Bad guys often have good vision. In Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings, Sauron’s all-seeing eye gazes throughout Mordor. In Harry Potter stories, “he who shall not be named” sees through horcruxes what other characters cannot see. Villains who have the ability to see far and wide make others uneasy. Just think if there was someone who could see all you do on a daily basis--talk about nervous!
When we see a lot, we are reminded of how small we are. We are struck by the fact our vision is limited. I grew up on a hill, and although the field leading to the top of the hill was no fun to climb, the view from the top was a treat. I could see adjacent hills for miles. It was hard to tell where one stopped and another started.
Standing there looking out, I was reminded of my smallness. However, sensing God's omnipresence, his ability to see everything and be present everywhere, didn't make me feel uneasy. It brought me joy.
A FIRM FOUNDATION
When Israel climbed those hills to meet with God, they too were struck by God’s vastness and nearness. The promise of God’s presence brought hope to the Jews when they wandered through the wilderness and were exiled to Babylon. The fact that the Lord was with the exilic Jews in Persia was a source of hope to draw on.
Psalm 125 compares faithful Israelites who trust the God who surrounds them to the stability of the hill. Those who trust God—whose presence is with them—become fixed, unmoving. They are the people of God built on a firm foundation. The Psalm says, like Mount Zion, those who trust the Lord are unshaken, like a hill (Ps. 125:1). And unless you live near a fault line, hills don’t move very often!
Psalm 125’s composer is contemplating a vast landscape of hills surrounding the holy city. Jerusalem is built where David conquered the Jebusites and, likely, where Abraham offered up his son, Isaac. Jerusalem is where Solomon built the atop a hill. And Psalm 125 dreams of a celebratory day—like other glorious moments in Israel’s history—when evil is vanquished and peace dwells in the land, an unmoving rock amidst an army of rolling hills. (Ps. 125:5).
Yet the psalmist's most important claim is that the stability of the nation depends on their stable and unchanging God. Our stability depends on trusting him, too. His vastness to uphold nations doesn’t overshadow his nearness to his people.
The psalmist envisions that the ones who trust in the Lord remain unshaken. Those who trust the Lord abide forever (Ps. 125:2). Like a healthy branch that must stay connected to the vine for nourishment, the Christian life demands we trust God as the only place for true stability (John 15:4-7).
When we are tossed by circumstance, we are invited to trust in the abiding love of God. When we continue trusting the Lord, despite ensuing chaos, we can experience real joy. Jesus promises that when we abide in him, his joy can be in us and that kind of joy is full! (John 15:11).
Enduring hardship takes us deeper and deeper into realizing the love of God in Christ. When trouble comes, stand your ground like a hill. Hills don’t lean on themselves. Hills rest upon the terrain around them. Just as hills encircle Mount Zion (Ps. 125:2), God is around us, holding us up, supporting us. When we could be shaken, we rest in his stability—not our own.
THE GOD WHO IS EVERYWHERE
The omnipresence of God, which the psalmist is well aware of, is compared to all the hills surrounding the Temple Mount, “the Lord surrounds his people, both now and forever” (Ps. 125:2). The people of God still know that the Lord is present everywhere, all the time. And that means he is here with us now.
What’s better is that our God promises he will not only be with us today but his presence will not shift tomorrow. To be present everywhere means you can’t take a day off and go somewhere else. If he can only be present everywhere, there’s nowhere for him to leave to. No space for vacation. This is good news for our hearts and our minds.
God surrounds you. He sees your frustration and, by the presence of his Holy Spirit in your life, brings comfort to it (John 14:16). He sees your anxiety and he mediates peace to you (John 14:27). God’s omnipresence is good news. He steps into our shattered existence. The people of God realize God is here. More than a notion though, the people of God get to rejoice in his good and faithful presence.
Israel longed to celebrate with the Messiah who would shatter his enemies. The wicked scepter they knew would be overtaken by a righteous one (Ps. 125:3). His righteous sword would shatter the rod of the enemy. The best fight scene in cinema has nothing on the clash the Bible paints of God wiping out his adversary.
God will win and restore. The exiles wanted the restoration of Jerusalem. You and I long for a day when what’s upside-down in our cultural moment no longer rages in our land. When shootings cease. When racism subsides. When abuse stops.
Because the promise of Scripture is that the power of death, hell, and the flesh were defeated at the cross, the wickedness and injustice we see in the land will be finally vanquished (1 Cor. 15:26).
God is not only fully aware of the brokenness we experience, he valiantly steps into the fray as the God-man Jesus Christ. Righteous among the unrighteousness. Freedom among bondage. Peace among chaos.
TRUST BRINGS STABILITY
The psalm operates as a prayer for the Israelites: “Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts!” (Ps. 125:5). But we know that we’re not good. We get frustrated when someone cuts us off on the highway. Our inboxes preach that we lack some diligence.
We know our very natures are tainted. Total depravity means we have a bent towards doing what’s wrong (Rom. 3:23). And God sees all of our sins! He sees our missteps. His omnipresence necessarily entails that he is always among us when we get short with each other. When we waste time that could be used for his glory, he’s there. While we stumble and fall, he’s present.
The promise of the end of this psalm, though, shows us that we can approach God in our brokenness and ask him to keep us stable. When we trust the Lord, he will steady us. The psalmist is clear that those who trust in the Lord receive stability.
We are finite. God is not. We are fickle. God is not. In all our messiness, are we trusting in ourselves or trusting in our God?
A PEACEFUL CELEBRATION
When I visited Jerusalem a few years ago, I saw a nighttime celebration. Kids giggled and ran down the street while twenty-somethings proudly paraded blue flags around. They danced in the streets. I think the psalmist is envisioning a dance party like this—a celebration of peace.
In Scripture, God brought peace to Israel many times. Psalm 125 is hopefully looking towards the day when shalom will come to Israel (Ps. 125:5). God will lead evil away from his city and peace will be restored. Israel looked forward to the restoration of stability.
Through the gospel, we know that God sovereignly saves us from our wickedness (Rom. 5:6). The way we used to walk led toward destruction (Matt. 7:13; Prov. 14:12). But because of God’s peaceful takeover of our lives, we walk on a new path (Matt. 7:14).
The good news is the Messiah has come and he has brought stability to chaos. For those that trust the Lord, the Holy Spirit guides us among our brokenness (John 16:13). The God who sees all and knows all continues to walk with us despite our mess.
His omnipresence doesn’t mean he is too busy elsewhere to be near you. His vastness shouldn’t make us uneasy. Rather, it’s a comfort. The God of the Bible—who sees everything—is simply asking us to trust him.
Zak Tharp (@zaktharp12) is an editor, writer, and lay pastor, pursuing an M. Div at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. He grew up in rural East Texas and received an undergraduate degree in Communication Studies at Stephen F. Austin State University. He enjoys coffee, hammocks, theology, and seeing people savor Jesus! He has served in camp ministry and as an intern at Fredonia Hill Baptist Church in Nacogdoches, TX.