New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Psa 125:1

A Song of Ascents-
Or 'degrees'. Hezekiah’s response to being granted another 15 years of life was to edit and produce the Songs of Degrees, so named after the degrees of the sundial. Four of the 15 Psalms were by David, one by Solomon; and the other 10 it seems Hezekiah wrote himself but left anonymous. These ten Psalms would reflect the ten degrees by which the sun-dial went backwards. The point to note is that Hezekiah taught others in an anonymous way in response to the grace he had received. True preaching reflects a certain artless selflessness. These songs of ascents were presumably also intended to be sung by the exiles as they returned to Zion, and then every time they went up to Jerusalem to keep a feast. But there is no evidence this happened. For they didn't return in the kind of faith implied in these Psalms. The plural "ascents" would then be an intensive plural referring to the one great ascent, to Zion. Much of the language of these Psalms is typical of David's language when under persecution by Saul. But the Psalm was reapplied to Hezekiah, and then to the exiles on their return from Babylon, and then by extension to all God's people on their journey zionwards.

Those who trust in Yahweh are as Mount Zion which can’t be moved but remains forever-
David in his earlier Psalms exalts and boasts to God that his feet have not slipped, indeed he was overly confident that his feet would never slip / "be moved" (Ps. 17:5; 21:7; 55:22; 62:2,6; 125:1). His more mature reflection is that he had wrongly said "I shall never slip [AV "be moved"]" (Ps. 30:6), and his feet had indeed slipped, not least over the Bathsheba incident (Ps. 38:16; 94:18). Solomon didn't learn this lesson, for he likewise assumed that the righteous would never be moved / slip (Prov. 10:30), although he appears to accept that even a righteous man like his father had indeed slipped (Prov. 25:26). And Solomon himself did so, not learning the lesson from his father's mistaken assumption that the righteous can never slip.

"He will never be shaken" is spoken in Ps. 112:6 in the context of the outcome of the final judgment. Being unmoved or never shaken is a major theme of the Psalms of David. Human beings naturally seek for stability, but look for it in the wrong places, imagining that their idols shall never be shaken (s.w. Is. 40:20; 41:7). It is only the receipt of eternal salvation at the last day which means we shall never be moved; that is the only ultimate stability (Ps. 62:2,6 s.w.). Their stability will be associated with that of God's eternal Kingdom to be centered upon Zion (s.w. Ps. 125:1). For in secular life under the sun, the righteous do suffer and their lives are "shaken". Solomon's statements that the righteous shall never be shaken / moved (Prov. 10:30; 12:3) are only ultimately true in this sense; but whether he spoke them with that understanding is debatable.   

Just a very small amount of real faith during this life will enable us to move "this mountain", surely referring to Mount Zion in the immediate context (Mt. 17:20). The idea of Mount Zion being moved sends the mind to Zech. 14:4,5, describing how Mount Zion will be moved at the Lord's return; and also to Ps. 125:1, which speaks of how they who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be removed; and yet Christ said we will remove it by prayer. The point of these allusions is surely to show that real faith will bring about the coming of the Kingdom, which is a totally super-human achievement; the unshakeableness of Mount Zion is likened to the solidity of true faith. The Lord's point seems to be that if we truly believe, then the coming of the Kingdom will be brought about by our faith; the outcome of our faith in this life will be seen in the Kingdom. But what our faith will achieve in the Kingdom will be hugely out of proportion to what  it really is now.

Psa 125:2

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so Yahweh surrounds His people from this time forth and forever-
The hills around Jerusalem are not huge mountains. They are small hills, and this is the picture of God's protection; not hugely visible, but there. But the mountains around Jerusalem became the "high places" of idolatry (1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 23:13; 2 Chron. 21:11); what should have been the symbols of Yahweh's protection became perverted.

We can begin living the eternal life now, in that we can now act as we shall eternally. We shall be eternally appreciating, trusting, loving and praising God's Name- and we can begin that now. This is an Old Testament form (also in Ps. 113:2; 115:18; 121:8; 125:2; 131:3) of the Lord's teaching as recorded in John's Gospel, that we can have and live the eternal life right now. We have that life not in the sense that we shall never die, but in that we can begin living and being now as we shall eternally live and be.

Psa 125:3

For the sceptre of wickedness won’t remain over the allotment of the righteous; so that the righteous won’t put forth their hands to do evil-
Whatever the primary reference of this Psalm, it is a reworking of David's feelings when persecuted by Saul and likewise on the run from him. For circumstances repeat in our lives, and it would be natural for David to reconsider Psalms written at the time of one exile and apply them to another, just as these Psalms were also used for others in their times of exile. "Wickedness" is the word used about Saul's persecution in 1 Sam. 24:13.

In the context of Hezekiah and then later the Babylonians, the "lot" (AV) of the righteous was Jerusalem or the land of promise, which was originally split into lots (Josh. 18). The rod of wickedness would not lead God's people into sin. This is the principle of 1 Cor. 10:13, that sin is not inevitable, and a way of escape will always be made. This is a very powerful motivation in the peak intensities of temptation; we are not forced to sin by situations.

Psa 125:4

Do good, Yahweh, to those who are good, to those who are upright in their hearts-
Rom. 6:19 speaks of how the ever increasing downward spiral of obedience to sin is turned round at baptism, so that we begin an upward spiral of obedience to righteousness. God does good unto those that are good, but leads those who turn aside even further astray (Ps. 125:4,5). Those who are "[born] of God" are able to hear and understand God's words (Jn. 8:47)- and baptism is surely how we are born of God (Jn. 3:3-5). This seems to open up the possibility of yet higher growth once we are baptized- it's all an upward spiral, like any functional relationship.

Psa 125:5

But as for those who turn aside to their crooked ways, Yahweh will lead them away with the workers of iniquity. Peace be on Israel-
As noted on :4, this is the downside of :4. God can "lead into temptation" [for we pray that He will not do so to us], further down the downward spiral; if we ourselves turn aside. The idea of being "lead away" is of captivity; this is an acceptance that the captivity had been an appropriate judgment, as Israel had indeed turned aside (s.w. Is. 30:15; Am. 5:12 and often). And Ezekiel records how the exiles struggled with this. The true "Israel" of God who would have "peace" were those who recognized this and yet returned, both to their God and to Zion. Sadly the exiles didn't wish to do this.