Thursday, April 06, 2017

Reading Through the Psalms #10 (120-134)

Psalms volume 2We continue in the fifth and final book of the Psalms today accompanied by Psalms, vol. 2, The College Press NIV Commentary, by S. Edward Tesh and Walter D. Zorn. This post focuses on the Psalms of Ascent, probably sung as the people traveled to Jerusalem for one of the annual feasts. I am posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Psalms 120-134 are titled "the Psalms of Ascent." They were probably sung by those on pilgrimage to Jerusalem as they ascended the hills into the city on their journey. They praise God's care as king and look forward to the reestablishment of the Davidic kingdom. 120 is a psalm of trust in God when defamed or slandered. 121 celebrates God's commitment to guarding and protecting his worshipers. 122 is a prayer for the peace of Jerusalem. 123 views the relationship with God as master-servant and asserts the psalmist's attentiveness to God's will and trust in His provision.

Some people lie for no reason at all. Others would deal in treachery, fully intending to deceive by making the lie so believable that all accept it for the truth. When this occurs, the innocent victim has no defense except the knowledge of his own integrity and his faith that God will bring the wicked to judgment. Psalm 120, 396

One whose life is founded upon faith in God and who stands firmly upon this rock will be sustained through all trials and stresses of that life. God is his keeper (literally the “one watching over” him) and he is ever watchful; he does not slumber. Psalm 121, 400–401

He has seen already why the city should be accorded peace and prosperity—For the sake of the house of the LORD our God (v. 9a). It is this, and this only, that made Jerusalem any different from any other city in the world, and this made all the difference in the world. Psalm 122, 406

The servant in ancient times always stood ready at his master’s command. Just the slight movement of the master’s hand caused the servant to react...And so the servant’s eyes were ever watchful and desirous of the master’s approval. In his looking upon the hand of his master, he acknowledges both his dependence and his confidence that that hand will be opened to supply the needs of his people. Psalm 123, 407

The next section continues the Songs of Ascent. 124 celebrates deliverance from a powerful enemy. God is the reason Israel has continued to exist. 125 is a proclamation of faith that, despite the prominence of the wicked in the present, God's way will win out  and God's people will be preserved and blessed. 126 celebrates the return from exile as a dream come true, and asks God to restore the blessing of fertility to the land. 127 is a wisdom psalm that teaches the importance of the centrality of God for successful and secure families. 128 celebrates the happiness of a family that walks with YHWH and extends this blessing out to the wider family of God.

With the creator of heaven and earth on our side, Israel would say, deliverance was assured. In the words of the Apostle Paul: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.… You, my brothers [and sisters], were called to be free” (Gal 5:1a, 13a). Psalm 124, 412

So long as God surrounds his people, as the mountains surround Jerusalem, their preservation is assured. Consequently, the godly person may with confidence address his prayer to God to do good to the upright in heart, assured that the LORD will deal with the wicked and grant peace to his people. Psalm 125, 415

Answered prayers are the greatest foundation upon which to pray again. So it is with the psalmist and the community on behalf of which he speaks. While there has been great rejoicing at some great restoration of fortunes, be that of exiles having returned or some other great event that lifted their spirits just as high, the psalmist prepares another request. Psalm 126, 418

The message of the psalm is very clear: only God can provide the best shelter, true security, and essential food (vv. 1–2). But, above all, only God can provide a family, particularly sons to carry on the family line and to care for one in old age (vv. 3–5). Psalm 127, 421

To be blessed in this way is to be “endued with the power” to live a long life in order to see the birth and growth of your children, grandchildren, and perhaps even great grandchildren. The truly happy and blessed life cannot be expressed any better than through a grand and glorious family surrounding one in his or her old age. This is surely the goal of blessing. Psalm 128, 429

The Songs of Ascent continue with 129-134. 129 praises God that despite the unceasing historic opposition to and oppression of Israel by the powerful surrounding nations, God has preserved them. 130 counsels us to wait on God because His covenant forgiveness is our only hope. 131 reflects on a life satisfied in God that does live according to pride and ambition. 132 recounts the Davidic covenant and placing of the ark in Zion and expresses the hope that God's presence will return and the Davidic dynasty will be restored. 133 is a call to God's people to be unified and experience the joy and refreshment that unity brings. 134 ends the Songs of Ascent with a call to the departing pilgrims to continue to bless YHWH and a reminder that He will bless them wherever they go.

The supreme characteristic of God is that he is righteous (צַדִּיק, ṣaddîq, “just”). Being “just” he desires to put things right, especially with regard to his people. God’s people can appeal to his righteousness to save them. Psalm 129, 432

This psalm...speaks to our heart’s need more than most, for indeed we cannot stand before God with any record of our sins in his hands. We are absolutely helpless and totally dependent upon his grace, mercy, and forgiveness if we are to survive, either individually or corporately. We can only put our hope in God and wait—wait for his covenant love and loyalty to come through and bring us “full” redemption. Is there any other way? Psalm 130, 438

Apparently the psalmist looked upon life itself as a gift of God with which he had been entrusted, and he chose deliberately to accept that trust in a spirit of childlike humility. My eyes are not haughty, literally, “I do not lift up my eyes.” I do not fix my sight on the lofty goals determined by the world. Instead, he has deliberately chosen for himself an outlook on life that finds both fulfillment and contentment in whatever role may be his. Psalm 131, 439

For the pilgrims returning to a Jerusalem without a king, the psalm has become messianic and eschatological. Present circumstances do not support the promise, but God’s word is faithful. One day there will be an “anointed one” who will sit on David’s throne and reign forever (see Luke 1:32). Psalm 132, 449

One’s relationship to God then, as now, was as an individual, but it was as an individual in community! The community of believers, God’s community, is to be “fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (Eph 2:19). To be in the fellowship of God is to be in fellowship with the people of God. Psalm 133, 453

Do not suppose you are beyond his care when you leave the holy city, for the God whom you have worshiped in this temple in Jerusalem is the Maker of heaven and earth (cp. Ps 121:2; 124:8). So go with God’s blessing, wherever you journey. You are never beyond his care. Psalm 134, 456

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