The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 125

Psa 125:1


Hezekiah trusted in the Lord more than any before or after him (2Ki 18:5).

TRUST IN THE LORD: Justification by faith!

MOUNT ZION... CANNOT BE SHAKEN: True in the time of Hezekiah: Isa 31:5; Psa 48:1-3,11-14. (On a spiritual level, mount Zion is synonymous with the new covenant in Christ: Heb 12:18-25; Gal 4:24-26 -- which certainly is also appropriate here.)

Zion is "beautiful for elevation (RSV: cp Zec 14:10,11), the joy of the whole earth" (Psa 48:2). She is the hill where God will dwell forever (Psa 68:15,16; 132:13,14). And Isaiah calls upon Zion to awake from her slumber (moral stupor), to shake off the dust (of mourning), to loose herself from the yoke (of Assyria), and to put on once again her beautiful garments (the priestly robes, symbols of holiness and divine fellowship). His is the cry of victory at the vanquishing of the murderous oppressors from the north: "For henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean" (Isa 52:1,2).

BUT ENDURES FOREVER: Those who become affiliated with Zion will share her destiny: like her, they will "abide" (Heb "yashab": to sit down or reign) forever. They will become "pillars" in the glorious millennial temple, and they "shall go no more out" (Rev 3:12).

Psa 125:2

AS THE MOUNTAINS SURROUND JERUSALEM: In what sense can the immediate mountains about the Holy City be regarded as her defense? Certainly not by their height alone, for though ten times higher than the little "hills" on which Rome is built, none of the adjacent mountains (not even Olivet) has any great elevation above the city itself. However, Jerusalem is situated in the center of a mountainous region. Rugged peaks and narrow passes secure the city against any rapid invasion by a large force. And as the city is approached, a network of deep ravines and valleys further breaks up the terrain. Finally, the old city itself is a peninsula of land, immediately surrounded on three sides by steep valleys (at least, this was so before some of the valleys were considerably filled in by the debris of the centuries) (LB 667,668). But geography, while interesting in its own way, is not the truth upon which the spiritual lesson is imposed: By whatever figure employed, God alone is the defender of His city.

Psa 125:3

THE SCEPTER OF THE WICKED: Asshur (Isa 10:5,15,24; 9:4; 30:31). But they will rule Israel only for a little while: Isa 10:24,25; 26:13,14,19. The word there, as here, is "shebet", or "scepter", sig the exercise of authority. But the rod of the wicked shall not rest or remain upon the lot of the righteous

WILL NOT REMAIN OVER THE LAND: We are such frail creatures that it would be no great difficulty for God so to multiply our trials that hope and joy would be crushed beyond recovery, and we would be led in despair to forsake righteousness and follow iniquity. But God does not do this; instead, by a delicate balance, He places His children in the testing fire only long enough to purge out the dross, but not so long as to consume them. The trials of our faith are but for a moment alongside eternity (2Co 4:17,18), and they serve an indispensable end: the perfection of godly characters that will be of everlasting use to the Father (Pro 3:11,12; Heb 12:5-11). Let us take our cue from these records of God's dealings with His nation. "All these things happened unto them for types; and they are written for our admonition" (1Co 10:11).

Perhaps we may in time approach the divine ideal of rejoicing in our tribulations, seeing in them not present distress but future glory (Rom 5:3; Matt 5:10-12).

USE THEIR HANDS TO DO EVIL: KJV has "put forth their hands unto iniquity": turn in prayer to idols, as Ahaz did (2Ch 28:16-25). At the height of the crisis, it would be a sore temptation to buy peace and easy treatment by forsaking Yahweh for Asshur.

Psa 125:4

Cp v 3: 'Lord, remember those who remember You -- esp in a great crisis such as this!' 'Answer the prayers of these faithful ones.' (This was a favorite theme and prayer of Nehemiah: Neh 2:8,18; 5:19; 13:14,31.)

Psa 125:5

THOSE WHO TURN TO CROOKED WAYS: The special righteousness and faith and trust of Hezekiah still was not enough to command the loyalty of all his subjects (Isa 32:4-7; 33:3; 30:16). There were even among his counselors (did Hezekiah choose them?) men of decidedly different characters -- men who wove spider webs of intrigue and double-dealing diplomacy (Isa 30:1), men who with silver tongues urged compromises that would turn Israel aside from godly paths (vv 9-11). Such ministers were never completely eradicated in the best of times; it was probably during Hezekiah's long illness and confinement that they undid most of his good reforms, and suggested and implemented the various Gentile alliances that so weakened Judah.

Chief among such traitors (no other word fits half as well!) was Shebna (Isa 22:15). Shebna is condemned by Isaiah as a prominent representative of false security and luxury in a time of national trouble, when true Israelites should have been afflicting their souls. His end is not expressly recorded in the Bible, but (unless he repented) it surely fulfilled in some way the scathing prophecy of Isaiah: that any flight would be fruitless, since he was destined to be led forth to captivity and death in a strange country (Isa 22:17,18). So this subtle serpent was at last publicly displayed by God for what he was, and was led away with other "workers of iniquity" to the place of his death.

PEACE BE UPON ISRAEL: The psalmist returns to the concluding theme of other cycles in the Songs of Degrees: the entire nation sharing in the peace upon Jerusalem (Psa 122:6-8; 128:6). Paul seems to quote this verse: "And as many as walk according to this rule [i.e., crucifying the flesh and becoming new creatures], peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God" (Gal 6:16).

It is noteworthy that in this concluding section of his letter, Paul also states that God is not mocked, that a man shall reap whatsoever he has sown (Gal 6:7-9). Shebna and his kind sowed to the flesh, and at last they reaped the same. Their fleshly circumcisions availed them nothing, for they never became new creatures (v 15) -- they continued to trust in the arm and the mind of the flesh right to the end. But men like Hezekiah were not weary in well-doing. They sowed the seed of faith and watered it with their tears; in due season they reaped the reward (v 9; Psa 126:5,6): peace upon Israel (2Ki 20:19; Isa 39:8).

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