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View of the Old City Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives with olive trees in the foreground

Psalm 125 – The Lord Surrounds His People

This song of ascents explains how believers are like Mount Zion, the highest point of Jerusalem. Jerusalem cannot be moved because the Lord is preserving her and the same is also true of the believer in view of how God is keeping their souls. The believer cannot be moved and will abide in the presence of the lord forever. Why? Because the Lord is in the midst of her (Psalm 46:5). Equally Proverbs 10:30 explains that “The righteous will never be removed, but the wicked will not inhabit the earth”.

As the Mountains Surround Jerusalem, so the Lord Surrounds His people

Macdonald adds, “Mount Zion is one of the promontories in the city of Jerusalem, and is sometimes used as a figure of speech for the city itself. Here it signifies the ultimate in stability and strength, a citadel that cannot be moved.

The man of faith is like that. His life is built on the solid rock. When the rains fall, and the floods come, and the winds blow and beat upon his house, it does not fall, because it has been built on the rock (Matt. 7:25).”[i]

If there were any doubt concerning God’s literal and continued promises to His people, Jerusalem and the land of Israel, this psalm alone should be sufficient to put those doubts to rest. In the same way that the mountains surround Jerusalem, the Lord surrounds His people. This is one of the songs of degrees, in which the traveller would make their way up to Jerusalem to keep the great feasts thrice annually. They would have looked to the Lord for protection on their travels since there were numerous perils en route considering the nature of their journey in that area in the ancient world. Another parallel can be drawn from Psalm 34:7 in that “The Angel of the lord encamps all around those who fear Him and delivers them.”

Every time we gaze upon Jerusalem when we visit Israel, or so frequently when we watch events in the news, we can be reminded and encouraged by God’s purposes for His people and the land allotted to them. Our Lord often used the natural to explain spiritual matters and when we look at the Lord’s preservation of Jerusalem it reassures those who believe in Him, that He will keep their souls also. Elisha’s servant was fearful of the Syrian army so Elisha prayed that his eyes may be opened and the young man saw a mountain full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:17). Only the Lord can open someone’s eyes so that they can see spiritually and trust in Him.

The Sceptre of Wickedness Shall Not Rest On the Land Allotted to the Righteous

Some might state that Jerusalem has survived though has lived a troubled existence. That of course is true and we see the outworking of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 throughout history with respect of both blessings and cursings respectively, for obedience and disobedience to the Lord. Interestingly Radak understood this psalm to relate to the future Messianic kingdom since in his era though the mountains surrounded her, the nations ruled over her and conquered her from another.[ii]

Hence Psalm 125:3 is of great interest in terms of the Lord’s plans for Israel and the nations which are progressing towards the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom. “For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous reach out their hands to iniquity.” Daniel 2 and 7 demonstrate sovereign knowledge of the successive empires in relation to Israel and the nations concerning Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. Where are those mighty empires now? We could continue a survey throughout history, even to contemporary times and look at the oppressors of Israel and ask the same question, did it go well for them? Zechariah described Jerusalem as a very heavy stone for all peoples and those who would try to heave it away would be cut to pieces (Zechariah 12:3).

Jerusalem has been ruled by many nations but the sceptre of the wicked has not been allowed to rest since God has His purposes for His people and the nations. Has any other nation a history akin to that of Israel having been scattered and regathered, retaining their language, currency and identity? Have they survived despite the odds in human terms stacked against them throughout the course of their history?

A land has been allotted to Israel, spoken clearly of in the Abrahamic Covenant and during their  history (Genesis 17:7-9; Joshua 14-19; Ezekiel 47:13-48-29. There will come a time when all nations go up to Jerusalem to keep the feast of Tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16-21). In the same way that God resisted evil when Adam and Evil were expelled from the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:22-24, He will help the righteous to keep themselves from iniquity.

A Prayer for Divine justice

The psalmist prayed for the Lord’s favour on the righteous who are those He has made good. Of ourselves none is righteous and no one is good (Psalm 53:3), but the righteous are justified by their faith in the Lord (Habakkuk 2:4; cf. Romans 1:17) and are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). In David’s psalm where he acknowledges his unrighteous acts towards Bathsheba, Uriah and the Lord, he recognises not only that he has sinned against God, but he was born into sin and asked the Lord to create in him a clean heart (Psalm 51:4-12) In Psalm 7:9-10, David prayed, “Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, but establish the just; for the righteous God tests the hearts and minds. My defense is of God who saves the upright in heart.”

David was trusting in God’s character since he knew the Lord and His ways and knew how to pray according to His purposes. It is the Lord who is keeping Jerusalem and it is the Lord who guards our souls. The believer has repented of their ways and are trusting in Him, not themselves. They are wholly dependent upon Him. Because the Lord’s character is perfect and He is omnipotent, the believer can be certain of the Lord’s plans coming to fruition, His return and His Messianic Kingdom.

Peace Be Upon Israel!

This psalm closes with “Peace be upon Israel!” Jesus the Messiah is the Prince of peace, the Sar Shalom who will judge the wicked and bring peace. In the meantime the believer must cleave to the Lord and every time they look towards Jerusalem remind themselves that: “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the lord surrounds His people from this time forth and forever” (Psalm 125:2). Shalom, Shalom!


[i] William MacDonald Believer’s Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 1995; Nashville), p753

[ii] Radak on Psalm 125 Sefaria.org https://www.sefaria.org/Radak_on_Psalms.125.3.1?ven=Rabbi_Mike_Feuer,_Jerusalem_Anthology&vhe=Derekh_Mesilah,_Furth_1843&lang=en