- His Presence
A steady, calm faith lies beneath this psalm about those who trust in the LORD (v. 1)
These trusting souls are as unshakable as Mount Zion (v. 1) because the LORD surrounds (enfolds, NEB) them with protective care as the mountains surround Jerusalem (v. 2).
Regarding its setting, Psalm 125 focuses on Jerusalem and concludes with petitions aimed at the establishment of peace. Like Psalms 123 and 124, the people live under foreign domination. The psalm could be a response to postexilic anxieties about whether God will honor the ancient promises of restoration.
Expression of Confidence in the LORD’s Protection 125:1–3
The pilgrim psalms use picturesque figures of speech drawn from everyday life. Here, those who trust in the LORD are likened to Mount Zion, the rock on which the temple was built (v. 1) [Zion]. Ancient traditions proclaim the stability of Zion, the mountain of God deeply rooted in the womb of the earth (Pss 46; 48; 78:68–69; 87:5; Isa 14:32). As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people with his protective power forevermore (v. 2; Ps 34:7; Zech 2:7–12).
That power even affects the situation of internal or external oppression symbolized by the scepter of wickedness (v. 3). The seductive inducement to apostasy is subject to God’s power. The description of the land allotted to the righteous refers back to the time after the conquest when Joshua cast lots for dividing the land among the tribes (Num 26:55–56; Josh 18:6). The land was a gift to those who had committed themselves to the LORD. Stuhlmueller (1983, 2:164) calls attention to the careful nuances in verse 3: “Because the Lord is round about his people, THEN the scepter of the wicked shall not rest upon the land, AND SO the righteous will not put forth their hands to do wrong.”
However, we dare not base security on the relative stability of life’s circumstances. Protection and peace are essentially matters of the spirit, not necessarily a deliverance from those who can kill the body.
Reflection on verse 3 of this psalm of trust is intriguing. The people were under domination of a scepter of wickedness, under oppression cruel and prolonged. Perhaps the danger was that the righteous might, through loss of faith and in desperation, be tempted to avenge themselves by wrong deeds.
1. They who confide in Jehovah are as mount Zion. The present Psalm differs from the preceding in this—that while in the other it was said that the Church had been preserved by the power of God, without any human means, the Holy Spirit, in the one before us, teaches that in the time to come she shall always continue in perfect safety, because she is defended by the invincible power of God. When the Church is emblematically described by the situation of the city of Jerusalem, the design of the Prophet is to encourage each of the faithful to believe, that the safety promised in common to all the chosen people belongs to him.
We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet, which is, that although the world is subject to so many and so sudden changes as almost to put on a new face every moment, and although the faithful are mingled with and placed in the same external condition as others, yet their safety continues steadfast under the invincible protection of God.
Not that they are permitted to dwell undisturbed and at ease; but because their safety being under the guardianship of God is assaulted in vain; at least they can never altogether fall, although they may stumble.
Jerusalem appears frequently in the Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120–134); this time it is an example of permanent security. The psalmist calls God’s people to a righteousness characterized by trust in the LORD. Those who trust become like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken (125:1), a strong statement in a land where earthquakes are not infrequent. Jerusalem is located on a hill (just over 2400 feet) surrounded by other, higher hills. In the same way, Yahweh himself surrounds His people. The Hebrew word for eternity appears twice in 125:1–2 (forever [125:1]; forevermore [125:2]). This emphasizes Jerusalem’s security but, more to the psalmist’s purposes, the security of the righteous. Because this security is based not on Jerusalem but on Jerusalem’s God, it lasts forever.
Many commentators date this psalm to the post-exilic period because of the picture of foreign domination which they find in the phrase, scepter of the wicked (125:3). This view falters on two counts. First, Jerusalem is used in verses 1 and 2 as a metaphor for permanent security. Post-exilic Jerusalem, which was destroyed by the Babylonians and did not recover its former glory until long after this psalm was written, is not a good example of permanent security
As the mountains are round about Jerusalem; by which it was defended both from stormy winds and from the assaults of its enemies.
CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED TWENTY-FIVE
Contents: The security of God’s people because of His promises, and the jeopardy of the wicked.
Characters: God, Israel.
Conclusion: There is no gap in the hedge of God’s protection which He makes round about His trusting people. The happiness of God’s people will be the vexation of those who perish in their wickedness.
Key Word: Security, v. 2.
Strong Verses: 1.
Ps 125 The security of the true believer is like the security of Mount Zion that is surrounded by mountains
The hills stand for stability, permanence and protection; but the psalmist doesn’t rely on them. His protector is the One who made the hills!
The care which God gives to his people is for every individual at all times. God never sleeps; his attention never wavers. There is no circumstance which is beyond his control. The Lord himself guarantees safety in every enterprise, for the whole of life. And the cover starts now.
The psalm underscores (1) the protection of Yahweh (vv. 1–3);
mountains were the symbol of all that was immovable and unchangeable.
To that rock-solid mount the pilgrims were making their way. No storms of trial could shake it.
125:2. All around Jerusalem are higher hills. This girdle of mountains to the psalmist was a ever-present symbol of Yahweh’s guardianship of his people.
Psalm 125 A mountain surrounded by mountains. Those who trust God are as unmovable as a mountain (125:1) and are surrounded by the even greater mountains of the Lord’s presence (125:2). With this assurance, the psalmist was sure that God would overcome all evil (125:3–5).
I. GOD’S DELIVERANCE (125:1–3)
A. The comparison (125:1) : Those who trust in God are as secure as Mount Zion.
B. The conclusion (125:2–3): As the mountains surround the city, so God surrounds the redeemed, keeping them from doing wrong.
Psalm 125 The Security of God’s People
A national lament, a pilgrim psalm
Note the comparison of the righteous person to a mountain (125:1). Usually God is pictured that way. The mountains literally surround Jerusalem (125:2). To the north is Mount Moriah (2,425 feet high); to the east, the Mount of Olives (2,700 feet high); to the west, the Western Hill (2,550 feet high); and to the south, the so-called Mount of Evil Counsel where the local United Nations Head-quarters is presently located.
This is a picture of a believing community, finding security in trust (1, 2); a threatened community, patiently waiting till the Lord remove the burden of wicked rule (3); a
1–2 Trust makes us the living counterpart of the immovable Zion; the encircling mountains are a physical counterpart of the encircling Lord. 3 That trust includes faith in the Lord’s providential world-rule
A. Affirmation of security (125:1–3)
125:1–3. Verse 1 summarizes the psalmist’s theme that believers are secure and unshakable. He compared them to Mount Zion, which endures forever.
This imagery is continued in verse 2. Observing how the mountains surround Jerusalem, he declared that the LORD surrounds His people, protecting them on all sides.
1-3. A Statement of Confidence. They that trust ... as Mount Zion ... As the mountains ... so the Lord. Not only is God’s presence symbolized by the hills around Jerusalem, but also those who trust in the Lord are immovable like the rock of Zion. If foreign rule did remain permanently, a general departure from the faith would occur, even among the righteous. The danger of apostasy is too great even for the righteous to bear.
They have the promises of a good God that they shall be fixed (v. 1), and safe (v. 2),
Round about Jerusalem are mountains, but more important still: Jahve, of rocks the firmest, Jahve encompasses His people.
What he meant was that those who trust in the Lord possess an impregnable faith (see also Ps. 46:5). The phrase abides for ever does not, however, mean “till the end of the world”. That would be a “Greek” philosophical notion. It means that Mount Zion has an anchor within the veil, in that it belongs in eternity.
Next, we are given two symbols to strengthen our human faith.
1. The Hebrew runs: Jerusalem? The mountains surround her. The Lord? He surrounds his people; or, as Zech. 2:5 (a contemporary passage) expresses the same symbol: “I will be to her a wall of fire round about, says the Lord, and I will be the glory within her.” And we are to remember that, in Zechariah’s day, there was nothing to see, no rebuilt Temple, no fortifications as yet, nothing but fallen masonry and bare rock!
The psalm opens by describing the interplay between Israel’s trust in Yahweh and His protection of Israel and Jerusalem (vv. 1–2), and explains Yahweh’s protection of Israel from foreign rule as a concern to protect the purity of Israel (vv. 1–3).
125:1–3 The opening verses establish the psalm’s theme of trust. Yahweh will protect His people so that they might remain pure from the influence of corrupt rule.
125:1 . Those who trust The Hebrew word used here, batach, implies security or confidence. Israel’s trust in Yahweh implies their loyalty to Yahweh and His commands.
Mount Zion Refers to the temple mount in Jerusalem.
125:2 Yahweh is round about his people God responds to Israel’s loyalty by protecting them. Yahweh protects Jerusalem because it is the location of the temple, and protects His people because they are the location of His dwelling place. The psalmist combines the people and the holy site in his portrayal of God’s relationship with His people.
This Psalm, belonging to the number of the Songs of Degrees, teacheth us, while we ascend raise our minds unto the Lord our God in loving charity and piety, not to fix our gaze upon men who are prosperous in this world, with a happiness that is false and unstable, and altogether seductive; where they cherish nothing save pride, and their heart freezeth up against God, and is made hard against the shower of His grace, so that it beareth not fruit.…
II. The privileges connected with it—
There shall be,
[Mount Zion was a place of so much strength, that, from the days of Joshua to the time of David, the Israelites could never take it. They occupied Jerusalem: but Mount Zion was too strong for them; insomuch that the Jebusites who inhabited it laughed them to scorn, vaunting, that if there were none left but blind and lame to defend the fortress, the Jews should never be able to prevail against it. But far more impregnable is the fortress in which they dwell who trust in the Lord: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth to it, and is safe.” They may be assaulted both by men and devils; but they are assured, that “God will keep them by his own power, through faith, unto everlasting salvationc.” They are in the Saviour’s hands; and he has pledged himself that “none shall ever pluck them out of his hands.” In themselves they remain weak as ever, as both David and Peter have clearly shewn; but in Christ they are strong: and in the Covenant which is made with them in Christ, and “which is ordered in all things and sure,” it is engaged, on the part of God, that they shall never be moved, and that “the gates of hell shall never prevail against theme.”]
[The hills that were round about Jerusalem protected it on every side; so that the Romans, it was confessed, would not have been able to subdue it, if the garrison themselves had not madly assisted them by their mutual contentions. But far more effectually does the Lord protect his people, being to them “a wall of fire round about them;” a wall which will not only ward off the assaults of their enemies, but will itself destroy their assailants. In fact, “he keeps them even as the apple of his eyeg:” and “sooner shall the ordinances of heaven and earth pass away, and the foundations of the world be searched out,” than any one of them shall be left to perish. To assure them of this, “he has confirmed his covenant with an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, they might have strong consolationi,” and live “assured that nothing shall ever separate them from his love.”]
Ver. 1.—They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion; rather, are as Mount Zion; i.e. are as firmly fixed and established as “the mount of God,” which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever (comp. Isa. 28:16).
Ver. 2.—As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people. This is the true cause of his people’s stability, which is like that of his holy mountain. The ubiquitous God stands round about his people, and protects them on every side. The mountains that are “round about Jerusalem” are, on the east, the Mount of Olives; on the south, the Hill of Evil Counsel; on the west, the ridge beyond the valley of Jehoshaphat; and on the north, the high ground about Scopas. All these are higher than the platform upon which the city is built.
The psalmist in verse 1 compares the security of those who trust in the Lord to the strength and stability of Mount Zion (see 2:6). It is unshakable (cannot be moved) and will never disappear (abides for ever). TEV’s passives “never be shaken, never be moved” must sometimes be recast as “no one can shake it or move it.”
In verse 2 the psalmist compares the protection provided by Yahweh to the mountains around Jerusalem. In the same way Yahweh surrounds his people, that is, protects them from danger. For verse 2c see 121:8c. In some languages it will not be possible to say “the Lord surrounds his people.” It may be necessary, therefore, to make a comparison in the following way: “As the mountains are around Jerusalem, so the Lord puts his arms around his people” or “The Lord protects his people like the mountains protect Jerusalem.”
From this image, which makes prominent the idea of a firm foundation, the course of thought passes over immediately to a related and yet different one, which describes figuratively the protection which God vouchsafes to His people.
the figure is that of the protecting mountains which surround Jerusalem. “The sacred city lies upon the broad and high mountain range, which is shut in by the two valleys, Jehoshaphat and Hinnom. All the surrounding hills are higher: in the east, the Mount of Olives; on the south, the so-called Hill of Evil Counsel, which ascends from the Valley of Hinnom; on the west, the ground rises gently to the border of the great Wady, as described above; while in the north the bend of a ridge, which adjoins the Mount of Olives, limits the view to the distance of about a mile and a half” (Robinson).