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Peace Be Upon Israel: A Redemptive-Historical Meditation on Psalm 125

A Song of Ascents.

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,

from this time forth and forevermore.

For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest

on the land allotted to the righteous,

lest the righteous stretch out

their hands to do wrong.

Do good, O Lord, to those who are good,

and to those who are upright in their hearts!

But those who turn aside to their crooked ways

the Lord will lead away with evildoers!

Peace be upon Israel!

Those Who Trust the Lord Are Secure (v1-3)

Psalm 125 begins by describing a certain group of people -- Yahweh trust-ers. The statement is that Yahweh trust-ers are safe. The Psalmist uses rather lush language to describe this as he says they are like Mount Zion. In what way? Well, they are like Mount Zion in that they cannot be moved but they remain forever. But why bring up Mount Zion in particular? Couldn't just about any mountain get the point across if all the Psalmist wanted to say was that they won't be moved?

It appears then that Zion is introduced to cast our mind not to just any mountain but a particularly glorious one — Mount Zion itself. Mount Zion occupies a special place in the Old Testament. Initially, it is introduced as a mere geographical marker in 2 Sam 5:6-7. Its involvement in the topography of Jerusalem leads the terms Jerusalem and Mount Zion to sometimes be used interchangeably. But over the course of King David's reign it took on a new mode of significance with its geographical connection to the temple of God. The temple — God's means of being present with his people — is what gives Zion her beauty. Many of the Psalms speak in glorious language of Mount Zion and it is ultimately to display the glory of God's presence (see, for example, Ps 2:6, 9:11, 48:1-2, 84:7). So what does all of this have to do with people trusting in the Lord being like Mount Zion?

The answer to this is found in verse 2 as it reads, "As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore" They are secure and as steadfast as the presence of God because God himself protectively surrounds them. Imagine it. The topographical splendor of God's protective grace. That's what keeps the Yahweh trust-er — not himself but the Lord in his special protection and presence keeps him.

In verse 3, the curtain opens back even more. Now we see what it is that the believer is protected from. Protection is not indeed protection if there is no threat from which to be shielded. Wickedness shall have no victory lap over the Yahweh trust-er, the Psalmist says. The land portioned to the righteous shall not be inhabited by the wicked. The Lord will see to it that his people are protected so that the righteous do not turn to do evil. Cast your mind back to the imagery brought forth in verse 2, the Lord as mountains surrounding his people. Evil assailants come, yet God's people are shielded because of the Lord's protection. The Christian may not have foreign armies attacking their walls, but the enemy lies not in rulers and principalities but in sin and the Evil One waiting to pounce like a lion (cf. Eph 6:12). The Lord Strong and Mighty protects his people from evil from without and from within.

The Lord Does Good to His People (v4-5)

Verse 4 then turns as a plea to God, "Do good, O Lord, to those who are good?" The Lord himself is good and he delights in doing good for his people (Ps 35:27, 119:68, Jer 32:41, cf. Ps 147:11, 149:4). The upright in heart receive good from the Lord. But how could this be when the heart of the natural man is deceitful and wicked (Jer 17:9)? In fact, one might say that we all find ourselves not in the category of verse 4 but of verse 5, namely, the crooked and the evildoers. Apart from the grace of God, crooked and evil is what we are. But God has made us alive together with Christ (Eph 2:5, Col 3:3). This is why the New Testaments calls Christians saints — holy ones. It is such people as these, Yahweh trust-ers (and not self trust-ers), who receive good from the Lord as they have turned away from wicked self reliance and cling in faithful trust to the Lord.

The unredeemed man shares no such good. In fact, verse 5 says that they are led away. Presumably they are led away from the presence of God and land appointed for his people. But the question remains, what is this good with which verse 4 is occupied? What good does God give to his people?

Where there are many things we can say to describe this goodness, first and foremost the good that God gives to his people is... himself. Union and communion with God himself their blessedness and reward (cf. WCF 7.1). They are like Mount Zion in that God's redemptive and protective presence is with them. No longer are they strangers, they have fellowship with God. That is the good that God gives to his people -— himself. Eternal life is this: to know God in all of his glory and beauty (John 17:3, cf. Ps 27:4, 8).

This good done by God, then, is climactically displayed in the cross of Christ. That is, Christ suffered on the cross and rose again "that he might bring us to God" (1 Pet 3:18). Believers taste this communion with God now as we are weaned from this world and glory in the righteousness and splendor of the world to come. All of this looking forward to the day where the final phrase of verse 5 becomes triumphantly true, "Peace be upon Israel!". There in eternity peace will reign because God will triumphantly dwell and reign with his people in the heavenly Mount Zion.


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