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TEXT: Psalm 125
SUBJECT: Songs on the Way to Heaven #6
Do you know why David chose Jerusalem to be his capital? Being a wise and godly man, I suppose he had many reasons for his choice.
One must have been religious: Jerusalem used to be called, Salem, and long ago, a king ruled there by the name of Melchizedek. The man was also a priest, but not the kind you'd expect to find among the pagans, for he was a priest of the Most High God. When he heard the news that Abraham had ambushed and destroyed four kings, he went out to meet him with bread and wine. Abraham was so impressed with him that he gave him ten percent of all he had. Melchizedek was such a great man that many after he died-if he died!-he was compared to the Messiah. David remembered this when he chose his capital.
Another reason was more political. Before his rise to power, Shiloh was the most important city in Israel, because that's where the Tabernacle was. But Shiloh was way up north in Ephraim, and a long way from David's hometown-and from where his supporters lived. The ten northern tribes were often at odds with Judah, and if Judah's favorite son was going to stay in power, he'd better stay close to home. David knew this when he chose his capital.
However much these things influenced David in the choice of his capital, the main reason was entirely practical. He did not live in quiet times, but spent his whole life warring against the enemies of his People and his God.
He needed a capital that could be defended; he needed a fortress city. And that's what Jerusalem was! It wasn't the walls and towers, so much, that kept the city safe; it was the lay of the land. Jerusalem was way up high, surrounded by mountains, and almost impossible to invade. In fact, the time it was taken shows how safe it was. David was born around 1000 BC. By that time, Israel had occupied the land for more than 400 years. During which time they never took Jerusalem! Even in David's day, it belonged to the Jebusites, who were a stubborn enemy and dug in against all comers.
There's a little story tucked away in II Samuel 5 and I Chronicles 11. I'll read from the one in Samuel, 5:6-7,
And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites the inhabitants of the land, who spoke to David saying, 'You shall not come here; but the blind and the lame will repel you', thinking David cannot come here. Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion (that is the city of David).
A bit later we learn how it was done: Joab led a commando team up the water shaft and took the city while the Jebusites were looking the other way! That's how Joab, by the way, became the commander of David's armies.
This is not a lecture on topography or military history, but provides background for understanding Psalm 125. The Psalm, you remember, was sung by the Jews three times a year, while they made their way to the capital to observe the holidays. These were mostly farmers who lived out in the country and without fences. If bandits roved their way the best they could do was hole up in their living rooms! Outside of Jerusalem there was little or no safety. But within the walls of that citadel, the people of God were secure.
Back home, the farmers might say, 'Yes Sir, Mr. Philistine. Can I help you carry off my crops, Mr. Phiilstine? You want my cattle too? Sure, you're welcome to it, Mr. Philistine!' If they were kittens in the country, they were lions in Jerusalem! And justly so, for
Mount Zion cannot be moved!
Psalm 125 is about security. Not the security of people who have the good fortune to live in Jerusalem, but the security everyone has who trusts in the Lord!
Those who trust in the Lord
Are like Mount Zion,
Which cannot be moved,
But abides forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
So the Lord surrounds His people
Form this time forth and forever.
This is one of the most striking examples of this theme, but it is very far from being the only example. Over and over again, God urges us to trust Him with the promise we will be glad we did.
What is God? The Shorter Catechism says,
God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
From the bottom of my heart, I love these words. God is all of these things, and no uninspired man has every described Him better! But when I'm worried sick, I don't want a Spirit, even if He is infinite, eternal, and all the rest!
I want a Rock, a Fortress, a Stronghold, a Shield, and a Horn of Salvation! What these things were to soldiers, the Lord is to us-only more so.
We have our enemies, both more and more dangerous than the ones that kept Israel on pins and needles. Their foes were flesh and blood; even the tallest of them could be cut down to size with a slingshot! But
We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against powers, principalities, rulers of the darkness of this age, and spiritual wickedness in high places.
Philistines got tired and discouraged; they grew old and weak, and finally they died. But the devil and his servants are not subject to these things. They're as fresh and active as the day they fell from heaven! Because they hate Christ with a passion no man has ever felt, they're out to smear and poison anyone who bears the least resemblance to Him. And that's what we are: People who bear some resemblance to Christ! Not much, maybe, but enough to draw hell's attention and undying malice.
If we were out in the country, we would have no hope.. But trusting the Lord places us in the inner fortress of Mount Zion-and nobody touches us there!
Though we ought to trust Him, it is not our trust that brings security, but Whom we trust! Psalm 125 doesn't really tell us to trust the Lord; it tells us something far better: The Lord can be trusted!
In his book on the Holy Spirit, Vaughn (whose first name escapes me) tells a story about a man who needs to cross a bridge, but is too scared to do it. For months the man kept telling himself how stupid his fear was and kept praying God to give him the guts to get over it. But the harder he tried to work up courage (and trust) the less he had of them. Finally, he talked to his pastor and asked him how to trust God (or, the bridge) enough to walk across it. Hoping for words of deep spiritual wisdom, all he got from the pastor was good sense: Look at the bridge. Does it look like it will hold up a man? Have you seen other men cross it-men heavier than you are, or whole groups of men at a time? How long has it been there and how many men have safely crossed it? Has it ever broken under the weight of a man? The man never thought of it that way! We took a good long look at the bridge, laughed at his fear, and walked across.
As long as he stayed focused on himself, the man could not cross the bridge. But when he turned away from himself-and started looking at the bridge-his fears and distrust went away!
In the same way, as long as we focus on our trust in God, we will never have much of it. But start meditating on God Himself, and we cannot help trusting Him! He is big enough to trust, strong enough to trust, wise enough to trust, and loving enough to trust!
In Him we are far safer than the Israelites were in Jerusalem, even in the happy days of David and Solomon. For David and Solomon were mere men and their kingdom went to pieces. But God is no Man and His Kingdom cannot be shaken!
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
Which cannot be moved,
But abides forever.
The Lord can be trusted!
This means His Word can be trusted. And the Word He has for us is good one, v.3,
For the scepter of wickedness
Shall not rest
On the land allotted to the righteous,
Lest the righteous reach out the
Hands to iniquity.
A scepter is the symbol of a king's rule. And so, a scepter of wickedness is the rule of a wicked king. Who is the wicked king our man has in mind? He doesn't say, but I would guess it is one of the bad kings of Judah, of whom there were plenty. He was in charge at the moment, but God would not put up with him for much longer, because, if He did, even the pious Jews would be corrupted by his evil ways. Given enough time, even the Nazarites would start drinking wine, eating raisins, touching dead bodies, and cutting their hair! But the Lord won't allow that.
Because wickedness is not an attribute of God, it cannot be eternal; born in time, it dies in time. Even the devil is under the Lordship of God, and he can go no farther or longer than he is allowed to. I Corinthians 10:13 says,
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will make a way of escape, that you might be able to bear it.
The Psalm doesn't say there is no wicked scepter or that if there is one, it never touches the Lord's People! It assumes wickedness and it says we're hurt by it, but not forever!
While we are not safe from problems, we are safe in our problems, because when the troubles rot away with time, the Lord and His Promise remain.
Having reminded us of God's character and promise, our man turns back to God Himself with a plea, two in fact,
Do good, O Lord, to those who are good,
And to those who are upright in their hearts.
As for those who turn aside to their
The Lord shall lead them away
With the workers of iniquity.
I don't know which of the pleas is harder to accept. The first one asks the Lord to bless all the good people, including himself. Are we 'good people'? We tend to say we're not-and you understand why we say that! But from the perspective of the Bible, Christians are good people! Paul says we're saints, and then he goes on to bawl us out for things like laziness or meanness or lust or envy or bad temper or stealing. Can a saint struggle with lust of all things? Or envy or covetousness? Sure he can because 'saint' doesn't mean perfect; it means 'loyal'. And for all our faults believers are loyal to Christ.
I'm sorry if I overuse this illustration, but it's one of the best ones I ever heard: Christians are like dogs. A dog can be lazy, sneaky, gluttonous, mean, noisy, selfish, and disobedient, but every dog knows his master! Christians are this way: lazy, sneaky, gluttonous, mean, noisy, selfish, disobedient, but we know who our Master is and we love Him!
Believers are good people, because God loves us. We love Him because He first loved us.
The second plea is a cry for justice; our man wants the Lord to punish bad people-to lead them away with the workers of iniquity. I take this to mean, to get them out of here, to banish them from Israel, or maybe something worse than that.
Should we pray this way? I don't believe we should; as disciples of Christ we're told to 'love our enemies and to pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you'-and not against them.
The Psalmist was praying as a spokesman for God, and in his curse, he was but venting the wrath of heaven. While we don't curse others, God does, and His curse will come upon the wicked in His good time, maybe in this life, and for sure in the life to come.
He closes with a benediction-
Peace be upon Israel.
If the Lord is going to curse His enemies, He's going to bless His People, too. Thus it ends where the Bible ends and where history ends-not with chaos and judgment, but with blessing and peace.
Every Christian has this peace-even if he doesn't know it. Peace is in your head, but not all in your head. There is a real, objective peace between God and every believer. It was won at the price of our Lord's death, and we have it, every believer has it, from the convert just starting out to the old saint about ready for heaven.
We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ!
The peace believers have unbelievers can have too; but not in their unbelief. When you turn away from yourself and put put your trust in Jesus Christ, you has peace with God, and it's a peace that does not wear out with time or eternity.
Everyone can have this peace, but no one can have it his own way. You can have it one way only-and that's God's way-through faith alone in Christ alone.
This is a fine song to sing on our way to heaven. Let's sing it.
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