Psalm 125 – Safe and Secure

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The Psalms of Ascent | Stepping Stones to God’s Heart

“Safe and Secure” (Psalm 125)

“The LORD surrounds his people.” (Psalm 125:2)

INTRODUCTION: Our message series is called “Stepping Stones to God’s Heart,” and we are studying the Psalms of Ascent together. (Psalms 120-134) We saw earlier that there are fifteen Psalms of Ascent, and that you can divide them up into five groups of three. Each group of three psalms follows a similar pattern of trouble, trust and triumph. Today’s psalm is the third psalm in the second group of three, so we are back to a psalm of triumph. Psalm 123, the trouble psalm in this group, was about looking to the Lord for mercy. Psalm 124, the trust psalm in this group, which was about depending on God. Now we come to Psalm 125, the triumph psalm in this group, which is all about being safe and secure in the Lord. (Read Psalm 125:1-5 and pray.)

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We live in uncertain times. I guess everyone does in some ways. Do you ever worry about the future? A lot of people do. They’re afraid of what might happen to them or to their fortunes or to their families. They’re afraid of what might happen in the world, in their country or in their community. Whenever you feel unsettled or insecure, Psalm 125 is a great place to go.

We mentioned that this is a triumph song. It is also one of the songs of Zion. The city of Jerusalem first appeared in these psalms back in Psalm 122, which was the first psalm of triumph. Zion first appears here in Psalm 125, which is the second psalm of triumph. From here on out Zion becomes a major theme throughout the rest of these psalms. It shows up in Psalms 125 and 126, in Psalms 128 and 129, and then it appears almost as a crescendo in all three of the last Psalms of Ascent (125, 126, 128, 129, 132, 133, 134).

The theme of today’s psalm is safety and security. We’ve talked about how these Psalms of Ascent are stepping stones to God’s heart, they lead us closer to God and his heart, but they also are psalms that build upon each other. That’s another reason why we can call them psalms of ascent. Psalm 125 takes the hills of Psalm 121 and the holy city of Psalm 122 and combines them into a new image showing God’s people are as safe and secure as Mount Zion surrounded by the other mountains. Psalm 122 focused on the architecture of Jerusalem to show the closeness of God’s people. Psalm 125 focuses on the geography of Jerusalem to show the security of God’s people.

Psalm 125 states three simple but profound truths. 1) Those who trust in the Lord are safe and secure. 2) Those who trust in the Lord have a secure inheritance. 3) Those who trust in the Lord have a secure future. So let’s take a look at all three in turn.

I. Those who trust in the Lord are safe and secure (1-2)

First of all those who trust in the Lord are safe and secure. Look at verses 1-2: “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. 2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 125:1-2) These verses tell us two things. They tell us what you are like when you trust in the Lord. And they tell us what the Lord is like to you when you trust in him.

   A. You are like Mount Zion which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
      – Psalm 16:8; John 10:28; 1 Peter 2:6

So first of all, what are you like when you trust in the Lord? Look at verse 1: “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.” (Psalm 125:1) What are you like when you trust in the Lord? You are like Mount Zion which cannot be shaken but endures forever. The Bible uses Mount Zion symbolically for Jerusalem as the place where God dwells with his people. And the place where God dwells is clearly a place of safety and security.

Psalm 16:8 says: “I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 16:8) When the Lord is at your side, you are safe and secure, and you are like Mount Zion which cannot be shaken but endures forever.

1 Peter 2:6 says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (1 Peter 2:6) Christ is that cornerstone, and when you trust in him, you will never be put to shame. So many people drift their way through life because they have no foundation. But when you build your life on Christ and his words, you have a solid foundation, and you are like Mount Zion which cannot be shaken but endures forever.

W. H. J. Page writes: “Some persons are like the sand – ever shifting and treacherous. (Matthew 7:26) Some are like the sea – restless and unsettled. (Isaiah 57:20; James 1:6) Some are like the wind – uncertain and inconstant. (Ephesians 4:14) Believers are like a mountain – strong, stable and secure.”

Jesus said this about his followers: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28) If your faith is in Christ this morning, you are safe and secure. You are like Mount Zion which cannot be shaken but endures forever.

   B. The Lord surrounds you on every side.
      – 2 Kings 6:17; Psalm 34:7

That’s what you are like when you trust in the Lord. So what is the Lord like to you when you trust in him? Look at verse 2: “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 125:2) Mount Zion was high and immoveable, but it was not as high as the surrounding mountains. And so verse 2 compares the surrounding mountains to God’s protection in your life. The Lord is not simply at your side, but he surrounds you on every side. You can’t get much safer than that!

There is an amazing story in the Bible about the prophet Elisha and his servant. They woke up one morning and found that an enemy king had surrounded the city and was preparing to capture them. Elisha told the servant, “Don’t be afraid, those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Of course the servant was confused. He counted two on their side, him and Elisha, and there was a whole army with horses and chariots surrounding the city. But then we read this in 2 Kings 6:17: “Elisha prayed, ‘O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.’ Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:17) God’s army was “all around” Elisha, and that phrase “all around” is the same word that we have in Psalm 125:2 where the Lord “surrounds” his people. The same word shows up again in Psalm 34:7: “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” (Psalm 34:7)

“As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.” We’ve seen this phrase “both now and forevermore” earlier in the Psalms of Ascent, in Psalm 121:8 which said: “The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:8) We said then that both the now and the forevermore are equally important, and what a good thing that we don’t have to choose between them. You are absolutely safe and secure, because the Lord surrounds you now, and he surrounds you forever. Notice that both verses 1 and 2 end with the word “forever.”

And so not only are you strong and lasting and unshakeable as Mount Zion, but the Lord surrounds you like the mountains surround Jerusalem. John Stott writes: “God’s people are like a mountain surrounded by mountains, both immovable and impregnable.” John Phillips sums it up nicely when he says: “To get at Jerusalem an enemy had to get past the mountains. To get at God’s people, an enemy must first get past God.” So that’s our first point this morning. Those who trust in the Lord are safe and secure.

II. Those who trust in the Lord have a secure inheritance (3)

Secondly, those who trust in the Lord have a secure inheritance. Do you ever worry about your retirement, whether something will happen to it? People worry about their earthly inheritances all the time, but you don’t have to do that when it comes to your heavenly inheritance. Those who trust in the Lord have a secure inheritance.

Look at verse 3: “The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil.” (Psalm 125:3) Verse three speaks about the inheritance of God’s people. It talks about the present rule of the wicked and the potential sin of the righteous. And it teaches us that the inheritance of the righteous is kept safe and secure from both.

   A. Your inheritance is kept safe from the wicked.
      – Psalm 16:5

First of all, your inheritance is kept safe from the wicked. Look at verse 3 again: “The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous.” (Psalm 125:3a)

The allotting of the land is inheritance language in the Bible. God had promised his people the land of Canaan as their inheritance. We have our own inheritance awaiting us in heaven. And verse 3 teaches us that your inheritance is safe and secure. As David said in Psalm 16:5: “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.” (Psalm 16:5)

Verse 3 teaches us something very important about the wicked. The present rule of the wicked will not last. We sometimes worry about the wicked around us and a world that does not care about God or his ways. But verse 3 teaches us that the wicked will not have their way with God’s people forever, they will not interfere with the inheritance God has for his people. “The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous.” (Psalm 125:3a)

Evil is temporary, but good lasts forever. As Charles Spurgeon said: “The saints abide forever, but their troubles do not.” The power of the wicked will be broken, and they will no longer rule over that which God has reserved for his people. Your inheritance is kept safe from the wicked.

   B. You are kept safe to receive it.
      – Matthew 24:22; 1 Peter 1:4-5

But not only is your inheritance kept safe from the wicked. You are kept safe to receive it. That’s what we see in the second half of verse 3: “The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil.” (Psalm 125:3) Your inheritance is kept safe not only from the present rule of the wicked, but also from your own potential sin. And that’s a great comfort to us, because we sin, don’t we? And perhaps that makes us insecure. Am I going to lose my salvation? Am I going to lose my inheritance in heaven? And the answer is no. Not only is your inheritance kept safe from the wicked, but you are kept safe to receive it. In fact one of the reasons God cuts short the rule of the wicked is so that you will no longer live in a world that tempts you to sin.

1 Peter 1 speaks about “… an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:4-5) I love that verse because it expresses the same truth we find here in Psalm 125. Not only is your inheritance kept safe for you, but you are kept safe for your inheritance! Through faith you are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. Jesus said something similar when he spoke about the last days in Matthew 24:22: “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” (Matthew 24:22)

What does Psalm 125:3 teach us? The power of the wicked will be broken on the outside, and the power of sin will be broken on the inside. Your inheritance is kept safe from the wicked. And you are kept safe to receive it. Those who trust in the Lord have a secure inheritance.

III. Those who trust in the Lord have a secure future (4-5)

1) Those who trust in the Lord are safe and secure. 2) Those who trust in the Lord have a secure inheritance. And finally 3) Those who trust in the Lord have a secure future. Look at verses 4-5: “Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, to those who are upright in heart. 5 But those who turn to crooked ways the Lord will banish with the evildoers. Peace be upon Israel.” (Psalm 125:4-5)

This final section speaks about the future of God’s people, and here we learn three things about our future. God will do good to those who are good. He will banish those who do evil. He will answer his people’s prayer for peace.

   A. God will do good to those who are good
      – Matthew 12:33; Romans 2:6-8

First of all, God will do good to those who are good. Look at verse 4: “Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, to those who are upright in heart.” (Psalm 125:4) Notice this verse is phrased as a prayer or a petition. That is because none of us deserve God’s goodness or grace. We can only ask for it and receive it through Christ. God’s promises teach us how we should pray. God has promised to do good to those who are good, and so we take God’s promises and turn them to prayer.

So who are the “good” in this verse? Is it talking about perfect people who never sin? Absolutely not! If it were, none of us would be included! The good here in verse 4 are not the morally perfect but rather those who trust in the Lord. That’s what verse one says, right? “Those who trust in the Lord…”

This verse is not about works, but about faith. Goodness is defined here not by perfection but rather by those who are “upright in heart.” The word translated “upright” in verse 4 is a word that means “straight” – to have a straight heart with God. Charles Spurgeon wrote: “Men to be good at all must be good at heart.” We need a new heart to be good, and we only get that through faith in Christ.

However, and this is very important, when we get that new heart, when we are made new in Christ, then we will naturally do good works as well. As Jesus said in Matthew 12:33: “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.” (Matthew 12:33) When you put your faith in Christ, God gives you a new heart. God makes the tree good, and therefore the fruit will be good also. You are not only made good in God’s eyes, you will also do good.

That’s why Romans 2 says: “God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” (Romans 2:6-8)

   B. God will banish those who do evil
      – Matthew 7:21-23; Revelation 21:27

God will do good to those who are good, and God will banish those who do evil. Look at verse 5 now: “But those who turn to crooked ways the Lord will banish with the evildoers.” (Psalm 125:5a) The word translated “crooked” here is a word that means “crooked, winding or devious.” This is in direct contrast to the “straight” or upright heart in verse four. Those who turn to crooked ways, the Lord will banish with the evildoers.

There will be a separation of the good and the wicked at judgment day. And there will be a banishing of those who do evil. Jesus said in Matthew 7: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23)

The book of Revelation tells us about the New Jerusalem, the city of God, where God will dwell with his people forever. We read in Revelation 21:27: “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:27) And so the Bible talks about both blessing and banishment: blessing for those who are made good and therefore do good, banishment for those who are evil and therefore do evil.

   C. God will answer his people’s prayer for peace
      – Isaiah 2:2-3

God will do good to those who are good. God will banish those who do evil. And finally, God will answer his people’s prayer for peace. Look at the end of verse 5: “Peace be upon Israel.” (Psalm 125:5b)

This is the second prayer for the peace of Israel we have seen so far in the Psalms of Ascent. There are actually five prayers for Israel in these psalms, and do you know where each one takes place? Each prayer for Israel takes place at the end of each third psalm, at the end of each of the songs of triumph. The first three prayers are prayers for the peace of Israel. (Psalms 122, 125, 128) The fourth prayer is an expression of hope for Israel. (Psalm 131) And the fifth and final prayer is an expression of blessing for Israel. (Psalm 134)

As we saw with the first prayer for the peace of Israel, this is really a prayer of peace for all God’s people. As Christians we are now part of God’s people, and so this prayer is for us, too. And the good news of the Bible is that God will answer his people’s prayer for peace. One day we will enter the peace and rest that Christ purchased for us at the cross. We will take part in the beautiful prophecy we find in Isaiah 2: “In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple [that’s Zion] will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” (Isaiah 2:2–3)

This prophecy in Isaiah ties together so many of the themes in Psalm 125: the prominence of Mount Zion, the preservation of God’s people, the change that God brings into our hearts, the blessing of God’s peace in the last days. Those who trust in the Lord have a secure future. God will do good to those who are good. God will banish those who do evil. God will answer his people’s prayer for peace.

CONCLUSION: If your faith is in Christ, then you are safe and secure. You are like Mount Zion which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds you on every side.

If your faith is in Christ, then your inheritance is secure. The power of the wicked will be broken on the outside, and the power of sin will be broken on the inside. Your inheritance is kept safe from the wicked, and you are kept safe to receive it.

And if your faith is in Christ, then your future is secure. You have been made good in Christ, and God will do good to those who are good.

So don’t worry. Don’t be afraid. If your faith is in Christ, then you are safe. You are secure.

But if your faith is not in Christ, then you are neither safe nor secure. In fact your life is actually the opposite of the things we have read in this psalm about believers in Christ. You are not like Mount Zion. You are not surrounded by God’s protection and care. You are excluded from the blessings of the righteous. You are in danger of being banished from God forever.

And so you need to put your trust in Christ. Jesus Christ is God’s Son who died on the cross to pay the full payment for your sins. When you put your faith in him, he gives you a new heart so that you can follow him and obey his commands. He pledges his full protection for you. He promises you a secure inheritance and offers you a secure future of perfect peace in his presence. Won’t you trust him today?

© Ray Fowler

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