Turn with me in your Bibles to Psalm 122. This psalm is well-known to us because I think all, or at least most of us, love it when Bill Wymond and Connie Wadsworth and the choir sing that beautiful excerpt from C. Hubert Parry's, “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD!’” as the choral introit on Sunday mornings here at First Presbyterian Church. It's my favorite introit of all time. I could listen to it multiple times every day and never get tired of it. And so parts of this psalm we know by heart, maybe because of that. For those of us who grew up in the south, we may also know this psalm for another reason. Since the formation of the nation-state of Israel in 1948, our dispensational friends have very often produced bumper stickers and billboards indicating to us that as evangelical Christians we have a unique responsibility to pray for the wellbeing of the modern nation-state of Israel, and in fact our wellbeing is tied up with the wellbeing of Israel and our seeking the wellbeing of Israel.
Well, this is a deep and rich psalm with many treasures in it. As I pondered it this week it's occurred to me more than once that I could do many things out of this psalm and never get out of the first verse, but let's try and do a little bit more tonight. Let's pray before we read God's Word and then give attention to it.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word. Thank You for David the psalmist of Israel. Thank You that You, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, called upon him to write down this song that was sung over countless years at the worship of the temple in Jerusalem and then came down to believers and was used in their praise in the earliest days of the church and to us. We have joined our voices with them tonight. We pray that when we sing it the next time, having studied Your Word by the help of Your Spirit tonight, that we will sing it with deeper understanding and greater appreciation. For we ask this in Jesus' name, amen.
This is the Word of God. Hear it in Psalm 122:
“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!
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.
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.”
Amen, and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
I want us to look at this psalm tonight together asking especially two questions — Why is the psalmist glad? And why is he so concerned for Jerusalem and so concerned that we be concerned for Jerusalem? And then I want to follow up with a third question — And what does this mean for us, believers upon whom the end of the ages have come – not old covenant believers, but new covenant believers, those who now serve the Lord in the days between the ascension and the return of Christ?
THOSE GRIPPED BY GOD’S GRACE LOVE TO THANK AND WORSHIP HIM
Well let's first ask the question — Why is he so glad? And it's very apparent to you in the language of this psalm. This psalmist is glad because he loves to worship God and what he has received as he ascends into Jerusalem is a call to worship. We've said several times as we've studied the psalms that every call, “come,” is itself a call of grace because what we deserve is to hear God say, “Go! Go away! Go far away! You may not come into My presence!” But when he says, “Come, let us worship and bow down,” it's a call of grace. And this psalmist along with all the other pilgrims — and we saw those pilgrims in their homelands in Psalm 120 and we saw them pilgrimming along the way in Psalm 121 and now he's got his feet inside the city walls of Jerusalem. They’re on their way there to do what? To worship. And he loves to worship because it's a thankful response to God's grace to him. You see, those who are gripped by God's grace love to thank and worship Him.
Now think with me for just a few moments. What is worship? Well, there are a lot of legitimate ways to define what worship is, but here's one. To worship God is to declare, with our lips and our lives, with our desires and our choices, that God is our greatest treasure. And this psalmist loves the opportunity to do just that. He loves to declare with his lips and his life, with his desires and his choices, that God is his greatest treasure. And so when he hears them say, “Let us go into the house of the Lord,” his heart is glad because he loves to worship. When you've been gripped by God's grace, you love to thank and worship Him for that grace. In The Westminster Shorter Catechism we sum up all of life by saying the chief purpose of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
And our friend, John Piper, has a little twist on this — that we glorify God by enjoying Him forever. That is, we enjoy glorifying God, and when we are enjoying God, we are glorifying God. And John even has another sentence that he uses to express this even more strongly. He says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” In other words, when our enjoyment of Him is greatest, He is most glorified. And this psalmist loves to express his love for, his affection for, his esteem for, his treasuring of God and therefore he is glad when they say, “Let us go into the house of the Lord!” Those who know God, those who have tasted of His goodness, those who have been redeemed by His grace, love to declare His glory and to sing His praise and to give Him worship. So there's the first thing. That's why he's glad; he loves to worship God.
THOSE GRIPPED BY GOD’S GRACE LOVE TO GATHER WITH THE SAINTS FOR WORSHIP
But he doesn't just love to worship God in general; there's a second thing here too. He loves to worship God with God's people. He loves to gather with God's people to worship. Those who are gripped by God's grace love to gather with the saints for worship. And when he hears the call, “Let us go to the house of the Lord,” it is a call that is public. It's a call for the people of God to gather themselves to worship and he loves that. There are many names that we give to that. Sometimes we call it public worship. Sometimes we call that corporate worship. It's interesting, my wife was having a conversation with a person from another church tradition last week who was invited to play the piano in a public worship service and whoever invited that person said, “We’d like you to come help lead the singing in corporate worship,” and she was puzzled by that term. And she said to my wife, “Does that mean a bunch of business people will be there?” And she said, “No, no, no! Corporate refers to body, the body of Christ, the family of God, God's people. When they gather, that kind of worship is called corporate worship. It's not businessmen gathering for a special meeting. It's all the people of God gathering to give Him praise.”
And this psalmist loves to do that and in fact, a cheerful readiness to meet and join in public worship and a willing promptness to engage in acts of public devotion are a sign that God's grace is at work in our hearts. It's a mark of true Gospel godliness. Those who have been forgiven much, love much. Those who know God's grace, love to gather with God's people and give Him praise. Our zeal for public worship as believers ought to excel, ought to exceed, the zeal of the worshipers of the old covenant. No Israelite ought to be able to give us a run for our money in gathering with the people of God to worship Him because we have seen the One that all of the types and shadows of the Old Testament pointed to. We have seen the fulfillment of all the prophecies and all the promise of the Old Testament, and our zeal should exceed the zeal of those Israelites under the old covenant.
You see, it's a matter of joy for believers to see others who have been redeemed by God praising Him for their redemption. It encourages us. It gives us joy. There is no place we would rather be than gathered on the Lord's Day with the Lord's house, that is, His people, wherever we may be gathered. We've been blessed with a beautiful building in which to meet, but even if we were having to meet in a field or in a bombed-out storefront somewhere in downtown, being gathered with God's people, under His Word, on His day, is a special blessing for the people of God, and this psalmist is excited about public worship. That's why he's glad when they said, “Let us go into the house of the Lord.”
THOSE GRIPPED BY GOD’S GRACE LOVE HIS PEOPLE
But there's a third thing I want you to see too. This psalmist is glad because he loves the people of God. Those gripped by God's grace love His bride. They love His Church, they love His house, they love His family, they love His people. Now here's something we need to understand when we look at this psalm. When the psalmist speaks in this passage of Jerusalem, for us, he is speaking of the people of God. Let me give you just a couple of examples of godly Christians over the ages who have expounded this psalm. Derek Kidner, one of my favorite commentators, has written a brilliant, short, small, two-volume commentary on the book of Psalms. It really is relatively short and small, even though it's divided into two volumes. And in his commentary on this passage he says this, “What Jerusalem was to the Israelites, the Church is to the Christian.” So when we look at the psalmist speaking of his love for Jerusalem here, he is expressing for us that which is our love for the people of God, for the Church. Here's what Martin Luther said. “Our Jerusalem is the Church and our temple is Christ. Wherever Christ is preached and the sacraments are rightly administered, there we are sure God dwells and there is our temple, our tabernacle, our cherubim, and our mercy seat. For there, God is present with us by His Word.” So when the psalmist here speaks of his love for Jerusalem, he is especially speaking of his passion for the people of God. And for those of us, and that's all of us here tonight, who are new covenant believers, that means that we have a passion for the people of God, that is His Church. If you know God, if you've been saved by His grace, you care about His people; you love His Church.
And we've got wonderful hymns in our hymnbook which sing of this love that we have or ought to have for the Church. Let me remind you of a few of them. Take your hymnals our and turn with me to number 353. This is, maybe, the oldest American hymn that has been in continuous use in our hymnbook. It was written in 1800 or so by Timothy Dwight and he sings, “I love thy kingdom, Lord, the house of thine abode” — he's talking about the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ — “the church our blest Redeemer saved with his own precious blood. I love thy church, O God: her walls before thee stand, dear as the apple of thine eye, and graven on they hand. For her my tears shall fall, for her my prayer ascend; to her my cares and toils be giv’n till toils and cares shall end.” And the whole of the lyric of that hymn expresses his love for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ and thus fulfills the exhortation that we receive from this psalm.
But then there's another hymn. Turn back just a few pages to number 345, “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken.” And again in the language of Zion and Jerusalem these things are expressed for new covenant believers. “Glorious things of thee are spoken, Zion, city of our God; he whose word cannot be broken formed thee for his own abode: on the Rock of Ages founded, what can shake thy sure repose? With salvation's walls surrounded, thou may'st smile at all thy foes.” And I love the final stanza. “Savior, if of Zion's city I, through grace, a member am, let the world deride or pity, I will glory in thy name: fading is the worldling's pleasure, all his boasted pomp and show; solid joys and lasting treasure none but Zion's children know.”
And then if you turn forward to number 700, again another expression of love for God's people. “Come, we that love the Lord, and let our joys be known; join in a song with sweet accord, and thus surround the throne. Let those refuse to sing that never knew our God; but children of the heav’nly King may speak their joys abroad. The men of grace have found glory begun below; celestial fruits on earthly ground from faith and hope may grow. The hill of Zion yield a thousand sacred sweets, before we read the heav’nly fields or walk the golden streets. Then let our songs abound, and ev’ry tear be dry; we're marching through Immanuel's ground to fairer worlds on high.” All of these songs expressing the love of a redeemed believer for God's people. And this psalmist is glad because he loves the people of God.
THOSE GRIPPED BY GOD’S GRACE LOVE WANT GOD’S PEOPLE TO EXPERIENCE GOD’S PEACE
But there's a fourth thing I want you to see in this psalm and it has to do with the psalmist's concern for Jerusalem. Why is he concerned for Jerusalem? Well, let me ask you a question. Why would Jerusalem have been so important to an Old Testament believer? Now remember, this psalm is a psalm of David. If you look back at its heading, it says, “A SONG OF ASCENTS. OF DAVID.” And that's Scripture. So David wrote this. What happened in David's time that had never existed before in the history of God's people and pointed to an important reality that is only seen in Jesus Christ? What happened was the kingship and the priesthood were centrally located in the temple and in the court in Jerusalem. You remember, before David's time, where was the ark of the covenant? It was not in Jerusalem. It was David who brought the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle up to Jerusalem. And you remember, after David brought the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle up to Jerusalem and after his palace was built, he looked out from his palace and he saw the ark of the covenant of God in a tent and he said, “Something's wrong. I'm in a palace and God's presence is in a tent! There's something wrong here. I need to build a house for God.” And you’ll remember, God said, “David, you’re not going to build a house for Me, but your son is.” And so Solomon built a temple. And we're told at the end of Chronicles that when Solomon sat on the throne he sat on the throne of the Lord.
Now what does all that mean? It means that God, in Jerusalem, had drawn two pictures for His people — the picture of Christ's kingship and the picture of His priesthood. Christ's priesthood was pictured in the appointed worship services of the temple. His kingship was pictured in the reign of David and his descendants. And both of these things of course are necessary for our salvation. John Calvin says that our salvation depends on two things — that Christ is our Priest and that Christ is our King. And under David, God united the kingship with the temple system in order to pre-illustrate the reign of Christ and of grace so that the regulated worship of Jerusalem and the appointed polity of Jerusalem were vital to the spiritual wellbeing of the whole of the people of God.
Now, with all of that, let me just say, that the psalmist actually tells you everything that I just told you and let me just point to the verses where he does it. When he starts talking about Jerusalem, look at verses 3 and 4. The first thing that he says is, “Jerusalem — built as a city that is bound firmly together” — so is he just admiring Jerusalem's architecture? No. Look at what he goes on to say — “to which the tribes go up” — remember, “go up” is language for worship in the Old Testament, right? Pagans did what? They went up to high places and worshiped false gods. But God's people went up to Jerusalem to worship Him. “The tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed” (that is, God appointed how He was to be worshiped) — to do what?
“To give thanks to the name of the LORD.” So Jerusalem's important for him because the temple is there and that's where you worship. And then, look at verse 5. “There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David.” Ahh! There is the capital of the king! That's where the king administers judgment and justice! Why is that so important? Because it prefigures Christ's Kingship and His Priesthood and those things are necessary for our salvation.
So why is Jerusalem so important? Because the welfare of all the people of God depends upon what the king is picturing and what the temple is picturing. So those gripped by God's grace long for the peace of Jerusalem. And what does that mean? Well, Matthew Henry says what it means for us. “The peace and welfare of the Gospel Church is to be earnestly desired and prayed for by every one of us. The unity and harmony of the Church are a matter of concern for all God's people. All the friends of God have a duty to seek the union and concord of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. And a special blessing is called down on anyone who seeks the wellbeing of the people of God.” You heard that language used in the passage that we just read in verse 6. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! ‘May they be secure who love you!’” May they get a blessing who love Jerusalem.
Well listen to what David Dickson said. David Dickson was one of the early commentators on the Westminster Confession of Faith and this is what he says about that verse. “No one can pray for the Church heartily unless they love Her, so none shall love Her and work for Her welfare but shall bear the better for it.” Now let me translate that for you into the way we speak! You can't pray for the Church with zeal unless you love Her passionately. You can't pray for the Church with zeal unless you love Her passionately. And no one who loves the Church passionately and loves for Her wellbeing will go unrewarded by God. That's what the psalmist says. If you love God's Church, you’re passionate about God's Church, you pray for God's Church, you long for, you study, you strive for the unity, the harmony, the peace, the purity of that Church, God will not leave you unrewarded because He loves His Church and He will bless those who love Her.
And so the psalmist, when he contemplates the Church of God, he longs for God's favor, for God's peace to be visited upon the Church. You see, those who are gripped by God's grace not only want to worship God, they not only want to gather with God's people to worship God, they not only love the people of God, but they long for God's total favor to be visited on His people. They want God's people to experience God's total favor and so they long and they pray and they study and they strive for that peace, that shalom for the people of God. Now this psalmist is excited about worship and he's excited about gathering with the people of God for worship and he loves the people of God.
You know, if the sight of Jerusalem moved David to such poetry and song and if the thought of the poor, marred, distressed Church militant moves us to such passion, what will happen to your heart when you see the Church triumphant for the first time? I want to ask you that question as we close tonight. What will happen to your heart when you see the bride of Christ as God has finally made Her for the first time. I want to tell you this now. If God were not holding the hearts of all His people in His hand at that moment, they would explode with joy. When you see Her as She will be for eternity, your hearts will explode with joy. And the author of Hebrews gives you just a little glimpse of what that's going to look like. You have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly to the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
My friends, we ought to love to worship because of God's grace to us; we ought to long to worship together because of the joy that it gives us to see brothers and sisters in Christ redeemed by the blood of lambs giving praise and honor and glory and gratitude to God. We ought to love to worship because we love the people of God, but we ought also to worship and to love to worship because it's a foretaste of a worship that, if we could see it right now, it would blow our minds. And it is our certain destiny if we believe Jesus and His Gospel – we will be there and our hearts will burn within us, for eternity.
O Lord, the next time we hear, “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD!’” let us remember these things and anticipate these things. In Jesus' name, amen.
Would you stand for God's blessing?
Peace be to the brethren and love with faith from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ until the daybreak and the shadows flee away.