A Brief Update
For those of you who are unable to gather corporately with us this Sunday, you are loved and missed! If this is you, we are providing the songs we are singing together this morning and a devotional based on the sermon being preached.
Songs We are Singing Together
Devotional on Psalm 125
Psalm 125 is known as a song of ascent. Each year the people of God would undertake a pilgrimage from their villages to Jerusalem to celebrate an important festival that honored the Lord. It was a special time of renewal and spiritual growth as they gathered with God’s people to remember God’s goodness, glory, and grace. It’s what we endeavor to do each Sunday as we gather.
Their journey to and from Jerusalem was dangerous. They had to contend with the heat of a scorching sun by the day and the cold at night. They had to walk rocky, narrow mountain paths alongside steep cliffs where they might encounter wild animals or thieves. It was a dangerous journey filled with much vulnerability and insecurity. But it wasn’t only the journey that was dangerous. Their lives were filled with uncertainties. Wicked leaders, warring nations, and living in an agrarian society that never had a guarantee of a harvest because of drought or pestilence.
We also live in a fragile the world. Vivid images appear each night on the news where great uncertainty is on display. Governments seem impotent, police are paralyzed, and society as a whole appears to be unraveling. Today we regularly hear; these are unfamiliar times, unprecedented times, and unusual times with no real solutions offered. Life is simply uncertain which brings great insecurity to many.
For all the uncertainties he faces, the writer of Psalm 125 looks beyond the temptation to find his security in earthly things by speaking of the true security all believers have in God, even in bad times. He looks only to the Lord, and what he sees in the Lord brings him the greatest peace. He tells us that he is not rattled, anxious, fearful, or undone by all the turmoil and uncertainty he sees around him. It is because he trusts God, and knows who God is and what God can do.
The first thing we see is that he is secure in the Lord.
[Read Psalm 125:1-2]
Mt Zion is where God’s temple stands, the very place where he dwells with his people, a dwelling place that is a bedrock, high and secure. The psalmist is comforted knowing that Mount Zion cannot be moved, and he knows that the true believer is like Mount Zion, anchored to God who alone can keep him secure.
The psalmist is not putting his trust in Mount Zion but beyond it. Even the temple is not a place of security because it too will one day be torn down. He is looking at and putting his trust in the Lord who dwells with his people in the temple. The Lord who is unchanging, immovable, and unyielding. It is the Lord alone who is his strong foundation, and our strong foundation. A foundation that abides forever. The psalmist’s point is simply to trust in the Lord because he abides forever. He has always existed because he is eternal, and our assurance. We can be “moved” from peaceful circumstances into times of trouble, but we can never be moved if we trust in the Lord.
We are secure because he secures us. Mount Zion is immovable because God has said it so.
Our security is lasting, eternal assurance. God is our guardian always standing watch over us, and surrounding us like a sentinel. Just like Mt Zion is surrounded by other mountains that provide protection from Israel’s enemies the psalmist knows God is always surrounding him forever. It is eternal security given by the one who is eternal even in times of trouble.
Times of trouble do come to us always unannounced. There is no warning; “get ready, trouble is coming tomorrow.” It doesn’t make an appointment with us, but shows up unexpectedly with great surprise. It catches us off guard, but the psalmist tells us that God is never caught off guard. Rather, he is faithfully, eternally, constantly watching over those who trust in him to keep them secure.
This is not a promise of a pain free or carefree life, but one of a cared for life, but when troubles come in God’s hidden and dark providence those who trust in him will not be shaken, their faith will not unravel and their eternal hope will remain secure because God is watching.
Not only is the psalmist secure in the Lord, he is also safe in the Lord.
[Read Psalm 125:3]
He is safe in the Lord even in the face of wickedness because he knows that the Lord will never allow wickedness to prevail.
In the book of Esther, the wicked King Ahasuerus had scepter. That scepter was a regal sign of total authority, and if he extended his scepter you lived, but if he withheld it you died, immediately.
God’s promised security, even when we see, hear, or experience evil will not shake us because we know that in God’s kingdom wickedness will not prevail. Even those in authority who are wicked, who now have power, still exist under God’s sovereign rule, and are subject to his ultimate authority.
Because God surrounds us like a sentinel, wickedness will not shake us even when it touches us. We know we are not immune from wickedness touching our lives, but what we may be sure of is that whatever wickedness and evils come our way they will never, ultimately prevail. Wickedness will find no rest among us because God has told us so.
In Genesis 49 Jacob is prophesying to his sons about their future, and in 49:10 he declares: “The scepter shall not depart Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be obedience of the peoples.”
The scepter of the wicked shall not “rest” or remain forever on the land. The scepter of “wickedness” will one day bow permanently to the scepter of Christ the king, a holy king, a perfect king, a good king, and a righteous king. Jesus will reign as Lord, not the wicked. The psalmist doesn’t know Christ as we do, but he does know God rules and reigns, and will one day place a permanent and righteous king on the throne. He is hoping in God’s future king, the king we know who crushed evil on the cross and defeated our enemies of Satan, sin, and death. Wickedness will not prevail.
God will not allow the scepter of wickedness to prevail the psalmist says because he desires to protect his children. When wickedness troubles us we can be tempted to come up with a “human solution” to deal with it, but that is doomed to fail. Racism is wicked. It is evil as scripture points out, but look at the human solutions today that will ultimately fail to transform; burning, looting, screaming, intimidation, creating fear, and on and on. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2 that the only solution and hope to put racism, division, and bigotry to death is found in God’s gospel.
Wickedness can tempt us to either give up trying to fight or give in to human solutions to change it. God will not allow the scepter of wickedness to “rest” on the land and tempt us towards our own evil. When faced with this temptation he has promised us in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that he will provide a way of escape. He will help us not give in to the temptation, but instead look to Christ.
Those who trust in God are safe because the one who truly reigns, the Lord Jesus Christ, will not let wickedness prevail.
Finally, we see that, in addition to being secure and safe in the Lord, the psalmist is confident in the Lord.
[Read Psalm 125:4-5]
In Luke 18 we see that no one is good but God alone. Paul tells us in Romans 3 that “no one does good, not even one”, so who are the “good” the psalmist is referring to? He is speaking of those who are righteous because God has made them righteous. The righteous are those who trust in the covenant promises and mercies of God. We have become the righteousness of God in Christ.
Because we are in Christ, we are good and upright so we can be confident that God will do good to us because he wants to do good to us. He delights in doing good to us, especially in dark providences.
God works all things together for good because he is so good, and he is so good to us. He is always good to us, and he always works all of the providences of our lives in such a way that they will always turn out for our good.
The psalmist also gives us a sober warning. If we try to live life apart from God, if we try to create our own security and safety, and try to find human solutions to a God ordained providence it will become foolishness to us. If we turn away from God’s wise, and sometimes dark providence, and instead trust in ourselves, we will be acting like the wicked; like functional atheists who do not believe God is good, and who try to create their own good. But if we are confident in God’s goodness to us we will live in peace, which is how the psalmist ends his psalm – with a prayer for peace to those who trust in the Lord.
This is where the psalmist concludes: “Peace be upon Israel.” In this one brief statement the psalmist summarizes his poem. This is rich in meaning because at the end of each festival on Mount Zion, prior to going home the high priest would speak a benediction over the people:
We read it in Numbers 6:24-26 – “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”
This is the benediction that Jesus gave to his disciples in John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives to I give to you.” Those who trust in God are given a peace that is divine, supernatural, and unattainable by the world.
Paul concludes with Galatians with his own benediction; “Peace be upon the Israel of God”. The church is the Israel of God. The church who is Christ’s bride, who Christ loves, who Christ sacrificed himself for is given peace by the prince of peace.
Trust and peace are the bookends of this psalm. Trust God and you will know his peace. He is the God of all assurance who gives us his assurance that we are secure, safe, and confident in his goodness to us, even in evil days. The only true security we have is eternal security in the one who is eternal.
A Song of Response