Psalm 122 is the third Psalm of Ascents and first of four in this collection that was written by David. This psalm is divided into three stanzas. The first records an interaction of David’s with someone who wants him to go to Jerusalem, the second describes the city, and the third instructs the people of Israel to pray for the city. Jerusalem became the hub of worship, culture, and politics in Israel, but when David was king not all of these things were completed. The temple wouldn’t be built until after David died, but he prepared for its construction and knew where it would be placed. In many ways David writes this psalm anticipating a time when people would gather in Jerusalem to worship.
It is helpful for us, as Christians, to consider what our Jerusalem is. While there aren’t perfect parallels, I think that it is appropriate to consider our local churches in a similar way to how David thought about Jerusalem as the center for worship. The city served as a meeting place for God’s people to worship in a public and corporate way, and similarly, the church allows God’s people to meet together and be a light corporately as they worship.
I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
Our feet have been standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem!
David is glad to go to the house of God. He is not bemoaning it as an inconvenience or stiff-lipping the journey as a duty, but is happy to be in God’s house and worshipping with God’s people. We out to consider our attitudes when going to assemble or when we are encouraged to do so. Do we rejoice when we are asked to gather?
We can also think about this first line from the perspective of the speaker. Someone encouraged David to gather and invited him to go with them to the house of the Lord. Do we excitedly encourage even our saved friends to be invested and a part of the local church? There is a recognition here that God’s people should be happy to get together.
There is such excitement to go to Jerusalem that they say they have been standing within the gates. This could be seen as a metaphor that, although they weren’t physically in Jerusalem, they were looking forward to it as if they were already there, or that the person asking David to go had been in the city. This psalm is placed early in the collection, and serves to build anticipation about being in Jerusalem. Picture a group of pilgrims singing this to one another as they set out to the city, eagerly encouraging one another to come along to God’s house.
Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together,
to which the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
There thrones for judgment were set,
the thrones of the house of David.
Jerusalem is set on a hill, making it both an important religious symbol and a defendable stronghold. It is also a picture of the people of Israel to the world. We still see this idea played out in capitol cities today. When people think of the United Kingdom, it is likely that they think of London. The same can be said of France and Paris. When the Federal Government of the United States is talked about, often the term Washington is personified. The city of Jerusalem is a living, united symbol of the people of Jehovah. Our churches are designed to be unified examples of Jesus on earth.
This psalm suits itself well to the collection when it mentions the tribes going up as they were told to. There were various holidays in Israel in which people were to travel to the city to be with one another and celebrate. Even thousands of years before the church age, we see that the worship of God is not just an individual occurrence. God expects us to and designs systems in which we worship him corporately. At the end of this stanza we also are reminded that this is the political center for the people. This is where the kings rule. This doesn’t have a direct parallel with the church, but we are supposed to submit to the authority of our shepherds, and when disputes or disagreements arise, we have been instructed to find judgement within the church.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
“May they be secure who love you!
Peace be within your walls
and security within your towers!”
For my brothers and companions' sake
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.
This celebration of Jerusalem ends with a command. We are to pray for the city, specifically that those who love it would be secure and at peace with one another. We can easily see how we can pray for our churches in this way. We want to pray for safety from the Adversary and those who might seek to harm or diminish the church. We also want to seek unity and live at peace with one another. The idea of peaceable living is reinforced as the psalm ends. The speaker offers peace to David. Notice that this peace is not for the speakers sake or for David’s; seeking peace with others and their good is to build up the Lord’s house. When we seek the good of others and are peaceable with them, when we live in unity as Christ commanded, we glorify God and build up His church. This is how we are lights on a hill.
We should be glad to assemble with other believers regularly. When we gather together we proclaim to the world the nature and person of God. We demonstrate Jesus to the unsaved world by living in unity with one another. If you are tempted to forsake the local body, remember that we don’t belong to a church for our sake, but for the sake of others, the sake of the gospel, the building up of Christ’s body on earth, and ultimately for the glory of God.
All Scripture is quoted from the ESV.