Is praising God becoming boring to you? Does it feel like it is just a mechanical action? I hope not! Please let me encourage you to keep those things from happening. Praise and worship should not be done just out of habit. If you need a good text to remind you of the importance of praise check out Psalm 134. It reads,
Look! Praise Yahweh, all you servants of Yahweh, who stand by night in Yahweh’s house! 2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary. Praise Yahweh! 3 May Yahweh bless you from Zion; even he who made heaven and earth.Psalm 134:1-3
Initial Thoughts From the Psalm
Even at a cursory glance it is obvious that Yahweh and praising Him are the main topics of the psalm. Incredibly, He is explicitly mentioned 5 times in only 3 verses. Furthermore, the passage contains 2 direct commands to praise Yahweh. It also references His servants, His house, blessings, and God’s creative power.
At the beginning, certain individuals are instructed to praise Yahweh. They are spoken of as the “servants of Yahweh.” We understand them as being priests of the Lord because they stand by night in Yahweh’s house. This perspective is further strengthened by mention of the sanctuary. The end of the second verse repeats the instruction to praise.
All of this seems rather clear, but confusion comes in verse 3. At least it does for me! It says, “May Yahweh bless you from Zion.” I think it is confusing because I don’t immediately grasp who is being addressed. Is it the priests or someone else?
A Closer Look at the Psalm’s Subjects
As has already been said, the individuals mentioned in verse 1 are described in two different ways. The phrase, “Stand by night in Yahweh’s house,” is actually similar to some over passages. In Deuteronomy 10 the tribe of Levi is set apart to bear the ark of the covenant (Deut. 10:8). The same verse says they stand before Yahweh to minister to Him and to bless in His name.
Interestingly enough, the first of these is similar to what we find in Psalm 134:1. Both Deut. 10:8 and Psalm 134:3 use the word “bless.” Statements of priests standing is also found in the New Testament. For instance, Hebrews 10:11 says that every priest “stands day by day.” The notion of priests serving God day and night is also shared in 1 Chronicles 9:33. That verse describes how the Levites were employed in their work day and night.
The Question of Who Is Being Addressed
Considering the above passages, it makes sense that priests are being referred to in the psalm. However, I still initially regarded the third verse as being kind of odd. Thankfully this is alleviated when we closely examine the pronouns used in the text.
In the World English Bible (WEB), the phrases, “You servants of Yahweh,” “Your hands,” and “May Yahweh bless you from Zion” are all used. One thing that causes me difficulty is that I cannot tell how many people are being referred to as I read those statements.
Are they speaking of just one person, or many?
While the WEB is not clear on the matter, other translations are more explicit. For example, in the Modern Literal Version (MLV) an “*” is added to all pronouns that are speaking of multiple people. In that translation, if you find the word “you,” it is referring to a single person. If you see “you*,” it is addressing a group of people.
Let’s take a look at Psalm 134 again and see why this is important. In the MLV it says,
Behold, praise Jehovah, all you* servants of Jehovah, who stand by night in the house of Jehovah. 134:2 Lift up your* hands to the sanctuary and praise Jehovah. 134:3 Jehovah bless you out of Zion, even he who made heaven and earth.Psalm 134:1-3 MLV
In verses 1 and 2 we observe an individual addressing a group of people. Multiple servants of Jehovah are spoken to at the beginning. The same can be said in the second verse. However, the psalm’s last verse seems to contain a response back to the original speaker. We get that indication from the singular form of “you” that is used. This nuance is more readily observed in the Modern Literal Version and helps make the passage easier to understand. At least it does for me!
Because of these additional details, the way the psalm is structured reminds me of pubic responses given at some worship services today. According to my research, there are other possible ways the statement in verse 3 could be a response to the others. I may be able to share them with you later.
In the meantime, I hope our study of Psalm 134 encourages you to praise the One who made Heaven and Earth. After all, if Christians are God’s servants, surely we need to praise Him! He is truly worthy of it!
A Woman Raising Her Arms in Praise by Fotorech from Pixabay.