Psalm 125

Psalm 125
A song of ascents

(1) Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
(2) As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore.

(3) The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil.

(4) LORD, do good to those who are good, to those who are upright in heart.
(5) But those who turn to crooked ways the LORD will banish with the evildoers.

Peace be on Israel.

The 18th century English minister Matthew Henry wrote a commentary about the Book of Psalms (also called the Psalter). He explained Psalm 125 simply through the words of the prophet Isaiah. The simple summary is this (as found in the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament):

Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds. Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them! They will be paid back for what their hands have done.
Isaiah 3:10-11 NIV

Psalm 125 is one of fifteen psalms referred to as the Song of Ascents, Song of Songs, Song of Steps, Song of Degrees, or Pilgrim Songs. Jewish pilgrims would sing these psalms as they approached and entered the city of Jerusalem for the three annual festivals as required by God in the Old Testament.

Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles. No one should appear before the LORD empty-handed, each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.
Deuteronomy 16:16-17 NIV

Psalm 125 is the sixth of the fifteen Pilgrim Songs.

Another step is taken in the ascent, another station in the pilgrimage is reached.

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
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 forever.
Psalm 125:1-2 NKJV

Those who trust in the LORD are as secure as Mount Zion; they will not be defeated but will endure forever. Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, both now and forever.
Psalm 125:1-2 NLT

What a beautiful picture these first two verses paint! Those who trust in the Lord are like an immovable mountain. And not just any mountain, but like Mount Zion! God holds His children in His hands, and He surrounds His children with His presence. Wow!

Verse one- like many others, especially in the Psalter- mentions Zion. What is Mount Zion? Let’s do a little mini study of this term/place found throughout the Bible.

Today, Zion is a hill outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is called “the western hill” today, or “the temple mount,” on which sits the Dome of the Rock, an Islamic Shrine built in 692 CE.

In David’s time, Zion referred to the ancient city of Jerusalem (also called the city of David). David captured an ancient Jebusite fortress called Zion (2 Samuel 5:7) and renamed it the City of David. He eventually built a tabernacle, a place of worship, at the top of the hill to house the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6). The name “Zion” didn’t stick again until the temple was built.

But Zion was also mentioned in the Bible prior to David. When God called Abraham to do the unthinkable and sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, Abraham travelled to Mount Moriah to do what God commanded. God saw his faithful heart and provided a different sacrifice, then named that mountain “the LORD will provide.” To this day it is said, “in the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided” (Genesis 22:1-24). Mount Moriah became commonly known as Mount Zion after the first temple was built, and thus “Zion” expanded to include the ancient city and the hill the temple was built upon.

Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah
2 Chronicles 3:1a ESV

Zion is mentioned 152 times in the Old Testament, and twelve times the name “Zion” appears in the New Testament (

One Bible commentator said that the name “Mount Zion” has religious and emotional qualities that don’t exist in the same form when referring to the city just as “Jerusalem.” When you hear or say “Zion,” do you feel something? Does the name pull at your heart in some way?

The Old Testament explains why, simply that, while Zion is a real place in history, it is most importantly the dwelling place of the Lord on earth:

I and the children the LORD has given me serve as signs and warnings to Israel from the Lord of Heaven's Armies who dwells in his temple on Mount Zion.
Isaiah 8:18 NLT

Remember the nation you purchased long ago, the people of your inheritance, whom you redeemed- Mount Zion, where you dwelt.
Psalm 74:2 NIV

The moon will be dismayed, the sun ashamed; for the LORD Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders- with great glory.
Isaiah 24:23 NIV

For the LORD has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling, saying, "This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.
Psalm 132:13-14 NIV

Zion is where God is; where He was, and where He always will be. So, for believers, our hearts long for Zion. It is why thousands and thousands of believers still walk the road to Jerusalem to this day.

God holds His children in His hands, they are as immovable as Mount Zion. His presence goes before and behind and all around them, throughout time. Now and forevermore. What a promise!

For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous reach out their hands to iniquity.
Psalm 125:3 NKJV

The wicked will not rule the land of the godly, for then the godly might be tempted to do wrong.
Psalm 125:3 NLT

This idea is seen throughout the Old Testament, where God sends Israel’s army or plagues or other disasters to rid the land of a pagan group of people. Sometimes these are the stories that are hard to read, and often are especially difficult because we read them in condensed form- hundreds or even thousands of years condensed into a paragraph or a page without the understanding of the many years of struggle leading up to it.

Also, we study history with a modern western lens of understanding and opinion. We didn’t live during that time. We don’t know all the circumstances, nor do we know how we would have responded. But the Truth is that God will not stand long while evil tempts His children to turn from Him.

For example, we can look back at Noah’s story as found in Genesis and say: “what about me and my family, we would have been on that boat!”

But the fact is that centuries had gone by (Noah was 600 years old when he built the ark!) and evil had grown and spread. Those who had believed were long gone.

This matters to God. But He is also slow to anger, not wanting any to perish. Both of these facts about God can be true at the same time.

When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal [corrupt NIV]; their days will be a hundred and twenty years." The Nephilim were on the earth in those days- and also afterward- when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.
Genesis 6:1-5 NIV

This is hard for us to understand, but it matters to God. The world had been corrupted by the sons of God (also called the Nephilim). Smarter-than-me people have speculated on who these men were, but I will not. Whoever they were (or are!) they ruined the earth during that time. God intervened.

Genesis 5 gives a genealogy from Adam to Noah: 1,656 years!!

A lot of time had passed and some interesting characters, whether fallen angels/demons or some sort of supernatural giant, got involved and made an evil mess of the world.

This matters to God. He will not stand long (1,656 years in the time of Noah) and watch evil cause His children to fall. He won’t have it. Our God is loving and kind and merciful, but He is also judge, jury, and executioner. It’s good to remember.

And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.
Exodus 34:6-7 NIV

The wicked will not rule forever because God will not stand by and watch His children fall to their schemes for long. In the above verses, God referred to Himself as gracious and compassionate and slow to anger, yet He is also a God who will not let the guilty go unpunished. He said these things about Himself. They may seem like conflicting characteristics, but they are not. Both are true at the same time.

It seems that even righteous men are in peril of sinning in evil days, and that it is not the will of the Lord that they should yield to the stress of the times in order to escape from suffering. The power and influence of wicked men when they are uppermost are used to lead or drive the righteous astray; but the godly must not accept this as an excuse, and yield to the evil pressure; far rather must they resist with all their might till it shall please God to stay the violence of the persecutor and give his children rest.

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Do good, O LORD, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts. As for such as turn aside to their crooked ways, the LORD shall lead them away with the workers of iniquity. Peace be upon Israel!
Psalm 125:4-5 NKJV

O LORD, do good to those who are good, whose hearts are in tune with you. But banish those who turn to crooked ways, O LORD. Take them away with those who do evil. May Israel have peace!
Psalm 125:4-5 NLT

Oh, that we do not follow evil. We must be on the lookout, daily we must pray for wisdom to see the schemes of the wicked. If we do not walk with the Lord daily, we run the risk of walking in evil instead.

But let’s also remember that when Jesus came as a sacrifice for us all, He came for both the good and the evil. He came for those who believe and those who do not. We are never too far gone for Jesus to reach us. He is trying to reach our hearts every day, every moment.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we are still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:6-8 NIV

Thanks be to God. Peace be on Israel!

Father in heaven, thank you for this beautiful pilgrim song. It is a reminder that in Zion we have peace and protection. It is a reminder of your faithfulness, mercy, and love. But it is also a reminder of your anger toward evil. Help us to understand you more. Help us to walk with you in righteousness. Thank you for your word, for our salvation, and for Jesus. Amen.

He xoxo

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