Chapter 13: Psalms 133; 134

Psalm 133‑134  •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Unity and Praise.
SO intimately are these two Psalms connected, that it will be profitable to consider them together. For faith, the habitation of God and the rest of God have been reached in Zion, the place of His sovereign election; and there, moreover, He has set His King upon His holy hill. Full and complete blessing is the result, and upon His Anointed, His enemies being put to shame, His crown will forever flourish. The state of restored Israel is now depicted, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Ephraim shall no more vex Judah, nor shall Judah again vex Ephraim (Isa. 11:1313The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim. (Isaiah 11:13)), but they shall be “one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.” (Ezek. 37:2222And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all: (Ezekiel 37:22).)
So was it after Pentecost. In Acts 2, when, according to promise, the Holy Ghost came down to dwell with and in believers, God’s new habitation was formed; and immediately after we read that the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul (Acts 4:3232And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. (Acts 4:32)), a unity which could only have been produced by, and displayed in, the power of that Spirit which they had received; a unity, too, which involved, as they were afterward to learn, oneness with Christ, as their glorified Head, as well as with one another. Indeed, it is only the sense of union with Christ that could lead to brethren dwelling together in unity. But it is the fact, rather, which here we are invited to contemplate, and the acceptability of the fact to God Himself; for it is the Holy Spirit who calls our attention to this “good” and “pleasant” spectacle.
We might well humble ourselves in the dust before God, as we are reminded of the contrast to all this which is presented by believers of the present day. “That they all may be one” was the Lord’s own desire; and for the brief period alluded to in Acts 4 this desire was realized; but ever since that day the Church of God, as to its outward position in the world, has gone on being divided and subdivided in such a way that the divine original has been almost entirely obscured even from the minds of Christians. While, however, we deplore this work of the enemy, let us never forget what God’s thoughts are, and never fail in our own circle of fellowship to remember how acceptable it is to God to see His people walking in fellowship, and endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace. And we might also remember that it is the Lord Himself who has said, “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:3535By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:35).)
The very symbol used in the next verse does but intensify the divine estimate of the manifested unity of the saints: “It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; as the dew of Hermon, [and as the dew] that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” (vv. 2, 3.) The reference in this emblematical language is doubtless to the anointing oil which was poured upon Aaron’s head on the day of his consecration (Ex. 29:77Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him. (Exodus 29:7)), and which, flowing down to the lowermost borders of his priestly robe, filled the scene with its fragrance. The composition of, and the directions concerning, this “precious ointment” are given in Exodus 30; but the point to be observed here is, that precious as were the odor and fragrance of this ointment at the consecration of Aaron, so precious and fragrant before God are His people when dwelling together in unity.
If, however, the reference is to the consecration of Aaron, the allusion is also prophetical in its fullest and richest significance. The apostle Peter uses language, in fact, which justifies this interpretation. Speaking of the resurrection of Christ, he says, “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.” (Acts 2:3333Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. (Acts 2:33).) Not that he is speaking here of the unity of the saints, but we cite his language as an illustration of the fact that Christ, having received of the Father the promised Holy Ghost, bestowed Him upon all that believed on Him as the risen and exalted One: the Spirit thus flowed down from Christ “to the skirts of His garments,” uniting His people to Himself, and filling the house with the fragrance of their exhibited unity. Let the two things be recalled and emphasized: first, that it is the Holy Spirit as coming down from our exalted Head who produces the unity; and, secondly, that it is only in the power of the same Spirit that the unity can be displayed, Another figure is then introduced: it is “as the dew of Hermon [omitting the inserted words] that descended upon the mountains of Zion.” The connection of Hermon here with Zion has been the occasion of much conjecture; but the following words, borrowed from another, give, in our judgment, the true explanation: “The abundant dew of Hermon, that is, abundant as on Hermon, fell upon the mountain of Zion.”1
Dew is constantly used in Scripture as an emblem of blessing and refreshment descending from heaven. Thus Moses says, “My speech shall distil as the dew”; and in Hosea we read, “I will be as the dew unto Israel.” (Chapter 14). In addition, therefore, to the sweet fragrance of dwelling together in unity, produced by the mighty and unhindered action of the Holy Ghost come down from our exalted and glorified Head, there is a further thought of God’s favor descending upon His people like the dew, which, resting upon them, brings reviving and refreshment to them all.
Then, lastly, it is raid, with the mention of Zion, “For there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” Two things here require notice: first, that there is a place of blessing, which is, in this instance, Zion; and the reason is found in what has been seen in the preceding Psalm, viz., that “the Lord hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His habitation. This is My rest forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.” We thus learn once again that God’s blessing is to be found where He dwells, in His own habitation; and it may be needful to remark, for the instruction of some, that God’s “spiritual house” is now built up with “living stones,” with those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, and have come to Him as the Living Stone. (1 Peter 2:3-53If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. 4To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, 5Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:3‑5)). As Paul writes to the Ephesians, “In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Chap. 2:22). In a future day Zion will be Jehovah’s dwelling-place, and, on this account, it will be the place of blessing; but now it is the Church which is the house of God. (1 Tim. 3:1515But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15)). In both cases alike it is the presence of God in His habitation which secures the blessing.
The second thing is the character of the blessing, which is “life for evermore” —eternal life. There is only one other place where eternal life is mentioned in the Old Testament, and this is in Daniel 12:22And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2). This is eternal life in the sense in which the Lord Himself uses the words in Matthew 25:4646And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25:46), that is, eternal life for His earthly people according to the revelation of God, which they will enjoy under the sway of their glorious Messiah. Eternal life, which is connected with the revelation of the Father in and through the Son, is reserved for believers of this period (John 17:33And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)); and the enjoyment of this with the apostles was really fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:33That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3).) Such is the full sense of eternal life as set forth in John’s Gospel; but the eternal life on which the believers of a future day will enter will be as perfect in their relationship to Jehovah, even if of another character, as that which Christians possess through their heavenly association with Christ in His own place and relationship. (John 20:1717Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. (John 20:17).)
In the last Psalm of this series we pass to a summons to bless the Lord:
1. Behold, bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord, which by night stand in the house of the Lord.
2. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord.
In the account of the organization of the temple services we read of the “singers, chief of the fathers of the Levites, who remaining in the chambers were free: for they were employed in that work day and night” (1 Chron. 9:3333And these are the singers, chief of the fathers of the Levites, who remaining in the chambers were free: for they were employed in that work day and night. (1 Chronicles 9:33)); and again of the Levites, who were “to stand every morning to thank and to praise the Lord, and likewise at even.” (1 Chron. 23:3030And to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord, and likewise at even; (1 Chronicles 23:30).) Now that the Lord has found His rest in Zion, He will “inhabit” the praises of His people; and, all ordered according to His own mind, the Spirit can call upon His servants to bless Him who giveth songs in the night. It is remarkable that they should be here described as by night standing in Jehovah’s house, but it would seem to refer to the fact that at this time there will be perpetual praise. The sorrows of Israel will then be over, and basking, as they will then do, in the full rays of Jehovah’s favor and blessing, with neither adversary nor evil occurrent, they will desire to pour out their hearts, through the appointed channels, without intermission, in thanksgiving and praise. The next verse does but emphasize the summons.2 Whether the rendering referred to below be received or not, we may yet learn that it is only in the “sanctuary” that worship can be presented. As the reader knows, this “blessing the Lord” is what will characterize the earthly people—Israel—when restored and in the enjoyment of Messiah’s favor and reign.
Believers of the present period of grace worship now in the holiest, and it is their privilege to offer perpetual praise in anticipation of the time when there will be no night, and when their occupation will be the service of praise.3 It is interesting to observe that the word “bless” in this Psalm is the very word (as given in the Septuagint) which is used of our Lord when He “blessed” before the distribution of the loaves (Matt. 14) and at the Passover Table (chap. 26.), etc.
Finally, the Psalm concludes with an invocation addressed to Jehovah Himself: “The Lord that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion.” The expression “Jehovah that made heaven and earth” brings before us God as revealed to His chosen people. Thus Jonah, as already pointed out, confessed Him as such to the mariners; and even the Pentecostal saints in Jerusalem said, “Lord, Thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is.” (Acts 4:2424And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: (Acts 4:24).) As to the meaning of the desire addressed to Jehovah, another has said, “I should be disposed to count the last verse rather the voice of Christ as the Son of David, something in the character of Melchizedek, who said, ‘Blessed be the most high God, and blessed be Abraham of the most high God,’ only specially in connection with Jehovah (as Zech. 6:1313Even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both. (Zechariah 6:13)) blessing the godly remnant out of Zion. The last verse is a kind of answer to the Cali of the preceding ones; the Spirit of Christ in the remnant calls on Jehovah’s servants to bless Him, and they from Him bless the godly one.” There are those, however, who regard it as the Spirit’s cry to Jehovah through the remnant for blessing on the Messiah Himself, even as we read, for example, in Psalm 72 “Prayer also shall be made for Him continually.” (v. 15.) The spiritual reader will judge which of these interpretations is most in accordance with the divine mind.
Whichever may be adopted, it will be perceived that the goal of full blessing has been reached for Israel. The series of the Songs of Degrees commences with the words, “In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and He heard me”; it concludes with the Lord’s servants blessing Him in the sanctuary, and He Himself blessing out of Zion—blessing rendered and blessing enjoyed. This will help to the understanding of the following description (cited at the outset of these papers) of this series of Psalms: “The Psalms of Degrees are the progress of Israel in the land, out of sorrow and through sorrow, to the full blessing in Zion, which forms the crowning result, Jehovah being there.” And how it enhances our admiration of this result (all surely to the glory of God) when it is remembered that Jehovah is JESUS, who is Jehovah the Saviour, and who now has saved His people from their sins. As we contemplate Him as blessing out of Zion, we can unite again with full hearts in the language of the Psalmist: “And blessed be His glorious name forever: and let the whole earth be filled with His glory; Amen, and Amen.” (Psa. 72:1919And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen. (Psalm 72:19).)
The Christian has a yet more blessed prospect, even the Father’s house, where, with all the redeemed conformed to the image of God’s Son, Christ will ever be in their midst as the firstborn among many brethren.4
1. “The snow on the summit of this mountain (Hermon) condenses the vapors that float during the summer in the higher regions of the atmosphere, causing light clouds to hover around it, and abundant dew to descend on it, while the whole country elsewhere is parched, and the whole heaven elsewhere cloudless.”
2. Some, however, would translate, “Lift up your hands in holiness, and bless the Lord.” If this be accepted, there may be an allusion to this scripture by the apostle in 1 Timothy 2:88I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. (1 Timothy 2:8), where he directs men to pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands.
3. In the expression “His servants shall serve Him” a word is used to indicate that it will be as worshippers.
4. That the two following psalms form a kind of appendix to the Songs of Degrees seems very evident; and it is exceedingly interesting to notice in the first the mingling of the Hallelujahs, Praises, and “Blessings” which ascend to Jehovah from all the ranks of His redeemed; and that the theme of their song in the second is that Jehovah’s mercy endureth forever. It is, in fact, the fulfilment of David’s prophetic psalm, which, first sung in connection with his bringing the ark to Zion, concluded with these words: “O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good; for His mercy endureth forever.
“And say ye, Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather us together, and deliver us from the heathen, that we may give thanks to Thy holy name, and glory in Thy praise.