If you have your Bibles, please turn with me to Psalm 125 as we continue our way through the fifth book of the Psalms. The psalmist again, and we've seen this already several times — look back at Psalm 121. “I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?” And then again in Psalm 123. “To You I lift up my eyes.” As the pilgrims make their way towards Jerusalem, their eyes are on the mountains and the hills and it sets them to thinking, thinking about where their help comes from. And this psalm has the same feature again. The mountains and hills surrounding Jerusalem get the pilgrims thinking again. Let's pray and then we’ll hear the Word of the Lord.
Heavenly Father, we thank You for the truth of Your Word. We thank You that You've spoken a word to Your people. You've spoken a word of truth, a word of encouragement, a word of salvation. Grant us ears to hear, grant us hearts to receive and to believe and to trust in the Word which You say to us, Your promise. This we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
This is God's Word. Hear it in Psalm 125:
“A SONG OF ASCENTS.
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 Israel!”
Amen, and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
This psalm gets to first things in faith. It gets to central things in the life of the believer. It's set in a context in which there is a challenge to the faith of believers, and you see that challenge stated in verse 3. “The scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous.” We don't know the circumstance of this psalm, but we do know this: there is wickedness in high places in Israel. Does this mean that there is foreign occupation of the land by unbelieving rulers? Possibly, but pagans do not have a corner on the market of evil in high places. Sometimes even those who profess to be believers can actually be instruments of wickedness in high places. So whenever this may be, the challenge is, there is wickedness in the leadership of the land of Israel and this poses a challenge to the people of God. And the challenge is stated in the second half of verse 3. “Lest the righteous stretch out their hands to do wrong.” You see, the idea is, that there can be a corrupting influence of those who rule and thus who guide the culture and that can have an eroding, corroding influence on the hearts, on the behavior of those who profess to follow the Lord. This is not a unique problem in Israel. Jesus talks about it, you remember?
Turn forward to Matthew chapter 24 as He is warning His disciples about what will take place in the last days. He says this in Matthew 24 verse 12 — “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.” He's warning about the last days and the last things and the effect of it on the disciples. And He says that the lawlessness, the rebellion against the rule of God, the rejection of the ways of God, the wisdom of God, the commands of God, one result of it will be the love of many will grow cold. In that passage He's encouraging the disciples to prepare themselves for that day and He is pointing them to secure themselves in God for the living of those days. I think it's very timely for us in our own land. We see signs all around us of this corroding influence. Even in the news in the last two weeks and the encroachments upon religious liberty. We see a picture of what we are very likely going to live in for many, many years to come. And these things themselves can have a corroding influence upon the people of God. When the culture goes one direction and things that were once not acceptable become generally acceptable and prevalent and if you do not add your “Amen” to them, you are considered a danger. And then, underneath that kind of corrosive influence, even in your own heart what you never would have considered acceptable begins to look more acceptable. This is the kind of circumstance that the psalmist is speaking about in Psalm 125.
And it's important for us to understand that what the psalmist says here about Mount Zion applies not only to Old Testament saints but to believers. When the psalmist speaks of Mount Zion, he has in mind the people of God. Look at verse 1 and then look at the parallel, the restatement in verse 2. “Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion.” Verse 2 — “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people.” Mount Zion is a picture of the people of God and of course for those of us who live under the new covenant in the wake of the days of Pentecost, the people of God means the Church.
I love what Calvin says here:
“Those who may not sufficiently apprehend by faith the secret protection of God, the mountains which environ Jerusalem, are exhibited as a mirror in which they may see beyond all doubt that the Church is as well defended from all perils as if it were surrounded on all sides with walls and bulwarks.”
Calvin is saying to us that the words here, spoken of Mount Zion, are meant for the Church, the people of God. And he goes on to say that it is appropriate for us also, as those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, to apply these words not just generally to the Church but to each of us ourselves as members of Christ's body, that God's promises of watch care and providence over His Church in general apply to us in particular as individuals who are members of the body of Christ, believers in the Lord Jesus. And so this psalm is a psalm that speaks to the people of God, to the Church, and to the members of the Church particularly in a time in which the rule of wickedness is corroding and corrupting the hearts of the people.
THE ONE WHO TRUST IN THE PROMISES OF GOD HAS STABILITY
And what does it say? Well, let's look at verses 1 and 2 especially to see the encouraging word that the psalmist gives us. “Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion.” I want to stop right there and say that true religion begins at the center. Back in Psalm 121 verse 1 when the psalmist said, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?” the psalmist may have been tempted momentarily to look somewhere else for help except to the Lord. But here we're told expressly that those who trust the Lord are like Mount Zion. True religion begins at the center; the Lord, in whom all things hold together. It is the Lord, not the mountains; it is the Lord, not Mount Zion; it is the Lord in whom the psalmist trusts. And this psalm is about us cultivating a Gospel trust in the Lord God.
And of course to trust in the Lord is one of the great Old Testament phrases or descriptions for what it means to have a personal relationship with the living God. Those who trust the Lord, in this psalm, notice this is an approximation of what is meant at the end of verse 2. The Lord surrounds His people. Who are His people? Those who trust the Lord. They’re called other names at the end of the psalm. Look at verse 9. “Do good to those who are good, to those who are upright in their hearts, to Israel.” Now each of those are different descriptions of the people of God but I want you to understand what's being said here. The psalmist is not saying that God, he's not praying that God would be good to His people because they are perfect. When he calls them “good” and “upright in their hearts” there is no claim for sinless perfection here.
Remember Genesis 15:6, “And Abram believed and the Lord credited it to him as righteousness.” The righteous is a name for the people of God in the Old Testament not because we are so righteous and thus have earned or deserve God's favor. No, we have believed. We have trusted the Lord — “Abraham believed and the Lord credited it to him as righteousness.” We have trusted the Lord and He has counted us righteous. And having been counted as righteous, we walk in the way of the Lord. And so we're called the upright because why? We trust in the Lord like father Abram did. And so it's important for us to understand this language.
Of course there's other Old Testament language as well to describe the believer's personal relationship with the living God. There is the common refrain that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” This means to hold God in awe, to tremble before Him in holiness, not to cower before Him in slavish fear, but to hold Him in a filial awe, to hold Him in respect like a son holds a father in respect, to adjudge Him the One who is worthy of our praise and worthy of our obedience. Another term in the Old Testament is of course to “love the Lord.” To “love the Lord” is an expression, a description of a believer who has a personal relationship with God. Or, to “know the Lord.” Over and over that refrain is heard in the book of Ezekiel — to “know the Lord.” It's also heard in the book of Exodus over and over again. To “know the Lord” is an expression of what it means to have a personal relationship with the living God. So to “trust the Lord,” to “fear the Lord,” to “love the Lord,” to “know the Lord,” to “worship the Lord,” to “be the upright,” to “be those who do good” — these are all descriptions of the believer in a personal relationship with God. And the psalmist here is wanting to exhort the believer in a time of difficulty to trust the Lord.
To trust the Lord here does not simply mean to believe that God exists. You remember James in James chapter 2 says, “You believe that God is one, you do well. The demons do also and they tremble.” To trust the Lord is not simply to believe that God exists nor is it simply to believe that God is in charge of life in general, that He exercises a general government over this world. The demons also believe this. They are emphatically in belief of that and yet they are not saved. Why? Because to trust the Lord is to respond in faith to the promises that He has given to us in His Word and those promises are promises of minute, microscopic care for the people of God. Listen to what Charles Simeon said. We've just been in the missions conference this past week and Charles Simeon who preached in Cambridge for three or four decades sent out many young men to the mission field, among them Henry Martin. Some of you may have known the story. Henry Martin, who went as a young man, and died on the mission field, was one of Simeon's prized students and he had a portrait of him hanging over his fireplace at his home in Cambridge. And when people would come into his home, he would point to them Henry Martin, his son in the faith who had died on the mission field. And he would say, “Do you know what he is saying to me?” He would look at his piercing eyes in the portrait and he’d say, “Do you know what Henry Martin is saying to me? He's saying to me, ‘Don't trifle, Charles, don't trifle.’” The earnestness of Henry Martin was a constant encouragement to Charles to be about the business of the Lord.
Well Charles Simeon, commenting on this psalm, says this:
“Trust in the Lord does not involve a mere general acknowledgement of God as the governor of the universe. It implies incomparably more. It is a deep conviction of His special providence, of His incessant attention to every minute concern of His own peculiar people.”
And this is what trust is. It is to believe that God has a special concern, an incessant concern for the minutest need of His people because He's promised this in His Word. God works all things — not some things, not most things, but all things together for good to them that love God, who are called according to His purpose. Jesus says, “Not a hair falls from your head apart from the will of the Father.” The minutest concern for your special providence – this is the trust that the psalmist is exhorting us to. The psalmist is saying, “Cultivate this kind of trust; trust God in this way.”
What does that trust result in? Well, the psalmist tells you three things. It results in stability, it results in surrounding, and it results in sustaining. Look at what the psalmist says. “Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion which cannot be moved.” When the earth is quaking under everyone else's feet, the one who trusts in the promises of God has stability, is unmoved, because God is upholding him, God is upholding her. So there is stability.
THE LORD SURROUNDS HIS PEOPLE
But not only stability, there is surrounding. Look at verse 2. “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people.” Isn't that a beautiful image? When you’re in the midst of trial, when you feel surrounded by your enemies, when the lights have gone out and hope with them, to think that you are surrounded by the Lord like Jerusalem is surrounded by the mountains, is a strengthening, a comforting thought. You remember the words to Saint Patrick's breastplate, often sung in a chorus? “Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.” It's a picture of being surrounded by Christ and we could say that it comes right out of this psalm — surrounded by the Lord. Those who trust in the Lord are given stability and surrounding by God.
THE LORD SUSTAINS HIS PEOPLE
But not only that, they are sustained. Listen to the language. Verse 1 — “Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion which cannot be moved but abides forever.” Verse 2 — “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and forevermore.” There is a sustaining. And isn't that what we need in trial? Isn't that what we need in this life? A supply, a divine supply to endure the trials and the tribulations? And there is it. It's a word from the Lord of encouragement and promise — stability, surrounding, sustaining, when you need it the most. Trust in the Lord.
What is the psalmist telling us in this psalm? He's telling us, it seems to me, two things. First of all, that we need to get and cultivate big views of our God and our Savior. “Those who trust in the Lord” — and if those words do not instill you with encouragement and strength, then you keep going back to the Book and looking at your Lord and looking at your God and looking at your Savior until you see how big He is. He's the God that walked with Abram all the way from Ur of the Chaldees into the land of Canaan. He's the God that guided Joseph all the way through his adventures from his capture and imprisonment at the hands of his brothers to being sold into slavery and imprisoned in Egypt all the way to the leadership of that great land. He's the God who brought His people out of the land of Egypt on dry ground across the Red Sea. You go back to the Book until you've gotten, until you've cultivated big views of God, your Savior. Here's the thing — there is no effect that can be greater than its cause, and if you know that you’re trusting in the Lord there is no greater cause, and surely He can master any effect that is needful to you. So we need big views of our God and Savior.
And here's the next thing and it's a phrase from Simeon. Let your expectations from Him be to the utmost extent of your necessities. Isn't that a beautiful phrase? Let your expectations from Him be to the utmost extent of your necessities. What is your need in your trouble? Have you said it to the Lord? Have you cried it out to the Lord and trusted in the Lord to meet your utmost need, your utmost necessity? Have you expected from Him to be, to meet your need in its utmost extent? “You have not because you ask not,” Jesus said. James said it too, “You have not because you ask not.” And the very passage underneath the passage we studied in Luke 24 this morning, in John 16, Jesus told His disciples that, “There will come a time when you will ask in My name from the Father and He will give to you everything you need when you ask it in My name.” And the psalmist is saying, “Test the Lord here. Test the Lord not in an impertinent and irreverent way, but test Him at His Word.” He says, “Trust Me and I will give you stability and I will give you surrounding and I will give you sustaining. Trust Me; I'm good for it.” Get big views of God and trust Him to the uttermost in your necessities. Let's pray.
Heavenly Father, thank You for this encouraging word to us. It's a Word we need to hear. We are very quick to try and develop devices for our own protection. We’re very quick to try and come up with solutions and answers to our own problems, and we are too often slow to trust You only and to trust You completely. But there is no circumstance that is greater than You and so there is no situation in which we may not trust You. So to all those who comes to this place tonight in need of Your strength, grant them stability and surrounding and sustaining because You are the greatest one in this world and nothing is impossible with You. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.
Would you stand for God's blessing?
Peace be to the brethren and love with faith from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ until the daybreak and the shadows flee away.