Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE EXHORTATION HERE GIVEN. "Behold, bless ye the Lord." Now, this psalm, being placed here at the end of the series, bids us look back and trace, in the psalms that have gone before, the manifold reasons wherefore we should bless the Lord. The first of these psalms, Psalm 120., tells of deliverance from cruel enemies; Psalm 121., of God's continual preservation of his people; Psalm 122., of joy and delight realized in the worship of the Lord; Psalm 123., of waiting continually upon God in times of trouble; Psalm 124., of deliverance from fierce foes; Psalm 125., of experience of God's guardian care; Psalm 126., of the joy of God's salvation; Psalm 127., of the Lord alone being our sure Keeper; Psalm 128., of God's grace and goodness sweetening the home; Psalm 129., of afflictions many, but of preservation in them all; Psalm 130., of God's blessed uplifting; Psalm 131., of the soul kept in the peace of God; Psalm 132., of the prosperity of the Church; and Psalm 133., of her unity; and now in Psalm 134, there is, as there well may be, the command to bless the Lord. What a long list it is of mercies, and help, and deliverances, and blessings unspeakable! If men will look back along their lives, they too will bless the Lord.
II. To WHOM IT IS ADDRESSED.
1. To all servants of the Lord. For there is none that has not good reason for obeying it. But especially:
2. To them "who by night stand in the house of the/Lord." Now, here allusion is made, so it seems, to those whose office it was to minister before the Lord during the night watches - there were priests and Levites who had duties by night as well as by day (1 Chronicles 9:33). There was "a night watch of choristers who kept up the worship of God through the silent hours." Two verses of the psalm seem to have been the salutation of the congregation addressed to them, and ver. 3 is their response.
3. And God has yet many servants whose duty is to serve him through the night hours. The sleepless ones - those who from one cause and another have to say, "Thou holdest mine eyes waking." Well is it for such to employ those hours in the praise of the Lord (cf. Psalm 63:5, 6). And such as the sailor pacing the deck in the night watch, the sentry on guard, the nurse in her ward, - well is it for them in the night to bless the Lord.
4. Or, we may take the night as telling of the night of sorrow - those times of darkness and depression through which we all have to pass (see Paul and Silas in the dungeon at Philippi, at midnight singing praises unto God). How often have these psalms been used by God's people at such hours, and with what rich results in the quickening of faith and hope and joy in God!
5. And if, as some maintain, there was no later service in the temple than the evening sacrifice, then the many evening congregations gathered together may take these words as addressed to them.
III. HOW IT IS TO BE OBEYED. They were to "lift up their hands to the sanctuary." The body should bear its part; posture and gesture help the spirit.
IV. WHAT COMES OF SUCH OBEDIENCE. The Lord will bless us (ver. 3). He who hath all power, who made heaven and earth, he will bless the soul that worships him (cf. Psalm 135:3). All who have thus drawn near to God have found that he draws near to them. - S.C.
spiritually. If this point can be clearly seen, a new interest will be found to attach to the various doings of the representative priesthood. Men are always learning from them what they should be and what they should do in a spiritual sense. One thing is set prominently in this psalm. The work of the priests is to "bless Jehovah." This they do in a formal manner by lifting up their hands and voices, waving the censers, etc. Let an Israelite see or hear a priest blessing God, and his heart ought at once to respond, saying, "That is just what I ought to be doing, with heart, and lip, and deed, and above all by the thankful, trustful, devoted spirit of my life." - R.T.
Numbers 6:24.) Raising suppliant hands is the formal, bodily sign of earnest prayer. Every mental or moral state has its corresponding natural bodily attitude or movement; and raising and stretching forth the opened hands in a receptive attitude is the natural bodily attitude accompanying petition. There is an important alteration in this sentence. It should be, "Lift up your hands to the sanctuary;" and the figure is of the priests turning towards the holy of holies, where the symbol of God's presence rested, and stretching forth hands of supplication towards it (see Solomon's attitude at the dedication of the temple).
I. THERE IS AN ELEMENT OF PRAYER IN ALL BLESSING OF GOD. There is for man; there may not be for angels. Man can never offer even his praise without a sense of his unworthiness. So he must always mingle a prayer for pardon and for pitying mercy with his thanksgivings. And he can never draw near to the Divine presence without a sense of need. So say what he may of God, or to God, in his praises, he finds that he always has something to ask for. His dependence always wants to find expression. We are always wrong if there is no prayer in our praises.
II. THE ELEMENT OF PRAYER FINDS EXPRESSION IN UPLIFTED HANDS. Kneeling in prayer is to a great extent a modern device. Easterns stand to pray. So did our forefathers. And so do those who now lead prayers at prayer-meetings. Stretching forth the hands is now regarded as the act of benediction, as in the Catholic and Scotch Protestant Churches. But it is such a universal and natural expression of supplication that it might very wisely be restored to use in private as well as public acts of prayer and praise. The apostle bids us "lift up holy hands, without wrath and doubting."
III. THE UPLIFTED HANDS MUST BE HOLY HANDS. The priests had to wash their hands, as a sign of their putting away all self-indulgence and self-will and all gathered evil before engaging in the praises of Jehovah. And it is the absolutely universal law, "Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord." The symbol of the soul-cleanness which goes with sincerity and gains for us acceptance, is the washed and holy uplifted hands. - R.T.