Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
A Song of degrees. In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me.Psalm 120-134
The Psalms of Degrees
Fifteen brief Psalms follow, called songs of degrees, or, ascents. They were in all probability used by Israel going up to Jerusalem three times a year to celebrate the feasts of the Lord--”Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, a testimony for Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD.” They are indeed Psalms of “the goings-up” for we rise higher and higher as we read through them. Prophetically they give us again the steps from trial and suffering to the glorious consummation.
As they are so simple in language and construction no lengthy annotations are needed. Psalm 120:1-7 begins with distress, picturing again the suffering of the righteous godly remnant. In Psalm 121:1-8 the Keeper of Israel, the Covenant Keeping God, is revealed, who has made heaven and earth and neither sleeps nor slumbers. He has kept Israel in all their troubles and saved them. Psalm 122:1-9 brings us to Jerusalem and the house of the Lord. The redeemed ones go up to worship there. Thrones are there also for judgment, the thrones of which our Lord speaks in Matthew 19:28. Peace and prosperity have come.
In Psalm 123:1-4 there is another cry to Jehovah to be gracious and the next one, Psalm 124:1-8 celebrates the deliverance of Israel. “Blessed be the LORD.” Men arose against them, but the Lord delivered His people. Mount Zion comes in view in Psalm 125:1-5. It cannot be moved, it abideth forever. Then when the word and the law go forth from Zion and Jerusalem there will be peace upon Israel. Psalm 126:1-6 celebrates the returning of the captives and this is the song they sing: “The LORD has done great things for us, whereof we are glad.” Psalm 127:1-5 acknowledges the Lord as the One from whom all blessing and help must come. Psalm 128:1-6, which follows, shows the blessing which will be enjoyed when the Lord reigneth and blesseth His people out of Zion. Then we have a description of Israel’s affliction in the past and how the hand of the Lord delivered them out of all their afflictions--Psalm 129:1-8. And in Psalm 130:1-8 we have a Psalm calling for forgiveness and waiting for the plenteous mercy and redemption which is promised to His people. Psalm 131:1-3 shows Israel prostrate, hoping in the Lord. Then follows the beautiful One hundred thirty-second Psalm in which Zion and its King is prophetically unfolded. It begins with the promise made by David to build a house, but the Lord made a covenant instead with him. “The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; He will not turn from it; of the fruit of thy body will I set upon Thy throne” (Acts 2:30). And that is Christ, as the Son of David. He will choose Zion; it is His resting-place. He is enthroned in Zion and what is connected with it is found in verses 13-18.
The One hundred thirty-third Psalm gives a blessed picture, not of the church, as it is so often taught, but of the great brotherhood of Israel, when once more they are a nation before the Lord. Then the Spirit will flow upon them and through them. In the last songs of the ascents, Psalm 134:1-3, we behold them in the house of the Lord, in the temple, lifting up their hands in worship in the sanctuary, praising the Lord and calling for blessing out of Zion.