Psalm 134 - Lift up your hands

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A Song of Ascents.
1) Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
who stand by night in the house of the Lord!
2) Lift up your hands to the holy place,
and bless the Lord.
3) May the Lord, maker of heaven and earth,
bless you from Zion.

Psalm 134 (NRSV*)
Not included in the Revised Common Lectionary.

This shortest of psalms says a lot.

There is an invitation to come, come and bless the Lord. It is directed to a certain class of faithful ones, those who keep watch at night in the house of the Lord. They are to lift up their hands to the holy place.

The psalms were the hymn book of the Temple. As a "song of Ascents," Psalm 134 was sung by worshippers ascending the hill to the Temple. It seems that those "servants of the Lord who stand by night in the house of the Lord" were the actual night shift in the Jerusalem Temple.

But the psalms are reusable and can be re-purposed.

We might today pray it more broadly. "Servants of the Lord" applies not just to a certain official class of clergy or to any one role. All are called to God's service.

In the same way, "the house of the Lord" may be understood as something beyond temple, church, the traditional holy places. Certainly in prayer, the house of the lord is any place where God takes up residence. For a God who can travel to the ends of the earth, from the high evens to the hidden corners of Sheol, everywhere can be his dwelling-place, even in the body and spirit of one of her faithful people

So, too, the role of "night watchman" expands, as the notion of service is seen more inclusively. Neither people's need nor God's work stops in the night. Blessed are those who offer prayer in the night, who keep watch in case of emergency calls, who restock the shelves and bake the morrow's bread. Blessed are they even as their ministries - and any prayers they offer in late night diners or while kneading their loaves - bless the Lord.

Three small verses offer a very big invitation. Come! Lift up your hands to the holy place - lift up your hands in the direction of God! And bless the Lord. Bless the Lord. Bless the Lord.

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* New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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