PSALM 122 TALK:   THE CHRISTIAN’S JOUNEY’S DESTINATION AND TRAVELLING COMPANIONS

PSALM 122 TALK:   THE CHRISTIAN’S JOUNEY’S DESTINATION AND TRAVELLING   COMPANIONS

(The third Psalm in the collection of Psalms called “Songs of Ascent” which are songs designed for the ancient pilgrims of Israel to sing as they made their often long journeys up into the hills or mountains in Israel to Jerusalem at least three times a year for one of three religious celebrations held their. This Psalm deals with the destination proclaimed as the pilgrim set out and also speaks of his fellow pilgrim travellers which is spiritually a wonderful picture of the fellowship of all believers we call today The Church.)

(THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

For an introduction to the Songs of Ascent see Psalm Talk for Psalm 120.

PART 1.    PSALMS 120 – 124   THE JOURNEY BEGINS – THE WAY

INTRODUCTION TO PSALM 122

One of the joys of the christian life for me is the fellowship I have had and continue to have with not only fellow Christian believers in my country of Australia but from around the world. I have had the blessing of God in my life to both visit and minister in other countries and what I call the fellowship of all believers is one of the many blessings of doing this. Infect I never get tired of joining in not only fellowship with Christians from other countries and cultures but worshipping with them as well and I have often considered that this is, for me, a small taste of heaven to come.

The theme of the Christian life being a journey enjoyed and even helped by other fellow pilgrims is to me the central theme of the third song of Ascent and I will explore this theme with you in this Psalm talk.

Before I give my outline I must answer the question of who, when and why was this Psalm written.

 The Hebrew heading says that this Psalm was actually originally composed by non other than King David. Three other songs of Ascent are attributed to him as well, Psalms 124, 131 and 133. 

Some bible scholars reject the authorship of this Psalm to David but I go along with bible commentators like Allan Harman who see no problem in attributing this Psalm to the pen of David. Allan Harman gives these three reasons for believing that the Hebrew heading is correct:

1.    David’s connection with Jerusalem as its capturer and establisher as the capital of Israel  (2 Samuel 5: 6 – 8)

2.    David entered a major building program in Jerusalem once he captured it (2 Samuel 5: 9 – 12).

3.    David brought the Ark of the Covenant up into Jerusalem and set it in the Tabernacle and later this Tabernacle was  replaced by his son Solomon when he built the Temple on the same Spot as the Tabernacle (2 Samuel 6: 12 – 19)

Some commentators argue this Psalm could not have been written by David as it refers to the house of the Lord and this was the name given to the Temple that did not exist in David’s time. However H.C Leopold gives us four instances in the Old Testament where The Tabernacle was also called “The House of the Lord”, Judges 19: 18, 1 Samuel 1: 7, 24 and 2 Samuel 12: 20.

Why David wrote is not really known but a good case can be put forward for the idea that some time after David set up Jerusalem as Israels capital and before Israel was split into two seperate Kingdoms, verse 4,

“That is where the tribes go up – the tribes of the Lord – to praise the name of the Lord”

and when David moved The Ark of the Covenant into the Tabernacle there he wanted to encourage his people to fulfil the command of the Lord in Deuteronomy 6: 16 – 17,

“Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles. No one should appear before the Lord empty-handed: 17 Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you”.

This meant that most of the people had to travel to Jerusalem and therefore make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and this then, according to this argument is a song David wrote for these pilgrim travellers to sing as they made their pilgrimage’s to Jerusalem.

The three David Pilgrimage songs did not become part of the official book of Psalms unto the editors of the fifth book of Psalms included the seperate collection of Songs of Ascent that were used on and off for hundreds of years before the fifth book was put together by Pilgrim travellers to Jerusalem for one or all of the Festivals held there.

So with the theme of the Christian life being a journey enjoyed and even helped by other fellow pilgrims or fellow travellers in the Christian life or way to the destination of The New Jerusalem which is the Church on and earth and heaven to come my outline for this Psalm is:

1.    (1 – 2)   THE JOURNEY’S END FROM THE BEGINNING

       1.   (vs. 1)   The encouragement of other believers to journey to God together

       2.   (vs. 2)   The journey’s end from the beginning

2.    (3 – 5)   JERUSALEM (THE CHURCH) IS A PLACE OF UNITY FOR ALL BELIEVERS

       1.   (vs. 3)   Jerusalem (the church) is well ordered

       2.   (vs. 4)   Jerusalem (the church) is where believers join together to praise God

       3.  (vs. 5)    Jerusalem (the church) is where believers should resolve their differences

3.   (6 – 9)   JERUSALEM (THE CHURCH) IS A PLACE OF PEACE

       1.   (6 – 8)   Jerusalem (the church) the place of God’s peace

       2.   (vs. 9)  We should seek together the prosperity of God’s church

Lets then have a close look at this third song of ascent with this outline of this Psalm in mind.

  1.   (1 – 2)   THE JOURNEY’S END FROM THE BEGINNING

       1.   (vs. 1)   The encouragement of other believers to journey to God together

The first two verses set up the two teaching points of this entire Psalm namely:

  1.   The encouragement of other believers to journey to God together
  2.   The goal of that journey and how it inspires us to take the journey with others

So verse 1 contains the main teaching point of the encouragement of other believers to journey to God together, David our writer puts that this way in verse 1,

“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘let us go to the house of the Lord”.

Some commentators argue that this could not have been written by David as he did not need to journey to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the three festivals held there because he lived and reigned in Jerusalem. However if we see this Psalm as a song David composed for Pilgrims travelling up to Jerusalem then this verse makes a lot of sense.

David knew the value and power of fellow believers encouragement and this is why he sees the journey of a pilgrim at beginning being encouraged by fellow believers to go on what was more than likely a hard and dangerous journey to Jerusalem as we saw from the previous Psalm, Psalm 121.

Paul always made a big deal about the power of the encouragement of other believers to help us live the Christian life or journey on the way to God in heaven as he writes to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 1: 3 – 7,

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort”.

Paul is arguing that he needed the comfort or encouragement of the believers in Corinth and they in tern needed his comfort or encouragement and in fact God leads us sometimes in life into different kinds of difficulties so we can receive his help and encouragement and we hen can help and encourage others who might be going through the same problems or difficulties.

A New Testament cross reference for this entire Psalm is Hebrews Hebrews 10: 24 – 25,

 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching”.

In the opening verse of David’s first song of ascent he envisaged fellow believers doing what the writer to the Hebrews wants his readers to do and that is,

“Spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (vs. 24)

To

“Not giving up meeting together” (vs. 25)

David says that the Pilgrim who eventually got to Jerusalem with the encouragement and support of his fellow encouraging believers will,

“Rejoice” with them.

So if going on these Old Testament Pilgrim journeys is analogy of living the Christian life that leads to heaven then when we get to heaven we will rejoice with those who helped or encouraged us to follow Christ to get to heaven.

May I say don’t wait till you get to heaven to do this but even now on the Christian journey rejoice with those who have helped you on this great journey of faith with the Lord.

Listen to Paul doing just that for the believers in Philippi in Philippians 4: 10,,

“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it”.

Then again in verses 14 – 16,,

“Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need”.

This word of thanks by Paul for the Philippians concerns material money aid but in other places like the opening chapter of 1 Thessalonians his rejoicing for other believers was their shared enthusiasm for spreading the Gospel message in their area and region as Paul writes in verses 4- 8,

 “For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it”

So every aspect of the Christian journey or experience and even life is a collaborative venture and this is the first great clue to the role and function of the church in our journey to heaven.

  2.   (vs. 2)   The journey’s end from the beginning

I think my most controversial aspect of this Psalm talk will be my interpretation of the second verse of this Psalm as all of the commentators I looked up said that this verse suggests the writer has already arrived in Jerusalem and is now standing at the gates of Jerusalem because it reads this way,

“Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem”

This is reading this verse literally or without considering what it might be saying poetically. So my take on this verse is that I believe the writer is poetically picturing himself at the end of his journey while actually at the start of it, thus my heading, “The journeys end from the beginning”.

My reasons for this is that the first verse is a poetic picture of the start of our writers journey when it says,

“I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord”.

Now the writer pictures himself arrived in Jerusalem and standing at its gates the threshold of making the final steps of his long journey up to the Temple. 

When our writer pictures himself their at the gates of Jerusalem he then develops a picture of Jerusalem from a pilgrim travellers perspective. A kind of poetic word picture travel brochure.

We get a better understanding of this interpretation when we consider its writer being David, he wants the people in his kingdom to be inspired to come up to Jerusalem for the festivals held there for up to three times a year and so he wants them to be inspired to come to Jerusalem via the long journey up to it  and what better thing could he come up with for that inspiration than for them to picture themselves standing at the gates of there final destination, Jerusalem.

When I recently travelled 19,000 kilometres around my country Australia my wife and I had to drive hundreds of kilometres each day pulling our caravan and the scenery between the places we stopped at was often very much the same but what often kept us going was the interesting and usually beautiful scenery to come of our destination which we usually had built up in your minds from touring brochures we had picked up at Information centres in previous towns.

So what would be the poetic picture we should have in our minds for the Christian journey?

The New Testaments poetic picture to inspire us is non other than that of The New Jerusalem coming down from heaven that will be a place where we will spend eternity with God in heaven as depicted in Revelation 21: 1 – 5,

“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Some might say this picture is far to out of this world for me to fully appreciate but the New Testament offers us what I call a foretaste of what this is like in its teaching on the New Jerusalem being the Church of God on earth in passages like Hebrews 12: 22 – 24,

 “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”.

When Christians gather in church together they are experiencing just a little taste of heaven for they are meeting together with other believers to worship God together, they have God through his Spirit present with them and they have the inspiration of The Lord Jesus Christ to think of, sing about, hear about and speak about in sweet fellowship which again is something all true believers will know and experience far, far more in heaven for eternity.

This is why we need to work on making our church meetings not only Christ centred but Christ inspiring with lots of opportunities to experience sweet fellowship with other believers, then we can all truely say,

“Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem”.

2.    (3 – 5)   JERUSALEM (THE CHURCH) IS A PLACE OF UNITY FOR ALL BELIEVERS

       1.   (vs. 3)   Jerusalem (the church) is well ordered

So David wants his people of his kingdom to visualise themselves standing at the gates of Jerusalem to inspire them by his song to make the journey up to it and to the Temple going there to celebrate the annual festivals there up to three times a year. He then seeks to further inspire them by picking up some of the attractions of that city and reasons for making such a difficult and often dangerous journey.

The first attraction David chooses to speak about is the physical make up of this unique and what would have been in ancient times inspiring layout as he writes in verse 3,

“Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together”.

I like Spurgeon’s explanation of this verse,

“Not a conglomeration of huts, but buit as a city with substantial structures; and not a straggling city, like some we read of, that have been called “cities of magnificent distances,” but it was “compact together.”

David quickly entered into building projects when he took over Jerusalem with his palace (2 Samuel 5: 11), sturdy homes of its permanent citizens and walls around it as well (2 Samuel 5: 9).

Then in Solomons time the magnificent Temple and many more buildings made Jerusalem a truly desirable city that would inspire anyone who visited it.

How does this relate to the Church, the New Jerusalem of God?

I like Spurgeon’s answer to this he writes,

“Happy is the church that is at peace; blessed are the people who are joined together by a gracious brotherly love”.

I like this quote as the New Testament interpretation of the expression David uses of,

“Closely compacted together” 

I praise God that the church service I attend when I am not away from home is a closely compacted fellowship of brotherly love, only around 50 people but warm and encouraging. Other services of my church which are much larger in attendance also I am told generate a feeling of close brotherly love.

Paul tells the Roman church how they can experience the joys of close compacted brotherly love in Romans 12: 9 – 13,

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality”.

I praise God that I have visited many other churches over the years both in my country, Australia and many others and have experienced something of what Paul is speaking of here in the book of Romans and I hope you might know that at the church you attend as well when you enter the doors  of your New Jerusalem, The Church of Jesus Christ here on earth.

       2.   (vs. 4)   Jerusalem (the church) is where believers join together to praise God

So David seeking to inspire his people to make the annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem now picks up another attraction and reason for going up to Jerusalem annually, as we read in verse 4,

“That is where the tribes go up – the tribes of the Lord – to praise the name of the Lord according to the statutes given to Israel”.

There are actually three things here that should inspire Israelites to make the journey and as they are doing it continue to journey on and these three reasons are

1.     The destination of the fellowship of pilgrim travellers.

2.     The reason why the fellowship of pilgrim travellers make the journey

3.     The biblical reason for the fellowship of pilgrim travellers to make the journey.

Lets have a closer look at each of these three things that David chose to inspire these annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem.

  1.     The destination of the fellowship of pilgrim travellers.

The first part of verse 4 says,

“That is where the tribes go up – the tribes of the Lord”.

David is saying firstly Jerusalem is the destination of this journey but it is a journey not made by pilgrims on their own but made with other members of their tribe. 

We know that their were 12 tribes who entered the promised land and under the kingship of David and Solomon these twelve tribes lived all over the land of Israel and would have annually come up to Jerusalem for the celebration of at least three great festivals, Passover, Weeks and Tabernacles.

However after Solomon the nation of Israel split into two different Kingdoms with 10 tribes to the North called Israel with its capital of Samaria and two tribes in southern Israel called Judah wo kept Jerusalem as its capital.

So if this was written by David and used extensively for a number of years in the days of David and  Solomon by the pilgrims from the 12 tribes then the destination would have been Jerusalem. 

Capital cities of any nation give the people in those nations a place where they can come together as a nation and so Jerusalem served to do this for many years before the kingdom of Israel was divided in two.

Also this verse says that the pilgrim journey was a fellowship experience and as I said before Jesus is recorded as going on these annual pilgrimage journeys up to Jerusalem. One of these pilgrimage journeys Jesus is recored going on was the one recorded in Luke 2: 41 – 51 when Jesus was only twelve years old.

On the return journey which was a fellowship of tribal groups travelling together Jesus is not with them as he stayed behind in Jerusalem listening to Temple teachers of his day and asking them questions. It takes them some time to realise Jesus was not with them as, I believe the pilgrimage crowd was so big and Luke 2: 43 – 46 puts it this way,

“After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions”.

The Christian journey or life is not a solo experience but a fellowship experience a fellowship of believers all travelling together to the final destination of heaven. So the tribes of Israel represent the new nation or Kingdom under God which is his church on earth, the New Jerusalem which will be united with Christ in heaven when he returns to earth the second time at the end of the age we currently live in that I like to call The Gospel Age.

Here are two passages from the New Testament that express this great truth:

  1. 1 Peter 2: 9 – 10,

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

    2.    Galatians 4: 25 – 31,

Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written: “Be glad, barren woman, you who never bore a child; shout for joy and cry aloud, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman

than of her who has a husband.” 28 Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30 But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son. 31 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman”.

So Paul is arguing here that the Old Jerusalem, the city of God before the coming of Jesus has been superseded by the New Jerusalem which he calls here,

“The Jerusalem that is above”

So as those who have come to God through faith in his Son Jesus Christ are now, children of promise verse 28 and children of the free women (symbol for Christ) and not children of a slave women (symbol for the devil).

2.     The reason why the fellowship of pilgrim travellers make the journey

The second thing that David used in verse 4 to inspire the Pilgrims to make the journey to Jerusalem is expressed this way in the second part of the verse,

“To praise the name of the Lord”.

In the Old Testament the Jewish festivals served as a rallying point for praise or worship of the God of the bible.

Peter writing in the New Testament told us in the verses I quoted earlier,  1 Peter 2: 9 – 10,

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”.

Note we are this new chosen people of God who are called to,

“Declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”.

So we are to make this journey to God in heaven not on our own but with a tribe or group of believers who do so to praise the God who has called us out of darkness into his wonderful light made possible by God’s Son, Jesus Christ who did it through the mercy or grace of God.

The writer to the Hebrews speaking to christians in churches in his day put it this way in Hebrews 13: 15 – 16,

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased”.

3.     The biblical reason for the fellowship of pilgrim travellers to make the journey.

David continues to inspire his people to come up to Jerusalem for the celebration of the festivals by also stating that this pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Temple or the Sanctuary in his day was a biblical imperative and puts that this way,

“According to the statute given to Israel”.

Statute is another word for law and I have already quoted this law for the people to come to the place God has appointed for the three main festivals God gave Israel to celebrate in Deuteronomy 6: 16 – 17,

“Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles. No one should appear before the Lord empty-handed: 17 Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you”.

David believed that the place God chose for these celebrations of the three main Jewish festivals was Jerusalem as David found out from the Lord in very difficult circumstances.

The story goes that David sinned big time after he conquered the Jebusite’s who occupied Jerusalem and had a number of great victories over many of Israels enemies by disobeying the word of the Lord in counting his fighting men. A great plague overtook Israel and many people died and just as it looked like Jerusalem itself would fall to this plague David and his fellow leaders prayed desperately and God relented after David buys a Jebusite threshing floor on one of the hills in the city where David is to make a sacrifice to the Lord on. On the site of that newly purchased threshing floor David has a vision of the Angel of the Lord who turns away from killing anymore Israelites.

Then God makes it clear to David that this newly purchased threshing floor is to be the site of the Tabernacles and later Temple in Jerusalem for the people to come to for the celebration of the three God ordained festival (see 1 Chronicles 21: 18 – 30).

The first verse of the next chapter I 1 Chronicles says this,

“Then David said, ‘The house of the Lord God is to be here, also the altar of burnt offering for Israel”.

So in Psalm 122 verse 4 David is reminding the Pilgrim Traveler’s that their pilgrim destination is Jerusalem and The Temple or Tabernacle and this is laid down as the place and the thing to do according to God’s law.

What is the relevance of this to us as Christians?

I have heard many people over the years say that they are Christian believers like me but choose not to go to church as they feel they can worship God far better out in God’s creation. This idea has many problems and one is that the bible tells us that attending and being involved in his church when it gathers is his ordained plan for all Christians, as we saw in the earlier reference  of Hebrews 10: 24 – 25,

 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching”.

It seems even in New Testament times some Christians had this same idea of the people I have met who say they can be a Christian without going to Church. It is not that because we go to church we are a Christian but because we are a Christian we should and must join with others for fellowship, mutual encouragement and true worship of the God we say we believe in.

One person I read years ago said it is like a person claiming to be a baseball player who also claims he doesn’t need to join a baseball team and play baseball to be a baseball player. He might appreciate the many fine aspects of the game of baseball but to be a player he must join at team and play otherwise he is simply a baseball interested person.

So a true believing Christian will be like a baseball player find a church or baseball team and join it and attend or play regularly and then we are saying by our actions I belong to Christ and his people because I am member of his church or in the case of the baseball player I am a active member of the baseball team.

   3.  (vs. 5)    Jerusalem (the church) is where believers should resolve their differences

The final reason David gives his people to inspire them to journey to Jerusalem up to three times a year is in verse 5 which says,

“There stand the thrones for judgement, the thrones of the house of David”.

Albert Barnes explains this verse really well with these words,

“The word throne is now commonly appropriated to the seat or chair of a king, but this is not necessarily the meaning here. The word may denote a seat or bench occupied by a judge. 

The meaning here is, that Jerusalem was the supreme seat of justice; the place where justice was dispensed for the nation. It was at once the religious and the civil capital of the nation”.

So the pilgrim traveller is being told that if he or she has any civil grievance they can get this sorted out when they are in Jerusalem as Jerusalem is not only the spiritual centre of Israel but the political and civil capital as well.

For us as Christians I can only think of one application for this verse and that is the concept that as Christians we are to resolve any differences we might have in the church and not in the outside civil courts which was a principle Paul had to lay down for the Corinthian church of his day for some reason or another.

Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 6: 1 – 6,

“If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers!”

You might think this is not something that we need to consider today but let me tell you a good friend of mine who now attends a church in a country area of my state was horrified to find that a neighbouring church in the same Christian denomination of his had taken their disputes with their church leaders to court to resolve issues concerning the sale of church property. This according to my friend was such a negative witness in his area that many people said things like if this is how so called Christians act amongst themselves we don’t wont anything to do with them and their so called church that spoke of love but acted with hate and conflict in the general community they lived in.

3.   (6 – 9)   JERUSALEM (THE CHURCH) IS A PLACE OF PEACE

       1.   (6 – 8)   Jerusalem (the church) the place of God’s peace

The final section of this Song of Ascent verses 6 – 9 is I think David asking the Pilgrim travellers to Jerusalem to pray for Jerusalem as they travel to it annually each year.

We must remember that this is a song and a song designed by David for Pilgrim Travellers coming up to Jerusalem each year for one of the festivals celebrated there in and around the Tabernacle in Davids time and in and around the Temple in Solomons time. So as the pilgrims sang this song they where also asked to pray for Jerusalem. 

The prayer request for Jerusalem has two parts:

  1.   (vs. 6)   Peace for the people of Jerusalem
  2.   (vs. 7)   Peace for the city of Jerusalem as a whole

Lets then look at the two parts of this prayer for Jerusalem.

  1.   (vs. 6)   Peace for the people of Jerusalem

The sixth verse in Davids song for Pilgrim travellers starts with the word pray and therefore is a prayer request and this prayer request starts with the words,

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem”

David’s prayer request for peace in Jerusalem is actually in the original Hebrew language a very clever play on words as Allan Harman points out that the name Jerusalem means foundation of peace and the Hebrew word for peace is “Shalom. So the word play in English Allan Harman says would read like this,

“Ask for the peace of the foundation of peace”.

Doug Hershey points out that Shalom the Hebrew word for for peace is not the absence of conflict or war but,

“To be safe in mind, body, or estate.” It speaks of completeness, fullness, or a type of wholeness that encourages you to give back — to generously re-pay something in some way”.

It was vital for Jerusalem to have this kind of peace and also to be secure if these pilgrimages wanted to continually pilgrimage to Jerusalem so it naturally follows that the idea of the city and its inhabitants being secure is what the second half of verse 6 says,

“May those who love you be secure”

If the city is secure then those who love that city are secure.

I really like Albert Barnes application of this verse for us as Christians who are part of the New Israel of God and of course the New Jerusalem which is the church, he writes,

“To us now it inculcates the duty of praying for the church: its peace; its unity; its prosperity; its increase; its influence on our country and on the world at large. It is a prayer that the church may not be divided by schism or heresy; that its members may cherish for each other right feelings; that there may be no jealousies, no envy and no jars; that the different branches of the church may regard and treat each other with kindness, with respect, and with mutual recognition; that prosperity may attend them all”.

I attended a interdenominational Bible College and I learnt through that experience that conflict and strife can easily erupt in the church on a wider level but I also learnt through my three years their how to do what Albert Barnes says we all must do,

“Regard and treat each other with kindness, with respect, and with mutual recognition; that prosperity may attend them all”.

I was reminded of the importance of this when I attended during my first year at Bible College my first Christian Convention held at Katoomba two hours drive out from Sydney in the beautiful Blue Mountains and seeing the big sign up the front above the speakers desk that quotes Paul’s word from Galatians 3: 28,

“All one in Christ Jesus”.

  1.   (vs. 7)   Peace for the city of Jerusalem as a whole

This prayer request for the people of Jerusalem then is followed by a similar request for the city itself in verse 7, which says,

“May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels”

The term,

“Security within your citadels”

Is a term that means the whole city as Leopold points out when he says that the citadels refers to,

“The two outside limits”  of the city.

So again if the actual city was secure with peace then the pilgrims could journey up to it and enjoy the worship and fellowship God designed them to have there. We can see eventually what happened to Israel once Jerusalem and the Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586BC and we see how devastating this was for the Jews with these words from the book of Lamentations  2: 7,

The Lord has rejected his altar and abandoned his sanctuary. He has given the walls of her palaces into the hands of the enemy; they have raised a shout in the house of the Lord as on the day of an appointed festival”.

This terrible day happened to Israel as an act of Judgment because of their many sins and we read in Daniel 9: 25 – 19 Daniels prayer prayed in exile in Babylon for the Lord to help his people return to their land and particularly to Jerusalem,

“Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.

17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favour on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”

Daniel knew of the prophet Jeremiah’s prophecy that after 70 years of exile this prayer would be answered as he speaks of it before he started praying the prayer above in Daniels 2: 1 – 2,

“In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom— in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years”.

So on our Pilgrim journey to God in heaven our Jerusalem here on earth is the church of The Lord Jesus Christ and we should pray for peace within its walls and amongst its people and be warned that even though Christ Church will never be destroyed Matthew 16: 18,

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it”.

Individual parts of it can be judged if found wanting in sin and lack of true love for God as we see in the letters to the churches in the book of Revelation in chapters 1 – 3. 

I think some of the final words of these three chapters sums up what we all must do today in the Christian church, Revelation 3: 19 – 20,

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me”.

We must pray for peace in our churches and make sure that Christ and his word is at the centre of all we say and do.

2.   (vs. 9)  We should seek together the prosperity of God’s church

David’s final word to the pilgrims coming up to Jerusalem in his song for them now called Psalm 122 is that they all seek the prosperity of the Lord’s house, verse 9 says,

“For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity”.

So much emphasis today is made of the needs of the individual christian in our churches but the bible over and over again is concerned for individuals but it is more concerned for the church or the people of God as a whole. 

This verse in Psalm 122 is a good illustration of what I am saying, David wants the people to sing as they travel together a pledge to seek the prosperity of God’s house or Temple and in New Treatment terms God’s House or Temple is the people of God come together through faith in his Son, The Lord Jesus Christ as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3: 16,

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”

And as the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 3: 6,

“But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory”.

And finally Peter says in 1 Peter 2: 4 – 5,

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”.

Note how each of these New Testament references refer to the Church as a body of people and so as David encouraged his people to pray for the prosperity of God’s House I would like to use this to encourage you to pray for the prosperity of God’s house today, the people of God known as his church on earth as Paul showed us how to pray for the church in Colossians 1: 9 – 14,

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins”.

Spurgeon adds this these words of advice,

“Not only pray for it, but work for it, give for it, live for it: “I will seek thy good!”

CONCLUSION

We have seen in this third Song of Ascent how David sought to inspire the Pilgrim travellers on their way up to Jerusalem and the Temple to go together with other believers and to be encouraged by them to eventually stand in the gates of their great city.

We have seen how Davis sought to inspire them to go on this often dangerous and difficult journey by always having a vision of the wonder and beauty of their final destination in there minds and hearts. Also David wanted them as they set out for Jerusalem and as they journeyed towards it to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and its people and to always seek the prosperity of The House of the Lord that dwelt in the city of Jerusalem.

As Christians we need to always realise that our journey to heaven is not a lonely solo effort but we are always walking God’s way with other fellow believers and in fact we are part of a great New Jerusalem and even House of the Lord which we should pray for peace and seek it is well. 

Finally we are not to seek our own prosperity but the prosperity of God’s world wide church which we are a part of and when we play our God given role in that we will see God’s House or God’s church grow and prosper unto it is fully united with Christ as The New Jerusalem or the eternal home of Heaven with God at it’s centre.

I close  as usual with my original poem / song and prayer:

LETS GO TO THE HOUSE OF THE LORD

(Based on Psalm 122 – to the tune of “All the good times are past and gone”)

Lets all go to the house of the Lord

Lets all travel their now.

For God’s church is the house of the Lord

The home of God’s peace and power.

 

My feet now stand in God’s heavenly home

For thats where I’m headed for.

The place called New Jerusalem

To where one day I’ll soar.

 

Heaven is a place so beautiful

God’s church is foretaste of it.

So lets all go to the house of the Lord

And be led by his Holy Spirit.

 

Pray for peace in the house of the Lord

Pray that it might be secure.

Trusting alone in the Lord Jesus Christ

Who alone can make it sure.

 

For the sake of your family and friends

I pray that you will have peace.

For if God’s house does prosper now

Our joy of the Lord will increase.

 

Lets all go to the house of the Lord

Lets all travel their now.

For God’s church is the house of the Lord

The home of God’s peace and power.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

Yes Lord we thank you that through your people’s witness to us we have heard your call to travel to your heavenly home through trusting and obeying the Lord Jesus Christ. We know that the Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins on the cross and through that wonderful act of love and made a way back to you Father in heaven. Help us to pray for the peace and prosperity of your church here on earth so that through its witness and message many more people might join it on its journey to the New Jerusalem your eternal home above. In Jesus Powerful name we pray this, Amen.

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