A zoomed-in picture of a flame.

A Reflection on MacLaren’s Exposition of Psalm 134 and the Burning of Cloaks

My last post was concerning Psalm 134 which recorded the levitical priesthood praising Yahweh. In it, I pointed out that their service was done during the day and night. I am not the only one to say so. While doing research for the article I came upon a commentary that sheds more light on this nighttime service. MacLaren’s Expositions describes how the temple was guarded and what would happen if someone was caught sleeping. His comments are what I want to reflect on today. Part of it reads,

“According to the authorities, two hundred and forty priests and Levites were the nightly guard, distributed over twenty-one stations. The captain of the guard visited these stations throughout the night with flaming torches before him, and saluted each with ‘Peace be unto thee.’ If he found the sentinel asleep he beat him with his staff, and had authority to burn his cloak {which the drowsy guard had rolled up for a pillow}.”

I found the above to be particularly impressive, especially the last sentence. Multiple places instruct us to watch, but what happens if we do not? We may be tempted to think that nothing will happen. However, in the above text we are reminded that those who watched in the night were expected to do their duty. They couldn’t sleep on the job! They had to be awake and alert. Looking to see what was happening was part of their duty.

If they did not, they would have anything but peace. They would be awakened by the beating of a staff! This would probably be followed up with a severe chastisement and the burning of his cloak!

Such a strong response provides us with a great image of the consequence of laziness. We need to be watchful and alert in our Christian walk. Such an exhortation is found repeatedly in the New Testament. One includes,

Watch! Stand firm in the faith! Be courageous! Be strong!

1 Corinthians 16:13

To the Thessalonians the apostle Paul taught them to watch and be sober (1 Thes. 5:5-6). The apostle Peter said something similar. He told his readers to be watchful  (1 Pet. 5:8). He also warned them that the devil walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

More examples of this refrain of watching could be provided, but I will stop here. If you’d like to know more about watching, I encourage you to do your own study. As we have seen already, we are expected to watch like the priests did in the past. However, this isn’t the only topic I wanted to touch on. Let’s also consider the burning (!) of the levite’s garment.

The Need for Our Garments 

As already shared, if a priest was caught sleeping he risked having his garment burned by the man who found him. I don’t think we have to worry about that today, but we still need to be clothed appropriately. At one point in the Revelation, Jesus declares,

Behold, I come like a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his clothes, so that he doesn’t walk naked, and they see his shame.

Revelation 16:15

The reference to keeping his clothes reminds me of the quote we read at the beginning of this post. Surely the one who had his cloak burned would recognize it’s value. However, did he think of that before he went to sleep? He should have remembered the importance of his duty, and the consequences of neglecting it!

In our case, it is easy for us to take our clothes for granted. Many have a whole wardrobe of clothes. They are easily purchased and provide warmth and protection from the elements. On the other hand, what happens if we lose them? Aren’t we in a much more sorry state then? The verse in Revelation warns us of the shame involved in our nakedness.

Other passages remind us of our clothes’ value. We should not treat them like they are worthless!

To the church in Sardis, Jesus spoke highly of those who did not defile their garments (Rev. 3:4). He went on to describe these people as, “They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.”

To the congregation in Laodicea He said, “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich; and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see” (Rev. 3:18). Notice that the first half of the verse makes reference to correct attire. He mentions white garments, not dirty ones. Of course, all this talk of clothing may prompt you to think of Jesus’ Parable of the Wedding Feast as well. You can find it in Matthew 22:1-14.

As odd as it may sound, I hope this discussion of proper attire helps us serve the Lord.

Another Quotation Before We Conclude Our Thoughts

Some of you may be surprised that this is the second post related to Psalm 134. One reason why I wrote it is because in my last article I said, “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.”

It is at this time that I wish to do that. The beginning of MacLaren’s Expositions for the Psalm reads, “This psalm, the shortest but one in the whole Psalter, will be more intelligible if we observe that in the first part of it more than one person is addressed, and in the last verse a single person. It begins with ‘Bless ye the Lord’; and the latter words are, ‘The Lord bless thee.’ No doubt, when used in the Temple service, the first part was chanted by one half of the choir, and the other part by the other.”

This mention of the chanting by two parts of the choir is what I meant by sharing them with you later. Perhaps you found that interesting like I did.

Source Used 

MacLaren’s Exposition of Psalm 134 on Biblehub.com. 

Image Used

A Zoomed-in Picture of a Flame by steinchen from Pixabay.