God, Protector of His People
1 A song of ascents.
Those who put their trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but stands fast forever.[b]
2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people
both now and forevermore.[c]
3 The scepter of the wicked will not prevail
over the land allotted to the righteous,
so that the righteous will not be tempted
to turn their hands to evil.[d]
4 [e]Do good, O Lord, to those who are good,
to those who are upright of heart.[f]
5 But the Lord will assign to the ranks of the evildoers
those who turn their hearts to wickedness.[g]
May peace be granted to Israel.
- Psalm 125:1 In place of the grandeur and freedom to which they aspired during the Exile, Israel, after their return, experiences nothing but difficulties, miseries, and foreign oppressions. Under the weight of this cruel disillusionment, their courage fails and their faith in the Lord wavers. Fortunately, men of strong character like Zephaniah, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the aged prophet, Haggai providentially appear to restore their confidence in the Lord’s faithfulness.
The present psalm may date from this period of restoration. It sings of the perfect stability and security assured to his faithful by the Lord, who surrounds them as the mountains surround Jerusalem making it well-nigh impregnable. However, despite threats and against all appearances, God is the only certain power in human existence.
We can pray this psalm mindful of the help the Father granted to Israel of old, but above all, of the far superior aid he accords to the Church, to her Head, as well as to each of her members. It is this same aid that we are to praise with Christ.
- Psalm 125:1 God’s people (those who put their trust in the Lord) are like Mount Zion, which symbolizes God’s help (see Pss 121:1f; 124:8), his presence in helping and protecting his people (see Pss 76:7-10; 132:13-16), and the privileges of the covenant relationship, which cannot be shaken but endures forever (see Pss 16:8; 46:6; 112:6f; Isa 28:16; 54:10).
- Psalm 125:2 In the mountain range around Jerusalem, Mount Zion is surrounded by higher peaks: to the east lies the Mount of Olives, to the north Mount Scopus, to the west and south, other hills. So Mount Zion was regarded as secure because of its natural defensibility. God is around and present to his people (see Ps 34:8; Zec 2:7), both now and forevermore (see Pss 113:2; 115:18; 121:8).
- Psalm 125:3 Over the years, the enemies of Israel have invaded and occupied the land of Canaan and even annexed all or part of Israel and Judah (see Ps 124:2-5). However, the psalmist declares that the Lord will never allow such a situation to endure. For foreign rulers often attempted to introduce the worship of their gods to the local population. Such foreign rule (symbolized by the term scepter—see Isa 14:5) imposed on Israel cannot coexist with the Lord’s protecting presence. For it might be an occasion for some of the godly to be tempted, to lose heart, and to fall away. Land allotted to the righteous: i.e., the Promised Land (see Ps 78:55).
- Psalm 125:4 Though confident in the Lord’s protection, the people pray for his help. For the Lord deals with everyone as that person is and does. In times of trouble, God gives his grace more abundantly; at the same time, he never permits his faithful to be tested beyond their strength. However, he wishes us to pray for that grace. The psalm therefore closes with a petition for grace and judgment. One’s own weakness and the malice of the enemy conceal many dangers. May God not refuse his assistance to those who are of goodwill and try to walk the path of virtue, and at the same time may he banish those who follow the path of evil.
- Psalm 125:4 Heart: see note on Ps 4:8.
- Psalm 125:5 The evildoers are apostates who have turned to wickedness, i.e., paths that twist away from the main road (see Jdg 5:6). The psalmist invokes the law of talion against them (see Ps 18:27ff). Peace be granted to Israel: perhaps a short form of the priestly blessing (see Num 6:24-26), with Israel designating the group of the poor of the Lord (see Pss 73:1; 102:2; 128:6; 130:7f).