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Title: Come, Bless the Lord!
Text: Psalm 134
Introduction: We’ll be in two places this morning, really more than that, but the two we’ll turn to together are 1 Chronicles 23 and Psalm 120-134. Mark 1 Chronicles 23. Our text is Psalm 134, but I’d like to walk through the Psalms of Ascent with you to get there.
We have journeyed through the Psalms of Ascent over the last few months. I did an introductory sermon on July 8th. Together with Shawn Cook, Duffey Henderson, and Joshua Webb, we have walked with the people of God through remembering some of their history. The Pilgrims have taken us with them from their distant lands to the mountain of God. We’ve journeyed with them to worship as they made their way through the countryside toward Jerusalem. We started in Psalm 120 where the pilgrims journeyed from Meshech and Kedar. – two extreme locations to the Northwest and the Southeast. In Psalm 121, we looked to the hills for our help and acknowledged that our help comes from the Lord – the maker of heaven and earth. We rejoiced with the pilgrims in Ps 122, as they entered the gates of Jerusalem. We felt the elation of finally arriving. We felt the anticipation of the coming time in the Temple of God.
A big part of enjoying where they were standing was in understanding where they had been and just what had brought them to where they were. We felt their pain as we remembered their punishment in exile in Psalm 123. We sang praises to the Lord with the pilgrims in Psalm 124 as we acknowledged the work of God in preserving the remnant. We stood atop Mt Zion in 125 and felt the strength and security of the Lord as we took in the panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. In Psalm 126 we praised God for his goodness. We acknowledged that God has been so good to his people through the ages and prayed with the pilgrims that God would once again restore the fortunes of Israel.
In Psalm 127 we watched as the pilgrims sang about the man and his relationship to his family, his community and his work. In Psalm 128 we followed along as we watched a man walk in the fear and in the ways of the LORD and have seen that he is blessed in the grandest of ways (from his work, to his wife, to his children). Added to this, we saw the community be blessed by such families – not just in the moment, but also in future generations. Psalm 129 is a psalm of thanksgiving for God’s faithfulness in the past and, praise and expectation for his continued blessings in the future. Others had risen up against Israel in the past, but God has always provided for and protected his people. The enemies of God and God’s people have not prevailed. We heard testimony of the Pilgrims and their suffering, but that did not mean the enemy of God had succeeded. Where Psalm 127-128 dealt with the blessings of God, we saw in Psalm 129 the polar opposite: the enemies of God and God’s people are not blessed. Their hands are empty. They will not hear shouts of ‘blessings from the LORD’ as Israel will. And in that time, we paused to reflect upon the themes of youth, building, fruit, labor, and blessings flowing freely throughout this section.
And the blessings continue: Psalm 130 then moves from this place of suffering to a place of trust. It is a cry for mercy born out of a wayward soul and a plea for those who love the Lord to wait and hope and trust in Him. Psalm 131 then deals with this hope in the Lord and the satisfaction one has in the Lord who waits on and puts their hope in Him. In Psalm 132 we then were called to remember David’s hardships and suffering which he endured. We remembered his passion and his zeal for the things of God. And like David, the Israelites were challenged to endure and trust. They were challenged to be zealous for the things of God. For someday, as was the case with David, God’s blessings and promises would come true. You and I see those blessings and promises fulfilled in Christ. You and I enjoy those blessings fulfilled in Christ. In Psalm 133, Joshua Webb guided us to the Temple where we watched as Aaron, the High Priest was anointed with precious oil. He focused in on the theme of unity and pleasantness – to experience the wonder of unity in the body – and, what a blessing it truly is for us when we dwell together in unity.
Now, the evening has come and the pilgrims are making there way out of the city to a place they’ll settle down for the night.
I’m reminded of when Jesus came into Jerusalem and walked around the Temple on the first night of the last week of his life. The servants of the Lord were there, but the people had gone. He walked around the Temple grounds and then he and his disciples left the Temple, left Jerusalem and walked to Bethany.
The Evening sacrifice has been offered. Worship is over and the people are headed out of the Temple, out of Jerusalem to the places they’ve set up. In the morning they’ll pack up and head home. As they leave they look back up at the Temple walls because someone has beckoned them to do so. They look up and see the lights of the servants – the priests and the Levites. I don’t imagine it being too dark, but I imagine the sun has fallen back behind the hills far enough for them to see the lights clearly.
Maybe there is a somber feeling of sadness that it is all over. Maybe there is still this wonderful feeling, like when you leave the stadium after a really close game and your team won. But with this emotion and passion inside, someone cries out: Rd v 1a; Hinneh! Come! Behold! Look! Here!
Genesis 22.1: After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” That’s this word. Later in Gen 22.11, the angel of the Lord calls out to him again as he is about to offer his son as a sacrifice in obedience to the Lord’s command. Abraham, Abraham! And Abraham answered: Here I am. We see this again in Isaiah 6 where the Lord asks: Whom shall I send and who will go for us? And Isaiah said: Hinani! Here I am! Send me.
This cry in Psalm 134 is getting everyone’s attention to look and behold something special. Rd v1b-2; Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord! 2 Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord!
There are three commands in the imperative mode here – issued from the people below:
- Bless the Lord; v 1
- Lift up your hands; in v 2;
- Bless the Lord; a repeat of the 1st command there at the end of v2.
Someone cries out this command. But, to understand who is being commanded here, we note the rest of the sentence. Who? All you servants of the Lord, more specifically, who stand by night in the house of the Lord.
The servants of the Lord are the priests and the Levites who minister before the Lord day and night. Their service never ends. People leave and go back to their lives, but the work in the Temple must continue.
These men, these servants of the Lord have been doing this work for hundreds of years. At first, they took care of the Tabernacle as it traveled around – with each group having its own responsibility for the tearing down, transporting and setting it all up again. Moses organized them to do the work and care for the Lord’s Tabernacle. But, things changed when David settled them in Jerusalem. Knowing the Temple would be the place where God’s Ark would reside, he then changed things up. Look with me in 1 Chronicles 23.25-32; And now you see in the rest of this book, David organizes them with their new tasks in the Temple. That is what is going on here in Psalm 134. The people are leaving, but the work of the Lord continues.
Ill.: Can I just pause for a moment and bring this home for us – for you? I’m thankful for Pastor Appreciation Month. I’m grateful that H.B. London, who just recently passed away, worked so hard to make Pastor Appreciation something special. You might remember H.B., who worked for Focus on the Family. For the last 30 years or so, he did his best to keep Pastor Appreciation before the church. I think some stores have caught on to the opportunity to make some money and continue to promote the idea.
- Please allow me to give you an idea for the most wonderful pastor appreciation gift you could ever give to me: Pray for me and my wife and my family. Pray that God would grant me his favor – that his Hand would be with me. Pray that God would grant me vision and wisdom and discernment. Pray to the Father for my protection and guidance. Pray that I would stay in his Word daily and pray daily – that is to say, pray for my fellowship with the Father through the Son and by his Holy Spirit – for my own benefit. But, also pray for those same things in regard to my teaching and preaching. Pray that I would be bold when it comes to preaching and teaching. Pray that God would bring godly men in my life to offer me godly counsel. Pray for me.
When Calvary first asked me to be their pastor, I passed out some prayer cards. I asked you to pray for me as Luke outlines at the beginning of his Gospel concerning Jesus:
- God’s Pleasure – that he would be pleased with me (this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased)
- God’s Provision – turn this stone to bread; Luke 4
- God’s Protection – Luke 4 – the temptation (v 13: departed until an opportune time)
- God’s Power – the power of the Spirit took him to minister and he taught the people (4.14-15)
- God’s Presence – The Spirit of the Lord is upon me… Luke 4;
This hasn’t changed. I still need your prayers. Without them, I’m doomed – and to be honest, it will affect us all.
In Psalm 134, they notice that the work continues even when they have all gone back to their fields and homes; rd v1-2; Pray for me, that I will not fail in my work, as it continues without fail. I don’t stop being a pastor when the lights turn off and we all go home.
- Pray for Duffey and his wife and his children. Pray these same requests. Pray that he would be humble and receptive to teaching, rebuke, correction. Pray that God would soften his heart and that he would learn as he leads. Older men and women, treat him as a son. Bear with him – he has a lot to learn and he doesn’t even grasp the magnitude of it all – even though he might think he does. Love him, not with just words, but in deed. And be honest with him. Love his wife as a daughter. Be caring and kind toward her. Nurture her as she loves her husband and nurtures her children in the Lord. Disciple them both, as they lead in this place. Love their kids. Pray for them all regularly.
Pray for us because, like the servants listed here, we understand the work continues. It never stops for us. When we get away, we never really get away. Think of us like these men here – still at work in the service of the Lord after everyone goes home.
Then, in an antiphonal echo, a priest (or someone like him) offers this blessing in v 3: 3 May the Lord bless you from Zion, he who made heaven and earth!
What a time it has been! I wonder if someone says in a reflective way quoted from Psalm 122.1 as they walked through the gates: 1 I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” What a wonderful feeling to think back on the previous days of celebration and worship. Now, they leave with a blessing… a blessing of hope from the Lord.
It is interesting to me that in the Psalms of Ascent up to this point, all of the blessings mentioned are upon the people, except two. In 124.6, a blessing is spoken of the Lord who has preserved his people from their enemies (Blessed be the Lord). And in 129.8 it is said as a curse, may you never hear a blessing from the Lord. May those who pass by you just pass by and not utter a word of blessing. Then, here in 134, there is this call for the servants of the Lord to bless him.
The word bless is barak in Hebrew, which most literally means to bend the knee. Over time, of course, it took on various forms of this word to indicate showing favor. It can be a salute or a greeting. God, of course, doesn’t bend his knee before anyone, but he can show us his favor. He does what we can never do and we do what he would never do. He shows us favor and pleasure and blessings. We bless the Lord with our worship. Think about this blessing we now have by which we bless the Lord.
Listen to Hebrews 12.22-24: 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
When you gather with your brothers and sisters to worship – you come to Mt. Zion, you come through Jesus the Messiah to worship God. And in worship, it isn’t just the few of us here. It is, spiritually speaking, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and that great cloud of witnesses who gone before are gathered there. Christ, by offering his blood as an atoning sacrifice has torn the veil, which separated us and has allowed us entrance to the throne room of God.
Come, let us Bless the Lord together…
Blessing: 24 The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.