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Psalms 120-134

June 5, 2009

These are considered psalms of ascent, songs, and were sung by the pilgrims as they ascended up the steps on the south side of the temple mount to worship at the Temple of the Lord during the specified feasts. Perhaps they were written for other reasons but became part of tradition for the worshipping Israelites. Read them for the specific purpose of praising God in preparation for worship.

Psalm 120

Most scholars consider this psalm as being similar to previous psalms where the psalmist expresses and confirms the faithfulness of God to hear His people cry out and to answer them. As such, the psalmist wishes to be saved from those who practice in deceit and lies.

I take a different approach. I believe this psalm has everything to do with the psalmist. He confirms he has called on God and God has answered him. His request is to be saved from lying lips and deceitful tongues. True this is plural in nature but I think the psalmist is asking God to save him from himself. It is a personal confession of his disobedience to God. It is a request to be cleansed by God prior to his arrival on the top of temple mount. It is a prayer to be delivered from his sinful practice much like the Lord teaching us to pray “lead me not into temptation but deliver me from evil”. He admits God has every reason to render his lips and tongue useless with sharp arrows and burning coals. After all, his tongue and lips have served such a purpose against others. The psalmist evidently has lived in two very different locations among the pagans. It might very well be his first pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Basically he is a man of peace but he has not practiced what he felt in his heart. This then becomes a simple psalm of confession and asking God to save him from his hypocrisy. He confesses as he ascends the steps to worship God.

It is important for us to call on God and confess our shortcomings and sins to Him. We are unworthy to enter His Presence but in His mercy and forgiveness God hears our prayer and counts us as worthy to come and worship Him. Accept His love, His mercy, and His grace. Come and worship God, the King of Kings, the Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave His life that we may be counted worthy to enter His Presence into life eternal.

Psalm 121

The psalmist offers praise and thanksgiving to God, the Creator for four specific things. They are:

  1. God is our helper.
  2. God watches over us.
  3. God is our protector.
  4. God is concerned/interested personally with us from the day we were born until death and into eternity.

He states our help comes from the Lord. His eyes are toward the hills, the hills of Jerusalem such as Mt. Zion, Mt. Moriah, and the Mt. of Olives. The temple resides on Mt. Moriah and is the dwelling place of God prior to the advent of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. God is Creator and is, therefore, concerned and caring about His creation. God loves His people Israel. His love and care is continuous. The Lord protects those He loves, who call Him Lord. He protects them from those who attack during the day or the night. God never rests. The Lord takes a special interest in His people Israel, His people the Church, and His individual children. Great is the Lord who created each of us.

Remember, those of us who place our faith in God through His Son Christ Jesus are family. We are His children. We can call upon Him with confidence to help us. His eyes are watching us, His Word is guiding us, and His hand is disciplining us so that we might be like Him, Holy. He and we look forward to the day of our resurrection when we will see Him [God] face to face. Praise God for His love and mercy, for His help, and for watching over us and protecting us from evil while we are living for Him on this earth.

Psalm 122

This is one of the more familiar psalms because of two often repeated phrases “let us go to the house of the Lord” and “pray for the peace of Jerusalem”. The later is often repeated today because of the strife in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians/Arabs. In a sense, Jerusalem is under siege so many Israeli’s and Christians are praying for the peace of Jerusalem. But few who pray realize that peace will not come until our Lord returns. This psalm is really about Jerusalem, the Holy City, where the Lord’s Presence resides in His Temple. Jerusalem is where they come to worship. That is what draws the pilgrims to come but they arrive in awe of the whole city. Not only does God rule from His Temple but their king rules from his throne. Jerusalem is doubly important to all of Israel. Therefore, peace is important. Without peace in the city, pilgrims would not come to worship. Safety and security is important to promote freedom to worship. Safety and security is necessary to promote prosperity.

The same is true today. It is true for us in the USA and it is true for Israel and Jerusalem. The prosperity of Israel is dependent on tourism. Without it, the people suffer. We value freedom and talk about its’ importance. But many of us fail to realize that our freedom is a function or dependent on our safety and security. Being safe and secure is a prerequisite for being free to worship God. It is important that we thank God for our freedom and to ask Him to protect us from our enemies so we will always be safe and secure. It is important that we as a nation seek God and honor Him. One of God’s favorite disciplines to cause people to seek Him is to take away our freedom and our security. We in America are blessed. As Christians, let us come before the Lord and confess our sins, repent, and worship Him. Doing so is our only possibility of continuing to enjoy the freedom we love; to have peace because we are safe and secure by the loving arms of God.

Psalm 123

This is a short psalm of a humble servant expressing his gratitude to God and asking for mercy. God is his King. He is sovereign and sitting on His throne in heaven ruling over His creation. The psalmist comes as a slave looking into the hands of his master and as a maid looking into the hands of her mistress. These examples represent his attitude toward God. The servant is seeking mercy from those who have contempt for God, from those who are arrogant toward God, and who are too proud to humble themselves before God. The servant is seeking mercy from God in heaven for being persecuted because he believes God is King.

God is King. He reigns over His creation. He grants mercy to those who humbly seek Him and acknowledge Him. Lets us approach God with the same attitude and with the same aptitude because God honors those who honor Him. God is merciful. Praise God and give Him thanks.

Psalm 124

This again is a very short psalm with a single subject, a simple reminder of what the Lord did for Israel at the Red Sea upon leaving Egypt. The key question is “What would have happened to Israel if it weren’t for the help of the Lord”? The obvious answer is that the Egyptian army would have destroyed them or, in fleeing, the sea would have drowned them. Israel would not exist. They would be but a memory written in history. But Israel escaped with the help of the Lord who parted the Red Sea for Israel to cross and caused the sea to come together and drown Egypt’s army. The course of history changed. Israel was saved and Egypt was given a severe set back. They lost a good portion of their army in addition to losing their first born. God’s judgment was swift and severe because of their mistreatment of God’s chosen people.

As His Chosen people, believers, The Church, we too live and exist because of the Lord’s help. God does miracles on our behalf every day. Look for them. Acknowledge God as deliverer. We need to ask where we would be without the help of the Lord, the Creator God. Those of us who place our trust in Him are delivered. Those who refuse to acknowledge God are destroyed. What happened in history will happen again. So acknowledge and thank God for His help as you prepare to praise and worship God, as you prepare to enter His Presence.

Psalm 125

Again this psalm is short and to the point. Those who place their trust in the Lord are strong, are not prone to waver, know what they believe, and know in whom they believe. They have wisdom and cannot be swayed to do, believe or accept anything contrary to God’s Word. Those who trust in the Lord do not perish but have eternal life. Those who trust in the Lord are protected and kept secure by Him and in Him. The righteous, those who put their trust in the Lord, will stand while the wicked perish. The wicked will be removed to remove temptation from the righteous. The Lord will bring His goodness to those who are righteous and give them peace.

When Israel turns to the Lord she will have peace. It is thought this psalm is post-exilic and written during the time of Ezra. But it is also prophetic and looks toward the time of Christ’s millennial reign. Those who put their trust in God are strong and will not perish so let’s take inventory and ask where we stand. Where and/or in whom do we place our trust? Are we relying on God’s strength and protection? Who do we go to for help? We who desire peace and eternal life will call upon the Lord and place our trust solely in Him. We who want to stand strong against the wicked will do so only if we place our trust in God. Trust Him for God is faithful.

Psalm 126

This seems like an unusual psalm for worship and yet it isn’t. It most likely was written by one of the Levites returning with Ezra or Nehemiah after the Babylonian captivity. It is a psalm acknowledging God’s goodness, God’s redemption, and God’s blessing. The returning captives were filled with joy upon coming home even though Jerusalem and their land had been devastated, destroyed, and raised over the last 70 years. Even other nations acknowledged God’s providence in letting the Israelites return to their former land. The Lord not only redeems His people, He restores them. Israel now depends on God once again. They sow seed for food depending on God for rain at the right time to give them a bountiful harvest. They sow in sorrow and tears because of their past disobedience but they reap in joy because God has forgiven them and is once again blessing them as He promised long before. This psalm acknowledges God’s forgiveness, God’s goodness, and God’s blessing to all who humble themselves before Him, who obey Him, and who place their trust in Him. It is indeed a proper psalm in preparation for worshipping the Lord God who is sovereign over all things.

God is in the restoration business. He restores and blesses those who seek Him, who worship Him, and who place their trust in Him. Come to the Lord and ask His forgiveness. Come to the Lord and let Him bless you. Come to the Lord and place your faith in Him. He will fill you with joy and wash away your sins. He will restore you and adopt you as His child guaranteeing you an inheritance in His Kingdom.

Psalm 127

The NIV Study Bible has some good specific comments to make on this psalm but I am looking at it from a more general point of view. I see the psalmist expressing contentment relating to family values or, more appropriately, the value of family. Essentially, being part of a family is one of God’s blessings. This psalm is credited by some to have been written by Solomon because he was the king responsible for building the Temple. This psalm also mentions vanity, a subject explored extensively by Solomon in Ecclesiastes. Verse 1 talks about the Temple and Jerusalem and verse 2 is very general. Verses 3-5 talk about the blessings of children. But let’s assume the writer employs a double meaning where the “house” in verse 1 refers to a household and the “city” in verse 1 refers to an extended family. Then all these verses tie together. Whether it’s the Temple or one’s family or the “family of God”, it is the Lord doing the building. That is a true statement. Whether it is God’s Kingdom or our family, we are given the responsibility to provide spiritual and physical nourishment. In so doing we live contented, assured, and resting in the Lord. We trust God and His Promises to sustain us. Children are a blessing. They grow up and mature to carry on the work in God’s Kingdom. Sons were more important than daughters in that culture because they received the inheritance and were responsible for carrying on the family heritage. But all children are a gift from God. Family unity is important when enemies arise. That is true in a single family and true for the “family of God”.

Equate this to your own family situation. Children are a blessing. We have a responsibility to teach our children about the Lord God. We have a responsibility to grow God’s Kingdom of believers. We have a responsibility to be unified in our faith. Accepting our responsibility and fulfilling it will be hard work but the end result is contentment, a reward for a job well done, being able to rest in the Lord, a deep faith in God, and knowing that God’s blessing has made it all possible. Thus, we do not live in vain but we live assured in the Promises of God.

Psalm 128

This psalm proclaims that the Lord blesses and prospers those who fear Him. The Lord will prosper us in our vocation, in our spouse’s duties, and with sons [children]. The Lord will bless us because we came to worship Him. The Lord will bless us with long life. Jerusalem [Jesus Christ] will prosper and become renown because people come to worship the Lord and peace will come to Israel [The Church, the Kingdom of God].

It is easy for us to focus on the prosperity angle and fail to see that there is a cause and effect relationship. Prosperity comes because one fears the Lord. More proper is “fear the Lord and prosperity comes”. The Lord blesses those who fear Him. In other words, prosperity come to those who work hard for the Lord, who worship the Lord daily, who are committed to do His Will, who take their faith seriously, who do not waver when trials and temptations come upon them, and who have awe and respect for God’s power, God’s righteousness, God’s justice, and God’s holiness. Prosperity and blessings come to those who love the Lord with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind. Prosperity and blessings come to those who deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him. Prosperity does not equate to wealth/money. Prosperity equates to not wanting; being satisfied and content. Prosperity equates to having faith, trust and hope in the Lord who is sovereign over all things. Prosperity equates to being cared for, to be loved, to be encouraged, to be sustained, to have hope, to have respect, to have honor, to be filled with joy, and to live in peace and harmony with one another. These blessings come from God, not man. These are just a few of the riches we have in Christ Jesus as stated in Ephesians 1.

Let’s make certain our priorities are correct. Let’s focus on fearing the Lord in worship with praise and thanksgiving for all He has done. Let’s be fully committed to the Lord and His Will. And then let us thank Him for the prosperity He has graciously bestowed upon us as His children.

Psalm 129

This strikes me as an unusual psalm to be used in ascending the temple steps in preparation to worship the Lord. However, it does speak of God’s sustaining power over the oppressors of His people. It begins with a personal revelation of oppression in verse 1 but quickly moves on to the oppression of Israel by its’ enemies. The psalmist acknowledges that the oppressors have caused trouble but they have not been victorious. The oppressors, plowmen, have tried to uproot Israel’s allegiance to God but the Lord is righteous and has intervened on their behalf. The psalm ends [veses5-8] with a request to God that He continue to intervene on their behalf. He requests that those who hate Israel be shamed and that they become weak and die. Those that hate Israel are not to receive any of the blessings of Israel.

Oppression/persecution of Israel and the Church continues today. But we see that God is faithful and continues to intervene on behalf of those who love God. Much of Israel’s suffering today is the result of not recognizing or acknowledging the Messiah, Christ Jesus. But God is protecting Israel, preserving them, until they see the Light. This is not likely to happen until the “last days” but we are living in the “last days” as defined by Jesus. So we who belong to God’s Kingdom, the Church, ought to watch and pray noting God’s intervention to protect His people so that His Light shines in the dark world. May Christ be the Light of our lives and may He watch over us and protect us as a father does his children.

Psalm 130

In this psalm the author humbly cries to the Lord for mercy and places his trust in the Lord. His cry is of one who realizes he is unworthy when considering the righteousness and holiness of God yet he cries for mercy anyway. His sins are many but he understands God forgives those who seek Him and cry out to Him for mercy. Only the Lord, who is forgiving, grants mercy, is righteous, is holy, and is sovereign, has the power to forgive sin. Only God is worthy of our worship, our awe, our praise, our reverence, and our fear. The psalmist readily waits on the Lord for his salvation. His hope is based on the promises of God recorded in His Word. He waits and he trusts God. He rests in God and is patient. He knows God is faithful, has heard his cry, and will grant him forgiveness. That’s who God is. That’s His character. That’s His love. What the Lord is doing for him individually He will also do for Israel because God keeps His promises.

What a magnificent psalm this is in preparation to worship the Lord God. Confession is an important part of true worship. Make this a daily habit. Daily commit to placing your complete trust in Him. Doing so fills one’s life with joy and peace. May the Lord God be our sole source of hope. Let’s place our trust in Him now and forever.

Psalm 131

This psalm strikes me as one written by a simple person. I do not mean that in a derogatory sense but in the sense of a quiet humble person. The psalmist is not self-seeking or seeking self-pleasure for the moment. He has no interest in discussing the “issues of the day”, especially when he has no control over them. He does not participate in discussion forums on how the earth came to be, how nature works, how man came to be, the miracle of birth, miraculous happenings, the character of God, the purpose of man, etc. He simply accepts things as they are. He is content and satisfied in “his world”. That satisfaction and contentment comes from his faith and trust in the Lord. He is at peace with himself and with God. God is at peace with him. His being reflects his soul which rests in God. This psalmist does not get excited. He is accepting and content. He is simple. Outside influences don’t ruffle his emotions. He simply trusts the Lord. What he possesses, hope in the Lord, he asks for all Israel.

This is an extraordinary testimony of a person whose faith and hope are in God. He is Christ-like. We all should be asking God to perfect us to be like this psalmist, to be like Christ. We should all be asking God to work in the lives of other believers such that they mature in their faith. We should be asking God to work in the lives of non-believers such that they acknowledge God and place their hope in Him.

Upon reading this psalm my memory recalls my grandfather, Charles Styrlund. He was simply a quiet man of God who loved the Word of God. My grandfather was just like this psalmist. How are my grandchildren going to remember me? How are your grandchildren going to remember you? Let’s simply strive to become quiet simple humble people of God whose hope is in the Lord and whose soul rests in God. Let’s let the Lord bless us with a life of contentment, satisfaction, peace, and joy. Now go worship Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.

Psalm 132

The Temple, the house of the Lord, has been built in Jerusalem by Solomon and this psalm remembers David’s hand in it along with David’s desire to have a permanent place for God where the people could come and worship. Therefore, this is a very appropriate psalm of ascent for the people to quote as they ascended temple mount to worship God. Perhaps this psalm was written by Nathan, a close friend and prophet who confronted David with his sin. We remember David’s great deeds but his life was filled with affliction [see my Forward]. David was a great warrior, a unifier of Israel, with a strong desire to build the dwelling place for God. Such was his desire while at home with the people of Ephrathah [I Sam. 17:12] and even more so after leaving the Ark in the field of Jaar after it was returned by the Philistines [I Sam. 7:1]. David’s vision has materialized through Solomon and the people are called to worship. Perhaps this psalm was written for the dedication of the Temple [vs. 7-9]. Verses 10-12 seem to be written with Solomon and his sons in mind. It is a prayer for their king and their kings to come, for their faithfulness to the Lord’s covenant with Israel. The Lord chose the location of His Temple. From this Temple comes blessings for Israel, food for the needy and salvation for the people. From Jerusalem will come songs of joy and their Savior, who was to be a descendant of David. The Savior’s enemies will be shamed in Jerusalem while He, the Lord God, is crowned King. In the literal sense this is prophetic of the Lord’s Second Advent. But even during His First Advent His enemies were put to shame by His resurrection and He was crowned with thorns prior to His crucifixion. Even Pilot made a sign for His cross stating He was the “King of the Jews”.

Vision and memories, like those recalled in the psalm, are important in life. They help us recall God’s leading and direction. They also help us envision what further blessings God has in store for us. So let us remember the past as we envision the future while living in the present. Make remembering and envisioning part of your worship of God. In so doing, seek His guidance. Humble yourself before His throne and commit to doing His Will. David did. Solomon did. Christ did. So let’s do likewise and praise God from whom all blessing flow.

Psalm 133

This psalm is only three verses but it paints a beautiful picture of God’s purpose for His children. The first verse talks about the importance of unity. This was Paul’s theme in I Corinthians, Ephesians, and Colossians. Good flows out of unity. Pleasantness or peace flows out of unity. Unity defines priorities, purpose, and direction. The kind of unity God desires is depicted in verse two which describes the anointing of Aaron as High Priest. Our unity is the result of the Spirit of God poured out on those who are committed to serving and worshipping God. Their commitment is formalized in an act of consecration, an act of being set apart, an act of purification, making one holy. Such a decision involves our total being; our heart, our soul, and our mind. The blessings of being consecrated, of receiving the Spirit of God, go with us wherever we are. They exist wherever the people of God are gathered together with unity of heart and mind to worship God. Israel showed their unity in God and toward God by gathering in Jerusalem several times a year during the times of God’s ordained feasts. Their purpose was to praise God, to thank God, and to worship God. God blesses us in many ways but His greatest blessing is eternal life to all who humble themselves before His throne and call on His Name. They came to Jerusalem to worship God and receive His blessing.

Unity is possible only as we place God first in our lives and let His Spirit fill our hearts with love; love for God and love for others. Unity is possible only as we place our faith in Him, commit ourselves to serve Him, seek His forgiveness, and let Him perfect us in righteousness. Our hope is in God and our oneness/unity with God guarantees us true peace now and forever.

Psalm 134

This psalm acknowledges the valuable service of those Levites serving at the Temple during the night hour. Their service is unknown and unnoticed by the populace. Nevertheless, their service to the Lord and to the worshippers is important. These night servants are encouraged to praise the Lord. Because activity in the Temple area is minimal, they are being encouraged to spend time in worship as part of their responsibility. The psalmist asks the Lord to bless these special servants.

This psalm is a good example for us. It is easy to ask the Lord to bless those who serve on the front lines; those who are visible; those who are leaders. But we must not forget those who serve God behind the scenes, who are not visible, who have not been appointed to lead. These people are great in number and just as valuable in God’s Kingdom as are the visible leaders. Take time to seek them out, to encourage them, and to worship with them. Pray for them and ask God to bless them. Remember this important fact. We may have different gifts and, therefore, different roles but we are all servants. There is only one position under the Lord God and it is called “servant”. Serve wholeheartedly and without envy or jealousy.

This psalm concludes the “Psalms of ascents”, those sung by the pilgrims on their way up the steps to the Temple of God.

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