“Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people, both now and forever.” — Psalm 125:2
Anyone who has served in the military and has endured a route march knows that it helps to sing as you go. Drill instructors are well aware of this, and they encourage the men to sing—usually songs with inappropriate lyrics.
The pilgrims making their way up the rugged hills of Judea to the city of Jerusalem also knew that singing helped them along their way. But the songs they sang were in a nobler vein. They focused on the purpose of the march. The pilgrims were headed to the holy city, to the house of the Lord, to worship.
The songs they sang were called “songs for the ascent,” because they were written to be sung on the way up through the mountains to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the festivals. Psalm 125 is one of these songs.
As the worshippers made their way toward Jerusalem, it would not escape their attention that the city was ringed by mountains. From a military point of view, Jerusalem was strategically placed in a position that was readily defensible. This led the pilgrim worshippers to sing, “Those who trust in the Lord are as secure as Mount Zion” (Ps. 125:1).
Living in the days when they were never far from invading armies or marauding bands of robbers, the pilgrims to Jerusalem were extremely conscious of their security while traveling. Mount Zion was as secure as you could get in those days, but living in the Lord was far more secure. So they sang, “Just as the mountains surround and protect Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds and protects his people, both now and forever” (Ps. 125:2).
The reason for this triumphant attitude, mirrored in their joyful singing, was simply that they knew that “the wicked will not rule the godly, for then the godly might be forced to do wrong” (Ps. 125:3). By this they did not mean that the godly were immune to the trouble and exempt from the blows and batterings of evil men. That is just not the case. It did mean that the Lord who encircled them was presiding over them even in their troubles and would not leave them defenseless. As requested, the Lord could be trusted to hear the prayer, “Do good to those who are good, whose hearts are in tune with you” (Ps. 125:4). And He could be trusted to respond positively.
Those who preferred to “turn to crooked ways” (Ps. 125:5) were free to do so, for the Lord does not force Himself on anyone. But the crooked must expect eventually to be banished from the Lord’s presence. That is not the case for those who “trust in the Lord” (Ps. 125:1). They will have “quietness and peace” (Psalm 125:5)—they will relax in the special knowledge that they are secure in the Lord.
So, even if today you are going uphill—try singing as you go!