Treasury of David
TITLE. A Song of Degrees. We have now reached the last of the Gradual Psalms. The Pilgrims are going home, and are singing the last song in their Psalter. They leave early in the morning, before the day has fully commenced, for the journey is long for many of them. While yet the night lingers they are on the move. As soon as they are outside the gates they see the guards upon the temple wall, and the lamps shining from the windows of the chambers which surround the sanctuary; therefore, moved by the sight, they chant a farewell to the perpetual attendants upon the holy shrine. Their parting exhortation arouses the priests to pronounce upon them a blessing out of the holy place: this blessing is contained in the third verse. The priests as good as say, "You have desired us to bless the Lord, and now we pray the Lord to bless you."
The Psalm teaches us to pray for those who are continually ministering before the Lord, and it invites all ministers to pronounce blessings upon their loving and prayerful people.
Verse 1. Behold. By this call, the pilgrims bespeak the attention of the night watch. They shout to them: Behold! The retiring pilgrims stir up the holy brotherhood of those who are appointed to keep the watch of the house of the Lord. Let them look around them upon the holy place, and everywhere "behold" reasons for sacred praise. Let them look above them at night and magnify him who made Heaven and earth, and lighted the one with stars and the other with his love. Let them see to it that their hallelujahs never come to an end.
Their departing brethren arouse them with the shrill cry of "Behold!" Behold!—see, take care, be on the watch, diligently mind your work, and incessantly adore and bless Jehovah's name.
Bless the LORD. Think well of Jehovah, and speak well of him. Adore him with reverence, draw near to him with love, delight in him with exultation. Be not content with praise, such as all his works render to him; but, as his saints, see that you "bless" him. He blesses you; therefore, be zealous to bless him. The word "bless" is the characteristic word of the Psalm.
The first two verses stir us up to bless Jehovah, and in the last verse Jehovah's blessing is invoked upon the people. Oh to abound in blessing! May blessed and blessing be the two words which describe our lives. Let others flatter their fellows, or bless their lucky stars, or praise themselves; as for us, we will bless Jehovah, from whom all blessings flow.
All you servants of the LORD. It is your office to bless him; take care that you lead the way therein. Servants should speak well of their masters. Not one of you should serve him as of compulsion, but all should bless him while you serve him; yes, bless him for permitting you to serve him, fitting you to serve him, and accepting your service.
To be a servant of Jehovah is an incalculable honor, a blessing beyond all estimate. To be a servant in his house, is even more a delight and a glory: if those who are ever with the Lord, and dwell in his own temple, do not bless the Lord, who will?
Which by night stand in the house of the LORD. We can well understand how the holy pilgrims half envied those consecrated ones who guarded the temple, and attended to the necessary offices thereof through the hours of night. To the silence and solemnity of night, there was added the awful glory of the place where Jehovah had ordained that his worship should be celebrated, blessed were the priests and Levites who were ordained to a service so sublime. That these should bless the Lord throughout their nightly vigils was most fitting: the people would have them mark this, and never fail in the duty. They were not to move about like so many machines, but to put their hearts into all their duties, and worship spiritually in the whole course of their duty. It would be well to watch, but better still to be "watching unto prayer" and praise.
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.
Verse 2. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary. In the holy place they must be busy, full of strength, wide awake, energetic, and moved with holy ardor. Hands, heart, and every other part of their manhood must be upraised, elevated, and consecrated to the adoring service of the Lord.
As the angels praise God day without night, so must the angels of the churches be instant in season and out of season.
And bless the LORD. This is their main business. They are to bless men by their teaching, but they must yet more bless Jehovah with their worship. Too often men look at public worship only from the side of its usefulness to the people; but the other matter is of even higher importance. We must see to it that the Lord God is adored, extolled, and had in reverence.
For a second time the word "bless" is used, and applied to Jehovah. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and let every other soul bless him. There will be no drowsiness about even midnight devotion, if the heart is set upon blessing God in Christ Jesus, which is the gospel translation of God in the sanctuary.
Verse 3. This last verse is the answer from the temple to the pilgrims preparing to depart as the day breaks. It is the ancient blessing of the high priest condensed, and poured forth upon each individual pilgrim.
The LORD that made Heaven and earth bless you out of Zion. You are scattering and going to your homes one by one; may the blessing come upon you one by one. You have been up to Jehovah's city and temple at his bidding; return each one with such a blessing as only he can give—divine, infinite, effectual, eternal.
You are not going away from Jehovah's works or glories, for he made the Heaven above you and the earth on which you dwell. He is your Creator, and he can bless you with untold mercies. He can create joy and peace in your hearts, and make for you a new Heaven and a new earth. May the Maker of all things make you to abound in blessings.
The blessing comes from the City of the Great King, from his appointed ministers, by virtue of his covenant, and so it is said to be "out of Zion."
To this day the Lord blesses each one of his people through his church, his gospel, and the ordinances of his house. It is in communion with the saints that we receive untold blessings. May each one of us obtain yet more of the blessing which comes from the Lord alone. Zion cannot bless us; the holiest ministers can only wish us a blessing; but Jehovah can and will bless each one of his waiting people. So may it be at this good hour.
Do we desire it? Let us then bless the Lord ourselves. Let us do it a second time. Then we may confidently hope that the third time we think of blessing, we shall find ourselves conscious receivers of it from the ever blessed One. Amen.