Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
who stand by night in the house of the Lord! Lift up your hands to the holy place
and bless the Lord! May the Lord bless you from Zion,
he who made heaven and earth!
It is hard to have good endings.
Some of my biggest letdowns in life have come at the anti-climatic blah at the end of a special moment. The sun finally sets and the golden hour of fishing is done. You have just hit the tee shot on the 18th hole on an amazing golf course. You wake up and it is the last day of vacation, time to pack.
There is a depression at the end that sours the whole experience if you let it.
Do all good things come to an end? On earth.....yes.
Author's have struggled with this for ages. Someone once said that Mark Twain was frustrated into depression over his inability to bring Huckleberry Finn to an adequate close.
It is also hard to finish well. Very few great men have been able to end at the right time and in the right way. Great athletes hang on too long or find their life tedious after retiring too soon.
Does Psalm 134 fit that mold? It is the culminating hymn at the end of the Psalms of Ascent.
I imagine it being sung with the glorious city and temple in full view. The peak has been reached. The journey is done.
Of course, in your Bible, Psalms keep on coming 135 through 150. But traditionally it is understood that 120-134 encompasses that special section of the Psalms of the Climb.
Do you ever worry that heaven will be boring?
Years ago there was a survey in which it was revealed that a large number of evangelical youth were worried about that very thing. Who could blame them? I wouldn't care to be in clouds and plucking a harp for 2 minutes, let alone 10,000 years!
Hank Williams, Jr sang, "If heaven ain't a lot like dixie, I don't wanna go."
Billy Joel echoed that sentiment, "I'd rather laugh with the sinners, than cry with the saints."
But the biggest problem is not with heaven.... the biggest problem is a lack of understanding WHO God is, HOW magnificent and powerful He is, and how dark and dreary is our sin and world.
You should know the famous C.S. Lewis quip:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”I have always loved that Lewis quote! There are days I sit around and imagine the next realm of life. A wonder of activity and adventure where we have eternity to explore all the universe that God has waiting for us. As of right now, we have NO CAPACITY to go or know- but we will have it..... someday and soon.
― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses
The same God who created the capacity for us to love the thrill of a roller coaster- has way more in store. More than we have the capacity to dream about!
I took my oldest daughter to the Birmingham Zoo when she was a toddler. It was a beautiful day and when we first walked in the park, the pink flamingos were majestic!
I smiled as she absorbed the visual! Her eyes widened and she pointed and she drank every second in..... it was an act of worship!
After a few minutes I said, "OK, Jules, let's go to see more stuff."
"No daddy, I want to stay."
As much as I tried to pry her away by argument and logic- she did not move.
And so I did the daddy thing- I picked her up and carried her away from the flamingos. You would have though it was child abuse! She fought, she kicked, she cried and screamed.
But I knew what I was doing. 47 seconds later, she saw zebras and giraffes and elephants and gorillas...... and the tears were no more!
Aren't we like that? We fight God. We are mad that the sun sets on our golf course or rain interrupts our baseball- but this world is only a vapor taste to what is waiting on us.
And that is the hope of this glorious Psalm. It seems so small and benign, we miss the power of its message.
We bless God and He blesses us................ forever in glorious perfection!
WE BLESS GOD
This is a strange concept. What do you mean that we bless God? Sounds absurd.
There are a couple of images in the Scripture where our prayers are depicted as a pleasing incense to the Lord. God proclaimed, "This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased!" We can grieve the Spirit- does it not seem plausible that we can also please Him? Did you see how God bragged to Satan about his servant Job? "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil."
Let me walk on the edge of some heresy here...... pure speculation. I see a God in Scripture who smiles, frowns, cries, get's angry, is jealous- all in perfection because He is perfect. And He is in control, no doubt about that. But I imagine that he enjoys the moments, even though He plans it and orchestrates it- is it possible that even we can surprise Him in joy and disappointment?
If we consider that God is not bound by time, living outside the linear system of Alpha to Omega, then He can come in and out of time as He desires. Is it possible that he can pause, replay, relive, fast forward in details and ways that is beyond our imagination like a Cosmic DVR. Not with imaginary characters but real life souls which he adores and died for? I know this is a pathetic attempt to understand the invasion of the infinite into the temporal- but I am living transparently in His full view. Can I choose to bless Him? I know I have MANY times cursed Him in word, attitude, passive and active deeds of selfish rebellion, weak flesh, and foolish fear.
an interesting note:
This Psalm says, Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,who stand by night in the house of the Lord.Who stand by night? A possible reference to chamber singers- but I see it analogous to a true servant, a true worshipper. A person's true nature is shown in how he conducts himself when no one is looking. What does he do in secret? This is when we can truly bless God. Praise Him when we receive no benefit from doing so.
Let us find inspiration to bless Him- as feeble as our efforts may seem. We are the toddler and He loves us as the Father and He can be pleased!
GOD BLESSES US
Consider that last verse again: May the Lord bless you from Zion,he who made heaven and earth!What if you received a certified letter today from T. Boone Pickens. "I have been watching you and have decided to bequeath 25 million dollars and as many of my personal resources as I have to bless you and your work." Would you not freak out?
But here is a verse: May the maker of heaven and earth bless you!
So which one do we choose? Sadly, we would choose T. Boone's blessing over God's. But primarily because we have no concept to what God's blessing has been, is now, or even what it WILL BE!
The Biblical word for 'blessed' in the New Testament is μακάριος and the Greek equivalent here in Psalm 134 is 'happy, blessed and even carries a hint of 'Congratulations! Way to go!'
Think of it this way. You are on a perilous journey, many have fallen by the wayside. But by God's grace, you never quit. Yes, you got knocked down and pushed around, yes you fell along the way- but you got back up and took another step. You were laughed at, mistreated, ignored, misunderstood, betrayed. Even your body failed you, your supporters left, your loved ones tried but were unable to care enough to succeed- you doubted...... and then- wow- breakthrough victory- now see if you can really take in all the blessing! Who is worthy of that? Am I a beneficiary of even 1 drop of the blood of perfect pardon?
We have finished the race!
Sorry, Hank- Heaven is better than dixie.
Poor choice, Billy, the sinners are not laughing.
Though both of you still have time to enter the rest in the same way I have- pure grace and mercy.
We will sing at that time like the Apostle Paul:
II Timothy 4: 6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.The final song at the end of the climb is not anti-climatic at all- it is the song of ultimate victory!
And we will find that it was totally worth it! Keep climbing, battle weary warrior!
Thank- you, Lord, for the Psalms of Ascent!