We’re back on the mountain tops with this next Psalm: Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures for ever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and for evermore” (Psalm 125:1 – 2). These are the words of one who trusts in God, not in rulers on earth. 

This emphasis in the Psalms was especially dear to the church of the apostles as it battled with persecution (see Acts 4:23 – 31). And as the church continued to be persecuted, this confidence in an unchanging God was something which its leaderswere keen to pass on. The author of Hebrews reminds their first hearers that we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 13:28). And Peter’s first letter speaks of believers being shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5).

Last Sunday was the international day of prayer for the persecuted church. As we pray for Christians who suffer for their faith, we remember these promises of God’s protection that apply to them and us alike. But in this election season we also have the opportunity to speak for our brothers and sisters in Christ. So if you get the chance, do ask your parliamentary candidates what steps they will take to guarantee freedom of religion or belief overseas. 

Psalm 125 also gives us hope that things will change. The security of the believer in verses 1 and 2 leads on directly to the fragility of evil in verse 3: the sceptre of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous, for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil.” Injustice and oppression are ultimately insecure, for the same reason that believers are ultimately secure: God is on the throne. While the Old Testament agonises over the prosperity of the wicked (e.g. in Psalm 73), it is also clear that God will not let his people be tempted beyond their means. 

In short, with this Psalm we see a contrast that is also set up at the beginning of the Psalter. While the wicked are like chaff which the wind blows away” (Psalm 1:4), the righteous one is, according to Psalm 1, like a tree planted by streams of water.” But what is comforting initially may become terrifying to us when we see our problem: we are not righteous. By rights it is our sceptre that should be broken, we who ought to be carried away as chaff, or banished with the evildoers” (Psalm 125:5).

St Augustine reminds us of how to read this and other Psalms of deliverance without fear. Commenting on Psalm 1, he sees the tree – the righteous one – not simply as the believer, individually planted in our own strength or righteousness. Instead he sees the tree primarily as Christ. This connects well with what Jesus says in John’s Gospel – Christ is the vine, and we are the branches. Apart from Christ, we can do nothing (John 15:1 – 5). So as we rejoice in the security God gives us, let’s remind ourselves of its roots in Christ, the grounds of all our hope.