “Warrior” used originally in Genesis 49: 24 is living in a tent while he lives in a luxurious palace.

This comes out even more in the words that our writer attributes to David as his spoken oath concerning this in verses 3 and 5,

“I will not enter my house or go to my bed, I will allow no sleep to my sleep or slumber to my eyelids, till I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob”.

 These words show the depths of David’s feelings for the building of God’s house or dwelling the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant that David was able with the Lords help bring up and into Jerusalem.

The question David should have answered first was,

Does God want a house on earth or a dwelling to make his presence known to mankind?

The answer to this is two- fold and the first part of God’s answer to this question comes from the Old Testament and the second from the New Testament:

  1. Isaiah 66: 1 – 2,

Isaiah makes it clear that God lives in heaven and the earth is like the footstool of his throne,

“This is what the Lord says:“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.
Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?
Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?”
declares the Lord”.

 Stephen refers to this reference from Isaiah in his speech before his stoning with these words in Acts 7: 48,

“However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands”.

 I have travelled through Europe a couple times now and seen many of its so called magnificent cathedrals and none of them have made me feel close to God and in fact for me they have left me cold and disappointed when I think of the money I believe was wasted years ago on such massive buildings.

Not that we don’t need fine church buildings but they should be practical, attractive and functional buildings that lend themselves to places to worship and service of the members of those churches and the communities they exist in.

The church I currently attend has just opened a very attractive and functional extension to what I call its multipurpose building and we are praying that it will be used to extend the kingdom of God in the community we live in.

2. John 1: 14,

The New Testament presents clearly that even though God does not dwell in buildings made by men he chose to dwell in the body of a human being to both reveal himself to us and use that indwelling as a means to save us and bring us to his heavenly home.

As John says in verse 14 of the first chapter of his Gospel,

“The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

 The Greek word for dwelling in this verse could be translated, “pitched his tent” and other verses in this Gospel of John like 14: 6 speak of how Jesus, the Son of God become flesh and made a way back to the Father in heaven through his death and resurrection.

  1. (6 – 10)Taking the ark of the covenant to God’s dwelling place

 We will learn soon in this Psalm that David was not allowed by God to build the house for the Ark of the Covenant but David was led by God to bring that sacred object up and into Jerusalem to be placed in a large tent called The Tabernacle.

Verses 6 – 9 speak of this very event and I have broken this part of the first section down into three smaller parts:

  1. The transporting of the ark (vs. 6)
  2. The call to worship (vs’s 7, 8)
  3. The request for blessing of the worshippers (vs. 9)

Let me comment on each of these three smaller parts of this second section of this Psalm:

  1. The transporting of the ark (vs. 6)

This verse contains the names of two significant Old Testament places, “Ephrathah” another name for David’s home town Bethlehem and “Fields of Jaar” another name for the place the Ark of the Covenant was kept for a number of Years in the house of a man Abinadab who lived in Kiriath Jearim (1 Chronicles 13: 5).

Verse 6 then says,

“We heard it from Ephrathah we came upon it in the fields of Jaar”.

 My reading of 1 Chronicles 13 which deals with how David first tried, unsuccessfully to move the Ark of the Covenant up into Jerusalem suggests to me that David sought to rally the people together to bring the Ark of the Covenant up and into Jerusalem which is how verse 6 of this Psalm reads as well.

Allan Harman sees verses 6 – 9 as a call to worship and I see it as a call to worship centred on moving the Ark of the Covenant up and into Jerusalem. This call to worship starts in David’s home town Bethlehem or Ephathah right through the land to the very place the Ark of the Covenant was then resting.

2.  The call to worship (vs’s 7, 8)

This call to worship centred on moving the Ark of the Covenant up and into Jerusalem becomes much clearer in verses 7 and 8 that says,

“Let us go to his dwelling place, let us worship at his footstool, saying, Arise, Lord, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might”.

 We need to understand the Old Testament worship mind set of ancient Israelites to understand these two verses correctly.

In the time of Moses, the people of Israel when they were in the wilderness had at the centre of their worship The Tabernacle which was a large movable tent that contained the relatively small gold-plated box called The Ark of the Covenant.

Numbers 10: 35 tells us what Moses and I believe the people said whenever they packed-up the Tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant to set off to the next place God led them to,

 ‘Rise up, Lord! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you”.

 So, David is speaking like Moses about what he hopes will be the final journey of The Ark of the Covenant to its final resting place in Jerusalem, God’s designated place for his Tabernacle and under Solomon, The Temple and of course within these structures a small curtained off room called. The Holy of Hollies”.

I remember visiting a Medieval church somewhere in Europe which had a closed off front area you could only see into called the holy Sanctuary where only the priest entered to consecrate the bread and wine for communion. This idea falsely comes from the Old Testament Holy of Hollies which was broken down by Jesus death for our sins on the cross.

In the Gospel of Mark 15: 38 we read these words about what happened in the Temple in Jerusalem when Jesus breathed his last breath on the cross,

“The curtain of the Temple was torn in two from the top to bottom”.

 The writer to the Hebrews makes it clear that the concept of a Holy of Hollies for Christians has been superseded by the death of Jesus and his blood spilt there with these words in Hebrews 10: 19 – 22,

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water”.

 However, in David’s time worship was regulated through The Tabernacle and later Temple with regular on- going sacrifices directed to the Ark of the Covenant also known in the Old Testament as, God’s “footstool”.

 This Ark of the Covenant was then the symbol of God dwelling and being with his people and in all of the battles in the wilderness wanderings it went before the army of Israel leading them to victory thus the Ark of the Covenant at the end of verse 8 is called,

“The Ark of your might”

 These verses are extremely significant in the context of the Songs of Ascent being songs sung by Jewish pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem and the Temple there. They were answering David’s call to worship coming from all parts of Israel to worship in the Temple of Jerusalem, the resting or dwelling place of the Ark of the Covenant the representation of God with his people helping them in all sorts of ways including victory over their enemies.

3.  The request for blessing of the worshippers (vs. 9)

The Psalm writer then asks God to bless these Old Testament worshippers with these words,

“May your priests be clothed with your righteousness; may your faithful people sing for joy”.

 David Guzik explains the reference to the priests being clothed in God’s righteousness with these words which he quotes from a famous commentator known as Alexander Maclaren,

“The pure vestments of the priests were symbols of stainless character, befitting the ministers of a holy God. The psalmist prays that the symbol may truly represent the inner reality”.

 I have never been impressed by elaborate liturgical clothing and one day many years ago a high Church of England friend of mine took me to a church service at his parish church. After the service, he asked me what I thought of their way of worshipping God and my frank reply was that it was, “a lot of pomp and ceremony with little substance”. His reply really shocked me for he said, “Well you like to worship God in spirit an in truth but some of us like to worship God with smell and colour”.

 By the way “smell” referred to all the incense they threw around that day. Maybe wearing vestments and throwing incense around has a place but the danger in this kind of worship might be the avoidance of Jesus own definition of true worship found in John 4: 24,

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in Spirit and in truth”.

 In verse 9 of our Psalm 132 the writer here is calling for the priests to see themselves as not clothed in Old Testament vestments, which they would have been but more clothed in a right attitude of righteousness.

For the general worshippers then he wants God to help them to,

“Sing for joy”

Albert Barnes explains these words this way,

“The fact that there is a God, and such a God, and that this God is ours – that we may serve him, glorify him – is suited to fill the mind with joy”.

 This reminds me of Paul’s words in Colossians 3: 16 – 17,

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”.

 I’m sure the ancient Hebrews who travelled to Jerusalem and the Temple there did lots of singing and these songs and of course that means this song they would have sung with great joy and once there we will see God helped them make their worship even more joyful.

So, it is with us on the Christian journey to God’s heavenly dwelling or resting place we should worship with great joy and that joyful worship will be even greater when we finally get to heaven where we will join with other believers and the angels in endless praise and joy. 

    2.  (11 – 12)GOD PROMISE OF AN ETERNAL HOUSE FOR DAVID

  1. (11 and 12b)God promises to establish an eternal house for David

Our writer of this Psalm in the first half of this Psalm asked that God remember David’s deep and totally committed desire to build a house or dwelling place for his God in Jerusalem which we have learnt also meant a house or dwelling place for The Ark of the Covenant. This request gets another go with the words of verse 10,

“For the sake of your servant David do not reject your anointed one”.

This prayer request did not go unheard by the Lord but his answer would have been a surprise to both David and his people for it was not a house for God but a house for David and that house was an eternal dynasty of kings.

Verses 11 reads like this,

“The Lord swore an oath to David, a sure oath he will not revoke; “One of your descendants I will place on your throne”.

 But more than a one generation succession is promised here as verse 12b says,

“Then their sons will sit on your throne for ever and ever”.

 I will deal with the first part of this verse 12 separately soon but for now I want to point out that David swore an oath to God to build him a house or dwelling in Jerusalem and God answered that desire and prayer of David with a promise of an eternal house or dynasty through his direct descendants.

This is a reference to the words God spoke to David through the prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel 7: 11b – 13,

“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever”.

 Note how God uses the description of this eternal kingdom as “a house” as the verses before this in 2 Samuel 7 are a response to David’s deep desire and commitment to build a house for God which of course is technically known as a Temple. Listen to what God said about an earthly home built for him in 2 Samuel 7: 5 – 7,

“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling,

Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’

 God seems to be saying he doesn’t want a house built for him on earth after all we learnt earlier form Isaiah 66: 1, 2 that,

“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?
Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?”
declares the Lord”.

 No, God’s intentions for his people is a land or a place for them to dwell in and the Ark of the Covenant was a symbol that God was with his people leading them, fighting for them and generally being with them in a spiritual way not a literal way like some Temple building and that is what God says through the prophet Nathan to David in 2 Samuel 7: 8 – 11a,

“Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. 

10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies”.

 So, God swore an oath to David according to verse 11 of Psalm 132 and I believe this oath is expressed in the prophet Nathans words we have just looked at and we will see that in another surprising way God kept his oath to David of an eternal home or dynasty in that one of David’s great descendants was The Lord Jesus Christ and he is the inheritor of David’s eternal kingdom as the Angel tells Mary in Luke 1: 30 – 33,

“Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

So, on our journey to God in heaven we must keep our focus on The Lord Jesus Christ and not earthly things like great buildings or ornate religious ceremonies or anything that detracts us from following him to our real eternal home, dwelling or resting place, God’s heavenly eternal home.

  1. (vs. 12a)A house or dynasty conditional on obedience to God

I have made the opening statements of verse 12 a separate section because they lay down God’s conditions for the promise of an eternal Kingdom for David’s descendants and they are expressed in these words,

“If your sons keep my covenant and the statutes I teach them”.

 The conditions or requirements for God’s promise are the same for Israel being God’s chosen people and we know from the rest of the bible both David’s descendants and their people generally failed to keep God’s conditions of the covenant of obedience to his statutes and laws.

Even in the example of David’s son Solomon we see a reign of two halves. Solomon starts out trusting and obeying God and does so throughout the early part of his reign with the building of the Temple in Jerusalem and its wonderful God centred dedication. However, as Solomon’s rule goes on he marries many foreign wives and they both lead Solomon and his people away from trusting in and obeying the God of the Bible.

At the end of Solomon’s life, we read this assessment and condemnation of his life and reign by God himself in 1 Kings 11: 9 – 13,

“The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command. 11 So the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. 12 Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”

 The United Kingdom of Israel only lasts through David and Solomon’s rule and Solomon’s son Rehoboam loses most of his Kingdom in a revolt by Jeroboam and he is only King of the tribe of Judah to the south centred in Jerusalem.

Worse comes to pass many centuries later when the Babylonians conquer Judah and sack Jerusalem destroying its walls and Temple and even worse killing the last of the kings in the line of David who had not kept the covenant of God and not obeyed his laws. It seems then that God’s promise of and eternal kingdom to David is lost. However, we learnt from the Angels words to Mary that a great descendant of David did inherit and establish God’s eternal home or dynasty as we read in Luke 1: 30 – 33,

“Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end”.

 Jesus had to come for the Old Covenant had to be superseded by a new and greater one for the Old Testament story of Israel revealed that mankind is incapable of keeping God’s law to be saved so God had to step in and save us through the sending of his Son as Paul states clearly in Romans 5: 6 – 8,

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

 This death on the cross for our sins is the basis of this New Covenant a better way for us to come to God’s eternal home or dwelling place as the writer to the Hebrews points out in Hebrews 9: 11 – 15,

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

 15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant”.

 So, as we walk the way to heaven we must realise that this way was made only by the spilt blood of Jesus who through his death cleared the way to God for us to walk. Jesus then is the great descendant of David that The Old Testament called “The Messiah” which literally means “Anointed One” who has established the throne of David for ever and ever, an eternal throne that sits in very centre of God’s eternal home, dwelling or resting place known as heaven. 

    3.  (13 – 18)   GOD’S CHOOSES ZION AS HIS DWELLING PLACE OF REST

    1.   (13 – 16)God chooses Zion as his dwelling place

So even though God has told David he does not want or did not desire an earthly home he still institutes the building of a more permanent home or Temple for his Ark of the Covenant which verses 13 – 18 declare.

I see two aspects of this declaration of God concerning the choosing of his earthly dwelling or resting place:

  1. (13 – 14) God’s declaration of his chosen earthly dwelling place
  2. (15 – 16) God’s promise to bless his people through it

 Let’s then have a closer look at these two aspects of God’s declaration concerning the choosing of his earthly dwelling or resting place:

  1. (13 – 14) God’s declaration of his chosen earthly dwelling place

God now declares his choosing for an earthly home, dwelling place which is the final resting place of his Ark of the Covenant in verses 13 and 14,

“For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling, saying, This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.”

 Zion or its old name Mount Moriah gets God’s nod of approval as his special place on earth a number of times. I see this nod of approval of Mount Moriah – Zion three times in the bible:

  1. (Genesis 22: 1 – 18) When Abraham was tested and God provided the sacrificial lamb.

2. (1 Chronicles 21 and 2 Samuel 24) When David buys a threshing floor owned by a   Jebusite where the Angel of the Lord appeared in Jerusalem and withdrew his hand of death over David’s kingdom after David sinned by counting his fighting men which God had forbade him to do. Here David made a sacrifice to God and here David decided that God wanted the Tabernacle and later Temple should rest. These earthly structures would house The Ark of the covenant.

  1. (2 Chronicles 7) When God sent fire down from heaven to consume the first burnt offerings made in the newly built Temple there.

So, over a long period of time God reveals that the Mount Moriah later known as Mount Zion is the chosen desired dwelling and resting place on earth.

Mount Zion is also one of the bibles names for Jerusalem and this follows that Mount Zion is within the enlarged city of Jerusalem that David and later Solomon instigated.

Here God continued to choose as the place to reveal himself even through his Son, The Lord Jesus Christ who ministers and preaches there, rides triumphantly into and is eventually sacrificially killed there and of course rises from the dead there as well. Finally, from Jerusalem the Gospel message will go out into all the world as Jesus commands it should in Acts 1: 8,

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

And of course, Matthew 28: 19 – 20 expands this into “The Great Commission”,

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 This command was given to the disciple just outside Jerusalem and from there the Gospel message of how we can come to God through The Lord Jesus Christ went into all the world.

In the later parts of the New Testament Zion and even Jerusalem become symbols and even names of God’s heavenly eternal home for all believers and this is the very idea that the writer of the letter to the Hebrews speak of in Hebrews 12: 22 – 24,

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”.

  1. (15 – 16) God’s promise to bless his people through it

What we read in the next two verses is a natural follow on from the presence of the Lord on Mount Zion namely his blessing for his people through his in- dwelling presence in his people’s lives which I believe is symbolized by the Ark of the Covenant resting on Mount Zion. Verses 15 and 16 says then,

“I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor I will satisfy with food. I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her faithful people will ever sing for joy”.

 The provisions God promises to bless his people here with are physical namely food in verse 15 but interestingly this changes to spiritual blessings in verse 16 where the priests are blessed with clothes of salvation a greater blessing than righteousness in verse 9 of this Psalm.

God’s people are also blessed with spiritual blessing in verse 16 namely singing eternal joy again far greater than just joy in verse 9. Ray Fowler points out that,

“The New Testament tells us that these things are fulfilled in us today in our salvation in Christ”.

 Ray then quotes 1 Peter 2: 9 – 10,

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

 We declare God’s praises today in this life to the world through the preaching of the wonderful Gospel message which Peter refers to in the words,

“Who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”.

 However, we look forward to an even greater day of blessing in the New Jerusalem where we will dwell intimately and fully with God forever as Revelation 21: 1 – 4,

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 So as we make the journey to God like those ancient Hebrews journeys to Jerusalem and the Temple their we can realise God’s blessing on us that can be the meeting of our physical daily needs but are more prominent and wonderful in God blessing us with our spiritual needs beyond that we expected or even hoped for as Paul states in Philippians 4: 19,

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” 

  1. (17 – 18)God promise of a future greater king and dwelling place of rest

I mentioned earlier the Old Testament promise of “The Messiah” or “Anointed One” and here in these final two verses of this Psalm a fine example of that kind of promise exists as these two verses say,

“Here I will make a horn grow for David and set up a lamp for my anointed one. I will clothe his enemies with shame, but his head will be adorned with a radiant crown”.

 Ray Fowler explains these verses so well I will give you the main things he says about them in the following quote,

“The horn in the Old Testament is a symbol of strength. The lamp is a symbol for light and life and goodness. The crown here speaks not only of Christ rule but also his holiness”.

 Ray notes how the crown is radiant and therefore speaks of Christ glory or in the context of the Psalm the glory of the coming Messiah.

I read last year a modern Jewish criticism of Jesus being the Messiah and that went something like that Jesus fulfilled many of the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah but not all of them so Jesus could not have been the Messiah.

The answer to this is that Jesus has to come twice to fulfil all the prophecies and do all the jobs the Messiah has to fulfil. For instance, he could not save us from our sins as the suffering servant and be a judge at the same time. So, Jesus came the first time to be the suffering servant Messiah but will come a second time after we have an opportunity to respond to his message of salvation as the glorified judge of all mankind.

As Peter refers to in 2 Peter 3: 9,

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”.

 So, these final two verses mix up the two comings of Christ as one coming as after all Jesus first and second coming are but one great event with two parts.

We see Jesus presented as a horn of salvation in Zechariah’s prophetic song in Luke 2: 68 – 75,

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.69 He has raised up a hornof salvation for us in the house of his servant David70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—72 to show mercy to our ancestorsand to remember his holy

covenant,73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days”.

 Note even this prophecy mixes up Jesus first and second coming.

Jesus calls himself the Light of the world in John 8: 12 similar to the Messiah in verse 17 of our psalm “setting up a lamp”.

Then Jesus has victory over his enemies not in his first coming but through what he achieved in his first coming fulfilled in his second coming. As we read in many references in the New Testament but here are just two to give you a taste of what The New Testament has to say about Jesus defeat of sin, evil and his many enemies,

  1. Hebrews 2: 14 – 15,

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death”. 

  1. Revelation 17: 14,

“They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”

 Finally, the radiant crown that adorns Christ head I refer you to the writer to the Hebrews again when says this in Hebrews 2: 7 – 9,

“You made them a littlelower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honour
8and put everything under their feet.”In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone”.

 Note again the two comings of Jesus that makes it possible for him to be firstly made lower than the angels but then through what he did as Isaiah’s suffering servant on the cross rose to victory and has been crowned in glory with a radiant or glorious crown.

So, for the ancient Hebrews on their long journeys to Jerusalem and the Temple there this song of ascent we call Psalm 132 would have been a great source of inspiration and hope.

So, it is with us on our journey of faith to God’s eternal dwelling place in heaven this Psalm offers us great inspiration and hope.

Jesus has prepared a place for us and interestingly when he speaks of this great promise he uses the image of a home or dwelling place in John 14: 1 – 3,

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.

 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am”.

 I close as usual with my own original poem / song and final word of prayer.

MY RESTING PLACE

(Based on Psalm 132 and the tune of “There is a ship”)

David longed to build God’s house on earth

In Jerusalem where the Temple would dwell

But God for bade David’s hearts desire

And his Son Solomon did build it well.

 

Refrain:

 

The Lords does live in heaven above

And I long to be there with him

For this is my resting place

For in that place there is no sin.

 

David moved the Ark from fields of jaar

Up to Zion God’s chosen mountain there

And there he blessed his people with joy

For they came to him to sing and share.

 

Refrain:

 

The Lords does live in heaven above

And I long to join God’s people there

For this is my resting place

For in that place true worship we’ll share.

 

David did receive from God above

The promise of an eternal house

And through his line came the Lord Jesus Christ

Who came to earth to die for us.

 

Refrain:

 

The Lords does live in heaven above

And through his son we will live with him

For this is my resting place

A place that I will praise and sing.

 

The people gathered on Zions hill

God’s chosen place to worship him

From there his light shinned to the world

For the Gospel went out from Jerusalem.

 

Refrain:

 

The Lords does live in heaven above

And through Christ love there we’ll find release.

For this is my resting place

A place of joy and eternal peace.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

Thank you, Father who lives in heaven, above that you revealed yourself through your ancient people Israel centred in your chosen place of worship on Zions hill in Jerusalem. Thank you Lord that through the line of David you sent to earth your only Son who died for our sins overlooking Jerusalem your chosen place of reconciliation and through his death we have the gift of eternal life. Help us now to take the message of your love to the world as it began in Jerusalem and may we all look forward to the New eternal Jerusalem where we will gather with all who believe in you to experience true joy and worship for ever more. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

PSALM 131 TALK   HUMBLE YOURSELVES BEFORE THE LORD

PSALM 131 TALK   HUMBLE YOURSELVES BEFORE THE LORD

(GOING DOWN BEFORE THE LORD TO COME UP AND GO ON  IN CHRISTIAN JOURNEY           OF FAITH)

 (The twelfth Psalm of the 15 Psalm series in the book of Psalms called “Songs of Ascent” which deals with how we must humble ourselves before the Lord in trust and hope if we want to go on and up on the road to God in heaven).

(THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

 GENERAL INTRODUCTION

 For an introduction to the Songs of Ascent see Psalm talk for Psalm 120

PART 3.   PSALMS 130 – 134 – PERFECTING THE JOURNEY

INTRODUCTON TO PSALM 131

 I always get a laugh out of the satirical song by Mac Davis that says,

“Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble

When you’re perfect in every way

I can’t wait to look in the mirror

Cause I get better lookin’ each day

To know me is to love me

I must be a hell of a man

Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble

But I’m doin’ the best that I can.”

 I found on the internet some very funny true sayings about humility by famous people in the past on the internet, here are the best three I discovered,

1.   Edgar Watson Howe – “A modest man is usually admired, if people ever hear of him.”

2.   Helen Nielsen – “Humility is like underwear, essential, but indecent if it shows”.

3.   Ted Turner – “If I only had a little humility, I would be perfect”.

Then there is that colloquial saying, “I’m humble and proud of it” but all jokes aside humility is a tricky topic to speak on but thanks to Psalm 131 and James 4: 10 that task becomes a little easier. For even though Psalm 131 is a short Psalm of only three verses it tells us simply and clearly some of the things God has to say about what is the nature and implications of true humility as we seek to walk his way to heaven.

C.H. Spurgeon says that Psalm 131 is,

“One of the shortest Psalms read, but one of the longest to learn”

 Psalm 131 Hebrew title attributes it’s composition to King David who showed throughout his long life both true humility and the sin of pride and it seems like David inserted the battles he had with humility in the opening words of verse 2 of this Psalm which simply says,

“But I have calmed and quieted myself”.

 These words could indicate David’s struggles with humility and living a life of trusting the Lord and give us all a word of encouragement as we battle with the sin of pride and going our own way in life.

This short Psalm is a “Song of Ascent” and I feel it fits into this collection of songs that were originally sung by Jewish Pilgrims to Jerusalem and the Temple there as it speaks of the general character they must have as they made those long journeys and that is the character of humility and trust or hope in the Lord as apposed to self- reliance and lack of faith that characterise those not going God’s way in this life.

I will refer to one New Testament verse throughout this Psalm talk, James 4: 10

“Humble yourselves before God, and he will lift you up”

 This verse, I believe captures both the central message of this Psalm and the overall teaching of the bible on nature and implications of true Godly humility.

With all this in mind my outline for this Psalm is:

  1. (vs. 1)   A RECEIPE FOR HUMILITY
  1. (vs. 1a) Humility is not being proud or haughty
  2. (vs. 1b) Humility is knowing your true place in life
  1. (vs. 2) A PICTURE OF TRUE HUMILITY
  1. (vs. 2a) The struggles to find humility
  2. (vs. 2b) The picture of true humility
  1. (vs. 3)  A PLEA FOR HUMILITY BY TRUSTING IN GOD
  1. (vs. 3a) Hoping and trusting in God is the way of humility
  2. (vs. 3b) Hoping and trusting in God should always be sought

 Let’s then have a closer look at this Psalm under these headings:

  1. (vs. 1)   A RECEIPE FOR HUMILITY
  1. (vs. 1a) Humility is not being proud or haughty

I found this definition of the word recipe on the internet that captures what I mean by a recipe for humility,

“Something which is likely to lead to a particular outcome”

 I believe verse 1 of Psalm 131 fits this definition for “Humility” or what the bible says “Humility” is or should look like. This recipe for humility has two parts which are:

  1. (1a) What we don’t do to be humble
  2. (1b) What we do to be humble.

I will deal first with what we don’t do to be humble and verse 1a says,

“My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty”

 So, the two things we are not to do if we want to be truly humble is:

  1. Don’t be proud
  2. Don’t be haughty

So, let’s have a close look at what each of these two things means we are not to do.

  1. Don’t be proud

There is a kind of pride God hates and there is a kind of pride God loves. First of all, I need to tell you the kind of pride God hates and this is expressed well in Proverbs 8: 13,

“To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance,evil behaviour and perverse speech”.

 The kind of pride that God hates comes from our rebellious or sinful nature as Psalm 10: 5 seems to tell us,

“His ways are always prosperous;your laws are rejected by him;he sneers at all hisenemies”.

 “Got Question. Org” sums up why our pride comes from our rebellious or sinful nature when it says,

“Pride is giving ourselves the credit for something that God has accomplished. Pride is taking the glory that belongs to God alone and keeping it for ourselves. Pride is essentially self-worship. Anything we accomplish in this world would not have been possible were it not for God enabling and sustaining us.

 “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)”.

 So, when David says,

“My heart is not proud, Lord”

 He is saying that he realises his true place under God’s heaven and that all that he is or has comes from God and God alone. This is then the recipe for true humility which James 4: 10 says is,

“Humble yourselves before God, and he will lift you up”

Before I leave this negative aspect of humility namely not being proud I would like to comment on the kind of pride God loves and that is twofold:

  1. Pride in a job well done for God
  2. Pride in the accomplishment of others working for God

Let me explain:

  1. Pride in a job well done for God

God word does speak of being proud of a job well done for God and others for instance in Galatians 6: 4,

“Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves

alone, without comparing themselves to someone else”.

 Note how this good kind of pride does not come about by comparing ourselves with others as the wrong kind of pride comes about when we think we are better than someone else.

Paul gives us the perfect antidote to this bad kind of pride in Philippians 2: 3 – 4,

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others”. 

2.  Pride in the accomplishment of others working for God

The first kind of good pride leads naturally to the second kind of good pride namely a kind of pride we express in the accomplishment of others as Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 7: 4,

I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles, my joy knows no bounds”.

 This kind of pride expressed to others is a great way of encouraging them to continue the good work they are doing for the Lord.

  1. Don’t be haughty

The second thing David speaks of we should doing to be truly humble is in verse 1 when it says,

“My eyes are not haughty”

 Note how being proud in the first part of this verse is in the “heart” and the second part is in the “eyes” or comes from looking out to others. Tremper Longman 111 explains well what,

“My eyes are not haughty” actually means when he writes,

“This is equivalent to a person today saying that they do not look down their noses at other people”.

 Paul offers us the antidote to this problem of our eyes being haughty or looking down on others in Romans 12: 3,

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you”.

 I’m sure we all find what we call in the western world, “Snobs’ or people who think they are better than us or others very annoying well if you look down on someone thinking you are better than then you are simply being a snob and humility is a quality you simply do not have.

Again, James says we are not to look down on others but to look up to God by humbling ourselves before God and he will lift us up (James 4: 10).

This means the way God wants us to live is not like the worlds way where people live their lives looking down on others rather we are to humble ourselves before God and look out for others. James speaks of this in verse 6 of chapter 4,

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble”

  1. (vs. 1b) Humility is knowing your true place in life

 David has told us two things we should not do to be truly humble, don’t be proud and don’t look down on others or be haughty so, what must we actually do to be truly humble?

David gives the answer to this question in the second half of verse 1,

“I do not concern myself with great matters or things to wonderful for me”.

Leopold sights the words of Jeremiah to his scribe Baruch in Jeremiah 45: 5 as a cross reference here,

“Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.’”

 This Leopold suggests that what David is saying we should do if we want to be truly humble is not seek “great things” or as verse 1b actually says “great matters” for our own selfish ends but rather seek to serve God faithfully.

Alan Harman sheds great light on the phrase when he writes,

“Things to wonderful for me”.

 By pointing out that this phrase is used in others Psalms to describe the deeds of God, like Psalm 71: 17,

“Since my youth, God, you have taught me,and to this day I declare your marvellous deeds”

 The next Psalm, Psalm 72 has the same use of the term in verse 18. Harmon’s conclusion is that,

“The idea may be that he does not attempt to elevate himself in a God like position”.

 Today the arrogance and Godlessness of modern man speaks of how they think and act like they are in charge of their lives and they can determine their destinies and they know better than the so -called God of the bible. This is the slippery slope to destruction as Proverbs 14: 12 says,

“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end, it leads to death”.

 Ray Fowler spells out what I think David has been saying with these words,

 “I have learned not to walk above my means. I have learned not to reach beyond my grasp.

 I have learned not to expend great effort trying to do things beyond my ability or attempting to understand things beyond my comprehension. I am willing to admit that there are things I cannot do, and many things I do not understand. And that’s okay, because my walk is humble, not proud. I’m not caught up in greatness, or achievements or accomplishments.

 I maintain a lowly, humble walk before the Lord, and I bow my knee to his great power and understanding.”

 Again, my key verse offers the way of humility, James 4: 10,

“Humble yourselves before God, and he will lift you up”

For the Jewish pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem and the Temple there David’s song of Psalm 131 would have reminded them to stay focussed on God and not be drawn away by seeking to look to themselves and matters they should not concern themselves with if they desired to get to the end of their long journey. We to need this kind of focus and if we have it James says “God will lift us up”.

  1. (vs. 2) A PICTURE OF TRUE HUMILITY
  1. (vs. 2a) The struggles to find humility

David then offers us one brilliant but simple picture of what true humility is, a young child calmly sitting close to its loving mother, he writes,

“But I have calmed and quietened myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content”.

 Before I look closely at the image of the child with its mother I would like to comment on the introductory phrase of this verse that says,

“But I have calmed and quietened myself”.

 As I said in the introduction these words seem to indicate this Psalms writer, who we believe is David had a real battle as we all do with living our lives with true humility. Tremper Longman 111 in his commentary on Psalms says this about this phrase,

“The Psalmist present confidence did not come naturally, but after a struggle he calmed and quietened himself”.

 The idea that David struggled with humility and its opposite quality “Pride” rings a bell with my understanding of the life of David so I would like to give you two instances of David acting without humility and then two examples of David acting with true humility.

  1. David acting without true humility

i)  When David nearly killed Nabal

The first instance I would like to sight of David not acting with true humility is found in 1 Samuel 25 where David is on the run from King Saul and he and his men found shelter in the desert area of Paran. There David and his men helped protect the herds and land of a man named Nabal.

After some time in that place David sent men to Nabal’s house to ask for some food and supplies as a way of showing thanks for their good work for him. However, Nabal’s reaction was to insult David and his men and refuse to help them.

David’s reaction was to strap on his sword in rage and take some of his men to ride down to Nabal’s house and slaughter him and his men and family. David’s ill thought through reaction to Nabal of rage that came from a man not looking to God but acting out of his own foolish pride is calmed and quietened by the wise and Godly actions of his faithful wife Abigail.

Abigail rides out to meet David on the road to their house with food and supplies and when she meets David she says these very wise and Godly words recorded for us in 1 Samuel 25: 25 – 26,

“Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent. 26 And now, my lord, as surely as the Lord your God lives and as you live, since the Lord has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal”.

 She then lays before David the food and supplies she brought out to him and then adds these wise words of council in verses 28 – 31,

“Please forgive your servant’s presumption. The Lord your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the Lord’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. 29 Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. 30 When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel, 31 my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.”

 These words of Abigail Nabal’s wife had an amazing calming effect on David, who you might say came to his senses and acted with Godly humility. We see this in the words David uses in response to what Abigail has just said and done in verses 32 – 34,

“David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. 33 May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. 34 Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.”

 David then offers Abigail his blessing and lets her return home un harmed and he moves away from Nabal’s house probably to enjoy the food with his men that Abigail brought him. After Nabal recovers from a drunken party Abigail tells him how close he came to death at the hands of David and his men and ten days later we are told the Lord struck Nabal dead.

After this Abigail becomes one of the wives of David and her Godly humble actions and words became a great story of how a person should act with true humility. However, in the case of David it is a good illustration of him, at least at first not having true humility and more like a man who wants to take things into their own hands without trusting in God.

ii)    David commits adultery and murder

The next instance I want to share with you about how David did not act in a humble, trusting in God way was when he was firmly established as the king of Israel and he fell to the two horrific sins of adultery and murder.

This sordid story is recorded in 2 Samuel 11 and it first tells us of how David covets another man’s wife after seeing her bathing looking down from one of his palaces balconies and he then sends for her and commits adultery with her.

The women known as Bathsheba falls pregnant to David and David attempts to cover up his sins with even worst sins in having Uriah, Abigail’s husband killed in battle by being moved to the front lines of his army.

Here we see David acting completely without true humility and more with pride and disobedience to God and his laws. David of course is told by the prophet Nathan that God knows David’s sins and David reacts with repentance asking God to forgive him.

God does forgive David but David still faces some sad consequences of his sins with the death of the child he had with Bathsheba and on- going turmoil in is family which we will look at soon as well.

  1. David acting with true humility

i)   David not killing king Saul

David’s life was not only long but it was also very difficult throughout most of it and one of the difficulties David faced was his eight years or so of being on the run from King Saul who accused him falsely of treachery and for this sought to hunt him down and kill him.

The other problem is that before the prophet and judge Samuel died he anointed David as the true king of Israel as God had rejected Saul as king owing to his continued disobedience to God and his law.

The first book of Samuel records two times what seems on the surface two God given opportunities for David to kill his nemesis King Saul when Saul was trying to hunt down and kill David.

Both times that David decides not to kill Saul and on the second occasion when David had an opportunity to kill king Saul 1 Samuel 26: 7 – 11 tells us what happened and what David said about killing his enemy,

“So, David and Abishai went to the army by night, and there was Saul, lying asleep inside the camp with his spear stuck in the ground near his head. Abner and the soldiers were lying around him.

 Abishai said to David, “Today God has delivered your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t strike him twice.”But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless? 10 As surely as the Lord lives,” he said, “the Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. 11 But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.”

 David shows by his words and actions an act of true humility and trust in the Lord and this humility and trust does seem to be the main characteristic David reveals of himself during his long life except for a couple of instances when his sinful pride also reveals itself in his actions and shows us something of what David wrote in Psalm 131 verse 2a about the struggle he had with true humility throughout his long life.

ii)   David cursed by a tribal member from Saul’s tribe when on the run from his rebellious          son Absalom.

My second example of David acting in a humble way before God is in 2 Samuel chapter 16 verses 5 – 14. This incident took place when David was on the run again in his life and this time it is from his very own eldest Son Absalom.

Absalom engineered what seemed at first a successful rebellion to take over his father’s throne. He like King Saul years before sought to track down and kill his father and members of his family so he would have had no possible challenge to his rule over Israel.

On the run with members of his family and loyal soldiers of his army a man named Shimei a member of Saul’s tribal group of Benjamin catches up with David and throws rocks and insults at David and his men. This is the sort of things Shimei said to David, 2 Samuel 16: 7 – 8,

“Get out, get out, you murderer, you scoundrel! The Lord has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The Lord has given the kingdom into the hands of your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a murderer!”

 David’s humble response is recorded in verses 9 – 14,

“Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and cut off his head.”10 But the king said, “What does this have to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’”

 11 David then said to Abishai and all his officials, “My son, my own flesh and blood, is trying to kill me. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. 12 It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.”

 13 So David and his men continued along the road while Shimei was going along the hillside opposite him, cursing as he went and throwing stones at him and showering him with dirt. 14 The king and all the people with him arrived at their destination exhausted. And there he refreshed himself”.

 This is an example of David acting in a humble God trusting way. Note how David indicated that he believed if he humbled himself before God or trusted God not the circumstances of his life God would eventually lift him up as he says in verse 12,

12 It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.”

 So, the challenge is to actually practice humbling yourself before God when things are not seeming to be going well in your life but we must remember at all times of our lives what James says in James 4: 10,

“Humble yourselves before God, and he will lift you up”

Spurgeon is write when he said this Psalm is:

“One of the shortest Psalms read, but one of the longest to learn”

David took a life time of struggles and set- backs to learn how he could be humble before the Lord as his opening words of verse two seem to indicate,

“But I have calmed and quieted myself”

 Which the message bible translates as,

“I’ve kept my feet on the ground, I’ve cultivated a quiet heart”.

 Trouble and difficulties then are used by God to teach us true humility and Paul says this about the role of suffering or strife in our lives in Romans 5: 3 –  5,

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us”. 

  1. (vs. 2b) The picture of true humility

 David then gives us a beautiful picture of what true humility is in the second half of verse 2 and that picture of humility reads this way,

“I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content”.

 David had many children and like most fathers he would have witnessed the close and special bond of a child and its mother. This is one of the few times in the bible where the God of heaven and earth is likened to a mother but we cannot read into this more than it is trying to tell us about the nature of true humility.

The first issue is why does David speak of the child as a weaned child?

Most of the experts I read say that the difference between a weaned child and an un -weaned child seems to be that an un- weaned child is still restlessly seeking milk from its mother’s breast but a weaned child is more settled and is more comfortable snuggling up to its mother’s side.

Jesus used a child as a living visual aid to make a similar point to his disciples in Matthew 18. At the start of this chapter the disciples come to Jesus with a question about which disciple will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus then does something both unusual and for his day controversial he calls over a little child and places that child among them and then says, verses 3 – 5,

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me”.

 This was both an unusual and controversial thing for Jesus to do and say because of the extremely low status of children in ancient times. We have the saying, “Children should be seen and not heard”, but in Jesus day children were not even considered important enough to be even seen and in Jewish and Roman cultures of Jesus day children rated only one step above animals and grown women above them with men dominating the top place in society.

So, David is saying in verse 2b that before God is like a baby close to her mother a truly lowly place and therefore a truly humble place before God. This is what the disciples also needed to learn that as James later said in James 4: 10,

“Humble yourselves before God, and he will lift you up”

This graphic picture of a weaned child with its mother has one more thing to teach us about humility and that is in the words of that verse that says,

“I am content”

 The weaned little child is not restless David is saying when he or she is next to his or her mother and this picture of not being restless is also saying what being truly humble is all about. It means that we accept the lot or the place God gives us in this life.

The apostle Paul had learnt this lesson when he says to the Philippians in Philippians 4: 11 – 12,

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength”.

 The disciples in Matthew 18 sought to be great or greater in the kingdom of heaven but Jesus told them visually and verbally they had to be like a little child who seeks only to be with its mother and rest in her a picture of someone content because they rest or trust in God no matter what is the circumstances of their lives.

For Paul, he knew tough times as well as incredible good times but at all times he humbled

himself before God and God lifted him up. This is seen in his words to the Philippians about contentment in verse 13 that says,

13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength”.

  1. (vs. 3) A PLEA FOR HUMILITY BY TRUSTING IN GOD
  1. (vs. 3a) Hoping and trusting in God is the way of humility

The last verse of this three verse Psalm does not mention the word humility but humility permeates throughout it. It is a plea for Israel to act and live with humility by David expressed in the idea of putting their hope in God which is another way of saying look to God or humble yourself before God in trust and obedience.

The first part of the verse says,

“Israel, put your hope in the Lord”

 Some commentators point out that this plea for the nation to act in a humble way in putting their hope in God came about because Israel at the time of writing was not doing this or it was looking to other things or even beliefs for their hope and security.

This could fit the early reign years of King David when he led his people to great victories over many of their enemies who had been supressing them.

It seems that when things are going well in our lives then there comes with this a sense of self – reliance or even self-importance and our hoping in God can slip away.

Paul learnt to be content in all situations good and bad, need and plenty and did this because at all times he looked to God and humbled himself before him.

The New Testament teaches us that we are the new Israel of God, Galatians 6: 16 and Galatians 3: 28 – 29, so this plea to hope in the Lord applies to us as well and in my life at the moment and the lives of many others in my church this is a plea we need to hear and obey.

God has blessed us and our church with so much of the riches of his grace and the trap is now above any time we can become complacent and feeling self -reliant that we start to look away from God and not humble ourselves before him.

This plea to put out hope in God reminds me of Jesus plea to do the same thing put in another way in Matthew 6: 33, that says,

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”.

 If we, humble ourselves before God even in the seemingly good times in life we are truly putting our hope in God or seeking his Kingdom first and remember James 4: 10 says if we do humble ourselves before God,

“He will lift you up”

 As the ancient Jews journeyed to Jerusalem and the Temple there they needed to be reminded to put there hope in God and so also do we need to respond to this plea as we walk God’s way to heaven.

  1. (vs. 3b) Hoping and trusting in God should always be sought

 The final phrase at the end of Psalm 131 is,

“Both now and forevermore”

 Allan Harman explains the meaning of this phrase with,

“Hoping in the Lord is not a momentary act but an abiding experience”.

 Having a humble heart or Humbling ourselves before the Lord is not just something we do once or from time to time but is both for now and evermore a life style act of trust and obedience to the Lord and his word.

This expression has appeared in the songs of ascent psalms before and in fact is the last words of Psalm 121 and appears at the end of the second verse of Psalm 125.

Maybe the writers or even later editors of the fifth book of Psalms wanted the readers and singers of these Psalms to always have a humble or God hoping attitude to life while on their pilgrim journeys to Jerusalem and the Temple there.  They also wanted them to have this same God trusting, God honouring and before God humbling attitude every moment of their people’s lives.

Recently I helped lead the singing in church and we sang the old hymn “May the Mind of Christ My Saviour” and two verses stood out to me that rap up this last verse of this Psalm in the context of having true humility.

I like the first verse,

May the mind of Christ my Saviour
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and pow’r controlling

All I do and say.

And the fourth verse,

May the love of Jesus fill me,
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self -abasing,
This is victory.

 Those last two words sum up the main message of this Psalm so well,

Him exalting, self -abasing,
This is victory.

So, reminiscent of the verse from the book of James I have been quoting all through this Psalm talk, James 4: 10,

“Humble yourselves before God, and he will lift you up”

 Before I close I been thinking about that comedy song I quoted at the start composed by Mac Davis entitled “Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble and I thought I might have a try at rewriting it with some of the things I have learnt from this Psalm in mind. It is not funny but I believe my version is biblical,

Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble

When you’re not perfect in any way

Sometimes I can’t look in the mirror

For I see such a sinner each day

God knows me yet he loves me

He must be a wonderful God

Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble

But his helping me change as I trod.

I close as usual with my own original poem / song and final word of prayer:

HUMBLE YOURSELF

(Based on Psalm 131 and the tune of “Whispering Hope”)

 

My heart seeks to not be so proud Lord

My eyes seek to not look down on men

I look to the Lord for inspiration

And seek to live only for him.

I won’t meddle in useless affairs Lord

I won’t be caught up in grandiose plans

I will trust in the Lord and his word now

And place my life in his hands.

 

Chorus:

 

Humble yourself

Before the Lord

And he will lift you up

By his life changing word.

 

All my life I have struggled to find Lord

Your humble way in my life

But through all the trials I’ve faced Lord

You’ve changed me transforming my life.

And now I’m just like a baby

In the arms of my mother’s love

For I am content in your Love Lord

For God saved me when he came from above.

 

Chorus:

 

Humble yourself

Before the Lord

And he will lift you up

By his life changing word.

 

God’s people should hope in the Lord now

Trusting in his life- giving word

Turning from selfish plans Lord

To share your wonderful word

This should be done every day Lord

As we seek to live each day

So, trust in the Lord all God’s people

As you humbly walk God’s way.

 

Chorus:

Humble yourself

Before the Lord

And he will lift you up

By his life changing word.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Dear Father in heaven we are inspired by the example of your Son to walk humbly before you because he was willing to give up heaven to come down to be one of us and die for our sins on the cross. Help us to live our lives trusting only in you and your word. Help us to not live selfish Godless lives but lives that reflect your love to others. Help us to humble ourselves before you Lord and we know from your word you will lift us up in service for you and one day the glorious life of eternity with you in heaven. In Jesus now we pray this, Amen.

 

PSALM 130 TALK   OUT OF THE DEPTHS OF DESPAIR

PSALM 130 TALK   OUT OF THE DEPTHS OF DESPAIR

(LOOKING BACK AND FORWARD ON THE CHRISTIAN JOURNEY OF FAITH)

 (The eleventh Psalm of the 15 Psalm series in the book of Psalms called “Songs of Ascent” which deals with how it is possible for us to make the journey to God in heaven as we are all sinners in need of great forgiveness. We are like a drowning man desperately calling out for help but God reaches down with his love and forgiveness and lifts us up to give us hope and help to go his way to heaven with others who have the same faith and hope in the God of the bible).

(THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

 GENERAL INTRODUCTION

 For an introduction to the Songs of Ascent see Psalm talk for Psalm 120

PART 3.   PSALMS 130 – 134 – PERFECTING THE JOURNEY

INTRODUCTON TO PSALM 130

 Bill Durden a sixty-four-year-old retired Navy pilot went fishing one night a couple of years ago off the coast of Mexico and snagged his fishing line on the motor of his boat and was pulled over board. He ended up treading water for 20 hours before being rescued.

Bill tells the amazing story of his desperate struggle to stay alive in the extreme elements of open sea, blaring sun, then the pitch- black darkness of the night and lots of marine life attaching themselves to his legs and even bumping him during the night. He prayed for a miracle of a rescue and even prayed for a stray bottle of coke to float past him to quench his ragging thirst.

In the morning, he found a buoy of a crab trap and grimily hung on to that and in his desperate despair he prayed for the miracle of being lifted out of the depths of the sea. Then around 10.30 he saw a flare light up in the sky. He then heard the distinctive roar of an airplane engine and saw a A.C. 130 Coast Guard plane flying overhead. The plane spotted him wearing his bright yellow shirt, he did not have a life jacket on and soon a helicopter arrived and lifted him up to safety.

This story mirrors the message and images used to convey it in Psalm 130 as this Psalm starts with the famous words,

“Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord”.

 The term “out of the depths” is only used in other parts of the Old Testament as a image of a man who is caught in dangerous and deep waters.

 Just like Bill Durden was and in a similar way David uses this image of rescue in Psalm 69: 1 – 3,

“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths where there is no foothold.I have come into the deep waters;the floods engulf me.I am worn out calling for help;my throat is parched.My eyes fail,looking for my God”.

David’s words in this Psalm and the opening verses of Psalm 130 could easily have been words Bill Durden would have said when he was lost in deep water at sea and certainly they describe perfectly the harrowing experience he had two years ago.

However, Psalm 130 is using this concept of being saved out of deep waters figuratively for we will see from the rest of the Psalm that the writer is speaking about being saved or lifted up from the consequences of sin.

I believe the bible presents very clearly that it is the sin problem that causes the terrible mess we are all in and so we all suffer from what I will call the despair of sin and so we all need to be lifted out of the depths of despair caused by our many sins.

Psalm 130 is the sixth penitential Psalm (6, 32, 38, 51, 106, 130 and 143) which deal with confession of sin and its wonderful remedy the love and forgiveness of the God of the bible. It is the eleventh Song of Ascent and if Paul Faris is correct it is the start of the final five Songs of Ascent that deal with perfecting or finishing the journey of faith to God in heaven and in Old Testament terms finishing or perfecting the pilgrim journey to Jerusalem and the Temple there.

How then does Psalm 130 fit into the perfecting or finishing of our journey of faith to God in heaven?

My thinking on this is that this is a bridge Song of Ascent Psalm in that to commence the journey of faith to God in heaven or in ancient times, for the Jews to pilgrim journey to Jerusalem and the temple there you must first be lifted out of the despair and depths of sin through God’s forgiveness. To continue on in this journey of faith to God in heaven you need his constant forgiveness of your sins and finally to arrive in heaven or for the ancient Jews Jerusalem you need God’s love and forgiveness as well.

I see this Psalm being like and ascent or a series of steps upwards moving from the depths of the despair of sin to God’s forgiveness and then continuing ever upwards on our journey of faith with ongoing hope or faith in God and his word and finally moving even further upwards to heaven itself with others who share the love of God and the hope he gives us to get there.

So, my outline for this Psalm reflects this upward journey of faith in the love and forgiveness of God:

  1. (1 – 2) OUT OF THE DEPTHS

     1.  (vs. 1) Out of the depths of despair

     2. (vs. 2) God being attentive to our cry

     2.  (3 -4)  INTO FORGIVENESS

  1. (vs. 3) All have sinned
  2. (vs. 4) But God forgives

3.   (5 – 6) CONTINUING IN HOPE OR FAITH

  1. (vs. 5) Waiting and hoping
  2. (vs. 6) Waiting with faith

    4.  (7 – 8) SHARING THE LOVE

  1. (vs. 7)  Hope and love
  2. (vs. 8)  Redeemed from sin

  Let’s then have a closer look at this amazing Psalm:

  1. (1 – 2) OUT OF THE DEPTHS
  1. (vs. 1) Out of the depths of despair

The opening verse of this Psalm has been the inspiration for many people including famous people like Martin Luther who David Guzik writes,

“Luther, when buffeted by the devil at Coburg, and in great affliction, said to those about him, Come, let us sing that psalm, ‘Out of the depths’, in derision of the devil”.

 Guzil also points out that another famous Christian preacher and leader John Wesley on the afternoon of his conversion to Christ attended a worship service in St Paul’s Cathedral and it is said that Psalm 130 was sung that day and Wesley was so moved by it he saw it as one of the means that God used to open his heart to the Christian Gospel.

So that first verse simply says,

“Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord”.

 As I said in my introduction the concept of being lifted or delivered out of the depths is always used in other parts of the Old Testament as being lost or going down in water like the waters of the sea as in Ezekiel 27: 34,

“Now you are shattered by the sea in the depths of the waters; your wares and all your company have gone down with you”.

 Or as I pointed out in my introduction Psalm 69: 1 – 3,

“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths where there is no foothold.I have come into the deep waters;the floods engulf me.I am worn out calling for help;my throat is parched.My eyes fail,looking for my God”.

 Bill Durden knew what it was like to be in the depths of despair in a vast deep ocean and I believe our writer knew that his sin as we will see in the second section had trapped him in the depths of life’s despair.

This cry could have literally come from our writer while he was locked up in captivity in Babylon or it simply could have been spoken when he was back in the Promised Land suffering at the hands of many enemies who now lived in the land after the Jews return from captivity in Babylon.

Nehemiah prays a kind of desperate prayer like this in Nehemiah 4: 4 – 5,

“Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders”.

 Often God has to allow people even today to sink to a pretty low state in life before they finally realise the sorry state sin has led them to before they are willing to cry out to God for help and salvation. I like the story of the disciples in the boat on Lake Galilee when they are caught in a massive storm and Jesus is strangely asleep and the disciples wake him with these words recorded in Matthew 8: 25,

“Lord, save us! We’re going to drown”.

 Spurgeon writes,

“The depths usually silence all they engulf, but they could not close the mouth of this servant of the Lord; on the contrary, it was in the abyss itself that he cried unto Yahweh. Beneath the floods prayer lived and struggled; yea, above the roar of the billows rose the cry of faith. It little matters where we are if we can pray; but prayer is never more real and acceptable than when it rises out of the worst places”.

 If you are reading this at a time when you are feeling the despair of sin or your sins all you have to do is cry out to God to save you and you can take the assuring words of Jesus if you do in Matthew 7: 7 that says,

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you”.

 David knew what it meant to face the depth of despair of sin when he realised how sinful he was after committing adultery and then murder to cover it up and in a later Psalm he writes these encouraging words in Psalm 145: 14,

“The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down”. 

  1. (vs. 2) God being attentive to our cry

Then in verse 2 our writer adds these words to his desperate cry for God to lift him up from the depths of the despair of sin,

“Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy”.

 This man was serious about God lifting him out of his desperate despair caused by his full realisation of his many sins as we will learn of in verse 3 and his prayer was loud and real as I’m sure Bill Durden’s prayers to God for rescue would have been as he tread water for 20 hours off the Gulf of Mexico.

Leopold suggests the use of the word “Attentive”,

“Suggests that God may bend over solicitously to the poor man in his need and hear his petitions”.

 John Gill calls the God of the bible a,

“God hearing prayer God”.

 All through the bible God is presented as a God hearing prayer God like 2 Chronicles 7: 14,

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land”.

Or, Psalm 102: 17,

“He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;he will not despise their plea”.

 And in the New Testament James says in James 5: 13 – 15,

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven”.

 Note how James says God will not only hear the prayer but will raise them up and so we have a wonderful God we can call to in the depths of our despair to lift us up from that despair and we will learn as this Psalm continues how and why this is possible.

    2. (3 -4) INTO FORGIVENESS

    1.  (vs. 3) All have sinned

The writer of Psalm 130, a song of ascent takes a step up from his despair with God’s help in verse 3 when he realises and acknowledges a very important biblical fact namely the state of humanity because of our sin, he writes in verse 3,

“If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord who could stand”.

 The problem with people today is that they don’t believe they are sinners or doing the wrong thing has its consequences. The devil has so blinded the eyes of people today that when sins catches up with them they blame God for the trouble they are in but the bible is clear we are all accountable for our actions and Paul spells this out clearly in Romans 1: 21 – 25,

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen”.

 The writer of Psalm 130 makes it clear if God kept a record of his sins and other parts of the bible says he does, then he could not stand or have any hope of being lifted up from the depths of his despair.

What people today need to realise is what Paul says in Romans 3: 23,

“23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

I said to my wife the other day that even when I see problems caused by sin even in our church I am reminded that, “all have sinned” and in fact the church is not a museum of perfect specimens but a Hospital for sinners. As Christians, we are not perfect just forgiven.

How is the realisation that we are all sinners a step up from the despair of sin in our lives?

Well, we cannot receive the forgiveness God offers us if we don’t believe we need it as Jesus said in Matthew 9: 13b,

“For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The fact is no admission of sin that leads to repentance then there is no forgiveness received for it was never sought in the first place. So, in that sense the first step up and out of the depths of the despair of sin is to acknowledge you have it in the first place.

  1. (vs. 4) But God forgives

 The next step up from the depths of despair caused by our many sins is like a giant lift upwards like Bill Durden received when the coast guard helicopter lifted him out of the water to safety of that helicopter for verse 4 says,

“But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you”.

 The God of the bible, you see is not only a hearing prayers God but is also a forgiving God and this is not just a New Testament idea it is right through the whole bible. The writer of Psalm 130 knew this and proclaimed it in his Song of Ascent with the words,

“But with you (God) there is forgiveness”.

 Many years ago, I watched a TV program about a rather extreme religious group in America that proclaimed they believed in the God of the Old Testament who is a God of vengeance and judgment and as a result they believed they should act like that God and they condemned other Christians that taught love and forgiveness.

Even the Australian TV interviewer who was not a believer said something like but doesn’t the bible also speak of God being a God of love. The person she was interviewing simply quoted vengeance and judgment verses back at her and refused to admit that the bible had anything to do with the so called soppy and weak idea of God loving people.

I was shocked and wanted to jump into the TV some- how and quote verses from the Old Testament like verse 4 of this Psalm. The fact is the bible does speak of God’s Judgment but the amazing thing is even though no – one deserves forgiveness the God of the bible because he is a loving God offers it freely to those who come to him in repentance and faith.

Let me give you three Old Testament verses and three New Testament verses that back this idea up.

Three Old Testament verse’s

  1. Isaiah 43: 25 – 26

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.26 Review the past for me, let us argue the matter together; state the case for your innocence”.

  1. Daniel 9: 9,

“The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him”.

  1. Micah 7: 18 – 19,

“Who is a God like you,who pardons sin and forgives the transgressionof the remnant of his inheritance?You do not stay angry foreverbut delight to show mercy.19 You will again have compassion on us;you will tread our sins underfootand hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea”.

 So much for the false and misleading idea that the Old Testament speaks only of a God of vengeance and judgment and I could have given you hundreds of other Old Testament verses that speak of God’s love and forgiveness particularly from the book of Psalms.

 Three New Testament verse’s

  1. Acts 3: 19,

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord”. 

  1. Ephesians 4: 31 – 32,

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you”.

  1. 1 John 1: 9,

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”.

 The fact is God is a God of vengeance and Judgment and this is revealed in what lies behind what he writer of Psalm 130 said in the previous verse about how he could not stand before God if God kept a record of his sins.

The fact also is that the God of the bible is not just a God of vengeance and judgment but a God of love and forgiveness and he appeased his vengeance and judgment in the death of his sinless Son on the cross so that we can be forgiven and therefore be raised from the depths of despair our sin that inflicts us.

Just as Peter declares I 1 Peter 2: 24,

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”


Or as Paul declares in Ephesians 1: 7,

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace”.

 Note then how Paul uses the word “Grace” which means we have God’s forgiveness because we don’t deserve it but because God gives it to us out of his love. Paul says it is actually a gift and we cannot claim any credit for it as it is totally God’s act of love for us from beginning to end as he clearly says in Ephesians 2: 8,

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”.

God lifts us up then from the depths of despair by his love and forgiveness and this is such a remarkable lifting up that it leads to what the writer says it leads to in the second half of verse 4, namely,

“So that we can, with reverence, serve you”  

 Or serve God.

Allan Harman says,

“Receiving mercy increases our sense of awe and reverence in God’s Holy presence”.

 God’s love rightly understood transforms our lives and leads us to want to serve this loving God and his people as well. As Paul states, so beautifully in Romans 12: 1,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship”.

 The gift of God’s mercy and love through the death and resurrection of God’s son Jesus Christ transforms even how we now worship God. Worship now becomes service not just on Sundays in church but every day of our lives showing how much we appreciate what God has done for us in Christ lifting us up from the depths of despair of sin by his loving forgiveness.

    3.  (5 – 6) CONTINUING IN HOPE OR FAITH

    1.  (vs. 5) Waiting and hoping

Once out of the water Bill Durden was now able to walk again on dry land although it did take him some days to get over the ordeal of treading water for 20 hours but eventually he went back to normal life but the experience of that night changed him and he had both a stronger faith in God and different perspective of the value of life and those he loved like his wife and family.

Our writer of Psalm 130 speaks also of further upward steps he now was making as a result of God’s great gift of forgiveness. He seems to be now more determined to hope and trust in God which he also calls waiting on God, he writes in verse 4,

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word, I put my hope”.

 I like John Gill’s comment on the phrase, “my whole being waits” or “my whole soul waits”,

“This was not mere bodily service or waiting upon God and for him in an external way; but expresses the intenseness of his mind, the earnest desires of his heart after God, his affection for him, and the exercise of all other graces on him; his whole soul, and all the powers of it, were engaged in this work”.

 The fact is we are saved or in the context of this Psalm lifted out of the depths of the despair of sin by faith and we continue this upward journey by faith in God and his word as well. This is why the writer of Psalm 130 says,

“And in his word, I put my hope”.

 At the end of the article I read on the rescue of Bill Durden I read these words that Bill said himself.

“For the last couple of nights, when the sun goes down, I get knots in my stomach. But I’ll go back on the boat. I just won’t go alone. Today, I bought four automatic, self-inflating life vests and I’m going to buy some other rescue equipment,” he says. “I am so thankful to the Coast Guard; they’re the reason I’m here. I feel grateful to be alive. And I want to not think about it for a while.”

 My point in giving you this quote from the Bill Durden story is that the whole experience Bill had of being lost in the deep waters off the Gulf of Mexico for 20 hours treading water and being lifted out of those depths of despair had an on- going impact on his life and it made him make changes in his thinking and acting.

So, it should be for us when we realise what God has done for us in Christ. God’s loving forgiveness should transform our lives and cause us to both wait on God in service and cause us to think and act with hope and faith in God and his word.

Faith then should lead to obedience as Jesus speaks of in John 14: 15,

“If you love me, keep my commands”.

Then in John 15: 10 – 12 Jesus makes this connection between love and obedience even clearer,

“If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you”.

 So, waiting on the Lord is similar to hoping or trusting in the Lord and that should show itself in wanting to and seeking to obey the Lord Jesus Christ. Bing saved by the love and forgiveness of God should and must make a difference for the better in our day to day lives.

  1. (vs. 6) Waiting with faith

 Then we have another verse about waiting on the Lord which I think tells us the kind of waiting or faith with actions we should have as the verse says,

“I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning”.

 The watchmen were the city guards who were stationed on the city walls to look out for any kind of in- coming danger and attack and during the long night of watching they waited patiently for the certain rising of the sun in the coming morning thus the repeated phrase of this verse that says,

“More than watchmen wait for the morning”.

 Our faith or hope is not a vain hope or faith but a certain hope or faith that is as certain as the rising of the sun each morning. The writer to the Hebrews in Hebrews 11: 1 describes this kind of faith this way,

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”.

 Paul speaks of faith and hope overflowing in our lives as we go God’s way in this life in Romans 15: 13,

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”.

So, as we step out each day in the journey to God in heaven we should do so in certain faith and hope and as we do so God will fill us with joy and peace even if the way gets difficult God is with us through the power of the Holy Spirit helping us go his way in life.

    4.  (7 – 8) SHARING THE LOVE

  1. (vs. 7)  Hope and love

The final step upwards in our journey of faith to God in heaven is made through the sharing of the love of God with other fellow believers as verse 7 declares,

“Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption”.

 We must always remember that on our journey to God in heaven we never walk alone but we share the unfailing love of God with many fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I love the second verse of The Servant Song, one of my favourite hymns that says,

We are pilgrims on the journey

We are brothers on the road

We are here to help each other

Walk the mile and bear the load”.

 When the writer calls Israel to put their hope in God we must remember that the New Testament calls the church The New Israel of God, Galatians 6: 16. The church is the body of Christ and in Ephesians 4: 4 – 13 Paul tells us what being part of the body of Christ is and what God has designed it to achieve,

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.“7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:“When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly region]10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body ofChrist may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”.

 In the church, we work and sing together as brothers and sisters in Christ as we all make our way to God in heaven by faith and hope in the Lord Jesus, sharing the love Jesus has given us. I think the fifth verse of The Servant Song says it all so well,

“When we sing to God in heaven

We shall find such harmony.

Born of all we’ve known together

Of Christ’s love and agony”.

 Beautiful words that express what verse 7 of Psalm 130 is telling us with New Testament insight and we too can say like the writer of that Psalm that in Christ we have,“full redemption”. Something I will explain more fully in my explanation of the last verse of this Psalm.

  1. (vs. 8) Redeemed from sin

 The Psalm ends with a confident statement of faith in the redemption or salvation of God with the words,

“He himself will redeem Israel from their sins”.

 H.C Leopold tells us that Martin Luther classified this Psalm as,

“Pauline in character”

 One cross reference I got from Allan Harman’s commentary certainly bears this out, it is part of Pauls advice to Titus in Titus 2: 13 – 14,

“While we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good”.

 I really like my NIV study notes explanation of verse 14 and I copy down here for you to read as well,

“Christ’s redeeming us opens the way for him to purify us. Redeem means to purchase our release form the captivity of sin with a ransom (see Mark 10: 45). We are not only free from the sentence of death for our sin, but we are also purified from sin’s influence as we grow I Christ”.

 Mark 10: 45 says,

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

This concept of redemption of our sins is the height of the lifting us out of the depths of the despair of sin this Psalm offers and it is something we can appreciate when we first come to the Lord and as we seek to go his way in life and also something we can look back to as we complete or finish the journey of faith – heaven itself.

For the ancient Jew travelling together with other fellow believers to Jerusalem and the Temple there this word of confidence and faith in the saving work of their God would have been a great encouragement at all parts of their great journeys to Jerusalem and the temple there.

So, it should be for us as we walk the road of faith the God in heaven with fellow redeemed or saved brothers and sisters in Christ, sharing a common faith, sharing a common hope and sharing a common love that God has given us in Christ.

I close as usual with an original poem / song and a final word of prayer:

OUT OF THE DEPTHS OF DESPAIR

(Based on Psalm 130 and the tune of “Going Home)

Out of the depths I cry O Lord

O Lord hear my plea

May your mercy come to me

And set my poor heart free.

 

Refrain:

 

Out of the depths of despair

I’m saved by God’s Sacrifice

For Jesus died on the cross

And paid for sins great cost.

 

If you O Lord recorded all

The sins that I have done

I would not be able to stand

Before you when you come.

 

Refrain:

 

You are there Oh my God

Through you forgiveness came

And so, I’ll praise your love O Lord

And glorify your name.

 

Refrain:

 

And so, I wait on you O Lord

For in you I know there’s hope

For your love has saved my soul

And given me help to cope.

 

Refrain:

 

Out of the depths of despair

I’m saved by God’s Sacrifice

For Jesus died on the cross

And paid for sins great cost.

 

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

 Dear Father in heaven I thank you for sending your Son, your great sacrifice for us. For Jesus came and died on the cross to pay for our many sins. Help us to look always to you knowing that you love us with an undeserved and unfailing love. Help us to join every day with others who also know your love to work together in service for you and to help and encourage everyone to continually walk your way of faith and hope that will lead us all to the very gates of heaven itself. In Jesus name I pray this, Amen.

PSALM 129 TALK   TRAVELLING THE CHRISTIAN JOURNEY CAN GET DIFFICULT  

PSALM 129 TALK   TRAVELLING THE CHRISTIAN JOURNEY CAN GET DIFFICULT

 (The tenth Psalm of the 15 Psalm series in the book of Psalms called “Songs of Ascent” which deals with some of the difficulties we will face on God’s journey of faith to heaven. The difficulties this Psalm speaks of come from those who oppose us and the God we believe in. The Psalm tells us that God is with us and will give us victory over these enemies. The enemies of God will in fact be frustrated in their attempts to disrupt our journey to heaven and will face God’s curses rather than his blessing).

(THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

 GENERAL INTRODUCTION

 For an introduction to the Songs of Ascent see Psalm talk for Psalm 120

PART 2.    PSALMS 125 – 129   PROGRESSING ON THE JOURNEY

INTRODUCTON TO PSALM 129

 A good friend from my church recently loaned me a movie on a DVD called “All Saints” which is about a newly ordained minister named Michael Spurlock being sent to his first church which was the All Saints Church in Smyrna Tennessee. He was not expected to be their long as the church had recently had a large split when 80% of the congregation left with their minister to form a new independent church.

The movie presents the idea that Spurlock was sent to this church to help close it down once the property was successfully sold. In-fact the real story is that he was sent to see what he could do in a short time frame and selling it was one of the options.

Just as Spurlock came to the decision that the church should to be sold a group of refugee migrants from Myanmar came to his door. These migrants from Myanmar where farmers from the Karen tribal group who happened to be former Myanmar Anglican church members and they wanted to use a large field that was out the back of the church to farm. Interestingly I have visited and ministered in many Karen Anglican Churches in Myanmar myself over the past ten years on my teaching mission trips to that country.

So, just as Michael Spurlock thought the church did not have a future he realised that God saw this differently and sent to his church from the other side of the world new members for his church who were farmers. After Spurlock consulted the bishop it was agreed that the farming option with the Karen people would be given a go.

The film then tells the story of how Spurlock, the Karen and even older and new white American church members struggled with God’s help to get the church field to a successful harvest.

One of the struggles the farming faced was the unusual lack of rain in Smyrna Tennessee had that year but God led Spurlock to a number of hand watering equipment including an old farm tractor which Spurlock got a loan for but needed a successful harvest to pay it back.

Then on the very day the church met to bring in the harvest the heavens opened and even after much wonderful community effort most of the harvest was lost and it looked like the whole farming venture had been a tragic mistake.

Michael Spurlock did not lose his faith but simply acknowledged that God knew what he was doing. The last scenes of the movie are of the area Bishop coming to the church to it seemed tell the people their church was to be sold and Spurlock was to go back to his pre- ordained job as a paper salesmen.

To the surprise of Spurlock and his now thriving congregation the bishop told them that the local diocese would financially back the church making it a special mission church that particularly reached out to the growing numbers of local refugees from Myanmar. Spurlock was moved on to gain more experience in ministry at a church in New York and a new more experienced minister and one of the leading lay Karen man was appointed as a lay minister in charge of special ministry and outreach to the growing numbers of Karen people from Myanmar.

This story shows us that going God’s way is as one famous saying says, “is not a rose garden” in fact problem and difficulties can and do come our way but we can be assured that if we love God and seek to go his way we can know God’s leading and help in and through the difficulties we might face.

The “All Saints” movie and this Psalm 129 reminds me of the famous verse in the New Testament Romans 8: 28, which says,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.

 Spurlock and his church congregation could have thought that God was leading them to a successful harvest day but instead God lead them to a humanly speaking day of disaster but that year of hard community work seeking to reap a material harvest was instead used by God to harvest a spiritual crop of new members in the kingdom of God.

God used the difficulties and the hardship for good and that is the message that comes through Psalm 129, a Psalm more than likely composed after the Jews returned from the disaster of the Babylonian captivity. That disaster was used by God to Judge his people of their previous many sins but God then led them back to the promised land after the Babylonians themselves were oppressed and defeated.

This Psalm became a Song of Ascent or a Psalm sung by the people of God as they journeyed up to Jerusalem up to three times a year to celebrate special festivals there. These journeys would have often proved full of difficulties especially caused by opposition by those who hated them and the God they served. So, this Psalm would have been a great encouragement for the Pilgrim travellers especially as they faced difficulties on those often- long journeys to Jerusalem.

As Christians, we can gain encouragement from this Psalm and the New Testament teaching it will direct us to as well. As we continue to go God’s way or take the journey of faith to God in heaven we also can face times of great difficulty but God is with us to help deliver us from our many enemies.

We will look at this Psalm in this Psalm talk with the theme of journeying to God in the face of great difficulty and my Psalm outline reflects this:

  1. (1 – 2)  THE DIFFICUTY OF OPPOSTION AS WE JOURNEY TO GOD
  1. (vs. 1)   The reality of opposition
  2. (vs. 2)   The reality of God overcoming our difficulties
  1.  (3- 4)   THE DIFFICULTY OF THE PAIN CAUSED BY OPPOSITION
  1. (vs. 3)   The pain caused by opposition
  2. (vs. 4)   The reality of overcoming opposition

    3.    (5 – 8)    A PRAYER FOR FACING DIFFICULT OPPOSITION

 

  1. (vs. 5)   May God make those who oppose us fail
  2. (6 – 7)   May God make those who oppose us reap frustration
  3. (vs. 8)   May God make those who oppose us not to be blessed

 Let’s then have a closer look at this Psalm:

  1. (1 – 2)  THE DIFFICUTY OF OPPOSITION AS WE JOURNEY TO GOD
  1. (vs. 1)   The reality of opposition

This Psalm starts in a similar style to Psalm 124 with the writer putting words into his readers or his singer’s mouths as we see first of all in verse 1,

“They have greatly oppressed me from my youth, let Israel say,

 This way of speaking is also used in Psalm 118 verses 2 – 4 and is a poetic way of the Nation both saying and remembering the important reality that all through their history they have faced opposition that caused them great difficulty.

The term, “from my youth” is used in a number of places to speak of the days Israel was freed from the bondage of slavery in Egypt and in the day’s, that followed that in the wilderness wanderings as we Jeremiah 2: 2 says,

“Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem:“This is what the Lord says:“‘I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved meand followed me through the wilderness,through a land not sown”.

 So, the long history of Israel, the children of God is one of continual times of conflict caused by great opposition from neighbouring hostile nations. Often this opposition arose because God’s people had turned away from going God’s way and turning to other God’s instead of the God of the bible but other times, even when Israel was faithful to the God of the bible like the time of King David other nations rose up against them because they hated and opposed the God they worshipped and followed.

In fact, David is told by God that this opposition and conflict from other nations will be a feature of his reign in Psalm 2: 1 – 3,

“Why do the nations conspireand the peoples plot in vain?The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band togetheragainst the Lord and against his anointed, saying,“Let us break their chainsand throw off their shackles.”

 The New Testament teaches that this opposition to God is a symptom of our sin which Paul speaks of in a verse like Romans 8: 7,

The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so”.

 Hostility to God and his law leads people to be hostile to those who uphold God and his law and this idea led Jesus to say this to his disciples before he left to go to the cross, rise from the dead and return to heaven in John 15: 18 – 20,

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also”.

 So, to the readers and singers of Psalm 129 they would have been forced to reflect on the reality that they as a Nation, the people of God had continually faced opposition from other nations all through their long history and particularly in more recent times when they were again captives and slaves in a foreign land, Babylon.

So, becoming a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and going his way will not give us a “rose garden” existence. In fact, it often leads us to some very difficult testing times of conflict and difficulty. However, we will learn in the next section that God does not desert us in times of difficulties but comes beside us, goes before us and delivers us from the conflict and difficulties we might face as we go his way.

  1. (vs. 2)  The reality of God overcoming our difficulties

 So, the Christian life or way is not an easy, bed of roses way as it does have its own unique set of difficulties like difficulties caused by those who oppose us because they oppose God. However, like the children of Israel we have a great and powerful God helping us and protecting us and even giving us victories over our enemies as verse 2 declares,

“They have greatly oppressed me from my youth, but they have not gained the victory over me.”

 Ray Fowler applies these words to us today by saying,

“You can suffer pain without suffering defeat. We sometimes think if we’re hurting that means we’re defeated. But it’s not true. You can be down but not out. You can persevere through pain”.

 Paul speaks of how he had learnt this secret in his life and ministry to the Philippians in Philippians 4: 10 – 13,

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength”.

 Paul also spoke of the very real and powerful enemies we as true believers all face in Ephesians 6: 12,

For struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

 However just before this he speaks of how we can have victory over these powerful forces of evil and how against them when we trust in God we can be strong, verses 10 – 11,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes”.

 Note how Paul is not advocating become a Christian or go God’s way and you will avoid conflict rather he is saying go God’s way and he will equip you to be strong and stand your ground in the many battles of life.

The cessation from the battles of life is only promised in heaven when we move from this life to the next as Revelation 21: 1 – 4,

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 It seems God has a purpose and a plan for our good and this good is sometimes through the difficulties of life. In the story of the people of God in the bible who were greatly oppressed from their youth or beginnings all through their long history but they survived and gained the victory.

This was never truer than what had happened just before this Psalm was probably written. Babylon had overrun Israel completely and a remnant of people were taken into captivity in Babylon but after 70 long difficult years God brought them back to their promised land by using another nation to smash the Babylonians and use these victors as a means to bring them back.

God had a purpose to the initial tragic events of being conquered by the Babylonians and that was to Judge his people for their many sins.

The excellent web page Got? Question poses the question Does God sometimes use evil to accomplish His plans”?  Its answer is very useful:

Habakkuk 1: 5 – 11 is a prophecy in which God relates His intention to raise up Babylon, a “ruthless” and “dreaded” nation, to achieve His purpose. This raises the question; Does God sometimes use evil to accomplish His plans?

There is an important distinction to be made between God controlling evil and God creating evil. God is not the author of sin, but He can use sinful men to attain an objective. Romans 8:28 says, “For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” “All things” includes both good and bad things. God can use struggles, heartbreaks and tragedies in ways to bring about His glory and our good. Such events, even though we don’t understand the reason for them, are part of His perfect, divine plan. If God could not control evil, He would not be God. His sovereignty demands that He be in control of everything, even “dreaded” nations such as Babylon”. So, God did use evil in the form of the Babylonians to judge his people but he used another pagan evil nation to judge the Babylonians the Persians under their great King Cyrus and Isaiah says this about him in Isaiah 44: 28,

“Who says of Cyrus, He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please: he will say Jerusalem, let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, let its foundations be laid”.

 So, when Psalm 129 verse 2 says,

“They have not gained the victory over me”.

 In the bible, we are reading the amazing story of God’s people, a tiny in world- wide terms insignificant nation who even exist as a nation today.

Of course, the world wide or universal church of Jesus Christ is God’s new Israel (Galatians 6: 16) who now can claim God’s victory over evil in the many battles of life as Paul states clearly in 2 Corinthians 2: 14,

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere”.

 So, as we go God’s way and journey to him in heaven we will face all kinds of difficulties but we can be assured that Jesus is with us through his Holy Spirit and is both helping and protecting us giving us victories over the evil forces we encounter as we travel the road of faith.

    2.    (3- 4)   THE DIFFICULTY OF THE PAIN CAUSED BY OPPOSITION

  1.  (vs. 3)   The pain caused by opposition

In the next two verses the writer of Psalm 129 speaks of the pain and difficulty our opposition can cause us and also how again even though God’s way can sometimes be painful God will deliver us from the evil forces that can cause us this pain.

Verse 3 then, speaks in a vivid poetic picture of the pain we can feel,

“Ploughmen have ploughed my back and made their furrows long”.

This image of pain some commentators believe could be a vivid image taken from the cruel methods of the Babylonians who used farming implements to inflict pain on their captives. It also could be a way of speaking of the scourges caused by whipping again commonly used by conquering nations like the Babylonians.

Isaiah speaks of how Judah will be treated by the conquering Babylonians in similar terms in Isaiah 51: 23,

“I will put it into the hands of your tormentors,who said to you,‘Fall prostrate that we may walk on you.’And you made your back like the ground, like a street to be walked on.”

 Alan Harman points out that this description of ploughing ones back is to be taken figuratively and writes, this figurative description is to,

“Illustrate the sufferings of Israel and her eventual release from captivity”

 The most famous whipping or scourging in the bible is that of Jesus before he was crucified and this fulfilled another prophecy of Isaiah in which he speaks of this scourging and painful crucifixion, Isaiah 53: 3 – 5,

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.Surely, he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 
But he was pierced for our transgressions,he was crushed for our iniquities;the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed”.

 Psalm 129 verse 3 could be a very good description then of the scourging Jesus endured before his crucifixion.

This verse tells us that pain also could be a difficulty we could face on the road to God in heaven but all burdens including physical and spiritual pain are not over looked by Jesus and he says to anyone who seeks to follow him to find rest from our souls through his assistance to carry our loads in Matthew 11: 28 – 30,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 

  1. (vs. 4)   The reality of overcoming opposition

Another image that seems to come out of the Babylonian cruel methods of taking captives seems to appear in the next verse which says,

“But the Lord is righteous; he has cut free from the cords of the wicked”

 Jeremiah speaks of the cruel way King Zedekiah was taken into exile after the fall of Jerusalem in Jeremiah 52: 11,

“Then he put out Zedekiah’s eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon, where he put him in prison till the day of his death”.

 However, this verse speaks of how the cords or shackles were cut free which is speaking about the Jews miraculous release from the bondage of captivity in Babylon.

What does this verse say caused this miraculous release from bondage?

The answer is the words that start this verse,

“But the Lord is righteous”

 Alan Harman explains this phrase this way,

“God acts in accordance with both his nature and his promises and vindicates his people”.

 God, you see is not like us he is a Holy loving God and this is why it was necessary for his only Son to die on the cross as a payment for our sins. He did this to appease his holiness because sin had to be paid for. He did this to show his love in going to the cross to save us even though we don’t deserve to be saved.

Peter puts it this way in 1 Peter 2: 24 – 25,

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls”.

 Paul speak of the Gospel message as God’s message of salvation that reveals the righteousness of God in Romans 1: 16 – 17,

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith”.

 So, as we walk the way of faith or the way to God that Jesus made through his death and resurrection we must realise that we have been released from the cords of sin and death as Paul says in Romans 6: 18,

“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness”.

 Paul tells the Galatians that Christ has set us free from the bondage of sin so we must not let sin bind us again, Galatians 5: 1,

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery”.

 So, on our journey to God in heaven we must live as people who are free from sin by not letting sin take a hold of us. Of course, we all still sin but as we get closer and closer to God in heaven we should know more and more that God,

“Has cut me free from the cords of the wicked” or the cords of sin.

    3.  (5 – 8)    A PRAYER FOR FACING DIFFICULT OPPOSITION

    1.   (vs. 5)   May God make those who oppose us fail

The second half of this Psalm 129 turns into a prayer with the word “May” commencing it and continuing two more times at the start of verse 6 and verse 8 the last verse of this Psalm. This last section could also be seen as a prediction of what will happen to those who oppose God and his people and of course is also another example of an imprecatory prayer or a prayer that asks God to destroy or punish our enemies.

I have said many times that these Old Testament prayers particularly found in the book of Psalms are not recommended in the New Testament. This is primarily because of two reasons:

  1. The Teaching of Jesus
  2. The nature of the Christian Gospel – message

Let me explain:

  1. The Teaching of Jesus

In a number of places in the Gospels Jesus is recorded as teaching that he wants us to love and pray for our enemies and not act as a judge or to hit out against them. We see this in Matthew 5: 43 – 44,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbourand hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

 What lay behind Jesus teaching on this he explains in the next three verses:

“That you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”

  1. The nature of the Christian Gospel – message

It seems that the very nature of God is love and even though he is a righteous God who demands payment for our sins he is also a loving God who has provided a way for us to be forgiven which is through the death and resurrection of his only Son Jesus Christ. Many verses in the New Testament reflect this like Ephesians 2: 4 – 8,

 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”.

 So, because we are saved by love or grace – love we don’t deserve we must act as people under grace and treat others even our enemies in a way that reflects grace.

This is why I find the actions of people like extreme Muslims so horrifying as they kill all kinds of people, including fellow Muslims in the name of God who they call Allah. There is no sign or evidence in their treatment of people of mercy and grace and in fact they seem to see Christians as people who most of all need to be exterminated because we represent a God of mercy and love who is not, in their twisted understanding the real God of the universe.

With all this in mind I must say that when I read any imprecatory prayers in the Psalms like the ones at the end of this Psalm 129 I think of the certainty of the coming judgment and then the need for the Gospel message to be proclaimed to the world for without God’s forgiveness through Christ there is only the judgment of God. God’s judgment comes about because a person who opposes or ignores God and in some cases oppose God’s faithful followers is under the judgment of God.

With all this in mind lets first look at verse 5 which says,

“May all who hate Zion be turned back in shame”.

 This is an imprecatory prayer or pray for God’s judgment on his people’s enemies that expresses two very important things:

  1. To oppose Zion is Old Testament way of saying you oppose God and his people
  2. To oppose God and his people will lead to shame or failure

Let me explain these two important things:

  1. To oppose Zion is Old Testament way of saying you oppose God and his people

We have seen in many Psalms the significance of the term, “Zion”, This term or place name came up in verse 5 of the previous Psalm and in my Psalm, talk for this Psalm, Psalm 128, I wrote this about the biblical meaning of “Zion”.

“The word Zion simply means in the Hebrew language “Fortress” but when you follow through all the meanings Zion is given in the Old Testament it becomes a rich and informing name for a number of important biblical concepts.

 Let me explore with you just three important concepts Zion represents:

   1.   God’s dwelling place on earth

 Zion first and foremost Zion was the place David placed God’s sanctuary upon in the city of Jerusalem and so many parts of the Old Testament speak of Zion as God’s chosen dwelling place on earth under the Old Covenant like Psalm 76: 2,

 “His tent is in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion”.

   2.   Another name for Jerusalem

 In the previous reference of Psalm 76: 2 we have the name Salem which is the older pre- David time name for Jerusalem and you can see from this reference that sometimes Jerusalem itself is called Zion. This is even clearer from a reference like 2 Samuel 5: 7,

 “Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David”.

Or Psalm 48: 2,

“Beautiful in its loftiness,the joy of the whole earth,like the heights of Zaphon is Mount

Zion, the city of the Great King”.

   3.  Another name for the people of God. 

 Finally, Zion also is used as another special name for Israel or the people of God as we see in Zechariah 9: 9,

 “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!See, your king comes to you,

 righteous and victorious,lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey”.

 This is the famous prophecy that predicts Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey and shows clearly the close identification of Israel and Jerusalem being known as Zion”.

 So, to hate Zion as verse 5 says is to hate:

  1. God’s dwelling place on earth or the concept that God dwells with his people.
  2. It means also to hate Jerusalem the home of God’s dwelling place on earth.
  3. Finally, it means to hate God’s people who are known as Zion as well.

So, “all who hate Zion” are all who hate God and his faithful followers.

  1. To oppose God and his people will lead to shame or failure

 The second part of verse 5 simply says,

“Be turned back in shame”.

 Allan Harman explains this phrase this way,

“The prayer is that they will come to a position where their evil plans are thwarted and they are disgraced in the eyes of others”.

 So often in the story of God’s people in the bible this is a very good description of what happened to the enemies of God. A great example of this was in the time of King Hezekiah who ruled around the time that Israel in the north fall to the conquest of the Assyrians in 722BC.

Hezekiah twenty -one years later faced the might of the Assyrians whose armies had successfully taken most of Judah, Hezekiah’s kingdom and where now at the gates of Jerusalem and humanly speaking nothing could have stopped Assyria taking Jerusalem or Zion and God’s people also known as Zion at that time.

However, in 2 Kings 18 and 19 we have the amazing factual story of the armies of Assyria being turned back in shame and failure through God miraculously sending some kind of disease through the Assyrian camp and they had to withdraw from Judah and go back to Assyria. The Assyrian king Sennacherib who led this failed campaign a few days after returning to Assyrian was assassinated by some of his sons while he was worshipping his false God’s in his temple in Nineveh.

Some believe that because of this amazing story that verse 5 of Psalm 129 describes what happened means that this Psalm was written at that time maybe even by King Hezekiah himself.

However, this verse could fit many similar stories of God turning back with shame his people’s enemies including the turning back in shame of the all-conquering Babylonians through the Persians that led the Jews back to Zion or Jerusalem which is a more probable time – frame for the writing of this Psalm.

So, with Jesus command to love our enemies in mind what does verse 4 say to us?

I think this verse is saying to us as Christians two great truths:

  1. If you oppose God and his people you will face failure and God’s judgment
  2. What we need to encourage people who oppose us to do is turn back to God.

Let me explain what I mean:

  1. If you oppose God and his people you will face failure and God’s judgment

The prayer in verse 5 asks God to turn back in shame those who oppose God and his faithful followers and in fact I have already indicated that the fact is those who opposed God and his people in the Old Testament where often turned back, failed and faced shame and God’s judgement.

In the New Testament to oppose God and his people also is a road or way that leads to destruction as the famous quote of Jesus words in Matthew 7: 13 – 14,

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”.

 The writer to the Hebrews states clearly the certainty of God’s coming Judgement in Hebrews 9: 27,

“Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment”. 

  1. How we need to encourage people who oppose God and his people to turn back to God.

In the next verse of Hebrews 9 we read the hope of being saved from this certain coming judgement,

“So, Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him”.

 But to have this hope of salvation the taking away of our sins through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross we must turn back to God which in New Testament terms is expressed in the word “Repent” as we read in the words of Jesus himself in Mark 1: 15,

“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

 We must pray for, proclaim and encourage those who continue to oppose God and his faithful followers to repent or as verse 5 of Psalm 129 says,

“Turn back”

  1. (6 – 7)  May God make those who oppose us reap frustration

 The writer of Psalm 129 was a man of his time and place as he has already used an agricultural poetic image in his Psalm in verse 3 when he spoke of ploughing a person’s back and now in verse’s 6 and 7 he continues the use agricultural images in his imprecatory Prayer.

He writes,

“May they be like grass on the roof, which withers before it can grow; a reaper cannot fill his hands with it, nor one who gathers fill his arms”.

 The agriculture image here is one of frustration as it depicts something that happened in ancient Palestine houses that had flat opened roofs which got dust and dirt on them and through wind and bird droppings seeds of weeds and grass were often accidentally planted. This very morning, I pulled out some weeds between the cracks of a retainer wall on my houses driveway that, to me, amazingly grow so well in almost impossible places.

The frustration is that this grass or weed plantings amount to nothing, they wither and die with heat and they do not produce any kind of useful crop. In other words, like the weeds in the retainer walls of my driveway they are nothing more than a nuisance.

The writer than in verses 5 and 6 wants those who oppose God and his faithful followers to become like the grass and weeds on the flat roofs of houses, useless and frustrated people.

So, with Jesus command to love our enemies in mind what does verse’s 5 and 6 say to us?

Again, I think they say two things to us:

  1. If you oppose God and his people you will face frustration and God’s judgment
  2. What we need to do is encourage people who oppose us to turn back to God.

Let me explain:

  1. If you oppose God and his people you will face frustration and God’s judgment

The agricultural image of the grass or weeds growing in unproductive ground like the open flat roof of a house in ancient Palestine is something like what Peter says in 1 Peter 3: 12 when he quotes from Psalm 34: 15 – 16,

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”  

 The fact is if you go against God and his people your end is only frustration and judgment but if you turn back to God and go his way you have God’s full attention and that leads to hope not despair. This should be part of the message then we as Christians should seek to communicate to un – believers.

  1. What we need to encourage people who oppose us to turn back to God.

If going against God leads only to frustration and judgment and going God’s way leads to hope and salvation we need to warn people and offer them the message of salvation – the Gospel.

Paul advices Timothy to do just that in his charge to him in 2 Timothy 4: 1 – 2,

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction”.

 Note how Paul says to preach the word “in season” and “out of season” which means when it is out of season it will prove difficult because it will be opposed and in season when the message of the Gospel seems to be easier to proclaim. So, the way of God is not always easy as we have been seeing all through this Psalm talk. It is not easy but it is not a way or road that leads to failure, frustration and of course judgment.

  1. (vs. 8)May God make those who oppose us not to be blessed

The final imprecatory prayer verse that closes this Psalm reads this way,

May those who pass by not say to them “The blessing of the Lord be on you: we bless you in the name of the Lord”.

 At first, I could not make head or tail of this verse, what was it saying and then I read these words in Ray Fowlers comments on this verse,

“The blessing of the Lord be upon you; we bless you in the name of the Lord”. This was the standard blessing during harvest time in Israel where you would greet each other with blessings from the Lord”.

 Ray backs up this idea with a reference to Ruth 2: 4 where Boaz greats the harvesters with this kind of blessing.

With this insight in mind the writer of Psalm 129 is saying we should not wish God’s blessing on those who openly oppose God and his faithful followers. He wants God not to bless these people.

The reality is from what the bible says those who do not go God’s way in life and choose to oppose God and those who faithfully follow him will not be blessed by God but cursed and judged.

We see this in the Old Testament Deuteronomy 28: 15 – 20,

“However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:

16 You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country.17 Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed.18 The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.19 You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.20 The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him”.

 Or in the New Testament Paul speaks of God’s coming judgement this way in Romans 2: 5 – 9,

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile”.

 So, with Jesus command to love our enemies in mind what does verse’s 8 say to us?

My answer might shock you for I will take Jesus command to love and pray for our enemies seriously and in doing this will say we should seek God’s blessing on our enemies, the blessing of God’s grace.

Let me tell you why?

First of all, the New Testament presents the concept that we are all sinners as Paul states clearly in Romans 6: 23,

“Forall have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

 Secondly this means before we came to Christ for forgiveness and victory over sin we were all enemies of God as Paul states clearly in Romans 5: 10,

“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

 In fact, Christ died for sinners not people who are righteous or think they are righteous as no one is righteous without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as Paul states in Romans 5: 6 – 8,

“6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

 Thirdly and finally without the Grace of God or the undeserved love of God no – one can be saved as Paul makes very clear from Ephesians 2: 8,

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”.

 So, we are to pray for our enemies rather than not say God bless as verse 8 of Psalm 129 suggests. With Jesus command in mind then we should say to our enemies something like, “May God bless you with his grace so that you can see his love for you in Christ”.

A good friend of mine at my church has been involved in prison ministry for many years and he has told me stories of some of the most wretched sinners in jails coming to Christ and these men have been transformed by the love of Christ, by the blessing of his grace in Christ. One notorious murderer who recently died in jail came to Christ through prison ministries and even in jail he witnessed so powerfully to the love of God in Christ that many prisoners came to Christ through his witness and did leave jail to lead productive lives for God.

CONCLUSION

 So, as we travel the journey of faith to God we will face times of difficulty that Peter says in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 7 will test our faith and help to refine or improve us,

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed”.

 Paul speaking about the reality of difficulty or suffering in the Christian walk speaks more clearly of how God uses this to make us better people for him in Romans 5: 1 – 5,

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And weboast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but wealso glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us”.

 Because of the great benefits of the positive results of suffering if it is endured and overcome by faith in Christ James says we should consider trials of all kinds as pure joy, James 1: 2 – 4,

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”.

It was exactly one year ago from the time of writing this Psalm talk that my wife and I suffered a great difficulty and trial in our lives as my wife came down with pneumonia while travelling with her sister in Vietnam. My wife came close to death and I was stuck at home because I could not travel as I had to have a kidney stone removed before the doctors would let me travel overseas.

After much prayer from my church and Christian friends my wife, praise the Lord, pulled through and was able to travel home safely with her sister and she has had no ill effects from this illness.

God might lead us into strange even un explainable experiences in our walk to heaven with him like Michael Spurlock at the All Saints Church in Smyrna Tennessee who experienced what seemed unexplainable difficulties when his churches wonderful harvest crop was washed away when it was about to harvested.

However, my experience a year ago and the experience of Michael Spurlock was that even in our dark difficult times Jesus is with us helping us carry those burdens and by faith and we can hold onto the promise Paul gives us in Romans 8: 28,

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose”.

 I close as usual with an original poem / song and final word of prayer:

PEACE IN MY HEART

(Based on Psalm 129 and the tune of “Down in the Valley”)

 

We’ve been oppressed Lord since we were young

Sometimes we feel Lord no joy will come.

But we have found Lord peace in our hearts

For you are with us when the tear drops start.

 

We gain the victory through God’s dear Son

For through his death our salvation won.

Satan might drive us to despair

But through God’s Spirit we know the Lords there.

 

Refrain:

 

O down in the valley we looked to the Lord

For in the valley we need God’s word.

For as we face danger and troubles start

We look to the Lord for peace in our hearts.

 

May all who hate God turn from their shame

May they come to God and praise his name.

May they not be like the grass that grows in the sun

That withers and dies when the night time comes.

 

O bless Lord our enemies with now your grace

For all people are far from your glorious face.

May they like us Lord find peace in their hearts

For through The Lord Jesus God’s love does impart.

 

 

Refrain:

 

O down in the valley we looked to the Lord

For in the valley we need God’s word

For as we face danger and troubles start

We look to the Lord for peace in our hearts.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Dear Father in heaven we look to you for help and blessing in this life for even when life gets difficult you are there with us giving s help and peace. Thank you Lord that when the tear drops start we can know your peace within our hearts. We ask Lord that even those who sometimes oppose us will come to know your love and like us receive the gift of your love. Help us to show your love even to our enemies and help us to look to you always even in life’s darker times knowing that one day we will be with you in the full and certain peace of heaven above. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

PSALM 128 TALK   TRAVELLING THE CHRISTIAN JOURNEY BY GOING GOD’S WAY

PSALM 128 TALK   TRAVELLING THE CHRISTIAN JOURNEY BY GOING GOD’S WAY

 (The ninth Psalm of the 15 Psalm series in the book of Psalms called “Songs of Ascent” deals with the important issue of going God’s way or living the life God wants us to live and has in fact planned for us to live. We go God’s way by seeking to follow the Lord Jesus Christ trusting and obeying him because he loves us so much and promises to always be with us. He also promises to help us ad give us his joy and peace even when we might suffer great difficulty in this life. Finally, he promises to give us the gift of eternal life that starts now and is fully realised when we go to be with him in heaven).

(THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

 GENERAL INTRODUCTION

 For an introduction to the Songs of Ascent see Psalm talk for Psalm 120

PART 2.    PSALMS 125 – 129   PROGRESSING ON THE JOURNEY

INTRODUCTON TO PSALM 128

 Many years ago, when I was much younger my wife and I went on our first trip to outback Australia. The outback is a unique and amazing place that is very flat, dry and full of coloured landscapes. One hot night we stopped in the opal mining town of Lightning Ridge on our road trip in the outback and that night we witnessed yet again an amazing sunset. I decided to take my camera and capture a photo of the western horizon. As the sun set I ran down a dusty dirt road that seemed to be heading directly west into the setting sun on the horizon and I will never forget that evening for as long as I live.

A month or so after we returned from our road trip holiday in the outback I was praying one morning on a train on the way to work and the image of that outback desert sunset setting on the horizon at the end of the dirt road came into my head. As I thought about running down that road in prayer I was inspired to write these words,

“Run along my path and find tomorrow

Do not stray or wander from my way.

Today the dry and dusty desert

Tomorrow the home of rest and play.

 I believe God wants us to go his way in this life which is pictured in the Bible in a number of places as walking down a road or path in life a path of faith and obedience and a path that leads ultimately to God himself in heaven. My inspired words became part of a poem I wrote that day called, “The Road” which I will quote in this Psalm talk.

Let me share three bible references that illustrates the concept of walking down God’s way or road in life and the first is one of my favourite quotes in the bible, Proverbs 3: 5 – 6,

“Trust in the Lord with all your heartand lean not on your own understanding;in all your ways submit to him,and he will make your paths straight”.

 The second is the words of Jesus in Matthew 7: 13 – 14,

 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”.

The third comes from the Psalm we are looking at in this talk, Psalm 128: 1

“Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him”.

 To walk implies a path or a way and we will see from this Psalm that walking God’s path or going God’s way involves having faith in him which in Old Testament terms is expressed in fearing God and obeying God.

For us to do this we will see involves us turning around on the road or way of life we are currently going as Jesus spoke of in Matthew 7: 13. This wrong way is travelling on the broad way or road away from God that ultimately leads to destruction and note many are travelling that road in life.

However, if we turn around on that road which involves making what we call in Australia a U turn or as we call it a “uie” we will then travel on a narrower road but a road or way of living that leads to life.

In Psalm 128 the promise of life or as Jesus called it in John 10: 10, “life to the full” or in other translations “Abundant life” is expressed in the terms of “Blessed”, which I will explain more fully in the first section of this Psalm talk.

The blessed life or abundant life as Jesus referred to it is in Psalm 128 expressed in Old Testament or ancient Israel terms which I will seek to bring up to date with the teaching and application of the New Testament.

So far as author and time of writing of this Psalm we cannot tell but the best guess of the time of writing is what I read in H.C. Leupold’s commentary on the book of Psalms that suggests the post Babylonian period of Nehemiah and he refers to Nehemiah chapter 5 as a possible historical setting for this Psalm. This of course is purely speculation and because of that I will not refer directly to this passage in my Psalm talk but offer it as interesting background reading.

With the overall theme of Going God’s way or walking his road of faith and obedience my outline for this Psalm talk is:

  1. (vs. 1)  GOING GOD’S WAY BY TRUSTING AND OBEYING GOD
  1. (vs. 1a) Going God’s way leads to blessing through trust
  2. (vs. 1b) Going God’s way leads to blessing through obedience
  1. (2 – 4) GOING GOD’S WAY LEADS TO MATERIAL AND FAMILY BLESSING 
  1. (vs. 2) Going God’s way leads to material blessing – eternal spiritual blessing
  2. (vs. 3) Going God’s way leads to family blessing – family of God blessing
  3. (vs. 4) Going God’s way leads to blessing by trusting in God
  1. (5 – 6)  GOING GOD’S WAY LEADS TO BLESSING ON GOD’S FAMILY – THE CHURCH
  1. (vs. 5) Going God’s way leads to national blessing – The church of God
  2. (vs. 6) Going God’s way leads to long life- The blessing of eternal life with God

 Let’s then have a closer look at this ninth Song of Ascent Psalm, 128:

  1. (vs. 1) GOING GOD’S WAY BY TRUSTING AND OBEYING GOD
  1. (vs. 1a) Going God’s way leads to blessing through trust

This ninth song ascent Psalm, Psalm 128 starts with the same words the first Psalm in the book of Psalms starts with, “Blessed”. When I studied that first Psalm over nine years ago I discovered that the Hebrew word for “Blessed” actually means “Happiness” and that led me to write this in that first Psalm talk on Psalm 1,

“However. happiness without God is tied to money and wealth but as we will see from this bible study real happiness is not found there. Being blessed by God is what real happiness is all about and it means that a Christian can know real happiness despite the circumstances they find themselves in. In Philippians 4 verse 7 Paul speaks of,

  “the peace of God” transcending all understanding and keeping our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

 Christians are more than happy, God blesses them”.

 You see, the world seeks happiness in life in material things like how wealthy they are and how many possessions they have. People want life to easy and full of fun and pleasure but God has a different form of happiness or blessedness he wants to give us and I will explore some important aspects of God’s form of happiness in this Psalm talk.

So, the opening phrase of this Psalm verse 1a says,

“Blessed are all who fear the Lord”

 Fearing God is I believe an Old Testament way of speaking aboutf trusting in the Lord and I like Ray Fowlers very comprehensive definition of what it means in Old Testament terms to fear God, he writes,

“To fear the Lord does not mean to be afraid of God so that you run away from him. Rather it means to be in awe of God’s majesty so that you approach him with great reverence and respect. It means you take God seriously, and you put him first in your life”.

 This putting God first in our life is an act of trust or faith and is beautifully expressed in one of my bible road verses I quoted earlier from Proverbs 3: 5 – 6,

“Trust in the Lord with all your heartand lean not on your own understanding;in all your ways submit to him,and he will make your paths straight”.

 These verses speak of trusting in God and not leaning to our own understanding and that is another way of putting what Ray Fowler said in his quote about putting God first in our life. Paul knew very clearly that putting God first or making him Lord of our life and is the basis of faith and our salvation in Christ as he says in Romans 10: 9 – 10,

“ If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved”.

 So, real fear of God is real trust in God and that real trust in God leads to God’s blessedness or happiness. This happiness is what I like to call real joy and real joy is ours as the old Happiness is the Lord songs says,

“No matter if the tear drops start”

 Paul advocates that our joy or glory in God actually can and does involve suffering or difficulties sometimes as he sates clearly in Romans 5: 1 – 5,

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, wehave peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And weboast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us”.

 So, the blessedness or happiness faith or trust in God brings is a deep and meaningful happiness as it surpasses suffering or difficulty and gives us the peace Paul speaks of in Philippians 4 verse 7,

 “The peace of God” transcending all understanding and keeping our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”.

 So, going God’s way in our lives is often like walking down a seemingly narrow and difficult road but Jesus is with us helping us and giving us his peace in our difficult times of life and he and his road will ultimately lead us to a place of total rest and paly as I wrote in the first verse of my Poem, “The Road”,

In the still of a hot summer’s evening,

I stood upon its hot throbbing skin

And as the sunset fills the sky with colour

The road’s horizon beckons me to sing

Run along my path and find tomorrow

Do not stray or wander from my way.

Today the dry and dusty desert

Tomorrow the home of rest and play. 

  1. (vs. 1b) Going God’s way leads to blessing through obedience

However, the second half of verse 1 makes it clear that fearing or trusting God is not enough for we must show I believe that we truly fear or trust in God by obeying him as verse 1b says,

“Who walk in obedience to him”.

 Some might think that the idea of obedience to God to find his blessedness or happiness is an Old Testament concept as in the New Testament we are save not by works but by faith in the grace of God.

Yes, we are saved by faith alone in the grace of God but how do we show that we actually have the faith we say we have and of course New Testament writers like James says we show that we have real faith by our actions in life or how we live our lives in obedience to God and his word as James makes this clear in James 2: 14 – 17,

 “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead”.

 James does not mention obeying God here but implies it but Jesus does use the “obey” word when he speaks of this in John 14: 15,

“If you love me, keep (or obey) my commands”.

 Jesus goes on to make this even clearer in verse 21,

“Whoever has my commands and keeps them (obeys them) is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my father, and I too will love them and show myself to them”.

 John, we believe in his later life wrote some letters to the churches he knew and ministered to and in the start of that first letter John speaks of the message he heard from Jesus, 1 John 1: 5 – 7,

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the

darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin”.

 Back in Psalm 128 its writer speaks of walking in obedience which for him in Old Testament terms meant obeying the law or the Ten Commandments and the laws that flowed from them but here in 1 John our obedience involves walking in the light and of course the light is referring to the Lord Jesus Christ who is God’s light come into the world to save us from our sins.

Walking in the light of Jesus then involves us having real faith in and as John says in John 14: 15 involves obeying or keeping his commands and John goes on to tell us in 1 John 5: 3 that his commands are not burdensome.

The road or way of God might seem narrow and difficult at times but the straight and narrow way of God is the road or way that leads to his blessedness or happiness.

In chapter 5 of 1 John, John sets down for us how obedience to the commands of Jesus and our being saved by faith actually intersect and are actually what I call two sides of the one coin, he writes,

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,for everyone born of God overcomes

 the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God”.

 So, our way to God or road to God involves us obeying the commands of Jesus and sometimes we are tempted to not do this by the world at large that is going against God but if we have real faith in God we will look to God in faith and obedience and find his loving way of faith and obedience and I spoke of this in my fourth verse of my poem. “The Road”.

“Down we run towards a bustling city

Where many roads begin to cross the way,

There we stop for rest and recreation

But their confusion seems to hold the sway.

Run along my path and find tomorrow

The road is clear and points the way

And so we learn to run the straight and narrow

As we follow in its loving way. 

  1. (2 – 4) GOING GOD’S WAY LEADS TO MATERIAL AND FAMILY BLESSING 

           Introduction to interpreting correctly the rest of this Psalm

Before I seek to open up the second and third section of this ninth Song Ascent Psalm, Psalm 128 I must explain two important aspects to this Psalm that will influence its interpretation. Those two aspects of interpretation are that this Psalm is:

  1. A work of wisdom literature
  2. A work of wisdom literature written in Old Testament culture and understanding

So, let me quickly explain how these two aspects of this Psalm influence my interpretation of it:

  1. A work of wisdom literature

Psalm 128 like the Psalm before it was written in the style of Old Testament poetry called “Wisdom Literature” and in my last Psalm talk I said this about wisdom literature,

“Wisdom literature offers usually practical teaching about God and life”

So, Psalm 128 the ninth song of ascent offers us teaching about going God’s way of trusting or fearing God and obeying him in our daily lives that leads to his blessing or real God given happiness. So this Psalm will speak of God’s blessing in terms of:

  1. Material blessing
  2. Family blessing
  3. National blessing
  4. The blessing of long life

We will need to keep this in mind in our interpretation of the four aspects this Psalm pinpoints to speak of the blessing of trusting and obeying God in New Testament teaching terms.

  1. A work of wisdom literature written in Old Testament culture and understanding

Likewise, we must also keep in mind what God promises his faithful obedient people in the Old Testament and then project them forward into the far deeper spiritual interpretations of the New Testament so in New Testament terms the four aspects of Psalm 128 would be:

  1. Material blessing – Eternal Spiritual blessing
  2. Family blessing – The family of God blessing
  3. National blessing – The church of God and its eternal blessing
  4. The blessing of long life – The blessing of eternal life with God

So, let us deal with the first of these results of trusting and obeying God or as I have been applying it going God’s way.

  1. (vs. 2) Going God’s way leads to material blessing – Eternal Spiritual blessing

We read these words in verse 2 of this Psalm,

“You will eat the fruit of your labour; blessings and prosperity will be yours”.

 In the Old Testament, covenantal law God offered his faithful obedient people material blessings and in an agricultural rural setting this would be seen in successful harvests spoken of here in Psalm 128 as eating,”the fruit of your labour” and “prosperity will be yours”.

We see this in the statement of blessings on God’s faithful obedient people in Deuteronomy 28: 1 – 6,

“If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:

You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.

You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out”.

 The sad reality of Israel’s history in the bible is that they often did not remain faithful to the God of the bible and they disobeyed his law or in terms of the road to God they went their own way and turned away from God’s way to follow the evil ways of false God’s.

The results of this are the opposition of the blessing of God for faithful obedience in verse 2 of Psalm 128 spoken of in Deuteronomy 28: 33,

“A people that you do not know will eat what your land and labour produce, and you will have nothing but cruel oppression all your days”.

 If this Psalm was written after the return from captivity in Babylon then what Deuteronomy 28: 33 is speaking of is a very real recent memory for the Babylonians took possession of Israel for at least 70 years and ate or materially gained from the labour of those who were left in the conquered land of Israel.

So, what is the blessing of God for his faithful people spoken about in verse 2 of Psalm 128 for us a Christians?

I believe that this verse is not advocating that as faithful obedient followers of Christ we will be given material wealth and prosperity in this life as the New Testament makes no such claim. Sure, many Christians prosper materially because they give up when they come to Christ materially destructive life style practices of excessive drinking, gambling and wasting their hard-earned money of material possessions. These more healthier life style choses coupled with a willingness to honestly work harder does lead many Christians to be more materially well off.

However, the New Testaments spiritual blessings are far deeper and more meaningful than material wealth and besides some Christians materially are not well off especially in the poorer countries of the world.

I myself in my younger days often struggled to keep financially afloat especially when I became unemployed on a couple of occasions but I can testify to the fact that God always helped me and my family to get through these difficult times in our younger years of married life.

So, I see the New Testament promising us two forms of spiritual blessings:

  1. Spiritual blessings in this life
  2. Spiritual blessings in the life to come

Let me explain:

  1. Spiritual blessings in this life

I like how Paul speaks of material blessings in Philippians 4: 11 – 13 where he speaks of the material assistance the Philippians gave him but he uses this to speak to them and us that there is far greater spiritual blessing we have in Christ that helps us to be content in all situations in this life, Paul writes,

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength”.

 You see Christ helps us or blesses us in this life no matter if we are poor materially or rich materially because we have something far more precious than earthly goods or earthly wealth we have Christ and his Spirit living in our lives and the fruits of that are clearly spoken of in another word from Paul in Galatians 5: 22 – 26,

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other”.

  1. Spiritual blessings in the life to come

Paul again looked forward also to a far richer and greater spiritual blessing to come and he spells this out in a number of places but particularly in Romans 8: 18 where he says,

“ I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us”.

Then in verses 22 – 25 he spells out this spiritual blessing in greater depth when he says,

“22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently”.

 This is not a pie in the sky when you die type hope and blessing because in the next two verses Paul speaks of the Spirits help and work in our lives in this life in verses 26 – 27,

“ In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God”.

 So, as we go the way of God or walk his road to heaven we are blessed by God with incredible blessing on the way and at the end of our journey. In the second verse of my poem The Road I speak of difficult times on the road to God and how God helps us with his blessings in those darker times of life:

As I run I sense that I am climbing

Ascending from the plains I breathe the mountain air

And then the way grows dark, steep and narrow

And as I cry the road speaks with loving care,

Run along my path and find tomorrow

And Oh, the road again quells my fears,

Soon this mountain will be behind me

And then I’ll rest in a land that has no tears.

  1. (vs. 3) Going God’s way leads to family blessing – family of God blessing

In the Old Testament, the blessing of a large family and the prosperity a large family in possession of physical land brought in ancient times was a major concept of the first covenant as we read in Deuteronomy 28: 11,

“The Lord will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you”.

 The fruit of your womb is reference to a man having a wife who will bless him with many children which is what verse 3a is speaking of when it says,

“Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house”.

 The phrase “within your house” many commentators believe denotes the Old Testament reality that a man’s wife’s chief domain of work was in the family home. A good wife turned a house into a home with the blessing of many children raised in the knowledge of God. It

seems Old Testament women had their main role in God’s out workings of his blessings to his people in the home while their husband’s role was more outside the home labouring in the fields.

We saw from the previous Psalm 127 in verse 3 that,

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him”.

 So, the reference to children in Psalm 128 verse 3 makes sense that many children gathered around the family table for a meal are part of God’s Old Testament blessing. So, the second half of verse 3 says,

“Your children will be like olive shoots around your table”.

 The two images used for the blessing of a fruitful wife and abundant children of grapes vines that produce grapes for wine and olive shoots that produce olives for the production of olive oil represent the kind of agricultural bounty ancient Israelites would have longed for and would have attributed to the blessing of God if they had them.

So, God is saying to the ancient Israelites that if they go his way by trusting in him and obeying him he will give them crops and family life in abundance. The opposite is that if they choose to be unfaithful and disobedient people to him and his word then they would not be blessed with abundant crops and families as the second half of Deuteronomy 28 says, like verses 15 – 18,

“However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:

16 You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country.17 Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed.18 The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks”.

So, what is the New Testament application of verse 3 concerning the blessing of a fruitful family?

In the New Testament and particularly the New Covenant we as people who trust and obey the Lord Jesus Christ and are now God’s chosen people, God’s royal priesthood and part of God’s household or family.

Peter presents this truth this way in 1 Peter 2: 9 – 10.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

 Paul speaks of us as God’s Household or God’s family in Ephesians 2: 19 – 22,

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit”.

 So, if we go God’s way by trusting and obeying his Son, Jesus Christ we will be able to enjoy the blessing of being part of God’s family. I also believe that going God’s way will also as part of God’s family the church give us the blessing of a Godly wife or husband which usually leads to the blessing of Children but I believe Psalm 128 in New Testament terms is more about the spiritual blessings we have in Christ.

In Christ, we are blessed by being part of his great family the church that if it is centred in trust and obedience to Christ and his word we will grow and flourish and bear much fruit like a fruitful grape vine or olive tree as Jesus alludes to in John 14: 5 – 8,

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

 I must also point out here that if we and our church do not remain in Christ or we do not truly trust and obey The Lord Jesus Christ than like the curses under the Old Covenant we and our church will not be blessed as Jesus indicates in John 15: 1 – 4,

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunesso that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me”.

 In my travels around my own country Australia and many other countries I have come across abandoned churches where obviously the life of a former group of people who worshipped there died usually because they in some way or another abandoned trusting and obeying the Lord and as Jesus predicted in John 15: 2,

 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunesso that it will be even more fruitful”.

 And Jesus makes it clear how and why they are cut off or abandoned in verse 4,

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me”.

 So, as we travel the road of God or go God’s way that leads to him in heaven we are not alone but are part of a great family of fellow travellers or believers and my third verse of my poem The Road captures something of this:

Soon I see the brilliant sunrise

It’s warm and fresh and it fills my weary breast

And as I run I sense that someone’s joined me

Joined my journey on the road to rest.

Run along my path and find tomorrow,

The road confirms its promise to us,

And so, we joyfully run together

Heading for the hope in which we trust.

  1. (vs. 4) Going God’s way leads to blessing by trusting in God

 The writer then restates the basis of being blessed or made truly and deeply happy by God in verse 4 and Allan Harman points out the Hebrew word we translate “Yes” actually means “Take Notice”, verse 4 says,

“Yes (or take notice) this will be the blessing for the man who fears the Lord”.

 It is though the writer is getting us to take a breath or pause to reflect on the key issue of fearing or trusting in God. To fear God, we have said is to reverence him to acknowledge his rightful place in our lives and the book of Proverbs, particularly Proverbs 1: 7 says,

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (or Wisdom) but fools despise wisdom and instruction”.

 So many today even deny the existence of God or seek to water down or even corrupt his word and therefore we have today a lot of knowledge but very little wisdom which is knowledge rightly and effectively applied.

Some might say that people like me, bible believing Christians are in the minority but whenever someone says that to me I always remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 7: 13 – 14,

 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”.

If you lived in Nazi Germany and you opposed the mad and evil propaganda of Adolf Hitler you would have been in the minority and either killed or imprisoned if you chose to disagree with it.

So, does being in the majority of thought and beliefs guarantee it being right?

Psalm 128 says clearly that God’s blessing comes only to those who fear or trust in God and so we must go God’s way if we want to find true happiness in this life and the next as Jesus says in John 14: 6,

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. 

  1. (5 – 6)  GOING GOD’S WAY LEADS TO BLESSING ON GOD’S FAMILY – THE CHURCH
  1. (vs. 5) Going God’s way leads to national blessing – The church of God

This Psalm 128 verses 5 and 6 then changes to a kind of blessing prayer and some commentators believe these words were actually a priestly blessing that a priest used to bless the travelling pilgrims on their journeys to Jerusalem and the Temple there.

This priestly blessing prayer then has two aspects to it:

  1. (vs. 5) National blessing
  2. (vs. 6) The blessing of long life

We will deal first with National blessing which is stated this way in verse 5,

“May the Lord bless you from Zion; may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life”.

 This priestly blessing features two very important Old Testament place names of Zion and Jerusalem. To fully understand what this national blessing is and why it is a national blessing we must first understand the biblical significance of these two place names by coming to a clearer understanding of the name and significance of the name Zion.

The word Zion simply means in the Hebrew language “Fortress” but when you follow through all the meanings Zion is given in the Old Testament it becomes a rich and informing name for a number of important biblical concepts.

Let me explore with you just three important concepts Zion represents:

  1. God’s dwelling place on earth

Zion first and foremost Zion was the place David placed God’s sanctuary upon in the city of Jerusalem and so many parts of the Old Testament speak of Zion as God’s chosen dwelling place on earth under the Old Covenant like Psalm 76: 2,

“His tent is in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion”. 

2. Another name for Jerusalem

In the previous reference of Psalm 76: 2 we have the name Salem which is the older pre- David time name for Jerusalem and you can see from this reference that sometimes Jerusalem itself is called Zion. This is even clearer from a reference like 2 Samuel 5: 7,

“Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David”.

Or Psalm 48: 2,

“Beautiful in its loftiness,the joy of the whole earth,like the heights of Zaphon is Mount

Zion, the city of the Great King”. 

3. Another name for the people of God

Finally, Zion also is used as another special name for Israel or the people of God as we see in Zechariah 9: 9,

“Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!See, your king comes to you,

 righteous and victorious,lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey”.

 This is the famous prophecy that predicts Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey and shows clearly the close identification of Israel and Jerusalem being known as Zion.

How does this help us understand Psalm 128 verse 5 that says?

“May the Lord bless you from Zion, may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your lives”.

 I think it means then that the writer wants the people of Israel to have God bless them from his presence and from his covenant of love as blessing from Zion or Jerusalem is from his special presence with his people who he called into being through his loving covenant that involves him giving the land of Israel also represented by Zion or Jerusalem.

God’s special presence and promise of love is their prosperity and security for all of their lives.

For us as Christians we can see as David Guzik points out that we too have been blessed out of Zion or Jerusalem, he writes,

“Whenwe consider that much of the teaching and ministry of Jesus did was in Jerusalem, we see that we are blessed out of Zion. 

  • When we consider that Jesus died as a sacrifice and a substitute for our sins in Jerusalem, we see that we are blessed out of Zion.
  • When we consider that Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven from Jerusalem, we see that we are blessedout of Zion.
  • When we consider that the gospel was first preached out of Jerusalem and the church was birthed there, we see that we are blessed out of Zion”.

 The writer to the Hebrews links the concept of Zion and Jerusalem to the new covenant telling us that we have come to The New Jerusalem, Zion and nation or people of God the church through the shed blood of the Jesus the means and symbol of the New Covenant in Hebrews 12: 22 – 24,

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”.

 So, in our pilgrim journey of faith to God in heaven we look to Zion or Jesus in heaven the place of the New Jerusalem that the book of Revelation says will come down from heaven and God will be finally united with his people so that God himself will dwell forever with his people, Revelation 21: 1 – 4,

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth, “for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 I tried to capture something of this great hope in the final verse of my poem, “The Road,

Finally, the road gets straighter

And it’s turned through many a bend,

Stretching out towards the horizon

There we see a glimpse of the end.

Run along my path and find tomorrow,

The road has surely served us well,

Guiding us towards the sunset

Where all joy is said to dwell. 

  1. (vs. 6) Going God’s way leads to long life- The blessing of eternal life with God

The second part of the priestly blessing is in verse 6, the final verse of Psalm 128 and it asks God for the blessing of long life,

“May you live to see your children’s children – peace be on Israel”.

 The blessing of long life is part of the Old Testament covenantal promises like the land and good crops and a large family are as we see in a verse like Deuteronomy 5: 33,

“Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess”.

 In verse 6 of Psalm 128 the promise of long life is couched in terms of living to an age that we see our grandchildren and it has been said that it is one of the worst things a person can experience in their lives is to have to bury one of your own children. To not see them grow up and bless you with grandchildren is a great sorrow to bear and I praise God that I have been able to see my children grow up and for one of them has come two beautiful grandchildren that my wife and I love very much.

In the new covenant the promise of long life is replaced with the promise of eternal life as we see in a passage like 1 John 5: 11 – 12,

“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life”.

 Paul makes it clear that without Jesus death for us we deserve and will face death but Jesus has given us through his death and resurrection the gift of eternal life, Romans 6: 23,

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

 Psalm 128 like Song of Ascent Psalm 125 finished with a request for peace,

“Peace be on Israel”.

 I will give you my insights on this request for peace by directly quoting my own words on this from Psalm 125,

“So, it would seem that when these great pilgrimages to Jerusalem took place the reality of conflict and difficulty was part of them so the pilgrim travellers naturally would ask God for peace which here is probably a cessation of conflict.

 God does offer us a full cessation from conflict once we have finished our journey to heaven as we see from a passage like Revelation 21: 1 – 4,

 “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth, “for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 However, this cessation from all conflict type peace only awaits us at the end of our journey of life just as it did for the ancient Israelite pilgrims when they stood in the safe walls of Jerusalem at the end of their great journeys.

 However, God does offer his faithful people peace, not cessation from conflict peace but what I like to call peace to cope as we see in the Old Testament in Isaiah 26: 3 – 4,

 “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

4 Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal”.

 Note how Isaiah makes the faith connection in the words,

 “Because they trust in you”.

 Then in the New Testament we have Paul’s words on God’s peace to cope in Philippians 4: 6 – 7,

 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

 So, this request for peace for God’s people as they travel the journey of life will ultimately be ours at the end of our journey in heaven. However, while we travel to heaven God’s peace to cope will be ours if we but trust in the Lord.

 This peace to cope comes about because God gives us his assistance through his Holy Spirit and in fact through the work of the Holy Spirit Jesus is with us to help us in the conflicts and difficulties of this life. Jesus speaks of helping us like this in terms of carrying our loads in life in Matthew 11: 28 – 30,

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 So, like Psalm 125, Psalm 128 request for peace is a fitting request for a Song of Ascent Psalm as we travel to the place of perfect peace, which is in Old Testament terms is Zion or Jerusalem and in New Testament terms is in The New Jerusalem in Heaven. Perfect peace then is in heaven but peace to cope is the peace God gives us while we are on the journey to heaven.

We have seen from a number of New Testament quotes that God through Jesus offers us this peace to cope and that peace is yet another example of God’s blessing to us on our journey to God in heaven by walking his way of trust and obedience.

So, as I looked down that long dusty desert road at the setting sun on the horizon all those years ago I realised that God had a road or way for me to travel on to heaven and so I wrote these words reflecting on this,

In the still of a hot summer’s evening,

I stood upon its hot throbbing skin

And as the sunset fills the sky with colour

The road’s horizon beckons me to sing

Run along my path and find tomorrow

Do not stray or wander from my way.

Today the dry and dusty desert

Tomorrow the home of rest and play.

I close as usual with my poem / song and concluding prayer:

GO GOD’S WAY

(Based on Psalm 128 and the tune of “Ae Fond Kiss”)

Blessed are they who fear the Lord

For they trust and obey God’s word

If they go God’s way they will prosper

And one day they will see the Lord.

 

Your family life God will bless

If you walk God’s way each day

Go God’s way and serve him faithfully

And your life will be blessed in every way.

 

May the Lord bless you from heaven

May God’s church on earth be strong

Go God’s way and serve his Children

And you will help God’s Kingdom to come.

 

Blessed are they who trust in the Lord

They all know great peace within.

If they go God’s way and serve him

Christ the Lord will surely go with them.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Dear Father in heaven I pray that you will help us to trust and obey your word all the days of our lives. May the blessing of trust and obedience to your word and particularly the word of your Son Jesus Christ be ours all the days of our lives. Help us Lord to serve your Church the body of Christ as we walk together to you in heaven. Lord may we continually walk your way knowing your peace to cope and looking forward to the blessing or gift of eternal life to come with you in heaven. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PSALM 127 TALK   TRAVELLING THE CHRISTIAN JOURNEY BUILDING OUR LIVES ON GOD

PSALM 127 TALK   TRAVELLING THE CHRISTIAN JOURNEY BUILDING OUR LIVES ON  GOD

 (The eight Psalm of the 15 Psalm series in the book of Psalms called “Songs of Ascent” which deals with the important issue of looking to God to build and secure our lives and families. Not trusting in our own efforts to build a spiritually successful life and family but as we come to the Lord through faith alone in him so we live our lives with faith in what Jesus has done for us in his death and resurrection).

(THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

 GENERAL INTRODUCTION

 For an introduction to the Songs of Ascent see Psalm talk for Psalm 120

PART 2.    PSALMS 125 – 129   PROGRESSING ON THE JOURNEY

INTRODUCTON TO PSALM 127

 In my younger days as a Church Youth Worker I held a positon of the director or a church boy’s organisation that sought to reach boys and their families for Christ. In one very wealthy area of my city, Sydney the leaders of the boy’s groups there had little support from the boys Fathers because the Fathers spent most of their waking hours toiling in very well- paid jobs that required them being away from home to fulfil their employment requirements.

This is a very real and sad reflection on family life today and I remember asking one of the leaders in that area are these boys families supportive of these fathers. They said that they generally accepted that this was the only way the life style they enjoyed could be maintained. However, they did say that in their area marriage break downs were also very common and often families in their area suffered from good male role models for the boys in their groups.

Psalm 127 deals directly with the problem of giving God and our families their rightful place in our lives and if we do we will discover God’s blessing. Ray Fowler puts the main idea of this Psalm this way,

“Without God it’s not worth it, but when you give God the rightful place in your life, you can rest in his blessing”.

 I will refer a number of times in this Psalm talk to the words of Jesus in Matthew 6: 33,

“But seek first God’s Kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”.

 The Psalm starts with the famous phrase, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain”.

 I have taken up this image of building as my central image and the Psalm deals with four real life images that require building:

  1. Building a house
  2. Securing a city
  3. Working like a Workaholic
  4. Establishing a family

These four images are used to help us in our journey through life that leads to God in heaven to build our lives on God not leaving him out but looking to him with faith. We start the journey to God by faith which involves putting him first in our lives and we must continue that journey through life by faith putting God first in everything we do.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5: 7,

“For we live by faith, not by sight”.

So far as the authorship and time of writing this Psalm the Hebrew heading says that Solomon wrote this Psalm and there is a hidden but strong clue imbedded in the original Hebrew in the phrase at the end of verse 2 that points to Solomon as well.

The phrase is, “To those he loves” this phrase Ray Fowler points out is,

The Hebrew word, ‘Jedidiah’. Which means ‘beloved’. This was the special name God gave to Solomon in 2 Samuel 12: 25”

However, I would say Solomon probably wrote the Psalm, if he did, early in his reign when he was actually looking to God to build his life and family on but as Solomon’s reign went on we read in 1 Kings 11: 9 – 13 what sadly happened to him,

 “The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command. 11 So the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates.12 Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”

 Solomon’s main problem as his reign progressed was the taking of many women in marriage and these women worshipped God’s other than the real God of the bible. This led both Solomon and his nation away from worshipping the God of the bible alone and serves as a warning to us all that on our journey of life to God in heaven we must be careful not to compromise our faith in God or we too will back slide away from God as sadly Solomon did according to 1 Kings 11: 9 – 13.

So, with the central theme of building our lives on God in the journey of life my outline for this Psalm is:

  1.   (vs. 1a)   BUILD YOUR LIFE ON GOD
  1. Build your life on God
  2. If you don’t your labour is in vain
  1.   (vs. 1b)   BUILD YOUR SECURITY IN LIFE ON GOD
  1. Build your life’s security on God
  2. If you don’t you have no security
  1. (vs. 2)    BUILD YOUR LIFES WORK ON GOD
  1. Workaholics
  2.  Working and resting in God
  1. (3 – 5)   BUILD YOUR FAMILY ON GOD
  1. (vs. 3)  Children and families are a gift from God
  2. (4 – 5)  Children and families bless our lives

           CONCLUSION:   JOURNEY WITH GOD AS YOU BUILD YOUR LIFE ON HIM

 So then let’s have a closer look at this Psalm:

  1. (vs. 1a)  BUILD YOUR LIFE ON GOD
  1. Build your life on God

 Is the start of verse 1 only speaking about literally physical buildings being built without God? as the opening line of this Psalm 127 says,

“Unless the Lord builds the house”.

 We know that Solomon was a great builder and he particularly was responsible for the building of the Temple often called in the Old Testament, “The House of God” as we saw in the Song of Ascent Psalm 122: 1,

“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord”.

 However, I believe that Solomon had far more than earthly buildings in mind when he wrote,

“Unless the Lord builds the house”.

 I think “the house” here is anything we undertake to build in life and I agree with Ray Fowler who says,

“God wants you to find blessing and fulfilment in your work, but it is not going to happen apart from him”.

 If this first phrase only speaks of literally building a house then this verse has nothing to say to me as I am one of the most impractical person you could meet and I have to get other gifted practical people like builders to do building work around my house.

No, as the rest of the Psalm goes on to use other practical issues of life like the guarding of a city, our day to day work and our families the point is unless you do activity in this life that requires your labour or effort under the Lordship of Christ then your labour or work is in vain and that is what I think Jesus is telling us in Matthew 6: 33,

“But seek first God’s Kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”.

You see, you must get your priorities in life right first and then you can build or work on what you do in this life.

Another interesting application of this phrase is its application to the church and not just the church’s buildings as in the New Testament the Church is called “The Household of God”, 1 Timothy 3: 15,

“If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth”.

 As Christians believer’s we need to seek to build God’s church not in our own human strength and abilities for if the Lord is not actually doing the work through us we will see from the second half of this verse, our work for the Lord is in vain.

Paul speaks of this with the Corinthian church when they fell into the trap of following church leaders and not the God the church leaders sought to get them follow,1 Corinthians 3: 5 – 9,

“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe-as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7  So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8  The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labour. 9  For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building”.

 Note how Paul calls the church in Corinth, “God’s field” and “God’s building” and this proves that he knew and operated on the principle in his church building that this was the Lords work not his.

  1.  If you don’t your labour is in vain

 So, the first part of this first phrase stated here in verse 1tells us that we must do all human endeavour in this life under the guidance and assistance of the Lord and the second part simple says if we don’t then,

“The builders labour is in vain”.

 Bob Deffinbaugh sees this Psalm speaking about work and the problem of workaholics which I will discuss in the third section of this Psalm talk but Bob says this about the vanity or uselessness of doing any kind of work in this life without God,

“Our work is in vain when we engage in the activity alone, without God’s involvement”.

 Most people today don’t even acknowledge the existence of God let alone seek to do any kind of work in their life looking to God to help them. No wonder so many hard -working people become so disillusioned with their life and their work today. They are simply proving Solomon’s words to be true that,

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour is in vain”.

 One of my brother in laws who is now a Christian believer many years ago worked for a very hard -working concreter who unexpectedly committed suicide by jumping to his death of a road way bridge. This man’s death had a powerful effect on my brother in law and shook him up so that eventually years later he opened up to the Christian Gospel when a Christian neighbour eventually shared it with him.

Spurgeon writes,

Men desiring to build know that they must labour, and accordingly they put forth all their skill and strength; but let them remember that if Jehovah is not with them their designs will prove failures”.

 We must not start to do anything without first seeking to do it with and for God in heaven just as Proverbs 16: 3 says,

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans”.

 The New Testament explains well why this is so in Hebrews 3: 4,

“For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything”.

 Jesus explained the principle of building our lives on him and his word with the famous parable of the house’s built on rock and sand in Luke 6: 46 – 49,

“46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’s and do not do what I say? 47 As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice I will show you what they are like. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

 To walk through life not acknowledging God or seeking to do his will is not only a frustrating path to take but it is also a very dangerous path to take as well as Jesus tells us in Matthew 7: 13 – 14,

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”.

 I leave the last word on this serious warning in verse 1a to Ray Fowler who says,

God may choose to frustrate your plans, or he may simply choose to frustrate you. But either way, unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain”. 

       2.    (vs. 1b)   BUILD YOUR SECURITY IN LIFE ON GOD

       1.    Build your life’s security on God

We come then to the second half of verse 1 which Solomon uses another practical image or issue in ancient life to make a similar point and the image or issue is that of the security of a city or town in ancient times.

The fact is that before the days of guns and cannons the principle means of defence was large strong city walls to keep invading armies out. These walls also had twenty- four hour guards or watchmen posted on top of them to look out for any form of danger approaching the city or town.

So, the first part of the phrase used here says,

“Unless the Lord watches over the city”.

 This watching over the city is basically an important part of the city or towns security system. So, Solomon is asking who are you looking to for your security in life?

He is saying we can seek to be secure in life by again by our own efforts. All through Israel’s long history recorded in the bible they looked away from God for their security and sought to find security in alliances with other more powerful counties around them. Ironically this was probably a major reason for the back slipping of Solomon himself as he married so many foreign wives to try and shore up for Israel better security. The logic is, would a neighbouring country seek to invade you if your king was married to one of his daughters of the neighbouring king?

However, all Solomon achieved by his many marriages to neighbouring Kings daughters was the destruction of his nations ability to look to God alone for their security. Ray Fowler points out that ancient China built a massive wall across its northern border to keep invading armies out but as he says,

“They didn’t breech the walls they simply bribed the guards”.

 Today many people in the west feel very insecure in the face of rogue nations like North Korea and Muslim terrorism and their hope for security is in massive arms build- up and alliances with powerful western nations like USA but our only real powerful source of security is in the Lord who in Psalm 121: 5 – 8 says,

“The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand;the sun will not harm you by day,nor the moon by night.The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life;the Lord will watch over your coming and goingboth now and forevermore”.

 So not only does God people need to look to the Lord for security in this life as they live in a town or city but also when they made their annual pilgrim journeys to Jerusalem and the Temple there.

We to in our pilgrimage to heaven need to realise we face a great enemy on this journey and Paul speaks of this powerful enemy and how we find security and even victory against this enemy in Ephesians 6: 10 – 13,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armour of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Paul goes on to speak of what our spiritual armour should consist of and he pinpoints the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with readiness to share the Gospel, shield of faith, sword of the spirit which is the word of God, helmet of salvation and all this is put on by prayer led by God’s Holy Spirit. 

           2.    If you don’t you have no security

 Like the opening image of the building of the house the second phrase concerning the watching over a city says much the same thing if we seek to do it without the Lord iit says,

“The guards stand in watch in vain”.

 Albert Barnes says,

“It is universally true that, after all the care for their own preservation which people can employ, their safety depends wholly on God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

 This verse is not saying we are to do nothing and just let God do it all as this would be in contradiction to many other scriptures like Psalm 90: 17,

“May the favour of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us- yes, establish the work of our hands”.

 Or in the New Testament Paul says in Colossians 3: 23,

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters”.

 I like the famous saying of Oliver Cromwell who said to his troops when facing the Kings army in the days of the English revolution and when they used powder shot rifles,

“Trust in God and keep your powder dry”.

 So, in another sense our counties alliance with the USA is not wrong or unpractical but if that is the sole basis of our countries security than the words of Psalm 127 verse 1b will one day haunt us,

“Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain”.

 In the great spiritual- war we as Christians are fighting we must always keep in mind the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 10: 4 – 5,

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”.

 Finally, James gives us the advice we always must keep in mind if we want to have true spiritual security in James 4: 7 – 10,

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up”.

    3.  (vs. 2)    BUILD YOUR LIFES WORK ON GOD

  1. Workaholics

 I borrowed my title for verse 2 from the work of Bob Deffinbaugh who entitled his study of Psalm 127 – “A Word for Workaholics”. I’m not convinced the whole Psalm is about this but certainly I believe verse 2 is all about this.

In- fact I think the first part of this verse is a very good description of a workaholic as it says,

“In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat”.

I mentioned in my introduction of the area of my city, Sydney where very wealthy people live and how in that area often the Fathers of the families who live there are hardly ever home as their jobs or businesses demand long hours seven days a week away from their families at home. I found this concept of work very hard to understand but I did realise for me the aspect of committing to much time and energy into a job as I had to work very hard at different times in my full -time ministry days to make time at home for my wife and family.

Yes, even those who are working full time for the Lord can fall into the trap of becoming a Workaholic. Ray Deffinbaugh pinpoints the problem well with these words,

“The workaholic has lost his perspective on what is necessary evil and what is a gracious good. By working day and night men cannot give diligent attention to more important matters such as study and meditation in the Scriptures, worship and devotion to family”.

 Note how Solomon uses the word “vain” again and says that the life style of a workaholic is a “In Vain” lifestyle. H.C Leopold says,

“Long – continued and arduous effort without a thought of the need of divine blessing is the height of futility”.

 It would seem that verse 2 like verse 1 is addressed to the person who has excluded God from their thinking and acting in life.

Why then do people choose to work day and night?

Solomon’s answer to this is the simply phrase,

“Toiling for food to eat”.

 This I think is a poetic description for making money and the material things money brings with it. The Fathers in the wealthy areas of Sydney who have become workaholics if asked why they work so hard would probably say to provide for my family so we can live in a big house in a wealthy suburb, so my kids can go to the best schools, so that we can have the occasional overseas holiday or even so I can have a large amount of money to retire on.

Jesus had much to say to people with this kind of attitude and way of living and I really like Jesus parable of the rich fool in Luke 12: 16 – 21,

“And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

 21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

 Then Jesus said in Matthew 6: 19 – 21,

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 

20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.

 Finally, Jesus is not saying living this way for him will leave us financially high and dry for Jesus says again in Matthew 6: 33,

“But seek first God’s Kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”.

 Before I stop talking about workaholics I must say God is not saying we should not work hard as many verses in the bible speak of not being lazy but working hard like Proverbs 10: 4 – 6,

The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.

Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son. Blessings crown the head of the righteous, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked”.

As Paul tells the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 3: 11- 13,

“We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good”.

 So, I think there is a big difference between a workaholic and a hard worker and the difference is a godly hard worker seeks the balance between work and leisure and particularly giving time to his or her family a we will see in the last two verses of this Psalm.

  1. Working and resting in God

 So, what advice does Solomon give to the workaholic?

I believe in the final phrase of verse 2 answers this when it says,

“For he grants sleep to those he loves”

 I found this phrase a puzzle to understand unto I read these words by Allan Harman,

“While many look to gain from their own hard labours, believers can rest secure in the knowledge that as God gives them sleep he is working and blessing them”.

 This phrase is not speaking about believers being blessed with good sleep but rather they can work during the day and then stop and rest as God wants us to and we can know that God does not rest and is still working for us when we are resting as we read in Psalm 121: 3 – 4,

“He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber; Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep”.

Ray Fowler says,

“There’s a right way and a wrong way to work. And the wrong way to work is when you leave God out of it”.

A workaholic, even a believer is working the wrong way being totally committed to work alone, not putting God or Jesus first is a person who needs to come to their senses and let God have his way in their lives.

So, as we walk the way of God to heaven we need to make sure Jesus is Lord and not our desire to live for money or material wealth. Paul has this to say about living for money and riches in 1 Timothy 6: 6 – 10,

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs”. 

    4.   (3 – 5)   BUILD YOUR FAMILY ON GOD

    1.    (vs. 3)  Children and families are a gift from God

The last practical issue of life Solomon uses to make the point of building our lives on God or on faith in God is children and families.

He starts this practical image with the amazing statement that Children and I believe family life is a gift from God as verse 3 says,

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him”.

 Some might think this is a principle God is declaring for only believers but God, I believe gives all humanity the gift of children and families and the principle of God giving all humanity good things is expressed well in Jesus words in Matthew 5: 45,

“He (God) causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”.

 So, children and families are a good gift God gives all mankind which starts all the way back to Genesis 1: 28,

“God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it”.

 Even after the fall God’s gift of children continues except a women’s giving birth to children will bring her great pain, Genesis 3: 16,

To the woman he said,“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;with painful labour, you will give birth to children.Your desire will be for your husband,

and he will rule over you.”

 So, children and families is something believers and non-believers have as gift from God and even with modern IVF help the creation of life is still in the hands of God.

Alan Harman says,

“Children are a free gift of God, a token of his grace”,

However, children and families play a major part of God’s revelation of himself as we see from Cain and Abel through to Abraham and the children of God under the leadership of Moses and even through family stories like Joshua, king David and all the Kings of Israel and Judah that shows us how God works his purposes out through families.

This is what lies behind the words of verse three that says,

“Children are a heritage from the Lord”.

 Alan Harman explains this very well with these words,

“Heritage from the Lord”, “Used in the Old Testament with reference to the land of promise which came to Israel as unearned as any inheritance”.

 Harman also points out that the next phrase, “offspring a reward from him”, is a parallel expression. So, in the Old Testament God created a family his family of faith as described to Abrahams son Isaac,

“Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.”

 In the New Testament, we are part of the outworking of God’s great family plan as Paul make clear in Galatians 3: 28,

“If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”.

 We then as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are members of God’s family or as Paul puts it in Ephesians 2: 19, God’s household,

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household”.

 Through faith in Christ we are then children of God which is God’s heritage or God’s reward and we see how ingrained this idea of being God’s children is in the minds of the early disciples from for instance the Apostle John’s words in 1 John 3: 1 – 2,

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is”.

 It was the Apostle John who made it clear that we become a child of God or we join the family of God through faith in God’s Son in John 1: 12,

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God”.

 So, on our journey to God we must continually undertake it by faith not by sight. We must realise that through faith we are part of God’s family and because we are he promises to guide and protect us.

In the final two verses Solomon spells out in an Old Testament poetic image the practical reward or blessing of having children or a family. He uses twice the image of bows and particularly arrows and I call these images:

  1. (vs. 4)  Arrows in the hands of a warrior
  2. (vs. 5)  Arrows in a quiver or arrow carrier

Let’s then have a closer look at these final two verses:

  1. (vs. 4) Arrows in the hands of a warrior

We must remember that all of the Psalms were written in ancient times and so often the images they employ to convey the message they are seeking to convey are not so real to us today. In verse 4 we have an example of an image used we don’t easily understand, verse 4 says,

“Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth”.

 The image here is of arrows and or course in ancient times the bow and arrow was one of the main weapons people used to defend themselves and so having a supply of arrows meant you had a good chance of defending yourself when you were attacked. So, having children in ancient times was as crucial as having a good supply of arrows to fire off in your defence.

Tremper Longman 111 says,

“Children confer real advantage on a person in the battles of life”.

 I cannot imagine what my life would be like now without both my physical family and of course my spiritual family. My three children have so enriched my wife and I life so much and now we have the further blessing of two beautiful grandchildren.

In ancient times having children had even more value than today as without social security it was only through your children, in ancient times you had security and support in the later years of your life. Even today cultures like the Chinese and many others rely on the support of their children to help and support their parents in their old age.

Then as people of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we have the blessing and support of our spiritual family, the Church. Paul speaks often to the churches he wrote to in terms of the church being God’s Household or family or as a body where we all work together in the journey of faith and the battles of this life.

As Paul writes in Colossians 3: 15 – 17,

“ Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”.

 Paul in this third chapter of Colossians goes on from the words above to speak about earthly family responsibilities of wives, husbands and children. When Paul gives similar instructions in Ephesians he says this about the responsibility of Husbands in Ephesians 5: 25 – 28,

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansingher by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself”.

 Note how husbands are to seek to emulate The Lord Jesus Christ who loved the church, his family by the giving of his life for us. Later in the book of Revelation the church is viewed as Christ bride that one day will be fully united with him in his second coming, see Revelation 21: 1 – 4.

So, as we walk the journey of faith to God in heaven we are not alone for we are part of the great family of God, the church which has many children who like an ancient warrior had many arrows to help fight and defend himself and family we have many brothers and sisters who help us go the way of God and defend ourselves in the battles of life.

  1. (vs. 5) Arrows in a quiver or arrow carrier

The last verse of this Psalm also uses the bow and arrow image as well but this time it is the arrow carrier called a quiver that features in it as the verse says,

“Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.”

 Albert Barnes explains the idea of a quiver of arrows and the blessing of many children this way,

 “The quiver is a case in which arrows are carried; and as a man – a hunter or warrior – feels secure when he has his quiver full of arrows, so a man is blessed in proportion to the number of his sons”.

 As I said before in ancient cultures the blessing of many children secured a person’s later years of life and so to not have a family in ancient times was a very sad and dangerous thing in many ways.

So, it is with us, spiritually if we don’t know Christ and his family that knowing him brings us into then it is both sad and dangerous for us spiritually. Yet so many today choose wilfully to reject God’s offer of his love and the hope of the eternal heavenly home that faith in him leads us to.

Jesus offers us these great words of hope and promise about the heavenly home he has for us in the next life in John 14: 1 – 4,

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

 Jesus goes on to tell poor old Thomas what that way is in verse 6,

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

 So, when we travel Jesus way or road to God we can have the security of having many arrows in our quiver or many fellow brothers and sisters travelling with us, helping us, encouraging us even in the judgment to come which I believe the end of verse 5 speaks about in Old Testament cultural terms with the words,

“They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court”.

The original term for court in Hebrew was the word for the city gate because in Old Testament times it was at the city gate most disputes were settled. So being part of God’s family means we have no fear in the great court or judgment to come as Jesus says in John 5: 24,

 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life”.

 So those who journey to God as part of God’s family and are therefore God’s children will as verse 5 says, “Will not be put to shame” particularly in the coming judgment of God. In Old Testament terms having a big family particularly of sons was of great benefits and blessing when facing great opposition and in New Testament terms being part of God’s family has great benefits and blessings for us as members of the household of God.

Paul speaks of how we are brought into God’s family to become God’s sons and some of the benefits we have as members of God’s family in Galatians 4: 4 – 7,

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir”.

 CONCLUSION:  JOURNEY WITH GOD AS YOU BUILD YOUR LIFE ON HIM

 This Psalm like many of the proverbs falls into the wisdom style of writing in the bible and it is interesting that the Hebrew heading for this Psalm attributes it to the pen of Solomon who was known as the great composer of most of the Proverbs as we read in Proverbs 25: 1.

Wisdom literature offers usually practical teaching about God and life and so Psalm 127 the eighth song of ascent offers us teaching about looking to God and his help in all aspects of human endeavour and in this Psalm, we have seen four aspects of human endeavour:

  1. Building a house
  2. Guarding a city
  3. Working a job
  4. Raising a family

However, because this is more than a piece of wisdom literature for it is a Psalm also called “A Song of Ascent”. I have sought to look beyond the four practical aspects of life to a deeper spiritual meaning for the words of this Psalm.

If this Psalm was sung as the ancient Jews travelled their long journeys to Jerusalem and the Temple there than that deeper meaning involves the idea of looking to God to build our lives upon as we journey to God in heaven.

Looking to God to build our lives upon as we journey to him is best summed up in the words of Matthew 6: 33,

“But seek first God’s Kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”.

So, as we seek to build anything in this life, a home, church or career we must acknowledge God as the foundation and helper in these endeavours and in so doing we put him first seeking his Kingdom first and in doing so receive the blessing of “All these things will be given to you as well”.

 When we seek any kind of security in this life again we must look to God as our security and helper in the great battle we are involved in as his faithful followers. So, we must in the sense of our security seek God and his kingdom first and in doing so we will have the blessing of “All these things will be given to you as well”.

 In our work either in general life or in service to the Lord we must seek to conduct it relying on God who grants us both success in work and rest to cope with the hard labour involved in it and in the sense of our work we must seek God and his kingdom first and in doing so we will have the blessing of “All these things will be given to you as well”.

 Finally, in our building of a family either our earthly family or spiritual family which is our church we must realise God along gives us the heritage or reward of our family and so in building a family we must seek God and his kingdom first and in doing so we will have the blessing of “All these things will be given to you as well”.

 I close as usual with an original poem / song and a final word of prayer.:

TRUST NOW IN JESUS

(Based on Psalm 127 and the tune of “Hard Times”)

 

O unless the Lord builds the house we live in

Then the building we build is in vain.

O unless the Lord watches over our domain

Then our lives will know conflict and pain.

 

Chorus:

 

Many days do I labour to succeed

Hard work, Hard work, doesn’t guarantee

But if you trust now in Jesus and make him number one

Then God’s blessings surely then will come.

 

If we work every hour and never have a rest

Then your toil will cause you great pain.

For the Lord gives us rest so we can revive

So, our work without God is in vain.

 

Chorus:

 

God gives us children as a gift of grace

They’ll God’s blessing for all of our days.

So, build now your family trusting in the Lord

And they’ll help you in so many ways.

 

Chorus:

 

O blessed is the man who comes now to the Lord

He is part of God’s great family.

If you turn from the Lord and seek to go your way

Then God’s judgment will bring calamity.

 

Chorus:

 

Many days do I labour to succeed

Hard work, Hard work, doesn’t guarantee

But if you trust now in Jesus and make him number one

Then God’s blessings surely then will come.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Father in heaven help us now to trust in you as we seek to build our lives not on anything else than your word. Help us to put Jesus first in our loves and not rely on our own efforts to save ourselves. May we walk your way Lord in our work, who we trust in for security and in how we seek to build our families. May we know your blessing and protection in our lives and may the work we seek to do be done in service to you and others, In Jesus Name we pray, Amen.