Psalm 125 - Do good, O Lord

A Song of Ascents.
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time on and forevermore.
For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, so that the righteous might not stretch out their hands to do wrong.
Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts.
But those who turn aside to their own crooked ways the Lord will lead away with evildoers. Peace be upon Israel!
Psalm 125 (NRSV)
Proper 18, Year B, Sunday between September 4 and September 10

"As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people..."

It is literally true. The ancient City of David sits several hundred feet lower than the surrounding hills in all directions. It may contribute to the sense of the Old City and Temple being at the center of the world. It certainly has contributed to its security in military terms.

These five short verses are believed to have been sung by those approaching the holy hill. As they drew closer to Mount Zion and the Temple, the song focuses attention on the solidity of Zion and its Lord.

It is about security. What a reassuring vision it is to think that you are participating in something which abides forever. In this Lord there is good, the world works the way it should, the righteous are protected, and evildoers are kept away from those who are good. Peace reigns!

The one discordant note is this challenge or plea to the Lord to make it so. "Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts." ("Heart" is the Hebrew "לֵב," leb, meaning the inner person, mind, will (or heart).

Don't let us down, Lord! If we trust in you, if we follow you, keep us safe.

We live in a world which is not always safe. Jerusalem itself and the land of Israel, has not yet found that righteous peace. But why should we not ask the Lord for the desire of our heart? Surround us, Lord, protect us, take us into your holy home.

Credits:
2012 Noatak National Preserve Artist-in-Residence MK MacNaughton gets inspired during her lunch break. National Park Service Photo/MK MacNaughton, public domain.

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