The situation described in Psalm 125 is specific enough to offer an excellent picture of the challenges facing the author and his companions while generic enough to prevent assigning it to a specific time or incident. The LORD’s people were under threat in some fashion and needed God’s protection (Psa. 125:1-2) because wicked rule had descended on the land God intended for the righteous (Psa. 125:3). Therefore, the psalmist prayed that God would protect the faithful from this threat (Psa. 125:4) and rid the land of all who fell prey to compromise (Psa. 125:5). These themes reflect eternal principles, but the implied circumstances fall within oft-repeated themes in Israel’s history. Indeed, as a Song of Ascent sung as Jewish pilgrims returned to worship at the temple, the psalmist might have reflected upon some particular past event when Jerusalem faced potential attack and yet endured due to faith as the foundation to encourage future generations to remember—as they themselves approached the ancient city—to place their trust in the LORD who had delivered His people in times past and punished those whose faith faltered. Jews familiar with their history most certainly would have recalled the boast of Sennacherib recorded in the Assyrian record that he had shut up Hezekiah “like a bird in a cage” but that, despite all of that king’s boasting, Hezekiah’s trust in the LORD for deliverance had been rewarded as Isaiah and subsequent events made clear (2 Kings 18:13-19:37). What great encouragement such a reflection would have been to Jews returning to the site of such a deliverance! What faith it must have provoked! What comfort it must have provided! And that is how Christians, as God’s people today, should read and feel it.
While many today look to Jerusalem as a matter of politics, God points people to Jerusalem to remind them of His presence and His promises, both of which far transcend the perimeter of the City of David. For God’s concern lies not in reclaiming territory but in restoring faith, building trust in His people that does not fail in adversity but that abides looking unto eternity (Psa. 125:1; Heb. 11:1-6; 2 Cor. 5:7). Such a trust does not focus on the worldly challenges that ever apply pressure to relent but on the LORD who offers His defense and protection from the enemy to those willing to look to Him in faith (Psa. 125:2; 1 Pet. 5:8; Jas. 4:7-8). While God allows His people to face adversity and challenges to their faith, He Himself does not give ground but keeps His promises. Therefore, it is essential for the faithful to endure, to withstand the pressure exerted by the wicked with faith in eventual victory (Psa. 125:3; 1 Cor. 10:13; 1 Jn. 5:4). There will always be temptation to capitulate, temptation to compromise, and temptation to quit; therefore, the righteous must likewise maintain a heart committed to doing the LORD’s will, having confidence in the LORD’s goodness even in the midst of strife or temptation (Psa. 125:4; 2 Tim. 1:12). Difficult circumstances are a proving ground, revealing weakness of faith in some and building greater faith in others. The LORD will reward both accordingly (Psa. 125:5; Rom. 2:1-11). Therefore, the greater our confidence in Who God is and what God has said, the greater our own faith can be. As He promised protection and peace for Israel long ago, so also the exceeding great and precious promises He has made to the church today rest on the same perfect character of the One for Whom all things are possible and therefore the One who will always deliver (Matt. 19:26; 1 Jn. 2:25; 2 Pet. 3:9).