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JOY IN PUBLIC WORSHIP
‘I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.’
I. Glad, because it is the place of rest from the week’s toil and care.—In the sanctuary we lay our burdens down. We cease from the labours which have occupied us through all the week. Body and mind and spirit alike have a happy season of quiet, refreshment, recuperation. Surely we could never dispense with the Sabbath and the Holy House; we need them for the restoring of our nature.
II. Glad, because it is the place of worship.—There we lift our voices in sweet and thankful praise. There we breathe forth the desires of our innermost souls in earnest prayer. There we con and ponder the Word of Life, bending over the revelation which our Lord has given us of Himself and of His grace. And there are no exercises more delightful or more fructifying than these.
III. Glad, because it is the place of communion with the saints.—We meet with kindred spirits. They say unto us, Let us go—‘us’: it is the plural number, it denotes the company of God’s sons and daughters, it introduces us to a large and glorious fellowship. We receive help from these true comrades of our hearts; we can give them encouragement too, and stimulus, and cheer.
IV. And glad most of all, because it is the place where God draws nigh.— The house of the Lord: that is its name. Near us as He is all the week through, He is specially near when His day comes round and when we seek Him in the assembly of His people. The Father and the Son and the Spirit come to us and make their abode with us. We enter into the secret place of the Most High.
‘This psalm obviously justifies its title, A song of degrees. It is a psalm of the pilgrims going up to worship at Jerusalem, and its theme is delight in the city of God, and in the Temple that made that city glorious. These pilgrimages three times a year to the capital were a bright feature in the life of the Israelites. “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” Neighbours in outlying parts had been visiting each other beforehand, talking about the journey and inviting their friends to join. The little companies come streaming in from a distance until near Jerusalem they become a great multitude full of social joy and religious fervour. It is surely good that people should speak among their friends about going to God’s house.’
WITHIN THE GATES
‘Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem!’
The psalm from which this verse is taken was probably written by a pilgrim to Jerusalem at some time previous to the Babylonish captivity. On the one hand, it is clear that the house of the Lord, the ancient Temple, was still standing; on the other, the reference to the house of David and the anxious prayer for the peace of Jerusalem, its walls, its palaces, seem to point to a later time than that of David.
I. One thing which would have struck a pilgrim to Jerusalem who should approach the city, as was natural, from its northeastern side, would be its beauty.—In the eyes of a religious pilgrim the physical beauty of Jerusalem must have suggested and blended with beauty of the highest order. The beauty of the world of spirit imparts to the world of sense a subtle lustre which of itself it could never possess.
II. Jerusalem was the centre of the religious and national life of Israel.—Its greatest distinction was that the Temple lay within its walls. No other title to glory and distinction in these ancient days could compete with this place where God did choose to put His name.
III. A third characteristic of Jerusalem was its unworldliness.—(1) This appears partly in its very situation. Jerusalem was not on the sea or on a navigable river. Isaiah rejoiced in ‘Zion, the city of our solemnities, as a quiet habitation, wherein shall no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship, pass by.’ In his eyes its religious character as well as its security are ensured by its seclusion from the great highways of the world of his day. (2) This characteristic may be further illustrated by the smallness of Jerusalem. No large capital could have existed in such a situation. In point of area Jerusalem would ill compare with our larger London parishes, Marylebone or Islington. Yet no city in the world has so profoundly influenced the highest life of millions of the human race as has that little highland town in a remote province of the empire of Turkey.
IV. Once more, as the centuries went on, Jerusalem became yet dearer to the heart of Israel by misfortune.—Of all that is most beautiful in life sorrow is the last consecration. Undoubtedly the author of our psalm would already have seen in Jerusalem a pathos and a dignity which so often come with suffering, and those who used this psalm in later ages would have felt increasingly this element of the attraction of the holy city.
V. The Jerusalem of Christian thought is no longer only or mainly the ‘city of David.’—It is first of all the visible and universal Church of Christ. And it suggests another city, a true haven of peace, into which all those true children of Zion who are joyful in their King will one day be received.
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Psalms 122". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany