Divine Insights for Dark Nights

Bible Book: Psalms  134 : 1-3
Subject: Presence of the Lord; Comfort; Peace; Renewal; Worship

Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe titles this psalm, “Night Shift.”[1] According to The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament, the word translated “‘minister’ has to do with taking up one’s post or station. This need not refer to a ritual service of some sort but simply to those priestly personnel who were assigned guard duty at night. The temple was guarded twenty-four hours a day so that neither its sanctity would be violated nor its valuables stolen. Even such ‘mundane’ duty gave one the opportunity of worship. On the other hand, night rituals cannot be entirely ruled out.”[2]

Psalm 120 through 134 is known as the “Little Psalter” or the “Song of Ascents”. Psalm 134 highlights the service of the sentinels of the Lord in the evening sacrifice (Psalm 141:2) in contrast to those involved with the morning sacrifice (Psalm 92:2).

Psalm 134:1-3 reads, “Behold, bless the Lord, All you servants of the Lord, Who by night stand in the house of the Lord! Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the Lord. The Lord who made heaven and earth Bless you from Zion!”

Notice three things from these verses.

I. Behold the Watching.

Psalm 134:1a reads, “Behold. . .” Dr. F. B. Meyer (1847-1929) explains, “The word Behold suggests that some special manifestation of unity was taking place under the psalmist’s eyes, perhaps in connection with some great religious festival; or David may have composed it to celebrate the healing of the breach after the death of Ishbosheth. We must not only be one in God’s purpose, but must be willing to dwell together, that is, to manifest our unity in outward action. For the precious oil see Exodus 30:20-38 and 1 John 2:27. Our Lord was anointed with the Holy Spirit, and we may share in His Pentecost, Luke 3:21-22; Acts 2:33.

Psalm 134:1-3. The last of the ‘Songs of Degrees’. It may have been addressed to the priests who came on duty after the offering of the evening sacrifice. There was evidently a band of choristers and others who were on duty while Jerusalem slept. The psalm ends with the reciprocal blessing of the watchers on the retreating crowds; commending them, during the hours of darkness, to the care of the Lord of heaven and earth.”[3]

Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) wrote, “When night settles down on a church the Lord has his watchers and holy ones still guarding his truth, and these must not be discouraged, but must bless the Lord even when the darkest hours draw on.”[4]

Dr. J. J. (John James) Stewart Perowne (1823-1904) explains, “The word draws attention here to a duty, as at the beginning of the last Psalm it drew attention to a truth at once important and attractive.”[5]

In The Songs of Temple Pilgrims, Dr. Robert Nisbet writes, “The last cloud of smoke from the evening sacrifice has mixed with the blue sky, the last note of the evening hymn has died away on the ear. The watch is being set for the night. The twenty-four Levites, the three priests, and the captain of the guard, whose duty it was to keep ward from sunset to sunrise over the hallowed precincts, are already at their several posts, and the multitude are retiring through the gates, which will soon be shut, to many of them to open no more. But they cannot depart without one last expression of the piety that fills their hearts; and turning to the watchers on tower and battlement, they address them in holy song, in what was at once a brotherly admonition and a touching prayer: ‘Behold, bless ye the LORD, all ye servants of the LORD, which by night stand in the house of the LORD. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and bless the LORD.’ The pious guards are not unprepared for the appeal, and from their lofty heights, in words that float over the peopled city and down into the quiet valley of the Kedron, like the melody of angels, they respond to each worshipper who thus addressed them with a benedictory farewell: ‘The LORD bless thee out of Zion, even he who made heaven and earth.’[6]

Rev. Samuel Martin (1817-1878) writes, “The tabernacle and temple were served by priests during the night as well as the day. Those priests renewed the altar fire, fed the lamps, and guarded the sacred structure from intrusion and from plunder. The Psalm before us was prepared for the priests who served the sacred place by night. They were in danger of slumbering, and they were in danger of idle reverie. Oh, how much time is wasted in mere reverie—in letting thought wander, and wander, and wander.”[7]

Dr. J. J. Stewart Perowne writes, “The Targum explains the first verse of the Temple watch. ‘The custom in the Second Temple appears to have been this. After midnight the chief of the doorkeepers took the key of the inner Temple and went with some of the priests through the small postern of the Fire Gate. In the inner court this watch divided itself into two companies, each carrying a burning torch. One company turned west, the other east, and so they compassed the court to see whether all were in readiness for the Temple service on the following morning. In the bakehouse, where the Mincha ('meat-offering') of the High Priest was baked, they met with the cry, 'All well.' Meanwhile the rest of the priests arose, bathed themselves, and put on their garments. They then went into the stone chamber (one half of which was the hall of session of the Sanhedrim), and there, under the superintendence of the officer who gave the watchword, and one of the Sanhedrim, surrounded by the priests clad in their robes of office, their several duties for the coming day were assigned to each of the priests by lot. Luke 1:9.’”[8] Luke 1:8-9 reads, “So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.” Proverbs 16:33 reads, “The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the Lord.”

II. Behold the Worshipping.

Psalm 134:1b-2 reads, “. . . bless the Lord, All you servants of the Lord, Who by night stand in the house of the Lord! Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, And bless the Lord.”

Dr. John R. W. Stott (1921-2011), writes, “Christians believe that true worship is the highest and noblest activity of which man, by the grace of God, is capable.”[9]

Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) explains, “If we want to know God and to be blessed of God, we must start by worshipping him.” [10]

Dr. James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) writes, “We may wonder, Who are the servants ministering by night in God’s temple? The answer is the priests, or Levites, not the people in general. There are scores of scholarly theories about who is speaking here: a single priest calling to the other priests to praise God, one half of the priestly choir calling to the other half, the people calling to the Levites, and the Levites blessing the people. The only thing that makes sense in the context of the Songs of Ascents is that those who have made their way to Jerusalem to worship and have completed their devotions are now returning home, singing this song. They will not be able to worship in the temple again until their next journey. As they leave the city, they are encouraged to know that the priests will be remaining behind to represent them at the temple and so they will be worshiping God there continually.

The duty of the Levites is explained in 1 Chronicles 9:26-33; 23:28-32; 25:1, 6 (see also Deut. 10:8). The Levites were in charge of the temple worship, specifically responsible for the work ‘day and night’ (1 Chron. 9:33). The departing people rejoiced, knowing that the worship they had shared in during their pilgrim days in Jerusalem would be carried on by the Levites in their absence.”[11]
Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe writes, “Visitors at churches sometimes ask, ‘When does the worship service end?’ If you had asked that question of a priest or Levite in the temple in Jerusalem, he would have replied, ‘Never!’ David arranged that the temple choirs praise the Lord day and night (92:1-2; 1 Chron. 9:33; 23:30). While you and I are asleep in our part of the world, somewhere else on the globe, believers are worshiping God. Even more, our High Priest in heaven intercedes for us and enables us to pray and to worship. Some people find it difficult to stay awake and alert during an hour's church service. What would they do if the Lord commanded them to praise Him all night long? ‘Any man can sing in the day,’ said Charles Spurgeon, ‘but he is the skillful singer who can sing when there is not a ray of light by which to read—who sings from his heart....’ God gives us ‘songs in the night’ (42:8; 77:6; Job 35:10; Isa. 30:29), when circumstances are difficult and we cannot see our way. He gave David songs in the darkness of the cave when his life was in danger (142:1-7), and He gave Paul and Silas songs while they suffered in the Philippian jail (Acts 16:25). Our Lord sang a song in the night before He went out to Gethsemane and then Calvary (Matt. 26:30). The greatest responsibility and highest privilege of individual believers and of churches is to worship God, for everything that we are and do flows out of worship. Yet today, worship is often trivialized into cheap, clever entertainment, and the sanctuary has become a theater. As the choir in the temple lifted their hands to heaven (see on 28:2), they were pointing to the Source of all good things and praising Him for His mercy and grace. True worshipers lift ‘clean hands and a pure heart’ to the Lord (24:4; James 4:8), for the Lord looks on the heart. We will worship God for all eternity (Rev. 24:4; James 4:8; Rev. 4-5), so we had better start learning now.”[12]

Dr. R. Kent Hughes, pastor of College Church, Wheaton, Illinois, observes:
“The unspoken but increasingly common assumption of today’s Christendom is that worship is primarily for us—to meet our needs. Such worship services are entertainment focused, and the worshippers are uncommitted spectators who are silently grading the performance. From this perspective, preaching becomes a homiletics of consensus—preaching to felt needs—man’s conscious agenda instead of God’s. Such preaching is always topical and never textual. Biblical information is minimized, and the sermons are short and full of stories. Anything and everything that is suspected of making the marginal attender uncomfortable is removed from the service.... Taken to the nth degree, this philosophy instills a tragic self-centeredness. That is, everything is judged by how it affects man. This terribly corrupts one’s theology.”[13]

Dr. Monte E. Wilson cites Alexander Schmemann (1921-1983), who states, “For the modern evangelical, worship is defined exclusively in terms of the individual’s experience. Worship, then, is not about adoring God but about being nourished with religious feelings, so much so that the worshiper has become the object of worship.”[14]

III. Behold the Wishing.

Psalm 134:3 reads, “The Lord who made heaven and earth Bless you from Zion!” This verse is a benediction. Don Fleming explains, “The priests and Levites respond by wishing the worshippers God’s blessing.”[15] Someone exhorted, “Never say, ‘God bless you to anyone. You really have no right to do this.” Numbers 6:22-27 reads, “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: ‘The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.’ ‘So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.’”

Warren W. Wiersbe writes, “As the pilgrims left the temple, a priest on duty called, ‘May the Lord bless you from Zion’ (nasb; see 20:2; 128:5). The pronoun ‘you’ is singular, for the blessing of God is for each of us personally. It is also singular in the priestly benediction found in Numbers 6:22-27. To leave God's house with God’s blessing upon us is a great privilege, but it is also a great responsibility, for we must share that blessing with others. If it is a joy to receive a blessing, it is an even greater joy to be a blessing. Spiritually speaking, God blesses us from Zion, for ‘salvation is of the Jews’ (John 4:22). From the day He called Abraham and gave him His covenant (Gen. 12:1-3), God has blessed the nations because of the Jewish people, for they have given us the knowledge of the true and living God as well as the gifts of the Word of God and the Savior. If God never sleeps and our worship never ends, then the blessing will not stop. Like the precious gift that Mary of Bethany gave to Jesus, the fragrance of the blessing will reach around the world (Mark 14:1-9).”[16]
Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) explains, “The psalm teaches us to pray for those who are continually ministering before the Lord, and it invites all ministers to pronounce benedictions upon their loving and prayerful people.”[17]

Hebrews 13:20-21 reads, “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

While “Best Wishes” may be good “Blessed Wishes” is better. Behold the wishing!


Dr. W. Graham Scroggie (1877-1958) shares the following on the phrase “Servants of the Lord—by night. Such were the watchers throughout the millennium of Roman Catholic dominance, called the Dark Middle Ages. Such were the Albigenses, the Paulicians, the Catheri, and the Waldenses. Such were Nicolas of Basle, John Wyclif, John Huss, Matthias of Janow, John Wessel of Cologne, Philip Melanchthon, Martin Luther, Latimer, Cranmer, and many another. These were servants of the Lord in the night of apostasy and persecution; and so they were heralds of the day.

There are other applications of the word by night. Many of God’s servants are bad sleepers; their eyes are held waking (Psa. 77:4); but these need not waste the weary hours. They can remember the Lord upon their bed, and meditate upon Him in the night watches (Psalm 63:6). So may the night be put to sacred use by the sailor on night watch, the sentry on guard, and the nurse in her ward.

The word can apply also to people in trouble, in the night of suffering, of reverse, of bereavement, of ill-health, of depression. Though their backs were sore, Paul and Silas sang at midnight in the prison.”[18]

The psalm provides some wonderful divine insights for dark nights.

[1]Warren W. Wiersbe, Prayer, Praise & Promises: A Daily Walk Through the Psalms, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011), 341.

[2]John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews and Mark W. Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 556. Database © 2006 WORDsearch Corp.

[3]F. B. Meyer, Through the Bible Day by Day Devotional Commentary, Vol. 3, Job to Ecclesiastes, (Philadelphia, PA: American Sunday-School Union, 1914), Accessed: 09/26/14, http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fbm/view.cgi?bk=18&ch=134 .

[4]Charles H. Spurgeon, Treasury of David, Vol. 7, Psalm CXXV- CL, (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1886), 140. Accessed 09/27/14, https://archive.org/stream/treasurydavidco04spurgoog#page/n153/mode/2up

[5]J. J. Stewart Perowne, The Book of Psalms, Vol. 3, (London: George Bell and Sons, 1882), 422.

[6]Robert Nisbet, The Songs of Temple Pilgrims: An Exposition Devotional and Practical of the Psalms of Degrees, (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1863), 349.

[7]Spurgeon, Treasury, 132.

[8]Spurgeon, Treasury, 133.

[9]John R. W. Stott, Christ the Controversialist: A Study in Some Essentials of Evangelical Religion, (London: Tyndale, 1970), 160.

[10]John Blanchard, The Complete Gathered Gold: A treasury of quotations for Christians, (Darlington, UK: Evangelical Press 2006), 684. Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.

[11]James Montgomery Boice, An Expositional Commentary – Psalms, Volume 3: Psalms 107-150, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 116.

[12]Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary - Old Testament – Wisdom and Poetry, (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2004), 358. Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.

[13]R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), 110.

[14]Monte E. Wilson, “Church-O-Rama or Corporate Worship” citing Alexander Schmemann, Introduction of Liturgical Theology (New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1986), 30, Accessed: 09/25/14, http://www.the-highway.com/church_Wilson.html .

[15]Don Fleming, AMG Concise Bible Commentary, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publications, 1994), 216. Database © 2007
WORDsearch Corp.

[16]Wiersbe, Commentary, 358.

[17]Herbert Lockyer, Sr., Psalms: A Devotional Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993), 689.

[18]W. Graham Scroggie, The Guide to the Psalms – Volume 3: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Psalms, Book V, Psalms CVII-CL, Psalm 134, “Blessing and Blessed,” 301. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.

Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Don’t Miss the Revival! Messages for Revival and Spiritual Awakening from Isaiah and

Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice [Both available on Amazon.com in hardcover, paperback and eBook]

http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Miss-Revival-Spiritual-Awakening/dp/1462735428 & http://www.amazon.com/Sound-Biblical-Preaching-Giving-Bible/dp/1594577684 / fkirksey@bellsouth.net / (251) 626-6210

© October 19, 2014 All Rights Reserved