Saturday of 2 Lent

Jerusalem:  the land allotted to the righteous – Psalm 125

“Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts!”

Psalm 125:4

The latter part of this psalm stresses the ideal of what Jerusalem should be.  The Psalmist is certain that the faithful will do their part to fulfill the ideal, and that “those who turn aside to their crooked ways the Lord will lead away with evildoers.”  The returnees had already experienced the sadness of seeing some turn aside, never leaving Babylon, or returning to it for fear of the journey.  These fearful ones thought the demands of the trek were too hard, or the journey fraught with too many dangers.  They lost sight of the Lord.  But now upon entry into the Promised Land, those pilgrims whose persevered sing of their hope and make their prayers and promises to God.

Their prayer is that they may stand fast: “Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts.”  Their prayer is that the favor of the Lord may continue to fall upon them.  This is a prayer that is reiterated numerous times in the Psalms.  The exiles are looking to rebuild their homes, but they are also looking to reestablish their place of worship and renew their relationship with God.  In Psalm 90 verse 17, the Psalmist cries out:  “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!”   And in Psalm 102:13 the Psalmist declares his faith that, “You will arise and have pity on Zion; it is the time to favor her; the appointed time has come.”  

Too often, though, instead of trusting in His promises to us, we make rash promises to God in order to win His favor.  This is why it is so important, as we make our way toward the New Jerusalem, that we make the trek together.  We must hold one another accountable as we make our way through the treacherous terrain of this world on our journey to the heart of God.  The exiles’ promise is that “the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land”.  This is an admirable goal for the rebuilding of the “land allotted to the righteous”.  But that promise is made in the context of the previous verse.  Verse 2 declares that “the Lord surrounds His people”, and verse 3 begins with the word “For”.  This is an “if/then” promise.  If the Lord is with us, then the wicked will not rule the land.  If we continue to seek God “with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our strength,” then we will know God’s favor.  As Psalm 41:11 declares, “By this I know that you delight in me: my enemy will not shout in triumph over me.”

Proverbs 11:27 declares, “Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor…”  For us to seek good is to seek God.  Jesus Himself said to the rich young man, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18).  The ideal set forth in Psalm 125 is that Jerusalem will be inhabited with the righteous, those who seek God.  And God promises in return that “In a time of favor I will answer you…I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages” (Isaiah 49:8).  This is the ideal for which the returnees were striving.  It is an ideal for those of us on the pilgrimage to the New Jerusalem.

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