The Pilgrim’s Perseverance Under the Care of the Lord 

a brief study of Psalm 125, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 20 May 2011 


Like the pilgrims of old going up to Jerusalem for their annual feast, the Lord’s pilgrims and strangers are on an upward journey. They are heading toward the Celestial City to join in the everlasting Wedding Supper of the Lamb.

And like the pilgrims of old, the Lord’s pilgrims will encounter many on their journey who are not interested in going to the feast. These,—who are in the world and of the world,—will often trouble the Lord’s pilgrims. Intentionally or unintentionally, they will hinder the Lord’s pilgrims in their upward journey.

But ironically, this is all part of God’s plan for His people. For, on the one hand, the trials that God’s people face build up those who are true believers. This is so because trials strengthen their faith and dependence on the LORD, and also deepen their gratitude towards Him. And on the other hand, these same trials and distractions will expose false professors of faith because they will be tempted to give up the journey and fall back into the world.

All these things are reflected in Psalm 125. This psalm may be entitled, “The Pilgrim’s Perseverance Under the LORD’s Care.” It is a psalm given by the Lord that He might sing in union with us as we seek to encourage one another on our pilgrim journey.

We may discern three major thoughts in this psalm. From verses 1-3, we have an affirmation of the Lord’s protection of His people. Verse 4 is a prayer for the Lord’s blessing for the true believers. Verse 5 contains a declaration of woe for those who turn aside.


1. Protection for the Church

1 They that trust in the LORD shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever.

Mount Zion is where Jerusalem sits. It was a type of the church. It also provides a picture of the stability and permanence of the church. Like Mount Zion, the church having been purchased by the blood of Christ will never be destroyed. She will endure forever. Of course we are not speaking about individual congregations or even the Church Visible. We are talking about the true church that comprises the elect or true believers. This is what the designation “they that trust in the LORD” (v. 1) points to.

Indeed, the Lord protects His church visible only on account of the church invisible in her.

Verse 2 speaks of the Lord’s protection of His people:

2 As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.

Jerusalem was surrounded by mountains. It itself is situated on Mount Moriah or Mount Zion. But there are other mounts around her. For example, on the West there are the Mount of Memory and the Mount of Rest. In the North, there is Mount Scopus. In the East there is the Mount of Olives.  In the South, there is Har Homa or the Mount of Defense. 

As Jerusalem is surrounded by mountains, so the LORD is round about his people to protect them from the assault of his enemies. In fact, the picture of protection provided by the surrounding mountains reminds us of another picture, even the picture of the LORD cradling His people in His hands. “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand” says our Lord (Jn 10:29).

God’s pilgrim and strangers will persevere on to the Celestial City. God will see to it.

How does our Lord and our Father protect us? Verse 3 gives us an example:

3 For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity. 

The rod represents political domination. It may also be rendered ‘sceptre.’ So here we are reminded of how the LORD will protect his people from the dominion and pressures of the wicked that will compel them to sin against Him.

In other words, while the Lord has appointed many trials for His people, these trials are measured so as to do good in our hearts. They are designed to cultivate our patience and faith in Him. God will never allow any trial or temptation that is too strong for us to resist so that we be harmed rather than strengthened if we are fighting by faith. The apostle Paul puts it beautifully when he says:

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1Cor 10:13).

No matter how tough the temptation may be, there is always a way of escape. Sometimes the way of escape is clearly before our eye. But in our stubbornness, we refuse to go that way, and so fall into sin instead.

If only we open our eyes, we will see that what we sing in this psalm is true: God will not allow the Wicked One and his cohort to assert such pressure upon us that we are forced to sin.

Indeed, very often deliverance from temptation is only a prayer away. And so the second thought in this psalm is a prayer, even a prayer of…


2. Blessing for True Believers

4 Do good, O LORD, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts.

Now, the scriptures tell us that there is none good; and none that doeth good, no not one; and there is none righteous or upright, no not one (Ps 14:1; Mt 19:17; Rom 3:12, 10). Apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, there is none truly good or upright.

Therefore, the only consistent way for us to understand this verse is to think of it as referring to those who are justified and are being sanctified. Those who are justified are imputed with the righteousness of Christ and would appear as good in God’s sight. Those who are justified would also be sanctified. Those who are being sanctified have uprightness in their heart because of the work of the Holy Spirit in them. Who are these who are justified and sanctified? These are the elect or the true believers.

Therefore when we sing verse 4, we are praying that the Lord will bless the elect or the true believers. God has promised that all things will work together for them, but as in everything, God is pleased to receive our petitions for the very things he promised.

So we must pray for the elect. So we must pray for one another as we sing this psalm, so we must elaborate on this prayer when we bow before the Lord. In particularly, we must pray that the trials and suffering that God’s children have to endure may be used for their good.

But at the same time, let us not hesitate to admonish and warn against hypocrisy, backsliding and apostasy. Thus the final thought in Psalm 125 is a warning of…


3. Woe for Apostates

5 As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the LORD shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity: but peace shall be upon Israel.

We have already seen how God’s elect will persevere on and will not drop off completely from their heavenward journey.

Yes, sometimes we may take wrong turns and we may backslide, but the Lord will always lead us back to the right path. He does so in many ways—by His Word and Spirit, by His chastisement, by Godly counsels, by His providence etc. Those who are true believers will always be led back to the path of righteousness when they stray.

However, there are in the church visible, those who are mere professors of faith. The Lord refers to them as tares, goats, bad fishes, foolish virgins, those who walk on the broad way, etc.

What about these? What happens when they turn aside from the old path or the way of holiness to walk on the broad way?

Well, the Lord has no promise to lead them back. Instead, he will lead them forth with the workers of iniquity. They will suffer the same destiny of terror and destruction with the others who are workers of iniquity.

Remarkably, the Septuagint translation of the phrase “workers of iniquity” are the same words that our Lord uses when he tells us of how many who call him Lord, lord would be disowned by Him with the words, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Mt 7:23).

Our text is saying that those who turn aside from walking in the narrow road that leads to life, will be led on by the LORD in the broad way that leads to damnation.

But peace shall be upon Israel. The church, especially such as are truly the children of the Lord, will march on in the way of the Lord with His peace and joy until they reach the heavenly rest and celebrations typified by the feast at Jerusalem. Let us, therefore, take heed lest we fall. Let us examine our hearts to see if we are walking in sincerity. For those who walk in sincerity and truth will know the Lord’s peace in their heart.


Conclusion

This is Psalm 125. Let us use it in union with Christ to exhort and encourage one another to persevere on in our upward journey. The journey is not going to be easy, but we have the assurance of the LORD that he will not suffer us to slip and fall. All who truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will find much joy and meaning in their walk.

They will walk in humility and confidence because they know they persevere on only because they are beloved by the heavenly Father, and he will not suffer them to be plucked out of his hand or to be tempted beyond what they can bear.

Such as walk in sincerity and truth can have the assurance of the Lord’s blessing; and I trust that you do seek to walk in sincerity and truth. Amen.