Psalm 134
Biblical Illustrator
Behold, bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord.
The two first verses of this psalm — the last of the Pilgrim Psalms — are addressed by the congregation to the priests and Levites who had charge of the temple during the night (1 Chronicles 9:27-33). The last verse seems to be the answer of the priests in dismissing the people with a blessing.

I. MAN is here represented as BLESSING THE LORD. "Bless ye the Lord." That is, praise ye the Lord — worship Him, worship Him in spirit and in truth.

II. The LORD is here represented as BLESSING MAN (ver. 3). This is the usual form of priestly benediction (Numbers 6:24).

1. The Author of the blessing. "The Lord that made heaven and earth." What a condescension in Him, what an honour for us!

2. The condition of the blessing. He will bless us on the condition that we bless Him or worship Him. So it ever is, there is a Divine blessing in worship.


It seems unnecessary, and is perhaps impossible, to determine whether this last of the fifteen Songs of Degrees was meant for the pilgrims on their arrival at the temple, or when they appeared within its courts, or on their departure from its sacred threshold. Adapted to particular occasions, yet it was not unfit for repetition anywhere, outside or within Jehovah's dwelling-place, on the road to or from Jerusalem, with the lips or only in the mind. It includes a greeting and a reply. An exhortation to ministerial duty, expressing encouragement and approval, is answered by an affectionate benediction. As the two commandments of our Lord condense the law, this brief dramatic song is a summary of worship.

1. It is to be expected of ministers that with humble gladness they deem themselves, and show that they wish to be considered "servants of the Lord." They are also servants of the Church (2 Corinthians 4:5). But they may no more follow the will of men, as if blind slaves to the congregation, than their own independent will, "as being lords over God's heritage" (1 Peter 5:3). It must be their great concern to ascertain, obey and teach the will of their Supreme Master. Having received Divine instruction, they must, in a becoming spirit and manner, fearless of consequences, speak and act accordingly (1 Corinthians 4:1-4; 2 Timothy 2:3; 1 Peter 4:10). The address in the psalm implies a call upon ministers to speak in their lives what they say with their lips, and be themselves the blessing they pronounce. The margin reads, "Lift up your hands in holiness." "Cast out first the beam out of thine own eye," etc. (Luke 6:42). "Be thou an example of the believers," etc. (1 Timothy 4:12). Merit the title we give you of "servants of the Lord." Deserve, as far as possible, to praise Jehovah for the congregation, and in His name to bless His people.

2. What the people of God require their pastors to be and do they aim at for themselves in prayer and practice. Language like this in the psalm, addressed to the Lord's servants in the place "where prayer is wont to be made," implies the possession of a praying spirit, and an engagement to offer prayer. We cannot turn our wishes and counsels into prayer without also, in our relation and degree, turning them into practice. The psalm implies that all who use it, in the spirit of it, people as well as pastors, are servants of the Lord; and in nearly every respect the duty of ministers of religion exhibits that of their fellow-worshippers. And not only in the worship of the temple and the reading of the sacred volume, but in the cleanness of your hands, in the purity of your hearts, in the holiness of your lives be as consistent as you would have your ministers.

(E. J. Robinson.)

The pilgrims are going home, and are singing the last song in their Psalter. They leave early in the morning, before the day has fully commenced, for the journey is long for many of them. While yet the night lingers they are on the move. As soon as they are outside the gates they see the guards upon the temple wall, and the lamps shining from the windows of the chambers which surround the sanctuary; therefore, moved by the sight, they chant a farewell to the perpetual attendants upon the holy shrine. Their parting exhortation arouses the priests to pronounce upon them a blessing out of the holy place: this benediction is contained in the third verse. The priests as good as say, "You have desired us to bless the Lord, and now we pray the Lord to bless you."

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Which by night stand in the house of the Lord.
This psalm, the shortest but one in the whole Psalter, will be more intelligible if we observe that in the first part of it more than one person is addressed, and in the last verse a single person. No doubt, when used in the temple service, the first part was chanted by one half of the choir, and the other part by the other. Who are the persons addressed in the first portion? The answer stands plain in ver. 1. They are the priests or Levites whose charge it was to patrol the temple through the hours of night and darkness, to see that all was safe and right there, and to do such other priestly and ministerial work as was needful; they are called upon to "lift up their hands in" — or rather towards — "the sanctuary, and to bless the Lord." The charge is given to these watching priests, these nightly warders, by some single person — we know not whom. Perhaps by the High Priest, perhaps by the captain of their band. They listen to the exhortation to praise, and answer, in the last words of this little psalm, by invoking a blessing on the head of the unnamed speaker who gave the charge.

I. THE CHARGE TO THE WATCHERS. "Bless ye the Lord." It is because they are the servants of the Lord that, therefore, it is their business to bless the Lord. It is because they stand in the house of the Lord that it is theirs to bless the Lord. So for us Christians. We are servants of the Lord — His priests. That we "stand in the house of the Lord" expresses not only the fact of our great privilege of confiding approach to Him and communion with Him, whereby we may ever abide in the very Holy of Holies, and be in the secret place of the Most High, even while we are busy in the world, but it also points to our duty of ministering; for the word "stand" is employed to designate the attendance of the priests in their office, and is almost equivalent to "serve." "To bless the Lord," then, is the work to which we are especially called. And then there is another lesson here, and that is that all times are times for blessing God. Although no sacrifice was smoking on the altar, and no choral songs went up from the company of praising priests in the ritual service; and although the nightfall had silenced the worship and scattered the worshippers, yet some low murmur of praise would be echoing through the empty halls all the night long, and the voice of thanksgiving and of blessing would blend with the clank of the priests' feet on the marble pavements as they went their patrolling rounds; and their torches would send up a smoke not less acceptable than the wreathing columns of the incense that had filled the day. And so as in some convents you will find a monk kneeling on the steps of the altar at each hour of the four-and-twenty, adoring the sacrament exposed upon it, so in the Christian heart there should be a perpetual adoration and a continual praise — a prayer without ceasing. What is it that comes first of all into your minds when you wake in the middle of the night? Yesterday's business, to-morrow's vanities, or God's present love and your dependence upon Him? In the night of sorrow, too, do our songs go up, and do we hear and obey the charge which commands not only perpetual adoration, but bids us fill the night with music and with praise? Well for us if it be anticipating the time when "they rest not day nor night saying Holy! Holy! Holy!"

II. THE ANSWERING BLESSING (ver. 3). May we venture to draw from this interchange of counsel and benediction a simple lesson as to the best form in which mutual goodwill and friendship may express itself? It is by the interchange of stimulus to God's service and praise, and of grateful prayer. He is my best friend who stirs me up to make my whole life a strong sweet song of thanksgiving to God for all His numberless mercies to me. Even if the exhortation becomes rebuke, faithful are such wounds. It is but a shallow affection which can be eloquent on other subjects of common interests, but is dumb on this, the deepest of all; which can counsel wisely and rebuke gently in regard to other matters, but has never a word to say to its dearest concerning duty to the God of all mercies. And the true response to any loving exhortation to bless God, or any religious impulse which we receive from one another, is to invoke God's blessing on faithful lips that have given us counsel. But observe, further, the two kinds of blessing which answer to one another — God's blessing of man, and man's blessing of God. The one is communicative, the other receptive and responsive. The one is the great stream which pours itself over the precipice; the other is the basin into which it falls, and the showers of spray which rise from its surface, rainbowed in the sunshine, as the cataract of Divine mercies comes down upon it. God blesses us when He gives. We bless God when we thankfully take, and praise the Giver. God's blessing, then, must ever come first. Ours is but the echo of His, but the acknowledgment of the Divine act, which must precede our recognition of it as the dawn, must come in order that the birds may wake to sing. Our highest service is to take the gifts of God and with glad hearts to praise the Giver. Our blessings are but words. God's blessings are realities. We wish good to one another when we bless each other. But He does good to men when He blesses them. Observe, too, the channel through which God's blessings come — "out of Zion." For the Jew the fulness of the Divine glory dwelt between the cherubim, and the richest of the Divine blessings were bestowed on the waiting worshippers there. And no doubt it is still true that God dwells in Zion, and blesses men from thence. The New Testament analogue to the Old Testament temple is no outward building. A material type must have a spiritual fulfilment. In the true sense, Jesus Christ is the Temple. In Him God dwelt; in Him man meets God; in Him was the place of Revelation; in Him the place of Sacrifice. "In this piece is one greater than the temple," and the abiding of Jehovah above the mercy-seat was but a material symbol, shadowing and foretelling the true indwelling of all the fulness of the Godhead bodily in that true tabernacle which the Lord hath pitched and not man. So the great Fountain of all possible good and benediction, which was opened for the believing Jew in "Zion," is opened for us in Jesus Christ who stood in the very court of the temple, and called in tones of clear, loud invitation: "If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink." There is another application of the temple symbol in the New Testament — a derivative and secondary one — to the Church, that is, to the aggregate of believers. In it God dwells through Christ. Receiving His Spirit, instinct with His life it is His Body, and as in His earthly life "He spake of the temple of His 'literal' body," so now that Church becomes the temple of God, being builded through the ages. In that Zion all God's best blessings are possessed and stored, that the Church may by faithful service impart them to the world.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Who are these night watchers, and to whom does the psalmist refer? Probably there were guards or sentinels set to pace the sacred courts and to trim the lamps which burned dim within that holy place, which was the presence-chamber of the great King. The gloom must have been oppressive, and sometimes they must have trembled as they paced the long corridors and looked up at the vast vault overhead, through which a dim lamp or two shot a feeble ray like a star seen through the rack of clouds on a stormy night. To cheer these watchers, and to impress on them that solitude is not awful if God's presence be there, this psalm was probably written. It was written for us, too, who have to pass through the same solitude, and to stand by night in the house of the Lord. There is, then, a night-time of sorrow and suffering here on earth, during which we may be said to be like watchers in the outer courts of God's temple. But there is a completer sense of the passage than this, and it is to this second sense that I wish to turn your attention. It is well to take the calm expression of the psalmist, and apply it in this way, "Ye that by night stand in the house of the Lord." In this temple there is an inner shrine, where all is dark, and yet amid the solemn gloom God's presence is felt to be inexpressibly near. No conception of the middle or waiting state between death and the general resurrection is so near the mark as this. Suspended activity, but not suspended consciousness — this sets us thinking what can be the occupation of those who are set to stand as watchers by night in the house of the Lord. May it not be that this is the very counteraction necessary for the undue activities of our too busy, bustling existence on earth? Now, are we willing to be watchers by night in the house of the Lord? I use the term "night" in two senses. There is a night-time of sorrow here, and of separation hereafter from those we love on earth. We have to pass through these two seasons of watching — an evening and a midnight watch, as I may describe them by way of contrast. It is the faithful watcher on earth who will stand by night and watch in the house of the Lord during the interval between death and the Resurrection morning. Season of solitude here, in which we get spiritual strength through loneliness and isolation from our fellow-men, will prepare us for that midnight watch when we are called within the veil and there stand and wait for the full morning of Resurrection blessedness. What hours of weariness under pain and privation of the usual outlets for activity in the affairs of life many of us are to pass through God only knows. Some have had to pass through long years of such watching. Our soul, then, waits for the Lord — in the pathetic language of the psalmist, "more, I say, than they that wait for the morning." But such discipline has its uses. Silent suffering is a school, and hours of loneliness are also a school quite as much or even more than racking pain or positive privation. It disciplines us in faith and patience. It strengthens the character by forcing us to see that all our fresh springs must be in God and in Him alone. In all this Christ was our example, and, more than this, our forerunner.

(J. B. Heard, M. A.)

They may by prayer and praise become times of spiritual power. All earth is the temple of the Lord. Many have to keep night watches. Some, through sleeplessness, wait anxiously for the morning. Some have to sit in the sad sick-chamber by the side of the fevered, restless sleeper in disease. Some on the ship's deck look out on the black, hissing waters and watch the stars roll by. To them comes the exhortation, "Lift up your hands in prayer and bless the Lord." Let a spirit of devotion engage your thought and feeling. Amidst the forces that affect men, who can estimate the influence of holy night watchers who call on God in prayer? The Lord blesses out of Zion. The refreshing showers which cleanse the plants and bedew the flowers, which fill the watercourses and cause the rivers to roll, take their rise in quiet uprising mists often by night. So the showers of blessing the Lord God pours out on His people spring from the quiet mists of prayer ever uprising to the heavens from holy souls in retirement. It is the Divine plan. For the blessings of His grace He will be sought. "More things are done by prayer than this world dreams of." Hear a mythic tale. One night Rabbi Ben Israel sat through the dark hours in anxious thought, desiring to know the forces at work in the nation, lie would trace effects to their cause. When an aged beggar knocked at his door and asked for food, the rabbi rose from his meditations and gave him his own supper, which he had not touched. Then the stranger told him he was an angel in disguise, and bid him come forth, as he was about to visit the man of greatest power in the city. First they took their way towards the palace, and the rabbi said to himself, "Surely it is the king," but the stranger led him past the royal entrance. Then they turned and went to the quarter where the general of the army lived, and the rabbi thought, "Surely it is the captain of the host," but they passed his door. They passed the abodes of men of wealth, great councillors, and that of the high priest, but visited none of these. At length they came to the gate of the temple, which opened at the touch of the angel. They passed the outer court. The angel pointed out to the rabbi the Levite in charge, who was lifting up his hands in earnest prayer for the people. Then the rabbi learned that, as the Lord is the most powerful of all, and has all the hosts of earth and heaven under His control, the man who can prevail with Him must be the mightiest on earth. Prayer can do more than the merchant's gold, the soldier's sword, or the king's sceptre.

(J. H. Cooke.)

Lift up your hands in the sanctuary.
The uses and meaning of this word "sanctuary" are very interesting and instructive. In all countries and in all ages the word has been used to denote a place set apart for special and sacred uses: among the heathen, to the temples of their first deities; among the Jews, to the temple of the true Jehovah; among ourselves, to the places of our holy assembling. But there is a yet deeper sense in which this word "sanctuary" is used of a holy place. It is made to denote the sacredest part of sacred places: among the heathen, to the inner shrines of their gods; among the Jews, the Holy of Holies, into which the high priest alone could enter; among ourselves, that sacredest part of our sacred places where the mysteries of the blessed Sacrament are celebrated. Then, again, the word is used to denote a place of refuge: such places the heathen had in their shrines of justice; such places the Jews had in those cities of refuge of which we read in the books of Moses; such place we have had in Christendom until very lately; places, as the lawyers call them, places of sanctuary. One of the last of these was in the precinct of the Savoy in London; I believe there is one still remaining in the palace of Holy-rood in Edinburgh. Then, again, the word "sanctuary" is used to denote a place of purification. Such places the heathen had, and still have, in their various rites of ablution; such places the Jews had in the ceremonies of purification; such places we have in the font of holy baptism. And then, lastly, this word is used to denote a place of rest and refreshment, of joy and of hope. Such places both heathen and Jew had in those groves which they used to plant, and those wells which they used to dig in the arid, burning deserts, where the pilgrims found shelter from the sun, and water to quench their thirst. Such places we have in Christendom in abundance. Every hospital in this city, every orphanage, every penitentiary, every almshouse, every school, — all these are places of sanctuary, where the young can be taught to love and serve God, where the sick can be healed and gladdened, where the orphan can be cherished and cared for, where old age can be tended and sheltered from the outside world. There are times in the most sheltered life when we long to find some quiet refuge where we may pour out our souls before God. We need constant cleansing, and the word denotes a place of purification. We are ever tempted to think that in this sin-stained world such purification is impossible, and there are some who find purity in the seclusion of the convent or monastery. But most of us must find it whilst in contact with the world's dangers and difficulties, and we may do it without missing our way. Ye may be in the world without being of the world. This aim of purity may consecrate all we do, and we can never rest until our aim of purity is every day higher, and our attainment every day richer and truer. The sanctuary is a place of refreshment, and of joy, peace, and hope. In this hard-working world we need a place where the world cannot worry us. At the time of the plague in Milan a great cardinal used to say that if it had not been for the morning and evening rest in the sanctuary he should never have been able, as he did, to pass through that trial of strength and courage which his devoted work in the city involved. And when we enter the sanctuary for rest, and for a blessing, our work itself becomes a rest and a stimulating refreshment. Lastly, the sanctuary is the home of hope. Whatever the world may have to promise us in the day of prosperity, it offers us nothing when the day of darkness and distress comes, or when disappointment overtakes us. This beautiful grace of hope may not seem so necessary for us when the sun of our life is shining brightly, when friends are many, and fortune is favourable, and prospects good; but wait until the days of loss and sickness come, when friends have taken to themselves wings, when you are covered with disaster; wait till you follow to the grave a wife, a sister, a brother, a friend; then where shall tope be found? Not on earth, not in the world, but in the sanctuary we learn what true consolation is. That hope gives us to know even hero something of the life which is beyond, a hope of immortality.

(H. White, M. A.)

The Lord that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion.
We may suppose these words to be addressed to the sacred sentinels by the head of their course, or by the captain of the guard, or even by the high priest. We can imagine the captain of the guard coming in during the night watches, and saying to the priests who were guarding the temple (ver. 1). Or we could imagine the high priest, when the watch was set for the first part of the alight, going to the priests who were under his control, and addressing to them these same soul-stirring words. Now our text is the response of these sacred sentinels. As they listened to the captain of the guard, or to the high priest, telling them to worship by night in the courts of the Lord — to lift up their hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord — they answered him, "The Lord that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion." So that here you have brought before you the interesting and instructive subject of mutual benediction — the saints blessing each other.

I. JEHOVAH — THE FOUNTAIN OF BLESSING. There is in the Divine nature an infinite and everlasting disposition to do us good; and connected with that infinite and everlasting disposition to do us good are all power, all knowledge, all wisdom, absolute independence and eternity of being. And we find actual blessings on God's part according to that capacity. He does not bless as His creatures bless — often unwisely, often insufficiently, often half-heartedly — but when God blesses, He blesses with all that is within Him; with all that can be employed in that particular act and work of blessing.

II. THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH, EVIDENCE OF DIVINE CAPACITY TO BLESS. While we, of course, look chiefly and supremely to the manifestation of God's goodness in our Lord and Saviour, we ought not to overlook the expressions of His care and kindness which we find in the grass of the field, and in the very dust which we tread beneath our feet.

III. THE CHURCH A CHANNEL OF BLESSING. The Church is the conservator of Divine revelation, — the Church is the offerer on earth of true worship — it consists of a company of priests, a royal priesthood, part of whose mission is "to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." The Church is the heritor of the covenants. God's covenants are made with His Church, and His promises are addressed chiefly to His Church. The Church is the scene of special Divine ministrations, God shows Himself to His Church as He does not to that which is called the world. It is also the scene of special heavenly influences: and in a sense next to that in which God is said to reside in heaven, the Church is the dwelling-place of the Most High. Now, what is it to be blessed out of Zion? It is surely to be blessed with Zion's blessings, and to have Zion's endowments and gifts rendered sources of advantage and profit to us.

IV. THE SAINTS AS THE MEANS OF SPREADING THE BLESSING, AND THAT, TOO, BY THE SPIRIT OF BLESSING. "The Lord that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion." "Bless thee!" You know where this was first said, and when. The Fountain of Blessing first said it. He said it in Paradise to our first father and mother when, beautiful in holiness, and glorious in uprightness and goodness, they came fresh from His hand. As their Creator, He said to them both, "Bless thee"; and we have learned to say, "Bless thee," from our Father in heaven, the Fountain of Blessing. We never should have said to each other, "Bless thee," had not God taught us; and when we say it, we but echo His voice. "Bless you," said the Son of God to the multitude around Him. And, "Bless you," said He emphatically to His apostles when He was about to leave them — when He was about to ascend from Olivet, and depart out of their sight. "He lifted up His hands, and blessed them." "Bless you," said the apostles to the Churches. How full of benedictions are these glorious epistles! "Grace, mercy, and peace be with all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity." "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all." And what has this to do with spreading the Divine blessing? Much every way. Such benediction, when sincere, and when not a mere form of words, is prayer. And every promise that is made to prayer is made to benediction. So that he who is possessed by the spirit of blessing, and who expresses it in his behaviour, and in his deportment, is constantly supplicating the throne of the heavenly grace on behalf of others.

V. THE RICHES INVOLVED IN THE DIVINE BENEDICTION. It means, The Lord speak comfortably to thee. It means, The Lord keep thee; the Lord be thy shepherd; the Lord restore thy soul when thy spirit wanders; the Lord keep thee in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake; the Lord hold up thy goings in His paths, that thy footsteps slip not; the Lord be thy light and thy salvation; God be thy refuge and strength, thy present help in trouble. May morning follow the night, and the night be driven away by the lifting up of the light of the countenance of the loving God — by expressions of His love adapted to the time of sorrow, and to the state of depression and despondency." "The Lord give thee peace," — that is, prosperity, well-being, health in the soul, comfort in the heart, rest, joy, quiet in the spirit.

(S. Martin.)

I. THE UNIVERSE HAD AN ORIGIN. The heaven and the earth are not eternal, they had a beginning (Genesis 1:1).

II. THE ORIGINATOR OF THE UNIVERSE WAS ONE. "The Lord." He created it alone. There was no one to instruct Him in planning it, no one to aid Him in building it up.

III. THE ONE ORIGINATOR OF THE UNIVERSE IS THE OBJECT FOR UNIVERSAL PRAISE. "Bless the Lord." True worship should be, therefore —

1. Unaided. There is no one to share the praise.

2. Enthusiastic. This One Being should be the all-in-all of the soul.

3. Incessant. He is ever-present, ever-giving, ever-sustaining, ever-inspiring.

(David Thomas, D. D.)

At a camp at Goshen, N.Y., a minister was shouting to inquirers to persevere in seeking the blessing, when Rev. Dr. Inskip, the master spirit, cried out, "Get the blessing! Hump! Get the Blessert" Says Monod: "You cannot separate any one gift of Christ from Himself, from His person. He that hath the Son hath life."

(E. P. Thwing.).

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