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Sunday, January 8, 2017 pm                                            Psalms Index

STUDIES IN PSALMS
Bless The LORD
Psalm 134

 

Tonight, we continue our study of the psalms – noting the final of the psalms of ascents.  In this group of 15 psalms, so see it as the benediction.  Perhaps after their time of worship in the city, as they prepare to return home, as they are leaving the city, they sing this short psalm, calling upon the priests who remain in Zion to continue their work appealing to Him and blessing the people.  This is a short psalm that addresses blessing our LORD God. 

 I.                     Bless the LORD

a.       The Hebrew word for “bless” is a word that typically means to show favor toward one.  When we speak of being blessed, it is used this way.  But it can also mean to speak well of, to praise, or to kneel before.  To approach with adoration.  It is in this sense that it is used in Psalm 134:1-2.

b.       We are here called upon to bless the LORD (YHWH).  There are a handful of passages that use the word in this sense.  Some other occasions include:
Genesis 24:48 where Abraham’s servant is sent to Laban’s town to find a bride for Isaac.  When he meets Rebekah, he bows his head, worships the LORD and blesses Him.
Deuteronomy 8:10, Moses calls for Israel when they have received the land to “Bless the LORD your god for the good land which He has given you.
Judges 5:2, in the song of Deborah, leaders of the land are called upon to “Bless the Lord.”
1 Chronicles 29:10 as David is older and about to appoint Solomon to replace him, he makes preparations for the temple to be built and we read, Therefore David blessed the LORD before all the assembly; and David said: “Blessed are You, LORD God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever.   In vs. 20, he calls for the assembly to bless the LORD and they do.

Nehemiah 8:6, Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God as the book of the Law is read.
Psalm 16:7, “I will bless the LORD who has given me counsel;…
says David again.
Psalm 34:1, “I will bless the LORD at all times.”
Psalm 103:1-2, 20-22,
some 5 times. 
And it is repeated 4 times at the conclusion of Psalm 135:19-20.
The expression is similar in meaning to “praise the LORD”, though it is an entirely different word.

c.        How do we bless Him?

                                                   i.      By approaching Him with reverence – reverence for who He is, reverence for HOW we serve Him and worship Him – John 4:24, Hebrews 12:28, etc.

                                                 ii.      By praising Him – hallelujah.  Hebrews 13:15 

                                                iii.      By being thankful – 1 Thess. 5:17-18, Colossians 3:16-17, Ephesians 5:20, etc.

                                                iv.      By magnifying Him in our lives –
Philippians 1:19-20 – Paul knows all will turn out  for good, so Christi will be magnified in his body… Romans 15:5-6 with one mind and one mouth we glorify God, 1 Corinthians 6:20 – glorify God in your body in in your spirit, 1 Peter 4:11 – with all we do, “that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ…

                                                  v.      Perhaps a familiar summary of this would be, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

 II.                   All your servants of the LORD –

a.       Who by night stand in the house of the LORD.   Possibly this expression is a description of the priesthood, entrusted with administering Israel’s worship. 
A part of temple administration would include guarding the temple complex and the city.  Hence the mentioning of a night stand, for this would require constant guarding (24/7).
In addition to this, making preparation for the daily worship, and especially during feast times would probably require starting very early, even in the night. 
Also, it could involve being ready to receive arriving worshippers at all hours – including in the night.
That the temple was accessible at all hours is seen in Luke 2:37 where we read of Anna who fasted and prayed night and day. 
In describing the Levites and their work in genealogies, 1 Chronicles 9:33 speaks of some who lodged in the chambers and were employed in that work “day and night”.

b.       A lesson for us in this is to simply remind ourselves we serve God at all times.   

c.        Today, we are the priests – 1 Peter 2:4-5, 9 – we are the royal priesthood.  Revelation 1:6 we are “kings and priests” (KJV, NKJV) or “a kingdom, priests” (NASB, ESV).

                                                   i.      We offer sacrifices – including ourselves – Romans 12:1-2

                                                 ii.      We offer sacrifices of praise – Hebrews 13:15, 16

                                                iii.      We pray directly to God –

                                                iv.      We diffuse the fragrance of His knowledge in every place – 2 Cor. 2:14-15

 III.                  Lift up your hands and bless the LORD (vs. 2)

a.       Again, this shows respect as we approach Him is the point

b.       Lifting up hands – we have noted in times past there is no set posture for our prayers, but they must demonstrate reverence. 
Lifting up hands or with palms up facing heaven were postures demonstrating humility, the need for God & emptiness (i.e. Matthew 5:3- the poor in Spirit).  There were some under the Old Law who did this (though there is no compulsory command for it, nor is it consistently demonstrated).   It could be that because of this verse, some Jews sought to wash their hands before prayer.
1 Kings 8:22, when Solomon dedicated the temple in prayer he spread out his hands toward heaven.
Nehemiah 8:6 describing Ezra as he blesses the people, they answered “Amen” while “lifting up their hands.  And they bowed their heads and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.”
Psalm 28:2, David said, “Hear the voice of my supplications When I cry to You, When I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary.
Psalm 63:4, “Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.
Psalm 141:2, again David will say, “Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”
1 Timothy 2:8 speaks of lifting up holy hands – the point of this is not a posture but holiness of life.  Perhaps we ought to take seriously as we lead the congregation our holiness.
One might ask, should we lift up our hands as we pray today?  OR, is it wrong to do this?  Such is a judgment but we should approach it with great caution.  First, it is a product of the charismatic (Pentecostal) type religions which are seeking an “experience” in worship.  For some, the lifting of hands might be trying to provoke some type of response; Second, when we study prayer we learn that what God is concerned about is the heart!  You don’t need to raise your hands to have a proper heart.  In fact, Third, it is possible that such is being done to be seen which is contrary to our humble and contrite hearts – (cf. Psalm 51:17 – the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit and a contrite heart – these O God, You will not despise).

 IV.                 The LORD who made heavens and earth

a.       Acknowledging Him for who He is.  Again this has been a point of emphasis throughout our studies of the psalms.  Within the psalms we are reminded of the greatness of God.  Psalm 115:15, 121:2, Genesis 1:1.  Ephesians 3:9, Colossians 1:16 – God created all things! 

b.       We just remind ourselves “How great thou art!” when we approach Him. 

 V.                   Bless you from Zion

a.       One resource paints a picture here as the last sacrifices are offered, and the festival is reaching its conclusion, as night is falling, or perhaps early in the morning before day break as they begin their long journey to their homes – refreshed and jubilant – they speak out to those entrusted with guarding the city and proper worship, “Behold, bless the LORD…” (vs. 1-2).  As they are leaving, the guard replies with vs. 3, “The LORD who made heaven and earth bless you from Zion.”  A benediction. 

b.       We do receive blessings from Him.  This is the same word as in previous verses.  But here the blessing is pronounced upon the believer.   God truly blesses His people!  Ephesians 1:3 – He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.
John 1:16, “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.”
NOTE: As we have been blessed, we are also to bless others – 1 Peter 3:9, rather than returning evil for evil, return blessing that you may inherit a blessing.
Matthew 5:44 – we bless those who curse us.

c.        Bless you from Zion.” The benediction – concluding prayers.  The word benediction is not found in most Bible, but the idea is there.  The word means an expression of good wishes or the invoking of blessings, typically at the conclusion.  Paul often did this in his letters.  (1 Corinthians 16:23, 2 Corinthians 13:11-14, Ephesians 6:23-24, etc.)
While not compulsory, a closing prayer is a fitting way to conclude and commend a service of worship to God.

 

And thus we conclude another and a group of psalms devoted to preparing the heart to worship God properly.  With a proper heart, one assembling to worship God with others as He commands, will leave more grateful than when he arrived.  And its not about some emotional high, it is about knowing that we have blessed God because of how He has blessed us.  May that be our heart as we gather together.  Think about it.