We have reached the midpoint of our 15-psalm ascent. In Part I (Psalms 120-122), we set out from Meshech, our eyes on Mt. Zion, with purposeful intent. During the sojourn, we suffered hardships of scoffing, persecution, and wrongdoing against us, and yet we endured through the good strong hand of the LORD (Part II, Psalms 123-125). Often the halfway point of a journey is a dreary time, with the discordant phrase, “Are we there yet?” sung not just by the youngest of the family. It is a time when encouragement is needed. Thankfully, that is just what Psalms 126-128 provide!
As our outline shows, the needed consolation comes from our community of fellow travelers. When one is weary, it is the companion that raises up. No radios or streaming will do. We need a companion’s joyful song! Live music!
The Psalms of Ascent in Five Movements
|I||120-122||The Ascent to Zion||Discord then Harmony|
|II||123-125||Affliction and Deliverance||Discord|
|III||126-128||The Consolation of Community||Harmony|
|IV||129-131||Affliction and Deliverance||Discord|
|V||132-134||Eternal Blessings in Christ||Peace!|
Part III – The Consolation of Community—Psalms 126-128
The blessing of community is now extolled in three different ways:
- Psalm 126: A harvest community.
- Psalm 127: A national/dynastic community, and
- Psalm 128: Family.
Psalm 126 – The Harvest of God
The tearful, ecstatic joy of Zion’s returned captives resounds here. The rejoicing is at the time of harvest or the restoration of southern streams.
Streams of the south, or “wadis,” are dry most of the year but restored to life by the early and later rains. What a wonderful, inspired description of restored Israel and, of course, all of life’s refreshed travelers: sojourners from all nations, kindreds and tongues, ascending to Jerusalem from dry and thirsty lands (Psa 63:1).
A Song of Ascents
When the LORD brought back the captive ones of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter
And our tongue with joyful shouting;
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us; We are glad.
Restore our captivity, O LORD,
As the streams in the South.
Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.
He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed,
Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him. 1
The Physical Journey
The captives of Zion have returned ( We don’t know from where), and their joy overflows. The reality is so breathtaking, it seems like a dream. The hand of God is so ly strongly evident in the event even the nations take notice!
Around 530 BC, Israel’s aliyah from Babylon, culminating in Jerusalem’s rebuilding, was an obvious miracle to the nations (Neh 6:15-16). Today, the nation of Israel’s rise from the ashes of the Holocaust is undeniable as a miracle. All modern world maps attest to Israel’s present reality! Such is our Heavenly Father’s predeclared merciful plan, His witness Israel displays His power and salvation for even the blind to see and the deaf to hear.
And those who are deaf, even though they have ears.
All the nations have gathered together
So that the peoples may be assembled.
Who among them can declare this
And proclaim to us the former things?
Let them present their witnesses so that they may be justified,
Or let them hear and say, “It is true.”
“And My servant whom I have chosen,
So that you may know and believe Me
And understand that I am He.
Before Me there was no God formed,
And there will be none after Me.
I, only I, am the Lord,
And there is no savior besides Me.” (Isa 43:8-11).
May we today and every day avail ourselves of the joy of this great witness to our Heavenly Father’s faithfulness, the present community of Israel. Yes, sorrows persist in the present, but truthfully, the best is yet to come!
Our Spiritual Journey
The freeing of Israel’s captives testifies to the grace of God. It also calls for all of God’s children to return from their captivity to sin to His salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord. Jesus tells us specifically that he came to set all captives free.
Because He anointed Me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord. (Luke 4:18-19).
Having witnessed the sure mercies of our Heavenly Father in the prophetic witness of His returned people and personally been set free, we are to sow the good news of Christ in all nations and circumstances we find ourselves. The purpose is a harvest of sheaves from all nations. This work will not always be cheerful. Rather, it is often accompanied by weeping—but the outcome is worth the toil, as there will be more community to rejoice with when Jesus returns!
Bringing in the Sheaves
(From Psalm 126 and John 4:35-36)
Psalm 127—The House of God
Was this song composed by Solomon? Or perhaps by David for or about Solomon? We don’t have the answer, though presently I lean towards David’s writing it, and of course, Solomon having it performed at the temple dedication and beyond. 2 The message of the psalm is that all accomplishments are God’s, whether building a house, guarding a city, or raising a family. Only blessings from the LORD truly prosper: “He gives to His beloved even in sleep.” To our LORD, the glory is due.
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the LORD guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.
Behold, children are a gift of the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
They will not be ashamed
When they speak with their enemies in the gate.
The Physical Journey
A house can be either a physical building or a family dynasty. ,We have both in this psalm; I believe this is intentional. Remember the backdrop. When David asked to build God a house (a building), God responded that He would build David a house (a family). Solomon was the initial family heir; in ultimate fulfillment, we know the heir is Christ with his redeemed children.
David and Solomon extol the LORD as the builder of both of these houses. David, at Solomon’s communal coronation and temple commissioning, rose to his feet and said:
Solomon likewise honored the LORD upon completion and dedication of the temple.
Now the Lord has fulfilled His word which He spoke; for I have risen in place of my father David and I sit on the throne of Israel, just as the Lord promised, and I have built the house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. (1 Kgs 8:20).
David was blessed with a son, Solomon, who established a glorious physical temple for the LORD on Mount Zion, a place for the community of Israel to meet and worship. They and the people returned praise to the LORD,
Our Spiritual Journey
As we ascend to Zion to participate in God’s eternal praise, we too should be in constant celebration that our Heavenly Father is accomplishing the work. Foremost in our minds must be God’s honor. He is the one building us up together as a temple in His beloved son, Christ Jesus our Lord, the chief cornerstone.
God is building the house, guarding the city and redeeming a dynastic community to glory through His beloved son Christ Jesus our Lord. To God be the glory!
Hymn 132 from the Christadelphian Green Hymn Book
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded his life – an atonement for sin,
And opened the holiest that we may go in.
Praise the LORD!
(Angel Gabriel—Luke 1:3)
Psalm 128—The Household of God
How blessed is everyone who fears Yahweh! The community established by the fear of the LORD is a great blessing. What is it that can truly hold people together? Is it genetics? No! We are family; we are one blood and yet don’t always get along. What is it that holds the ascenders together in single-minded joyful purpose? The fear (awe, reverence, praise) of the LORD! The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, that which only can bind together.
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
For by me your days will be multiplied,
And years of life will be added to you. (Prov 9:10-11).
Who walks in His ways.
When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands,
You will be happy and it will be well with you.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house,
Your children like olive plants around your table.
Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed
Who fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you from Zion,
And may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
Indeed, may you see your children’s children.
Peace be upon Israel!
The Physical Journey
Three times a year, the families of Israel were required to meet in Jerusalem to worship the LORD. The account of Mary and Joseph looking for Jesus among their relatives on one of their Passover pilgrimages testifies to this being a family affair. Passover “seders” continue to this day, with Jewish families meeting over a meal to celebrate their exodus from Egypt (and the subsequent journey to the promised land).
This psalm pictures a blessed situation we would all desire for our families— a harmonious meal, perhaps at one of the three appointed feasts. The degree to which we achieve this blessing in the here and now depends on how much the fear of the LORD fills each family member. The Scriptures picture several times when families and the community of Israel rejoice in the LORD in single-minded dedication. One example is the Feast of Tabernacles, a seven-day feast where families were explicitly commanded to rejoice together (Deut 16:14-15). Sadly, we also know none of these situations endured for long; families and nations soon lost their way.
What, then, is the meaning of this psalm? How can the blessing of seeing the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of our life, and our children’s children rejoicing in Jerusalem’s peace, be attained?
Our Spiritual Journey
The barren has the most extensive, joyful family!
Break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor;
For the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous
Than the sons of the married woman,” says the Lord. (Isa 54:1).
God’s focus has always been on the redeemed Kingdom-family of faithful from all nations, kindreds and tongues. As Jesus said, stretching out his hand toward His disciples:
A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow,
And refined, aged wine.
And on this mountain He will destroy the covering which is over all peoples,
The veil which is stretched over all nations.
He will swallow up death for all time,
And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces,
And He will remove the disgrace of His people from all the earth;
For the Lord has spoken.
And it will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
Let’s rejoice and be glad in His salvation.” (Isa 25:6-9).
Even so, return soon, Lord Jesus!
Part III In Summary
May the blessings of Israel’s peace be with your family, ecclesia and community in the hope of that great and blessed day!
Philip Sweeney, Atlanta North Ecclesia, GA
1 All Scriptural citations are taken from the New American Standard Bible.
2 See Psalm 72 as an example of a “Psalm of Solomon,” meaning about Solomon, not written by Solomon. (Compare the header with v. 20).