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Praising God in His house at night (Psalms 134) February 28

Psalm 134 is the last of the song of ascents. As the third song in the fifth and final set of three, the psalm returns to the concluding theme of blessing and peace in Zion. Indeed, the key word here is bless, used three times in three verses.

Verses 1-2 contain a call to God's servants to bless God, while verse 3 is a declaration of blessing from God on His people. In the first case, as noted in the Bible Reading Program comments on Psalm 103, a "blessing" from a human being directed to God is a word of heartfelt praise or thanksgiving or an expressed wish to see all of God's purposes fulfilled, implying cheerful and committed cooperation with Him-submitting fully to His will.

There is some question regarding the identity and circumstances of the "servants of the Lord , who by night stand in the house of the Lord " (134:1). This is widely believed to refer to Levites on watch each night, after the temple was closed and secure-or to their continuing to sing after this closing (compare 1 Chronicles 9:33; Psalm 42:8; 77:6). Yet it may refer, or may have come to refer, to a tradition that developed during the Feast of Tabernacles of Levites and worshippers of the nation participating in night festivities in the temple court that ran late into the night on every night of the feast except the first. Tradition states that there was singing, dancing, juggling and the Levitical performance of the 15 songs of ascent on 15 steps ascending from the court of the women, as noted in our introduction to the songs of ascents. This may be related to Isaiah 30:29: "You shall have a song as in the night when a holy festival is kept, and gladness of heart as when one goes with a flute, to come into the mountain of the Lord, to the Mighty One of Israel."

So the "servants" in Psalm 134 could be Levites or priests who are called on to bless God on behalf of the people-or they could be all the people collectively calling on each other to bless Him. Either way, this is with lifting up hands in the sanctuary-this being one of the standard postures of prayer (compare 1 Timothy 2:8).

The last verse of Psalm 134 is a form of benediction, asking God's favor on the pilgrims who were traveling from Jerusalem following the festivals (verse 3). Here either the priests declare a blessing from God on the departing worshippers or all the worshippers collectively pronounce a blessing on one another. This blessing is from "the Lord who made heaven and earth," repeating an earlier formula in the songs of ascents (compare 121:2; 124;8). And remarkably, the God of all creation blesses through His chosen dwelling of Zion-which signifies ancient Jerusalem and the instruction provided through its worship system, the faithful of God, the Church, the millennial Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God and the heavenly Jerusalem that will one day descend to earth. May our own pilgrim journey bring us there -to the wonderful eternal blessings God has in store.

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