This is the last of the series of fifteen psalms with the title A Song of Ascents. It is a call to the priests and Levites of the temple to continue their service of praise, with the answer of a blessing back to the people.
Charles Spurgeon suggested that the scene was of pilgrims departing Jerusalem in the darkness of early morning, calling out to the priests and Levites who stood watch at the temple. The pilgrims then receive the blessing spoken back to them.
A. The blessing pronounced unto the LORD.
1. (1) A call for servants to bless the LORD.
Behold, bless the LORD,
All you servants of the LORD,
Who by night stand in the house of the LORD!
a. Behold, bless the LORD: As in several other places in the Book of Psalms, this does not mean to bless in the sense that a greater bestows a blessing on a lesser. God is infinitely greater than man, and man could never give a blessing to God. The idea is that it blesses and honors God when His creatures praise Him and thank Him appropriately.
i. Behold: “I believe hinneh should be taken here in the sense of take heed! Be upon your guard.” (Clarke)
ii. Bless the LORD: “That is, speak good of his name: tell the wonders he has wrought, and show that his name is exalted.” (Clarke)
iii. “Be not content with praise, such as all his works render to him; but, as his saints, see that ye ‘bless’ him. He blesses you; therefore, be zealous to bless him.” (Spurgeon)
iv. “Do not stand there like statues, silent and idle, but employ your hearts and tongues in singing forth the praises of the Lord.” (Poole)
b. All you servants of the LORD: The servants of God have special reason to bless and praise Him. If the servants of the LORD do not praise Him, who will?
· They partner with God in His work, which is a special privilege.
· They enjoy the nearness that comes with working together with God.
· They receive special strength and anointing as they serve Him.
· They have new and exciting challenges of faith.
i. Since this is addressed to servants of the LORD, this psalm shows us that praise should be added to all our work. We can imagine a temple guard asking, “Isn’t it enough that I do my work and stand watch through the night?” The answer is: “No, that isn’t enough. To all your work, add praise – bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD.”
ii. “Not one of you should serve him as of compulsion, but all should bless him while you serve him; yea, bless him for permitting you to serve him, fitting you to serve him, and accepting your service.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “Those who have made their way to Jerusalem to worship and have completed their devotions are now returning home, singing this song. They will not be able to worship in the temple again until their next journey. As they leave the city, they are encouraged to know that the priests will be remaining behind to represent them at the temple and so they will be worshiping God there continually.” (Boice)
iv. G. Campbell Morgan also understood these priests and Levites, these servants of the LORD, to be representative of the whole community of God’s people. He applied the same principle to Christian worship in a modern age. A small gathered group, in some way, represents the large and mighty body of Christ.
c. Who by night stand in the house of the LORD: The singer probably had in mind the priests or Levites who had special duties at the temple, including night watches at the house of the LORD.
i. “We read, 1 Chronicles 9:33, that the Levitical singers were ‘employed in their work day and night;’ to the end, doubtless, that the earthly sanctuary might bear some resemblance of that above, where, St. John tells us, the redeemed ‘are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in the temple.’ Revelation 7:15.” (Horne)
ii. Stand in the house of the LORD: “The priestly and Levitical ministry is often designated by the verb ‘stand’ (cf. Psalm 135:2; Deuteronomy 10:8).” (VanGemeren)
iii. “…not only by day, but also and especially by night, when their watch was more necessary. See Exodus 27:21,Leviticus 8:35,1 Samuel 3:3. As you watch by night when others sleep, so do you utter the praises of God when others are silent.” (Poole)
iv. “Even when they were placed in a dungeon, bleeding from their beatings, Paul and Silas sang praise to God at night (Acts 16:25).” (Boice)
v. By night: “It is comparatively easy to bless the Lord in the daytime, when sunshine lies like His smile on nature, and all the world is full of music, and our lives flow on quietly and peacefully. It does not take much grace to bless the Lord then. But when night has draped the earth and hushed the homes of men to solitude, and we stand amid the shadows that lurk around us in the sanctuary, facing the inexplicable mysteries of Providence, of history, of life and death; then the song falters on our lips, and chokes our utterance.” (Meyer)
2. (2) Blessing God with uplifted hands.
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary,
And bless the LORD.
a. Lift up your hands: The lifting of hands was not only the common posture for prayer among the ancient Hebrews; it was also appropriate for praise. It displayed the anticipation of gratefully receiving from God, and the sense of surrender to Him.
i. “The lifting up of the hands was a gesture in prayer, it was an intimation of their expectation of receiving blessings from the Lord, and it was also an acknowledgment of their having received the same.” (Pierce, cited in Spurgeon)
b. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary: It may be that sanctuary is used more generally here, referring to the temple area as a whole. Yet, only the priests or Levites had access to the sanctuary (temple building) itself.
i. “So it may speak of worshipping ‘in holiness’…and be the passage underlying 1 Timothy 2:8, ‘lifting up holy hands’.” (Kidner)
ii. “One readeth it, out of the Hebrew, Lift up your hands, sanctuary, that is, ye sanctuary men.” (Trapp)
c. And bless the LORD: The idea is repeated for emphasis. God’s people should give Him their thanks, honor, praise, and glory.
i. “They are exhorted to fill the night with prayer as well as watchfulness, and to let their hearts go up in blessing to Jehovah. The voice of praise should echo through the silent night and float over the sleeping city.” (Maclaren)
B. The blessing received from the LORD.
1. (3) The Creator’s blessing.
The LORD who made heaven and earth
Bless you from Zion!
a. The LORD who made heaven and earth: The psalmist looked to God as Creator of all things, and appealed to the God of all might, design, and wisdom with the prayer that follows.
i. Most commentators see this as a reference to the priestly blessing described in Numbers 6:23-27.
ii. “The blessing extends to all of life, wherever the people of God may go or live, because Yahweh, the covenant God (“Lord”), is “the Maker of heaven and earth,” i.e., the Great King of the universe (see Psalm 121:2).” (VanGemeren)
iii. “Is it possible for Him to have made heaven and earth, and not to be able to bless the soul whom He has not created only, but redeemed! He cannot fail to bless those that bless.” (Meyer)
b. Bless you from Zion: The idea is that blessing from the God of all creation flows from Zion unto each of His people wherever he or she may be. This is a beautiful and fitting close to the Songs of Ascents. The people came to Zion in pilgrimage to bless the LORD, singing the songs of Psalms 120-134. The Songs of Ascents end with the idea that God’s blessing went with each of them from Zion. The blessing doesn’t remain in Jerusalem, but flows from there.
i. Bless you uses the singular, not the plural. This is because the idea is drawn from Numbers 6:23-27, and also because God’s blessing comes to us not only as a community, but also as individuals. He loves and blesses us each one.
ii. “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.” (Spurgeon)
iii. This spiritual conception of God was different than the pagan ideas. The psalmist understood that God’s power and influence weren’t limited to Jerusalem. The God who had the Creator’s claim to all heaven and earth was no local deity; He could bless in Zion and from Zion.
iv. “So the thought is that if we bless God in our worship, as we must, then God will also bless us abundantly in our daily lives. This is the only ultimate goal of any Christian: to bless God and to be blessed by him.” (Boice)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – email@example.com