Year B – Proper 18 – Psalm 125

A Song of Ascents.

1 Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be moved, but abides for ever.
2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people,
from this time on and for evermore.
3 For the sceptre of wickedness shall not rest
on the land allotted to the righteous,
so that the righteous may not stretch out
their hands to do wrong.
4 Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts.
5 But those who turn aside to their own crooked ways
the Lord will lead away with evildoers.
Peace be upon Israel!

Summary v.1: Those who trust in Yahweh—those who truly lean on Him for salvation—are like Mount Zion in that they cannot be moved.  “Mount Zion” is both one of the mountains that Jerusalem is built on, and The Place of God’s special presence by which the worshipper ascends to the Heavenly Temple.  As a physical feature, it will stand as long as the world does; as an Ultimate Reality, it will stand as long as God does.  Those who are trusting in Yahweh remain this secure.  Which is not to say that nothing bad can happen to us, but at least that everything works together for our good (Rom. 8:28).  v.2: Jerusalem, although built on mountains, is surrounded on all sides (except the north) by even higher mountains, distanced from them only by valleys.  The psalmist sees in this a type of Yahweh’s protection surrounding His people.  v.3: Wicked tyrants may rule God’s people temporarily, but never so long that God’s people must react in wickedness or must participate in their rulers’ wickedness (1 Cor. 10:13).  v.4-5: The psalmist expects Yahweh to do good to those who are good, and evil to those who are evil.  Now, the psalms everywhere express incredulity at the paradox that the wicked seem better off than the righteous (Ps. 73, etc.); but, those passages usually wind up with a view toward each person’s end, and we see that the sufferings of the righteous only contribute to their glory (2 Cor. 4:17) while the temporary glory of the wicked only contributes to their suffering. 

Insight Who are the “good” to whom God will be good (v.4)?  Do we not all sin?  Of course (Prov. 20:9), but in terms of how God labels those whose sins are already dealt with, there seems to be a “soft justice” with God:  Abraham sinned, nevertheless, God said that he kept His charge, commandments, statutes, and laws (Gen. 26:5).  Despite the case of Uriah, God could say that David had not failed to keep His commandments (1 Ki. 15:5).  The psalmist elsewhere says that he does keep God’s Law (Ps. 119:55-56).  Zechariah and Elizabeth surely sinned, yet God could say that they observed all His commandments and regulations (Lk. 1:6), partly, no doubt, because the commandments and regulation they obeyed included those which atoned for sin.  Paul sinned, yet he could say that he lived before God with a clear conscience (Acts 23:1).  And we could go on.  You see, because Jesus died, rose again, and ascended (and only because Jesus died, rose again, and ascended), you can keep God’s Law, including His command to confess your sins (1 Jn. 1:8-10).  If you do keep God’s Law, it is because He is saving you, and has placed you among those for whom He is working all things together for good.

Child Catechism
Q:  To whom will God do good?
A:   Those who, by God’s grace, are good.

DiscussionAugustine said that when God crowns our merits, He crowns nothing else but His own gifts.  What do you think he meant by this? 

Prayer Almighty and ever gracious God, we have sinned against You, and do sin against You, and have no hope of ourselves.  We do, though, have every hope in Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord.  He bore our sins on the cross, and that work fully satisfied Your justice against us.  The love which You now pour into our hearts can never expiate sin, nor does it need to; but, that love poured in and through us is a gift of Yours which You then reward—thank You.  So, O Lord, do good to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts.  But those who turn aside to their own crooked ways You will lead away with evildoers.  AMEN.

Contributed by Scott Cline

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