The Lord’s Pilgrim’s  Benediction

a brief study of Psalm 134, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 2 Dec 2011

 

Psalm 134 is the last of the Pilgrim Psalms. And it would appear that it was sung in the evening before the pilgrims retire for the night to leave Jerusalem the next day. We may call this “The Lord’s Pilgrim’s Benediction.”

But of course, this is a Psalm not only to be used by the pilgrims of old on their annual pilgrimages. Rather, it is given by Christ the King that all His pilgrims heading to the Celestial City might sing in union with Him to bless the LORD and to bless one another.

It has two parts. The first part, verses 1-2, is a call to the servants of the LORD to bless the LORD. The second part, verse 3, is the Lord’s benediction or blessing upon the people.


1. Call to Bless the LORD

1  Behold, bless ye the LORD, all ye servants of the LORD, which by night stand in the house of the LORD. 2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD.

To bless the Lord is to praise the LORD. The “servants of the LORD, which by night stand in the house of the LORD” would refer originally to the Priest and Levites on night duties in the Temple. These would include those who keep the lamps and altar of burnt offering burning, and perhaps also the singers who were employed to sing the psalms throughout the night (cf. 1 Chr 9:33).

Now, as the pilgrims leave the court of the temple, they sing this psalm to call unto the Priest and Levites to continue to bless the Lord on their behalf through the night seasons. To serve and worship the Lord is to bless the Lord. Worship is not so much about what we can receive from the Lord, but what we can do to honour the Lord and magnify His name.

Now, today, there is no Temple, neither are there Priests nor Levites. Who then are we addressing when we sing this psalm?

Well, we know intuitively, that as the Old Testament saints looked to Priests and Levites to represent them, so today we look to the pastors, elders and even deacons in the church to represent us. The apostles gave themselves to prayer and ministry of the word, so today, we look to our elders and ministers to fill up that which is behind in our prayer. This is why we instinctively call for the elders to pray for us when we are in a crisis (Jas 5:14).

So Psalm 134 is indeed a psalm that the Lord has given us so that we may urge our elders and pastors on in their labours to bless the Lord. We must especially encourage them as they will have to endure many seasons when night, as it were, falls upon the church due to sin and the attacks of the wicked one. Our elders are often the ones who feel most acutely the troubles confronting the church in these night seasons, for they are called to bear her burdens and cares. Thus we must seek especially to support them and strengthen their hands.

As Spurgeon puts it beautifully,—

“When night settles down on a church the Lord has his watchers and holy ones still guarding his truth, and these must not be discouraged, but must bless the Lord even when the darkest hours draw on. Be it ours to cheer them, and lay upon them this charge - to bless the Lord at all times, and let his praise be continually in their mouths.”

Let us, beloved brethren, use this psalm to encourage them to “lift up the hands which hang down, and [to strengthen] the feeble knees” (Heb 12:12) that they may serve the Lord with joy and not with grief.

However, let us also understand that as God’s people, we are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God (1Pet 2:9). Under the New Testament economy we are in Christ, prophets, priests and kings. So  Psalm 134 is not only for the encouragement of the office bearers in the church. It is for us to admonish one another in the Word of Christ. And we are in need of such admonishment especially when we have to walk through the night.

As Augustine reminds us, it is easy to bless the Lord by day; but it is much harder to bless the Lord by night. The day is when everything is cheerful and bright. The night is when everything is dark and dreary,—when we are confronted with sicknesses, depression, loss, regret, pain, sorrow and tears. Night is when we feel a dullness in our heart that nothing seems to be able to alleviate.

Beloved brethren and children, understand that many in the church go through such times. We need to encourage one another to bless the Lord—to thank Him, to praise Him, to trust Him. We need to admonish one another lovingly at such time.

The Lord has given us words for this purpose. May we use them! And may we listen to them and be encouraged. 

My youngest daughter told me that sometimes she does not sing when we sing the psalms because it is so nice that she wants to enjoy it. Sometimes, especially when night descends upon our souls, it would be helpful for us to do so. At such times, be still, keep silent, and listen to the Words of admonishment and soak in what the Lord has to tell you.

But now, in the second part of this psalm we have a benediction of the LORD…


2. The LORD Blesses His People

3 The LORD that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion.

We can imagine how the pilgrims of old would have used this psalm. The congregation would sing the first two verses to encourage the Priests and the Levites on in their night duties.

But the Priest and Levites will respond with this final benediction: “3 The LORD that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion.

Notice how they did not say: “We bless thee,” but rather, “The LORD… bless thee…” No one but the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth, has the power to bless.

The holiest of the ministers of God can only wish a blessing upon us. But the LORD’s blessing is divine, effectual, infinite, eternal and unchangeable.

When a minister of the LORD, whether under the Old Covenant or New Covenant, pronounces a benediction, he pronounces it on the LORD’s behalf. Those who receive it by faith receive it as from the LORD. Likewise when God’s people sing this benediction in union with Christ, they are, as it were, pronouncing a benediction on the LORD’s behalf.

Therefore, when we listen to these words sung in the congregation, let us receive it as from the LORD.

The LORD the maker of heaven and earth will bless us. He is pleased to bless us. He will bless us out of Zion. Zion, of course, is but another name of the church. The LORD blesses His children in many ways. But His blessings that are truly infinite, eternal and unchangeable are inevitably through the church. We think of all the blessings associated with eternal life, of sanctification, of heavenly rewards, of joy, peace and love everlasting. All these things come through the Word and ordinances, and prayers mediated through the church.

Beloved brethren and children, the church is not just a place to worship in. It is not even merely a people we worship together with. The church is the bride of Christ. It is through the Church that the Lord will bless us!

“The LORD that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion.” The LORD will wipe away your tears and chase away the darkness. The LORD will see to it that for all eternity, there will be joy and light forever and ever.


Conclusion

This is Psalm 134. May the LORD grant us the grace to sing it meaningfully in our hearts as we seek to encourage the Lord’s servants and one another to lift up our hands that hang down to serve the Lord with zeal. And may the LORD grant us the faith to receive the bountiful blessings that He would bless us out of Zion. Amen.