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Meditation Psalm 125

A song of ascents.

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
    which cannot be shaken but endures for ever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
    so the Lord surrounds his people
    both now and for evermore.

The sceptre of the wicked will not remain
    over the land allotted to the righteous,
for then the righteous might use
    their hands to do evil.

Lord, do good to those who are good,
    to those who are upright in heart.
But those who turn to crooked ways
    the Lord will banish with the evildoers.

Peace be on Israel.

(Ps. 125:1-5 NIV)

These 15 psalms (Ps. 120-134) were grouped together to be sung on a journey. Specifically, these were songs to be sung on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem when you were traveling there for worship at the Temple. The title ‘A Song of Ascents’ fits perfectly, because if you were traveling on foot from any direction toward Jerusalem, your journey would take you uphill. And frequently those uphill grades were steep, narrow and lined with cliffs and hazards—potentially treacherous. And people would sing these psalms together as they made that journey. So we can refer to these 15 psalms as ‘Pilgrim Psalms’ (Psalms 120-134). That’s fitting, because if you were coming from anyplace far away from Jerusalem, a pilgrimage to the Temple was often beset with hardships and opposition. Hazards lurked along the way; adversaries assaulted the pilgrims—sometimes just with mockery and scorn, other times with physical violence; thieves and highwaymen, wild animals, scorching heat, and dangers of every kind could ambush travellers at any moment. It was a major sacrifice to make a pilgrimage like this, and the people of God did it several times a year. Aside from the dangers, the trip could be tedious. The roads on that uphill journey were dry, and dusty, and devoid of rest stops—and the climb was difficult, especially if you were traveling on foot. But finally, you would crest one last hill, and there you would be looking over a vast populated area, Jerusalem. The old city was set in a kind of dish-shaped depression with hills surrounding it, and in the centre of the populated area was the Temple mount, with the temple at the centre and a massive courtyard teeming with your fellow worshipers. After the journey you had just made, the Temple mount was the very picture of safety and security.

And in psalm 125, the psalmist draws a picture of spiritual security using the very imagery these pilgrims knew awaited them at the end of their journey. This is a hymn of security. The song compares the believer (who has the security of God’s safekeeping), to the stability of mount Zion, that immovable rock that anchors the city of Jerusalem. The name Zion was sometimes used to refer to the Temple Mount, and it appears that the imagery the psalmist wants to invoke here encompasses the Temple grounds, the Temple itself, and the Holy of Holies. Those were the main symbols of God’s presence with His people, so what the Psalmist is writing about here is a level of security that is profound, spiritual and supernatural. It is the very thing we speak of in theological terms as ‘perseverance of the saints’. Zion is a hill made of solid rock. The word Zion is sometimes used as a synonym for Jerusalem, because that solid-rock hill, Zion, is the high point of the old city. Technically, Zion is immediately adjacent to the Temple mount and overlooks it. But what we call the Temple Mount is actually an outcropping of rock that is part of Zion’s hill. The whole mountain served as a natural rock fortress, and it was almost impossible to assault with infantry soldiers. In ancient times, even before David built a city there, there was a manmade fortress at the top of the hill. It was a military stronghold with impregnable walls, making the hill even harder to invade and conquer.

In the mind of every Old Testament child of God, Zion was the very picture of security, invincibility, and sturdy permanence. It wasn’t something that could ever be moved or easily overthrown.

So (as these pilgrims travelled that road paved with hardship, inconvenience, discomfort, and even threats to their very lives) this little chorus was a reminder that in spiritual terms they themselves were every bit as secure as Mount Zion herself. They were even more secure, really—because our security as believers comes from God himself, not from a ring of mountains.

There are four features of spiritual security that are expressly highlighted in this psalm. In verse 1, the idea of Stability is highlighted. Then in verse 2, the theme is Safety. Verse 3 emphasises Sanctification. Then the final two verses are a devout and confident prayer for Success—ultimate, eternal prosperity for believers, including triumph over evildoers.

Those who trust in the Lord are fixed, anchored, and steadfast. Notice: that’s a statement about believers themselves. They are ‘as mount Zion, which cannot be removed.’

Not only are the saints themselves fixed and immovable—free from the threat of stumbling and falling headlong into ultimate destruction; they are also safe from the threats of every external enemy. All the assaults of evil combined cannot destroy them, because God Himself is their constant defender, and His protection will last eternally.

Sanctification means that God keeps us progressing in holiness, gaining more and more victory over sin. Every true believer is sanctified (meaning we have been set apart from sin); and every believer is being sanctified (meaning we are gradually being set apart from sin more and more all the time), until we will finally be glorified, perfectly Christlike, sin purged from our experience. And if you are a true believer, that is the end you are progressing toward: perfect Christlikeness.

Success in this Psalm means the ultimate spiritual triumph, not some notion of earthly affluence. Spiritual success is precisely what this psalm has in view. It’s not about material riches, political clout, military triumph, the respect of other people, or any other earthly notion of success. It is an infinitely bigger concept than that. This is a psalm about eternal spiritual blessings—eternal prosperity—for the righteous. And the righteous are simply those who trust in the LORD

The psalm closes with a prayer

Lord, do good to those who are good,
    to those who are upright in heart.
But those who turn to crooked ways
    the Lord will banish with the evildoers.

Peace be on Israel.

So this psalm’s concluding praise is a celebration of one of the most fundamental of all biblical promises: the ultimate triumph of good over evil. The fulfilment of God’s eternal plan means eternal blessing for His people—and it also signals the final condemnation of evildoers.

Prayer
Lord You are our stronghold. We are secure in Christ because You have bought, and You maintain, that security. In every step along the pathway you surround us and protect us. Lord continue to bless us with the good things from Your hand and help us to have a great sense of the joy of salvation for we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.