LORD’S DAY MORNING SERVICE, 14 June 2020
Sermon Text: Psalm 122:1-9
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I. The joy of being at the house of the Lord (vs. 1-2)
II. The joy of unity in the house of the Lord (vs. 3-5)
III. The joy of living in the blessing of the Lord (vs. 6-9)
Among fourteen psalms that are labelled as ‘Songs of Ascents,’ four of them, including this 122nd psalm, designate David, a famous king of Israel, as their human author. Yet, we remember that he spoke these words, being inspired by the Spirit of God. And this is a song of joy that he has sung and would like us to join him and sing along with him especially in the house of the Lord. This song is a song of joy, a song of blessing, a song God’s worshippers like us, like David and his fellow worshippers, should sing in the house of God.
As you know well, David was a great musician. He played lyre, a stringed instrument, and wrote 73 (or possibly 75) psalms out of total 150 psalms of the Bible. He knew how to sing praises to God; he knew how to make a joyful sound to the Lord and how to do it skilfully. So, you and I should know that this psalm is a song he sang with the joy in his heart and soul, and he taught all people of Israel to sing when they approached the house of God in worship. Moreover, the Levitical choir led the whole congregation as they sang this song in one voice with one joy.
So, it’s a psalm that was sung not only by individuals who were going up to the house of the Lord, but also by the whole gathered congregation as they approached their Heavenly Father in worship. You and I need to picture that in mind as we meditate on the words of this psalm. You and I need to hear the voice of a worshipper singing these words as he walked towards Jerusalem. His eyes were fixed on that city where the house of the Lord was. We also need to hear the voice of a great congregation gathered before the tabernacle, before the ark of the covenant, singing this psalm in unison.
Having said, you and I need to heed the joy of worshipping hearts; we need to pay good attention to their desire of being in the presence of God. We should also understand the excellency of worshipping God in unity with all brothers and sisters, because these are the blessings the Lord has prepared for His worshippers and pours upon them.
I. THE JOY OF BEING AT THE HOUSE OF THE LORD (vs. 1-2)
The first thing we hear from this song is the joy of being at the house of the Lord. In v. 1, David, our psalmist, says, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’” Some of his unidentified fellow men invited him to join them and go to the house of the Lord. And David was glad. He means that he was exceedingly glad; he leaped for joy. This joy is not an ordinary gladness; it’s not like the joy you say, looking at your garden, ‘Oh, I’m glad.’ Rather, this joy is like, for example, that of Hannah, Samuel’s mother and one of the great women of the Bible, expressed when she had brought Samuel and dedicated him to the service at the tent of God. Listen to her words recorded in 1 Sam. 2:1, “And Hannah prayed and said, ‘My heart exults in the LORD; my horn is exalted in the LORD. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in [God’s] salvation.’” She had been baren, childless, for many years; she had been despised and ridiculed for long. So, she prayed to God and He answered to her and gave her a son, Samuel. Giving him to God’s service, Hannah’s heart was more than happy, more than glad – she exulted, was jubilant, overjoyed. When David heard his fellow men’s invitation, his heart was jubilant – more than simply glad or happy! So, he leaped for joy.
Why was he that cheerful? Because he knew that being at the house of the Lord was great – in fact, the best thing to do and the best place to be. David knew it by experience. I believe you know his days as a fugitive. He lived in the wilderness for many years, hiding away from King Saul. Then, he sought political asylum among the Philistines, Israel’s enemies. While he was running for his life, he could not visit the tabernacle of the Lord, let alone giving sacrifices to God on the altar of God. For years, he longed for being at the house of God and worship Him in the midst of God’s congregation. In another psalm, that’s Ps. 65:1, David said, “Blessed is the one [God] choose and bring near, to dwell in [His] courts!” He didn’t say, ‘Blessed is the one God choose and make a king to sit on the king’s throne in king’s palace’; no, he didn’t say that; he said, ‘bring near to dwell in God’s court, God’s house.’ By experience he knew how good and pleasant it was to be at the house of the Lord.
I believe you and I have learned over the past two months or so what this longing for being at the house of the Lord means, haven’t we? While we had to withdraw ourselves inside of each one’s home and remain the doors shut, distancing ourselves from others, you were watching live streamed worship services and I was leading worship services here in this empty sanctuary, looking at camera. At each one’s home, we suffered in our spirit, didn’t we? We longed for being able to be here in this sanctuary and worship God alongside all of God’s congregation. I came to the church every morning for forty days and prayed right here to God for restoration of His worship in His church. And I know that many of you, all of you, prayed together at each one’s place. We know by this experience what longing for being at the house of the Lord means! So, when we were finally able to come to church again and worship the Lord, we rejoiced, leaped for joy, exulted in our heart! On that Sunday morning, exactly the morning of Sunday, May 24th, when I spoke to Miyun, my wife, ‘Honey, let’s go to the church!’, my heart exulted. We all are still excited with this gathering of the Lord’s congregation in this house of the Lord!
So, now, we know what David means in v. 2, saying, “Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!” Entering the place where God will meet His people in worship, being at the place where we’ll hear God’s voice, where the Spirit of God welcomes His congregation, is an exciting thing.
It is interesting to notice that David says that his feet ‘have been standing’ within the gates of Jerusalem. You and I know, by experience once again, like David, that he is talking about his heart has always been inside the gates of Jerusalem, inside the house of the Lord, while his physical presence was far away from it.
An important lesson for us is that we should always keep this exuberant joy in our souls, we’d better remember always that being able to come to church, come to worship freely, is an exciting pleasure and happiness.
II. THE JOY OF UNITY IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD (vs. 3-5)
The second thing we hear and see from this beautiful song of David is the joy of unity in the house of the Lord. Coming into Jerusalem, David looks around, carefully examines this city of God. Being deeply moved with the joy of being at the Lord’s house, he thinks of this city where people gather together from all directions to meet their Heavenly Father and to worship Him.
He looks at the city and finds, firstly, that it’s “bound firmly together” as in v. 3. He means, there’s no place loose or weak or unstable. From this end to the other and all around, things are built solid, firmly joined. This city of God is a healthy and perfect unity.
This city is, spiritually speaking, God’s church. To this church, all people of God come and gather together. As was the thrones of the house of David set in Jerusalem, as God promised that David’s throne would be perpetual in the city of God, Jesus, the ‘Son of David’ sits on His eternal throne and He is the head of His church. As Jesus is the head, all members of the church unite and form a firm and compact body. This body is not weak but strong, not loose but secure.
The ungodly ones in the world think that they could suppress God’s church; they have claimed victory over God’s church in the past, not once but many times. But has God’s church been squashed or nullified? Not at all; God’s church is growing rapidly numerically and, spiritually, stronger and firmer as more people are exposed to God’s word these days and read them, more Bible teaching is available for an uncountable number of people in the world. For example, if you wish to learn from a great and godly Bible teacher, you could do it by a click of your finger and you could watch him lecturing for hours or days, if not months. You could discuss or share this faith in Jesus Christ with your fellow Christian, if you like, across the oceans, connected to and from every continent of this world. God’s church is expanding and growing in every respect. The enemies of God’s church cannot harm this firm and compact body of Christ. Never has it succeeded and never would it be possible.
David talks about this spiritual unity in God’s church and he saw the compactness of the city of God, Jerusalem.
In addition, another unity he sees in Jerusalem, in God’s church, and that is, the unity among its members. He sings in v. 4, “[Jerusalem] to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD.” They’re ‘tribes’ rather than a ‘tribe.’ Many different and diverse people are involved in God’s church, but a congregation consists of diverse members seeks one thing, that is, their Lord and praising Him in unity. So, these diverse people speak in one language, the language of Jesus Christ and His salvation, His free grace, His eternal kingship!
Yes, we’re all different, aren’t we? I’ve crossed the Pacific Ocean to be a part of this congregation at St Columba’s. Some of you crossed the Indian Ocean; some of you drove your cars for 40 or 50 minutes to be here. Not only from geographical distance, but also from cultural distances. Truth is, not two people are exactly the same in thought and the way of life. Even such a difference exists between husbands and wives. We know that we’re from all sorts of backgrounds. But, we speak in one language, the language of Jesus Christ!
We seek only one, that is, our covenant head, Jesus Christ. We seek Him in our faith and life. We find the purpose of our life, our being on earth, in Him and we receive strength from Him to continue seeking Him alone. This is the unity David sings in vs. 3-5: ‘Our Heavenly Father sought us to be Israel, to be His church, and to give thanks to the name of the Lord.’
Moreover, when David talks about ‘thrones for judgment’ and the ‘thrones of the house of David’ in v. 5, he emphasises spiritual unity of God’s church in terms of what the word of God does for us all. When people in diversity come to God, we all listen to the voice of God, and reflect all our thoughts and views and understandings onto the very word of God. Having reflected onto it, we leave what is contrary to God’s word; we cancel any plan that is not in accord with God’s word; we repent from any thought or deed that is against the word of God. We’re refined in the house of the Lord as God purifies us from all blemishes with His word. So, the unity we have in God’s church is lively and exiting as well as refreshing!
What we hear from these verses is a challenge for all members of Christ’s church. I mean, whether we look at God’s church this way, as the body of Christ firmly established and united; whether we consider each other as called to be diverse, yet to unite under one head, Jesus Christ, and speak only one language of the word of God. If we do, we should not dismiss the authority of God’s church derived from God’s word alone; we must not push aside the binding power of God’s word in everyone’s faith and life. Ultimately, we ought to remember and recover the joy of unity in body and spirit that we have in the house of the Lord!
III. THE JOY OF LIVING IN THE BLESSING OF THE LORD (vs. 6-9)
The third and last thing we hear from this song of ascent, a song the OT church sang when they approached the Lord in worship, is the joy of living in the blessing of the Lord. There are two layers of blessings verses 6-9 talk about.
I said two ‘layers’ of blessings because the blessing is pronounced from two sides or parties – one from the worshippers like David and like you and me, and the other is from the Lord Himself, especially, Jesus Christ the Lord. Let me explain what I mean.
Seeing Jerusalem and rejoicing with the joy of being at the house of the Lord, David urges his fellow worshippers to ‘pray for the peace of Jerusalem’ in v. 6. In the second line of v. 6 and in v. 7, David explains what sort of ‘peace’ he urges others to pray, that is, “May they be secure who love you [Jerusalem, God’s church]!” This peace that is within the walls of Jerusalem, within the body of Christ’s church, is ‘security’ under the oversight of God who watches over His people.
There’s an interesting point I want you to know with the name of the city of God, Jerusalem. In v. 6, David says, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!” Here’s a word play. ‘Peace’ is in Hebrew, ‘shalom.’ And ‘Jerusalem’ means, ‘king of Salem,’ or ‘king of peace’ or ‘city of peace,’ city of ‘shalom.’ So, David is saying, ‘Pray for the shalom of this city of Shalom.’ He means, ‘peace’ is what this city is all about, what this city inherits. So, urging to pray for the ‘peace’ of this ‘city of peace,’ David is praying for the will of God to spur on, to hasten and be done! In fact, this is the prayer our Lord Jesus taught us to pray, isn’t it? He says, “Pray like this, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’”
What is the will of God for His church? It is to multiply, fill the earth, and bring all elect of God into it, thus, through all these, bring glory to God through the Son. David is urging all worshippers to pray for this. When this is sought, and God answers, what would this be? Blessing to all who love God’s church, the city of God, the house of the Lord! So, this is the first ‘layer’ of blessing.
The second ‘layer’ of blessing is from the Lord Jesus Himself. He speaks the words of vs. 8-9 and declares His blessing upon all in His church. Listen to these words, “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.” As these are the words David spoke, we hear the Lord’s voice with these words. Hear the prayer Jesus made to His Father on the night of His betrayal and arrest as recorded in Jn. 17:24-26, “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, may be with Me where I am, to see My glory …. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know You, I know You, and these know that You have sent Me. I made known to them Your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which You have loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” In short, the Lord means this: ‘Peace be within you and I will seek your good.’ The Lord Jesus declares His blessing upon all in His church.
This is the joy of living in the house of the Lord, my dear fellow worshippers who love God’s church as you love the Lord Jesus!
To conclude, let me take you back to the very beginning of this psalm, this song of ascents. There, David says, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’” Now, you realise David’s joy – not any ordinary joy, but an extraordinary delight! Now, you realise why David was so happy. It was because being at the house of God is the best thing, the only thing all who have received the eternal blessing, eternal promise of the Lord, do!
So, let us come to the house of the Lord with a great joy and let us enjoy our unity in Christ, enjoy the power of the word that washes us and renews us! Let us also encourage others, invite others to come with us to Christ’s church to worship Him! ***