Summary: We pray for and await the peace of Jerusalem
The LORD’s House: an Exposition of the 122nd Psalm
What brings you joy? This is a very personal question which will bring many different answers. For some, it will be the expectant birth of a child or grandchild. For some, it will be having the family together for Thanksgiving or another holiday. For others, it will be a dream house. Some might say that winning the lottery will give them joy. How you answer this question says a lot about you. In the text this morning, we will see what brings the Psalmist joy. Turn now to the 122nd Psalm.
This psalm is one of a collection of fifteen psalms which are grouped together and titled the “Songs of Ascents.” They were sung and chanted by people coming up to Jerusalem to worship. They seem to have been written by different people at different times and collected together by common themes. This one is said to be a Psalm of David as well. This is disputed, but in the absence of proof to the contrary, this should be accepted. The attribution of author is sometimes vital. For example, Jesus calls David the author of the 110th Psalm, and His exegesis of it would make no sense otherwise. Here, it isn’t as important, although David was certainly one who rejoiced to come up to Jerusalem.
The city of Jerusalem is an ancient city. Its name means “Foundation of Peace.” Melchizedek was called the Prince of Salem, which is probably Jerusalem. It was held by the Jebusites until the time of David who took it and made it the capital of the unified tribes of Israel. Its walls and natural defenses made it a refuge to people in the time of war. Later Jerusalem had 12 gates for people to enter.
The Temple in Jerusalem did not exist in the days of David. Instead, the Ark of the Testimony was placed in a tent. David tried to bring the ark into Jerusalem in an ox cart, but when Uzziah the driver touched it to stabilize the Ark when the oxen stumbled, he was struck dead. The Ark should have been carried on the shoulders of the Levites. As a result, the Ark was left outside the city in the threshing floor or Ornan the Jebusite. Later on the Ark of the Covenant would be brought into the city by the Levites, with David dancing for joy before the LORD. But there was no permanent home for this Ark, which represented the presence of Yahweh. David wanted to build the LORD a house, but was prevented because he had shed so much blood. One cannot establish the House of the LORD in the city of Peace with blood on one’s hands. Solomon, whose name means “peace” built the Temple in Jerusalem instead.
David would certainly have agreed with the sentiment of the psalm. He took great joy in coming up to the LORD’s house. This was more than just climbing the hill into Jerusalem. Pilgrims from all over the world who would come to Jerusalem always went up to Jerusalem, even if the elevation of their home was higher than Jerusalem. As far as a mountain is concerned, nearby place like Mt. Hermon are much higher. But there is a moral quality in going up to Jerusalem. There was the uplift of the soul as well.
Whenever the psalmist heard the words: “Let us go into the house of the LORD, he was full of joy. Notice here the “us.” The worship of Yahweh was not just a personal encounter. “Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.” The LORD is not Lord of one, but of a people. It is a time of joy when God’s people come together into the house of the LORD for worship. He talks about all the tribes coming up together into Jerusalem to the Ark of the Testimony. Jerusalem was the place God chose in Israel for His people to come to worship. Yahweh is at the center of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem is at the center of Istael’s identity as a people. The city is said to be compacted together, which seems to imply that the city was laid out in an orderly fashion. This reflects the unity of Israel and the orderliness of their God. Everything was in its proper place.
Even the thrones of judgment were arranged in an orderly fashion. Justice was usually administered at the gates of the city, so judges were placed at these locations to see that justice was fairly administered. There can be no peace without justice. It is justice which makes society possible. This is not the substitution of our concept of righteousness for God’s, however. Inside the Ark of the Testimony were the tablets of the Law, God’s Law written by His own fingers. It is this justice that needs to be established.