I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.
Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together:
Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, unto the testimony of Israel,
to GIVE THANKS unto the name of the Lord.
~ Psalm 122:1-4
In our passage, the psalm writer (David) is commenting on the worship of God in Jerusalem by the people of Israel.
Worship Attitude: Glad to Greet God
In verse 1, David expresses his own joy and eagerness to worship God. When he was summoned to worship he was glad to go. What a contrast to many a modern day Christian. So many of us can barely drag ourselves into church once a week, and we are often not glad to be there.
Notice that there is no commentary on whether the people were ‘nice’, or whether the music or worship style suited his taste or whether the sermons were good. (Indeed, descriptions of worship services in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah sometimes seem rather long and comparatively ‘un-entertaining’ by today’s standards.) He was just glad to get an opportunity to worship God. The focus was not on himself in any way, his focus was on God and so he was glad to go and worship Him.
Worship Unity: Blessed to Befriend my Brother
In verses 2-3, the psalm-writer takes the perspective of the people, and the focus turns to unity. The tribes of Israel were diverse and had grown more distinct over the years, they even had different dialects (e.g., see Judges 12:1-6). However, despite their differences they had a common history: God saved them from bondage in Egypt. And, because of this history, they would worship God together.
Indeed, the psalm-writer tells us that Jerusalem was “compact together”, which in one sense speaks to its size. When the people of Israel came to worship, they would have to cram into the city, so much so that interaction with others was unavoidable. Jerusalem, then, was designed to create interaction that would promote fellowship which is the basis of unity.
Likewise, the church too is ‘designed’ to be like the Jerusalem described in our text: The church is the place where believers should ‘cram in’ and interact with each other: where believers get to know each other far beyond just superficially:
“Hello, how are you?” asks Believer #1.
“Oh, I am blessed!”, responds Believer #2.
[They then pass each other while exchanging perfunctory smiles, not bothering to invest the time needed to really get to know each other as real Brothers/Sisters in Christ must.]
The church is where we build relationships that carry on beyond the walls of the building. The church is where a diverse group of people come to worship God because of their shared history of salvation! And that love-infused fellowship declares the truth of Jesus’ message.
However, the psalm-writer was also speaking prophetically. Jerusalem, and the people of Israel, were not as united as God had intended. And scripture records a fair amount of disunity (in fact, the kingdom would split when David’s grandson became king and there were civil wars at the start and in the middle of David’s reign).
The people did not all share David’s love for God: many were caught up in idol worship. But by inspiration of The Holy Spirit, David knew that one day God would unify a people who loved Him to worship Him together, in unity, in The New Jerusalem:
“Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord. And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto thee.
And the Lord… shall choose Jerusalem again.” ~ Zechariah 2:10-12
“And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” ~ Revelation 21:2-3
Worship Testimony: Eager to Evangelize my Enemies
In verse 4, the psalm writer continues to focus on unity of the people of God, but shifts the emphasis outward. The tribes of the Lord go up, in unity, to worship God “unto the testimony of Israel, to GIVE THANKS unto the name of the Lord”.
The testimony of Israel is the reality of salvation because of God’s love and faithfulness. In short, God promised to bring the seed of Abraham to the Promised Land. And He did. He saved them from bondage in Egypt; and He unified and sanctified them in the desert/wilderness; and He brought them into the Promised Land: because He loved them and because He is faithful. AND everyone who saw it knew it: they knew Israel was special, because their God was special: their God was real.
“For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.
And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.” ~ Joshua 2:10-11
That was the testimony of Israel! What a great testimony!
And that is the testimony, to which we, Believers, still are called today. We go up to worship God, we GIVE THANKS, because of what God has done and is doing in our lives: because of His work of salvation in us.
And as the world sees God’s transformative work in our lives, as the world sees a diverse group of Believers unite, not because of convenience, but because of the common, shared Joy of Salvation, the world will believe! They will see God at work in us mightily as we bring His light to this dark world and as we share His love in a world full of hate; as we lift up those who are trodden down; yes, the world will see God at work in us and their hearts will melt.
Oh let us GIVE THANKS to God for salvation and for the unity of the brethren and for the testimony to which we are called. AMEN!