Description / Transcription
Well, good evening. Good to see you folks tonight. I appreciated Nathan’s emphasis and reminder last Sunday evening when he talked about how each of the Psalms of Ascent builds on each other and there’s a theme that is woven throughout. Last week he brought our attention to the great theme of victory. Victory produces confidence, and as we enter into Psalm 125 tonight, we see indeed that this is a psalm of confidence, of assurance, of a blessed assurance. Fear cannot abide where faith has laid hold of the security of the children of God.
Psalm 125. I invite you to take your Bibles and your hearts and turn with me to this Psalm of Ascent. The writer of this psalm is one of the returning exiles, one of 50,000 who made the difficult 1700 mile journey across the desert sands to Jerusalem. He reached Jerusalem, and having reached Jerusalem, he looks around and he sees utter ruins. He sees the walls that were supposed to defend the city leveled to the ground. He looks at the temple that was built by Solomon, a beautiful, beautiful object of art and worship, and now it no longer is standing. He sees a few houses joined together. The streets are all filled with rubble and with grass and weeds. He also sees the enemies all throughout, the ones that we read about in the book of Nehemiah, the Samaritans. They’re all throughout the area.
All sorts of obstacles to face as they set about this enormous task of rebuilding Jerusalem, of reorganizing. How unable, how defenseless, they seem to themselves. No doubt fear mingled with insecurity of what lies before them floods their minds, particularly the writer of Psalm 125.
What about you and me tonight? What about the uncertainties, or the insecurities that are before us? Consider tonight the nature of the times in which we now live. Tonight in our own country we’re dealing with all sorts of shortages. Our education system, shortage of teachers and principals and aides. In the medical field, a shortage of nurses and doctors. Shortage of laborers in the workforce. The shortages of food due to food processing plants having been closed and mysteriously burned down.
I think we can all remember the baby formula shortage that occurred not long ago. Tonight you and I know about the shortage of gas with OPEC cutting back 2 million barrels of oil a day. Think about the shrinking power of the dollar.
How can you and I cope with the increasing evil, the growing hostility towards the Church? The instability of the economy? And the uncertainty of the future?
Well, let’s bring it down a level. What about the insecurities and the uncertainties that are before us in our own personal lives with our families, perhaps with our jobs, perhaps with our future, perhaps with our investments and planning for retirement?
Well, I would say to you tonight that the answer to this is found in what the psalmist unfolds in his own testimony of Psalm 125. As he looks out amongst Jerusalem, he sees underneath all of its debris and stubble and all the challenges before him and the others, Jerusalem sits on Mount Zion, strong, stable, and secure as it always has. With those thoughts in mind, turn with me and let’s read Psalm 125.
“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds His people,
from this time forth and forevermore.
For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest
on the land allotted to the righteous,
lest the righteous stretch out
their hands to do wrong.
Do good, O Lord, to those who are good,
and to those who are upright in their hearts!
But those who turn aside to their crooked ways
the Lord will lead away with evildoers!
Peace be upon Jersusalem!”
Let’s pray. Father, tonight we would ask again that our hearts would be attentive to Your Word. Lord, I ask that You would grant to me the thoughts and the leadership of Your Spirit and so honor You by declaring Your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Notice what the psalmist does for us here in this great psalm. First of all, in verse 1, he reminds us as he reminds himself of who we are. Verse 1 tells us that we are the people of God. He says this – those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever.
Then, reminding himself, reminding us, he reveals to us in verses 2 and 3 the protective power of God. He says as the mountain surrounds Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people from this time forth and forevermore, for the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on a land allotted to the righteous lest the righteous stretch out their hands to do wrong.
Then, thirdly, having reminded us of who we are, revealing to us the protective power of God, he re-routes us back to the very presence of the face of God in verses 4 and 5. He cries out, “Do good. O Lord, to those who are good, to those who are upright in their hearts, but those who turn aside to their crooked ways, the Lord will lead away with evildoers. Peace be upon Israel.”
Notice here as he looks out and he sees the debris and the ruins of Jerusalem, he goes beyond that and he reminds himself of who he is. Those who trust in the Lord are as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed but abides forever.
You know it’s easy to forget our identity, isn’t it? I’ve never had my identity stolen, I don’t think it would be worth much, but those that have had that happen to them know how frightening that is. It’s frightening to realize that there are people that are walking the streets tonight, for whatever reason, they don’t know who they are. Some are sick and have emotional disorders and they’re at the mercy and the kindness of others.
But there are also those within the body of Christ who forget who they are, and it’s easy to do that. We find here the psalmist says “those that trust in the Lord are as Mount Zion.” Now that’s what you are tonight if you have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Here is the description given to us, “those who trust in the Lord,” a personal bond between a redeemed sinner and a Savior. Those who fully trust in the Lord, he says, are as fixed and as firm at Mount Zion, which is the image presented to us of eternal steadfastness, of permanence.
You know there are some people that are like the sand, they’re ever shifting and they’re unstable. Some people are like the sea. They are restless and they’re unsettled. Some people are like the wind, uncertain and inconsistent.
But believers, I like what Spurgeon says, are like a mountain, strong, stable, and secure. Notice that the promise is mentioned here to those that trust in the Lord. They cannot be moved, but abide forever.
The pilgrims that would follow this psalm in the march up to Jerusalem later on, they would see Mount Zion in the future, and the closer they get to Mount Zion, they are impressed with the stature and the standing, and that same identification is applied to the children of God, those who believe and trust in the Lord is promised the same security of that mountain that stands, that stands forever.
Who could ever imagine Mount Zion being moved? As the psalmist stood there that day, he saw the things that were leveled by destruction of mankind, but one thing stood still and was secure and strong, and that was Zion Mountain. Zion Mountain, a fixed point that enables the writer to make the claim that as it is immovable, the people of God who place their trust in God are immovable. We are stable because our faith links our soul to the solid foundation of Jesus Christ.
A songwriter put it this way: “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
Our place tonight in the Savior’s love, our place tonight in the Savior’s new life, and the purposes that He has appointed unto us last forever and cannot be moved. We have the Savior’s word on that. Remember what He said to His own in John chapter 10? He said about His sheep, “I give unto them eternal life and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
Tonight, as a child of God who trusted in Christ, who is His own, no one can come and remove you from the position that you’re in, regardless of whatever is in front of you. For the psalmist, it was looking around and seeing total destruction and moving ahead and starting a new life. For you and this point of life that you are tonight, you belong to Him. He is by your side, and whatever comes your way, He will never leave you.
Tonight we belong to Jesus Christ. He saved us and He keeps us. But notice that the Psalms reveals to us secondly the protective power of God. As a mountain surrounds Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people from this time forth and forever, for the scepter of wickedness shall not rest upon the righteous so the righteous will not put forth their hands to do wrong.
The simple truth that the psalmist brings to us tonight in those verses is that God protects His people.
There’s a famous castle called the Hohenwerfen Castle. You may have seen it if you watch the great World War II movie Where Eagles Dare. It’s one of my favorites. In the movie it’s referred to as Schloss Adler, but it’s a real castle. It was built in 1075. It’s the only castle to survive the wars of the middle ages, remaining intact and undefeated. Not once in its long history has it ever known of the enemy overtaking it. The key to the security of that castle that still stands today is not its massive walls, or the turrets that are found throughout the wall, the stronghold is secured because of the Swiss Alps that protects this great castle called the Schloss Adler or the Hohenwerfen. Surrounded with mountains.
Mount Zion is not the highest peak in its mountain range. God promised not only to be present with His people but to surround them, to be all around them. It’s just like putting Zion Mountain, or Mount Zion, in an empty theater. It’s in the center and it’s surrounded and it’s protected.
Well, we find here that that’s what the psalmist brings to our attention. He says God promised not only to be present with His people but to be all around them as the mountains surround Jerusalem.
Now the psalmist here draws his analogy from the scene that he sees. He’s here in Jerusalem and to the east he sees the Mount of Olives, to the south he sees the hill of evil counsel, to the west he sees the ridge beyond the Valley of Jehoshaphat, to the north he sees Mount Scopus. All of these are higher than Mount Zion. All of these mountains provide Jerusalem with natural protection and security.
God’s protective power. We need to lay hold of that tonight. We find it beautifully illustrated in the Old Testament reading that Derek read for us, and I invite you to take your Bibles and turn back with me to 2 Kings chapter 6, verse 15-17. As Derek read this account, we find that the King of Syria saw to capture and kill the prophet Elisha once and for all. Elisha was a thorn in his flesh. He was upsetting all of his battle plans and something needed to be done. So the opportunity came for the King of Syria. He thought to capture Elisha and take his life once and for all. So he sends numerous soldiers with horses and chariots and they surround the city of Dothan. And there is Elisha and his servant.
We read when the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was around the city, and the servant said, “Alas, my master. What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man and he saw, and behold the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire, all around Elisha. “Alas, my master, what shall we do?” The Lord opened the eyes of the servant and he saw the innumerable host of chariots of fire.
The Lord surrounds His people. Beloved, you and I may not see horses and chariots of fire, but the Lord surrounds us as surely as he did Elisha. He defends His own.
It reminds me of the song that Nathan has taught us lately, “He Will Hold Me Fast.” Well, that’s what the Lord does to His own. He defends us. He holds to us. That means nothing gets to you, nothing touches your life, without His sovereign permission. That means no sorrow, that means no sickness, that means no temptation penetrates the divine fortress unless God so wills it.
I remember hearing Dr. Kelly say back in 2009 at Twin Lakes Conference, he said nothing comes to us except through His nail-pierced hands first.
Beloved, that is a great truth to lay ahold of. That nothing comes our way, whatever it may be, except through the nail-pierced hands of the Lord.
Notice how long this protection lasts. It’s not temporary. From this time forth and forever, God’s surrounding protection will be with His children forever. He promises His presence to His disciples just as He was returning to heaven. Remember what He said? “And behold, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.”
Now the psalmist gives us additional insight what it means to be secured by the Lord. Look at verse 3 – “For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous lest the righteous stretch out their hands to do wrong.” The Lord will never let wickedness get the upper hand so that it forces His people to sin.
As you look over the history of Israel, the scepter of wickedness only rested on the land when God’s people were stubbornly unrighteous and untrusting in Him. What do we know about that taught in the New Testament? The words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:13 – The Lord will not allow us to be tempted above what you’re able to bear, for he says no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape that you may be able to endure it.
Beloved, tonight we can never say, “God made me sin.” We can never say, as was popular when I was growing up, “The devil made me do it.” We cannot say tonight, “I had no other option.” Because what it gets down to is we sin because we want to. We fall because we choose a deliberate course of action. Realizing what Paul says to us in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that whatever temptation comes our way that we’re able to overcome, the Lord provides a way of escape.
With that promise, you know what? It should lead us to pray. It should lead us to pray for God’s restraining hand on the leadership of our country tonight. Just mentioned the insecurity that we face as a nation. We should pray that the Lord will be with the leadership, and that he will protect His people in the midst of all the insecurity that is before us, and to foster an atmosphere for righteousness to grow, and for justice to be carried out.
The Lord promises us that we’ll not be forced into sin, but He also knows that we’re easily led into it. You remember King Manesseh and you remember what it said about him, how wicked he was, more so than the Amorites, which was the all-time example of wickedness. The sad thing was as King of the kingdom of Israel he led the people into wickedness. We should pray for the Lord’s restraining hand on the leadership of our country.
What about Germany during World War II? Who would have believed that so many people would have been led into such wickedness? We can’t condemn every German who lived in Germany, but many Germans were led into great wickedness from their leadership, and we should pray. We should pray that our leaders will create an atmosphere in our land where righteousness will flourish.
This also should motivate us. It should cultivate in our walk of faith day by day, a deep longing in our hearts for the reign of King Jesus, for His return.
Let me ask you. Did you wake up this morning thinking that you belonged to Jesus Christ? Did you wake up this morning realizing you’re not your own, but been bought by the precious blood of Jesus Christ? Did you wake up this morning realizing that God is your Father and He has delivered you from the wrath to come?
But along that line, have you given any thought that this might be the day that the Lord returns for His own?
A deep impression was made on me growing up in our church in Baltimore. There was a great emphasis on the return of Christ. Yes, we had conferences that focused on that, but we had people in the membership, the believers there had a focus that the Lord could come in their lifetime, and the thought was looking for His return, but living a life that would reflect holiness.
Do you long for His return? We sing many songs about His return and the truths are deep embedded, that He has promised and we do pray as John did at the end of Revelation, even so come, Lord Jesus.
Well, having reminded himself and us that we are the people of God, and having revealed to us that God protects His people, he brings us now into the very presence of God. With confidence, he enters the throne room and he bears his request to God.
Verse 4 and 5, he prays, “Do good, O Lord, to those who are good and to those who are upright in their hearts. But as for those turn aside to their crooked ways, the Lord will lead them away with the doers of iniquity. Peace be upon Israel.”
He prays that the Lord will do good to those that are good. Now several thoughts here. We find that the child of God is one who trusts in the Lord, that he is a part of the greater people of the Lord, and tonight we see also he is listed as those that are good and upright in heart. Those who have been justified and given a heart for Him, living a life out that reflects His presence.
You know, in one way that prayer request is already being answered each day in our lives.
Turn with me to Romans chapter 8 and look if you will at verses 28 and 29. In one sense he’s answering that prayer request of the psalmist, “Do good, O Lord, to those who are good.” What do we find here in the words of the Apostle Paul? “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
Do you realize that tonight everything that the Lord is doing in your life, and in my life, is for this good? To make us like Jesus.
It also means here that He withholds no blessing in Christ from you and me.
Look at verse 32: “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?”
Do good, O Lord, to those that are good.
Well, He’s doing that tonight. Have you taken inventory of that this day? Have you acknowledged His working in your life, in Sunday school, in the morning service, with your family today? Even tonight as you gather again in the house of God?
Every grace we need, in the midst of the insecurities and the obstacles that are before us, every grace we need, everything that pertains to life and godliness, He gives to His children and here is our blessed assurance – God will do us good when life is unstable, when things are uncertain and unsettled, we find peace, we find safety in knowing that God uses everything to make us like the Lord Jesus, and that’s the reason why He saved us. To be like Him and to worship Him.
When we ask God to do good to His people, we have to believe that at the same time He’ll bring judgment on unbelievers. It’s mentioned in verse 5 – those who turn aside to their crooked ways. They do not trust in the Lord and they face the certain judgment of the Lord. The Lord will lead them away. He will judge them with evildoers.
Now, folks, however awful this truth is, it’s a great source of security for the Christian, because it reminds us that the Lord is committed to doing what is right. He will bring into account and deal with every sin because in His commitment to your security, to my security, He is committed to His own righteousness.
I think of the words of the hymn that often sing, “This is my Father’s world, O, let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems all so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s world, why should my heart be sad? The Lord is king, let the heavens reign, God reigns, let the earth be glad.”
Tonight, beloved, Psalm 125 gives us confidence and assurance that we are not alone, even now. Whatever the insecurities and the uncertainties that are before us nationally, that are before us regarding our families, our jobs, whatever it might be, they that trust in the Lord are as Mount Zion, as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people, and so that the Lord is working in us in this hour, making us more like Him with giving us the grace we need.
He ends this prayer with that last sentence. He prays this prayer, “Peace be upon Israel.” What is he praying here? Lord, do good to Your church, cause her to thrive, may she experience the fullness and the wholeness of what she is in Christ. Our assurance, our security begins where this psalm began, trusting in the Lord.
Let’s pray. Father, tonight we thank You for Your Word. We thank You for the assurance that You are a good God, working in the hearts of Your people, doing good, conforming us to the image of Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Lord, we confess at times we forget who we are and we confess that sometimes we act more like the world than we are as blood-bought children of the Lamb of God. Lord, may we get a new sense of who we are. Lord, may we realize that You saved us and You will see us through, that Your great power, nothing can come to us except through Your nail-pierced hands. O Lord, we look to You by faith and we look to You one day to see you face-to-face, but meanwhile Lord we pray that You will accomplish Your will in us and that we might have this confidence that You’re by our side in the coming week. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.