George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 5

Psalm 134

1. Structure

Bless ye the Lord
The Lord bless thee

2. Introduction

This, the concluding psalm of the fifteen Songs of Degrees, deals with a night of service by the priests in the Temple. Verses 1 and 2 are the admonition (from Hezekiah?) to the priests as they prepare for their temple ministry; and verse 3 is the reply of the priests.

This series of psalms began, in Psalm 120, with distress; it ends here with blessing. It began with Gentile warriors, and it ends with godly priests. War is no more, and the hallowed courts of God’s house echo in the still night air with soft greetings of “Shalom”. Above the height of Olivet the sky has begun to lighten, as the priests quietly begin their preparations for the morning sacrifice. Soon the silent courts will be filled with people — redeemed, happy, and worshipful.

There is a remarkable order about these final three songs:

Psalm 132:
Blessing for Zion
Psalm 133:
Blessing in Zion
Psalm 134:
Blessing from Zion

The prayer of 132 receives a promise from God that His people will be blessed, and that that impending blessing will be closely associated with Zion (vv. 13,14). The firstfruits of that promise are the subject of Psalm 133: the saints stand figuratively upon mount Zion (cp. Rev. 14:1-3), where as members of Christ’s ecclesia they count Jerusalem as their birthplace (Psa. 87:6). Blessings are poured out upon them, and greater blessings await. In Psalm 134, the climax of the Songs of Degrees, blessings stream forth from Zion, not upon a few scattered saints only, but upon the whole world. The law goes forth from Zion (Isa. 2:2-4), and all nations are harvested in the great ingathering (Zech. 14:16). The mountain of the Lord’s house is established as the highest of the mountains — a house of prayer for all peoples (Isa. 56:7).

3. Hezekiah

Behold, bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord, which by night stand in the house of the Lord. Night-watches were customarily set in the temple, it being the duty of the Levites to keep guard at the gates to prevent the unclean from entering (cp. also 1 Chron. 9:33; Luke 2:37 for other “services” at night). An official, known as the “captain of the temple” (Acts 4:1), was entrusted with the command of the twenty-four guard stations about the gates and courts, each consisting of ten men (Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, pp. 147,148).

After midnight the temple captain took with him certain of the appointed priests for the ministry of the next day. Passing into the temple courts, they split into two companies, each with a torch, and compassed the courts to see if all was in readiness for the service of the dawning day. They then went into a chamber of the temple where the lots were drawn to assign the day’s duties (cp. Luke 1:8,9; Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Psalms, vol. 3, pp. 321,322; these details were certainly true of Herod’s temple, and very likely true in the days of Hezekiah).

King Hezekiah had a profound interest in the service of the temple. For him it was more than ritual, it was life itself. In the first year of his reign this zeal manifested itself in cleansing of the temple, reorganization of the worship there, and direct personal exhortation to the priests (2 Chron. 29:11; 30:16; 31:2). Hezekiah must have often imagined himself among the priests of the temple, keeping holy vigil, “soldiers” at their posts in the “warfare” of the Lord: “My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning” (130:5,6).

So it should be for all who would be “priests” of God; they must watch and pray. For surely, as the sky begins to brighten in anticipation of a new day, the true “Captain of the Temple” will make his inspection tour, and blessed will be those servants whom the Lord when he cometh will find watching (Matt. 24:42,46)! But woe unto those who are found asleep when on duty, for they shall be beaten and their garments taken from them and burned, and they will be driven away naked from the presence of their master (Edersheim, as above): “Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame” (Rev. 16:15; cp. 1 Thes. 5:6).
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord. Here is a plea from Hezekiah to those priests and Levites who stand on guard at night in the temple, that they do so with praise and thanksgiving on their lips, and their hands outstretched to God (Psa. 141:2; cp. Psalms Studies, Psa. 28, Par. 5, v. 2), for there was much about their service that was conducive to a mere mechanical compliance.
The Lord that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion. Here is the echo of the traditional benediction of the high priest:

“The Lord bless thee, and keep thee; the Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace” (Num. 6:24-26).

The priests as they go about their duties return the wishes of Hezekiah and the faithful. True service of God is the lifting up of hearts and hands to Him, not the multiplication of ritualistic exercises. Those who thus serve God can expect His blessings in return.

Yahweh is the one true God, who has created all things (Psa. 121:2). This is emphasized one final time in these songs, in retort to the boastful words of Rabshakeh — who asked: “Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed?” (2 Kings 19:12). Hezekiah appeals to God on this ground, that He should avenge such blasphemy, for “Thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth” (2 Kings 19:15; 2 Chron. 32:19; Isa. 37:36).

4. Christ

There is a time coming when the heavens and earth will be made anew, when faithful men and women will be recreated in the image of God in His fullness. Then we will have come at last to lift up our hands in the ancient holy place of Zion. The blessing ordained from the beginning will be ours, along with all the faithful of previous generations, who with us have seen in visions and dreams what we will then see in the most brilliant reality. Degree by degree, step by step, the pilgrims ascend the sacred stairs, at last to stand on hallowed ground. The struggles of the night have ended; their memory remains only to make the enjoyment of the reward that much sweeter. There is a voice from the throne...

“Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

“The Lord bless thee out of Zion.”

The saints in Christ who now, in the world’s night of gross darkness and gloom (1 Pet. 2:9; Rom. 13:12), stand to bless the Lord, will one day gather in the spiritual house of the Lord.
There they will lift up hands in adulation and thanksgiving, as Paul’s neglected instruction says (1 Tim. 2:8).
This is the blessing imparted by the Priest after the order of Melchizedek. Heaven and earth are now completely subject to the God who brought this redemption. Bless thee, He says to His Son, the Messiah. And out of Zion that blessing flows forth — through the Son — to all the world.
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