Psalm 133 Reading

Psalm 133:1-3

A SONG OF ASCENTS. OF DAVID.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! 2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! 3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

A few thoughts for meditation:

1) David likely wrote this song at the high point of his reign, when all Israel was finally united together after the death of Saul and before the strife of David’s sons broke out. As people from all the tribes of Israel would gather in Jerusalem for the feasts, rather than for war, it provided a profound picture of unity and peace among all the people of God.

2) David then described the unity as a great blessing descending from God with two pictures. First, he described it as oil being poured out upon the mediator God provided to his people. The background to this picture is Exodus 29 when Aaron was consecrated and anointed as the high priest of Israel. The anointing oil was actually “precious oil”, an oil mixed with spices providing a pleasing aroma too (Ex 30:23-25). The sight and smell of the oil poured upon Aaron and trickling down his garments was a picture of God’s abundant blessing poured out through the priest to his diverse yet united people. The second picture was the dew of Hermon. Mount Hermon was the tallest mountain in Israel, located far to the north, and known for it’s abundant refreshing dew. And the picture here is that the abundant dew was descending upon Zion to refresh God’s people there. Unity especially after conflict is indeed refreshing. Both of these images of oil and water were used to describe the work of the Holy Spirit consecrating and renewing the people of God.

3) The final line emphasized the divine initiative in producing this unity. God “commanded” the blessing. He provided the mediator through which all these blessing flow to his people. He provided the city for them to dwell in. He provided peace. Any unity and blessing we enjoy as God’s people comes through his appointed mediator, Jesus Christ. When viewed through New Testament lenses, this passage takes on profound Trinitarian significance; the Father pouring out his life-giving Spirit, through his Son, Jesus Christ, to all his redeemed people, imparting new life, “life forevermore”. Here, we see a glimpse of Old Testament faith, looking beyond the types and shadows of Israel, to eternal life with God and his reconciled people. It’s a glimpse of our heavenly fellowship, when all God’s redeemed from all the nations will gather around the throne to enjoy perfect life, peace, and fellowship with God and neighbor. Let us give thanks to God when we do experience those moments of unity with God’s people, and continue to pray for more. It is a foretaste of heaven and indeed a blessing from God descending down to refresh and renew his people on their pilgrimage. Praise God from who all blessings flow!

Psalm 132 Reading

Psalm 132

A SONG OF ASCENTS.
Remember, O LORD, in David’s favor, all the hardships he endured, 2 how he swore to the LORD and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob, 3 “I will not enter my house or get into my bed, 4 I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, 5 until I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.” 6 Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah; we found it in the fields of Jaar. 7 “Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool!” 8 Arise, O LORD, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. 9 Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let your saints shout for joy. 10 For the sake of your servant David, do not turn away the face of your anointed one.
11 The LORD swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: “One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne. 12 If your sons keep my covenant and my testimonies that I shall teach them, their sons also forever shall sit on your throne.” 13 For the LORD has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place: 14 “This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it. 15 I will abundantly bless her provisions; I will satisfy her poor with bread. 16 Her priests I will clothe with salvation, and her saints will shout for joy. 17 There I will make a horn to sprout for David; I have prepared a lamp for my anointed. 18 His enemies I will clothe with shame, but on him his crown will shine.”

A few thoughts for meditation:

This psalm is based upon the account in 2 Samuel 7 where David longed to build a house for the ark of God, and God in return promised to build a house (i.e. dynasty) for David. The first half of the psalm focuses on David’s commitment to God. The second focuses on God’s response to David and Israel. The psalm was likely sung by later kings in commemoration of the events leading to the building of the temple.

1) The song first called God to remember David’s hardships as he struggled to prepare a house for the Lord in Jerusalem. Such an enterprise was a daunting task. And in fact, David was not permitted by God to actually build it himself. Solomon would finish the job. But David did all he could to make preparations for the work. His own mindset was that he should not live in a nice house while the ark of God rests in a tent (2 Sam 7:2). He was driven by a passion to honor the Lord with a prominent house in his chosen city among his chosen people. In vs. 6, we see a call to worship, calling Israel to come and gather before the Lord in Jerusalem. It likely recalled to mind either the day David brought the ark to Jerusalem, or the day Solomon consecrated the finished temple. David was leading his people to worship the Lord with their priests in place. Then in vs 10, the later king (a descendant of David) who sang this, asked for God to keep his promises to David. All of this is a grand picture of God graciously providing mediators (priests and kings) to his sinful people so that they can continue to live in fellowship with him. It as a time of great joy in the undeserved gifts, promises, and presence of God.

2) Then vs. 11 switches the focus to God’s response to David. The promise God made to David is repeated, that God would build a house, a royal dynasty, that would rule over God’s people forever if they remained faithful to the covenant. Then the Lord celebrates and rejoices in the people he has chosen and recounts his commitment to abundantly bless his people. The picture of one of perfect balance; God living in the midst of his people, providing their daily needs, providing perfect priests to mediate for them, and a perfect king to rule them and protect them from their enemies. Again, notice the central theme of grace behind all this. God comes, God saves, God establishes priests and kings, God brings joy and peace to an undeserving people. God abundantly provided and maintained the bridges to fellowship.

The typology is rich here. All of these types are fulfilled by Christ. He is the promised faithful king from David’s line (Matt 1:1-17). He is the righteous priest who brings salvation (Heb 4:14-16). He is the temple where God’s presence abides (John 2:19-21). It’s through him that God’s people receive every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3). The great joy and satisfaction the pilgrims had when they saw the temple and throne of Jerusalem is the same joy and satisfaction we should have when we think about all that God has given us in Christ, especially when we gather together for worship as a congregation. God has kept his promises of salvation through the ages, and one day all of God’s people from all ages and nations will gather for celebration around his throne forever.

Psalm 131 Reading

Psalm 131

A SONG OF ASCENTS. OF DAVID.
O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3 O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.

A few thoughts for meditation:

This song of David gives us a glimpse into the heart of godly king and warrior. He understood his place before God as a servant and a steward of the great responsibilities God required of him. It is no small thing to be a shepherd of God’s flock, especially one so large as a whole nation.

In vs. 1, he prayed to the Lord about two major sins he has tried to avoid, pride and arrogance. He did not think too highly of his own worth or overestimate his own strength, ability, or understanding. He did not pry into matters which belong only to God. He learned that the secret things belong to God and what is revealed belongs to him and his children (Deut. 29:29). He recognized his limitations as a man and humbled himself before the most wise and good God. This runs contrary to the common trait of leaders we see in the world who boast in themselves and their abilities, trying to convince others (or themselves) of their confidence and competence, while trying to advance their selfish ambitions. David rejected those attitudes, and instead grounded his identity and confidence in the Lord rather than himself.

In vs. 2, he described this state of contentment. He is like a weaned child with his mother. Twice, he used the word “weaned” to emphasize this. A weaned child does not fret or fuss when he is needy. He has learned that his own selfish desires are not the most important desires to be fulfilled in the moment. He has learned self-control and to trust his mother to feed him when he needs it, and that he is part of a larger household. This is David’s attitude toward the Lord now. He trusted the Lord to sustain him so that he does not have to fret or worry as he labors faithfully in the task God has given to him. As someone once said, “Duty is our part, the consequences are God’s.”

In vs. 3, David invited the rest of Israel to enjoy this hope in the Lord too. Our hope cannot rest in the shaky powers and plans of men, but in the unfading and unfailing power and plan of God. This is the hope and contentment which enables you to forget about yourself, and give yourself fully in service to God with whatever tasks he has laid before you as a worker, parent, child, husband, wife, neighbor, and church member. Too often, the reason we worry and fret so much, is that we have stopped trusting God, and taken on too much responsibility for the course of the world ourselves. We instinctively know we are not capable of shouldering that load, and so we grow anxious and worry about those things outside our control. We must wean ourselves of such pride and arrogance and learn to trust the Lord to provide for our needs as we serve him. And he should have earned our trust by now, after all he has done to save us through his Son, Jesus Christ. This is why Paul could say, “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?”

Psalm 130 Reading

Psalm 130

A SONG OF ASCENTS.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! 2 O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! 3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. 8 And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

A few thoughts for meditation:

1) There are many situations which cause us to feel like we are in “the depths”, like we are sinking and drowning with no way out. The pilgrim here is in such a situation. In this case, he is immersed in the depths of conviction over his sin. Perhaps this came to mind as he attended the sacrifices at the temple. He felt the weight of his guilt pulling him down into despair and so he cried to the Lord for mercy. Have you every felt convicted over your sin like that? Have you grasped how evil and dishonoring to God your sin is? The culture currently has a very low view of sin because there is no fear of God or dread of his judgment. But when you understand who God is, how he called us to live, and how destructive sin is to ourselves and to others, then your sins should put you into “the depths.” It is an appropriate response to understanding your guilt before God and the first step in repentance.

2) What kept this pilgrim from drowning was that he knew God was merciful. Four times here he appealed to the covenant name of God, “LORD”. He appealed to God’s faithfulness. He knew God was a merciful God and would forgive their sins if they sincerely returned to him. The result of such generous forgiveness is a greater “fear” of the Lord, a greater reverence and gratitude. You would think that pardoning a criminal would have the opposite effect, diminishing fear because he got away with his crime. But for the believer, fear increases because it’s not the pardon itself that he wants, but the restored relationship to God. His sin cut him off from fellowship with the God he loves, and that is what sinks him into the depths and long for mercy. Notice, he cried out “I wait for the LORD” not “I wait for forgiveness”. He wanted to be reconciled to God again. That was the heart of his cry for mercy, getting back to God again.

3) So, knowing God is gracious he waited “for the Lord” with great longing, eagerness, and confidence. He knew God’s “word”. He knew God’s promises. He knew that his hope of returning to fellowship is not in vain. And so he encouraged his brothers to embrace these promises as well. Given his situation of guilt, one may wonder how he could be so confident that God would take him back. This confidence was based upon God’s own word and upon God’s history of faithfulness to his people. He is a God of “steadfast love”, covenant love. God bound himself to the salvation of his people. And he provides “plentiful redemption” to them. He knew God hated his sin even more than he did and will gladly help him get rid of it in order to enjoy fellowship again. That is the heart of the great covenant promise, “I will be your God and you shall be my people.” But that still leaves us with a spiritual tension. He is confident God will redeem him from “all his iniquities” but perhaps doesn’t know how God will do it yet. This tension of a holy God showing steadfast love and mercy to guilty sinners was a great mystery to the Old Testament saints. God did not give them what their sins deserved. Why? That great tension it is not resolved until the Cross of Christ, when God himself provided his Son as the true sacrifice to take away all our iniquities and secure our fellowship with him forever.

So if you are sinking into the depths of your guilt today, let this song lead you into greater assurance. If you truly long to be restored back to the Lord, he will forgive you and receive you, and proved his willingness to save sinners by providing us an all-sufficient Savior in Christ.

Weekly Devotional Guide (May 18-23)

Memory Verse for the Week

Ephesians 4:15, Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…

Daily Scripture Readings

  • Day 1     Psalm 130
  • Day 2     Psalm 131
  • Day 3     Psalm 132
  • Day 4     Psalm 133
  • Day 5     Psalm 134

Hymns of the Week

  • Hymn 94 How Firm a Foundation

1 How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!
What more can he say than to you he has said,
to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

2 “Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed;
for I am your God, and will still give you aid;
I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

3 “When through the deep waters I call you to go,
the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
for I will be with you, your troubles to bless,
and sanctify to you your deepest distress.

4 “When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,
my grace, all-sufficient, shall be your supply;
the flame shall not hurt you; I only design
your dross to consume and your gold to refine.

5 “E’en down to old age all my people shall prove
my sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
and when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
like lambs they shall still in my bosom be borne.

6 “The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
that soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

  • Hymn 53 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

1 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise him, for he is your health and salvation!
Come, all who hear; now to his temple draw near,
join me in glad adoration.

2 Praise to the Lord, above all things so wondrously reigning;
sheltering you under his wings, and so gently sustaining!
Have you not seen all that is needful has been
sent by his gracious ordaining?

5 Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore him!
All that has life and breath, come now with praises before him.
Let the Amen sound from his people again;
gladly forever adore him.

Psalm 129 Reading

Psalm 129

A SONG OF ASCENTS.
“Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth”- let Israel now say- 2 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me. 3 The plowers plowed upon my back; they made long their furrows.” 4 The LORD is righteous; he has cut the cords of the wicked. 5 May all who hate Zion be put to shame and turned backward! 6 Let them be like the grass on the housetops, which withers before it grows up, 7 with which the reaper does not fill his hand nor the binder of sheaves his arms, 8 nor do those who pass by say, “The blessing of the LORD be upon you! We bless you in the name of the LORD!”

A few thoughts for meditation:

1) One scholar summarized the theme of this psalm in this way: “Whereas most nations tend to look back on what they have achieved, Israel reflects here on what she has survived.” Despite the hardships the people of God suffer, they still sing in gratitude to God. For this psalmist, the endurance has been long, “from my youth”. The faithful in Israel faced such challenges many times in her history, suffering for years under foreign oppressors or wicked kings, and this psalm could easily fit with all of them. But for those who know God, they can also say, “yet they have not prevailed against me.” The suffering described is graphic, plowing great furrows in your back. They wicked are perhaps trying to sow and reap a harvest of wickedness on the backs of the oppressed people of God, leaving deep scars. But God enables his people to endure. The North Country here is known for it’s rocky soil, and the frequent harvesting of stones needed before you can plant your crops. That is a good picture of the long resistance God’s people offer to the wicked here. She refuses to be easily plowed and subdued to the plans and demands of the wicked.

2) Then a single line of praise to God erupts in vs. 4. ” The LORD is righteous; he has cut the cords of the wicked.” Because the Lord is righteous, he will not let the wicked endure forever against his people. They will not always prevail. God will eventually cut the cords of bondage and set the captives free. This universe created by God is a moral universe, where the wheels of God’s justice grind out slowly and methodically according to his good wisdom and plan, while simultaneously building up his Church. The power of the crucified and risen Christ sustains the life of his persevering Church. The plans of the wicked may seem to prevail for a day, but God’s plan for his Church prevails in the end.

3) After reflecting on the suffering of God’s people, the righteousness of God, and the inevitable salvation that will come, the worshiper turned this theology into a prayer for salvation. He prayed God would cause the plans of the wicked to fail and force them to retreat. He prayed they would wither like grass on poor soil in the dessert heat, before it could ripen and be harvested. And this should be a frequent prayer of God’s people not only for the Church but for the communities around her, that the plans of wickedness sown all around her would whither and die before they come to fruition and “bless” the wicked with satisfaction in their sin. By rejecting Zion, the place of God’s throne and people, the wicked set themselves on the course of self-destruction. And God chooses to use our prayers as a means to bring that destruction about while at the same time saving those who repent and trust in him.

These promises are grounded in the death and resurrection of Christ. His back was plowed over deeply by his enemies, but he endured it in order to save us from our sins. They intended to kill him, but he intended to turn that death into salvation for his people, and ultimately defeat his enemies. And he calls us to endure like he did, enduring suffering, faithfully serving and praying, while looking forward to our inevitable deliverance in glory. By reflecting on the work of Christ, and the long perseverance of the Church throughout world history, we can find hope to endure in the Lord ourselves.

Psalm 128 Reading

Psalm 128

A SONG OF ASCENTS.
Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways! 2 You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. 3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. 4 Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD. 5 The LORD bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life! 6 May you see your children’s children! Peace be upon Israel!

A few thoughts for meditation:

1) This song has some parallel themes to the previous psalm (Ps. 127). It began with the individual man and his relationship to God. Where is a man to find true blessedness or happiness? It begins with fearing the Lord. To fear the Lord means you hold the Lord in reverence and honor. You worship him and live for him. He is the sun around which the rest of your life orbits, and the chief love and commitment of your heart. This fear shows itself by obedience; you “walk in his ways”. God gave instructions in his Word for how he designed us to live. Only by following that path will you know true joy and flourishing with Him, even in a fallen world. Once that commitment is set, then you will enjoy fruitful labor from your hands. Again, we hear the echoes of Eden, with Adam working and keeping that which God had put into his care.

2) The song then moved from the blessed man to his family. When a man is living in faithful communion with God, he will properly nurture his wife and children. The wife becomes a “fruitful vine”, a source of true abundance, joy, and beauty in the home. The children are described like olive shoots. They are tender and require careful nurture so that they will grow up into fruitful plants themselves in the days to come. The picture again is one of fruitful labor and care, multiplying and spreading throughout generations. It’s similar to what God called Adam and Eve to do themselves, to be fruitful and multiply, to fulfill the earth and subdue it with more worshipers and caretakers like themselves. This focus upon fearing the Lord, and laboring fruitfully for him in our work and families, runs counter to the spirit of our age which focuses primarily upon the expression and fulfillment of the individual, even if you must free yourself from God and family to get it. Using the pictures here, such a person is really just amputating themselves from the source of true life and blessedness and withering away.

3) The song naturally progressed from the family to the family of God. True blessedness exists not just with a right relationship to God and your family but to God’s redeemed people. God is creating a new community, family, and a holy nation through the work of Christ. God pours out his blessings to God-fearing individuals and families through his Church. The family garden is really a subsection of the larger garden of God. The Church is that spiritual greenhouse where we, our children, and grandchildren will truly flourish and grow in the Lord and experience true blessedness and peace with God. Again, this runs counter to the values of the culture now and even of some professing Christians, who neglect or reject the importance of the Church, especially a local church. Such an idea would have been unthinkable to the faithful in both the Old and New Testaments. Praying for the peace of Israel (or the Church) was a frequent prayer because that is where the Lord is feared, his Word is proclaimed, and the Spirit brings life to his people. They understood their organic connection to the larger body. If you want to enjoy true blessedness from God, then examine yourself in these three areas. Do you fear the Lord? Are you nurturing your family in that fear? Have you firmly planted and integrated yourself into the local church who fears the Lord?