Chapter 3: Psalm 122

Psalm 122  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 9
The House of the Lord.
TO know the Lord Himself is to be attracted to the place where He dwells. This is the connection between this and the previous Psalm. In that, in reply to the confidence of faith expressed in verse 2, came the blessed assurance that the Lord was all-sufficient for all His people’s needs. Thus known in His tender grace and watchful tare, the soul could now say, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord” (v. 1); for it was there He, who had become everything to the one who looked to Him, dwelt, and displayed His glory. Remark, also, that the moment the house of the Lord is mentioned, isolation ceases, and all God’s people are introduced. It is, Let us go into the house of the Lord. It is the same now when the individual believer learns in any measure what the assembly is as God’s habitation through the Spirit, or what it is to have the Lord Himself in the midst of those gathered unto His precious name.
The hearts of God’s people being upon the Lord’s house, they anticipate, in the energy of faith, their arrival within the holy city, and exclaim, “Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.” (v. 2.) Their pilgrimage was not yet ended, but, in the security which faith enjoyed, they could rest in perfect confidence that, as in Psalm 84, they would go from strength to strength, and that every one of them would appear in Zion before God. In like manner, as we look onward to the many mansions of the Father’s house, into which the Lord Himself will conduct us, we know, without a single doubt or fear, that no difficulty and no foe will ever prevail to hinder the attainment of our blessed goal. For the One who is already there, and who has prepared the place for us, is able to save us through all the dangers of the wilderness, because He ever lives to make intercession for us. Blessed security, founded as it is upon what Christ is for us at the right hand of God.
These two verses contain the introduction to, and the subject of, the Psalm; the next three give a description of the city which is the object of the hopes of Israel; and the last four set forth intimate relationship between the chosen people and the house of their God, and show that the peace of Jerusalem is bound up with the people’s prosperity.
We have, then, now to consider the description of the city, and in a threefold way. First, it is the form, the beauty of the city itself which excites admiration: it is builded as a city that is compact together. It is the symmetry and completeness of the city which arrest the attention; the city, that is, which will be, in the future glories of the kingdom, however the splendor of Jerusalem during David’s reign may have furnished its prophetic type. The Christian will at once recall the measurements of the New Jerusalem, with which the earthly city will be in direct relationship: “And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth; and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.” This is finite perfection, represented by its being a cube, but finite perfection divinely bestowed. And of this the city in our Psalm is no indistinct shadow. And it is the contemplation of this beauty, albeit earthly, which awakens the admiration of the people, who own it as the place of the house of the Lord, and as the seat of their King.
Secondly, Jerusalem is portrayed as the gathering-point for all the people; it is the place “whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the Lord.” (v. 4.) Jerusalem, indeed, will be Israel’s true center in virtue of the house of the Lord, and hence the name of the city in that day will be Jehovah-shammah—the Lord is there. His presence there, as even, will be the attraction for all His own. It is noteworthy, in this connection, that the tribes are called “the tribes of the Lord,” for then their stiff-nakedness and rebellion will all have ceased, and they will manifestly belong to Him whose name they bear. In the Epistle to the Galatians the apostle speaks of Jerusalem above as being our mother.1
There is thus a striking correspondence between our present position, in view of the heavenly Jerusalem, and that of the tribes in this Psalm in their progress “out of sorrow, and through sorrow to the full blessing in Zion, which forms the crowning result, Jehovah being there.” The next clause should rather be rendered: “A testimony for, or unto, Israel.”2
This will mean that the universal gathering of the tribes, their common ascent to the house of the Lord, would go forth as a testimony to the whole nation. Isaiah speaks of Jerusalem itself, but of Jerusalem as the expression of the people, as the testimony in his address to her, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.”
This is surpassingly beautiful. The light of Zion is the glory of the Lord, which after long ages of desolation has broken through the clouds of her sorrow, and illumined her with the light of the presence of her God. And it is with this light she is called upon to shine; the display through her of the glory of the Lord would in this way become her testimony. (Compare 2 Cor. 4:66For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6).) The object of the assembling of the tribes is “to give thanks unto the name of the Lord,” unto Jehovah as revealed in the midst of Israel. One of the last acts of David was the appointment of the Levites “to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord, and likewise at even” (1 Chron. 23:3030And to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord, and likewise at even; (1 Chronicles 23:30)); but at the time of which our Psalm speaks all the tribes will be united in this blessed service of thanksgiving and praise.
But not only will Jerusalem be the center of the people’s worship; it will also be the seat of the royal administration of justice, “for there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David.” The Messiah is not only the promised Seed, as of Abraham, but He is also, as born into the world, the Son of David indeed, both the root and the offspring of David, David’s Son and David’s Lord. The administration of the kingdom will therefore be His, as the rightful Heir to all the royal rights of David’s house; and “He shall judge Thy people with righteousness, and Thy poor with judgment. The mountains (seats of authority—subordinate thrones) shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.” (Psa. 2, 3.) As also Isaiah says, His throne will be established “with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever.”
In the last division of the Psalm we have the connection declared between the peace pf Jerusalem and the prosperity of the people. First of all there is the invitation to pray for her peace. To do this would imply communion with Jehovah’s mind, for Jerusalem is the city which He loved; “for the Lord hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it as His habitation. This is my rest forever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it.” If, therefore, the hearts of His people are set upon the same place they cannot but pray for its peace. The Christian will understand this principle in its application to the assembly. The dearest thing on earth to the heart of Christ is the Church, that Church which He loved, and for which He gave Himself; and if we have communion with His own heart as to this, however feebly, we shall be constrained to pray for its peace and blessing.3
Blessing, moreover, is promised for those who thus pray: “They shall prosper that love thee.” Communion with the heart of Christ is the sure pathway of blessing. Christ loved, and loves the Church, and the saint to whom the Church is also dear will spiritually prosper. The prosperity here promised will be according to the position of the earthly people; but for the Christian, who is in fellowship with our blessed Lord concerning His people, it will be in spiritual progress and blessing.
The following verses, 7-9, contain the response to the exhortation. First, there is the expression of the desire that there may be peace within the walls of Jerusalem and prosperity within her palaces. From the last verse (9th) we learn that the ground of this desire is “the house of the Lord our God.” Jerusalem, indeed, will derive all its importance, not so much from its being the chosen city of Messiah’s kingdom, as from its containing God’s dwelling-place. As we read in Isaiah, “The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of My sanctuary; and I will make the place of My feet glorious.” The pious heart, therefore, will desire that the whole city should share in the blessing of the habitation of God, and be in suited condition and meetness for its divine Inhabitant. The enjoyment of the presence of Him who will dwell in Zion will ensure the peace and prosperity desired.
Another ground for the longed-for peace is “my brethren and companions’ sake.” (v. 8.) Nothing expands the heart of God’s people like affection for the Lord and His dwelling-place. Whenever He is enshrined in the heart His affections, reproduced in the believer, will embrace every child of God. An exemplification of this truth is found in Revelation 22. When the Lord presents Himself as the root and offspring of David, [and] the bright and morning star, the Spirit and the Bride say, Come. The first thought is Christ Himself, and then every saint is remembered in what follows. And let him that heareth say, Come. So is it in the Psalm—peace is desired for the sake of the “tribes of the Lord.” How fully some of God’s people can enter into this in this day of confusion and scattering! Let us cry, then, day and night, as we think of the perils which beset us on every hand, and the damage done to souls by incessant controversies, that the Lord may come in and heal our breaches and restore peace, for the sake of our brethren and companions.
The last verse, as before remarked, does but emphatically remind us of the energetic motive for seeking the good of Jerusalem; it is “because of the house of the Lord our God.” Nehemiah is a striking illustration of this spirit. When he heard of the affliction and reproach of the remnant of the people, and that the wall of Jerusalem was broken down, and that her gates were burned with fire, he wept, mourned, and fasted, and prayed; and thenceforward, as led of the Spirit, his heart was set upon the good of Jerusalem because of the house of the Lord his God. May this spirit of devotedness to the glory of God in His habitation be increasingly exhibited amongst His beloved people in the present day, for His name’s sake!