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The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 122". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ psalms-122.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 122". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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THE "title" assigns this psalm to David; and there seems to be no sufficient reason why his authorship should not be accepted. The description of Jerusalem exactly suits his day (Psalms 122:3-7). The "thrones of judgment, thrones of the house of David" (Psalms 122:5) would be his own throne and that of his son Solomon, whom he associated. The "house of the Lord" (Psalms 122:1) would be the tabernacle which David set up (2 Samuel 6:17). The "tribes of the Lord," which were all united under David (2 Samuel 5:5), probably began to "go up" to Jerusalem as soon as David removed the ark thither. The strong love for Jerusalem and for the Lord's house, which animates the writer, is also very characteristic of David.
I was glad when they said unto us, Let us go into the house of the Lord (comp. Psalms 5:7; Psalms 28:2; Psalms 138:2).
Our feet shall stand; rather, stand, or are standing. The pilgrim-band has entered the city, and is on its way to God's house. Within thy gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem has its "walls" (Psalms 122:7) and its "gates" set up, which suits the time of David, not that of Ezra or Zerubbabel.
Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together; rather, Jerusalem that art builded. The primary reference is probably to the compact shape and look of the ancient city, which, as Josephus says, was "one and entire," with no straggling suburbs, shut in on the north by a wall, and on the three other sides both by walls and by deep, rocky valleys. But the material "compactness" was perhaps taken to symbolize the close internal union of the inhabitants one with another, whereby they were all knit together into one Church and people.
Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord. This points to a time before the dispersion of "the tribes," which rendered such regular "going up" impossible. Unto the testimony of Israel; rather, as a testimony unto Israel—a witness to the whole nation that all Israelites had covenant privileges at Jerusalem. To give thanks unto the Name of the Lord. The three great feasts whereto Israel was bound to "go up" were all of them seasons of thanksgiving.
For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David. Jerusalem was the civil, no less than the religious, center. There David judged controversies, and Absalom when he usurped the throne, and Solomon when David associated him. But the plural may be "a plural of dignity."
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Let all true Israelites "pray for the peace of Jerusalem," i.e. for her tranquility and for her prosperity. They shall prosper that love thee. A covert threat, as well as a promise. "Such as love Jerusalem, and pray for her peace, shall prosper; such as do not love her shall lack prosperity."
Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. The prayer, which he would have others offer, the psalmist now offers himself. The prayer embraces, first, the whole community; then, especially those who have the direction and government of it.
For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. The inhabitants of Jerusalem are the writer's "brethren and companions." He is not a mere pilgrim on a visit to the holy city.
Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good. The tabernacle set up by David in Jerusalem is called "the house of the Lord" in Psalms 5:7; Psalms 27:4; Psalms 52:8; and Psalms 55:14. God "dwelt there," as he dwelt in the tabernacle of Moses in the wilderness (Exodus 40:34, Exodus 40:35) and in the temple of Solomon subsequently (2 Chronicles 5:13, 2 Chronicles 5:14). The good of Jerusalem was to be sought for two reasons:
(1) because God's people were there; and
(2) because God's house was there (see Calvin, ad loc.).
The house of God and the Church of Jesus Christ.
The "house of God" (Psalms 122:1 and Psalms 122:9) may stand for the Christian sanctuary, and the "Jerusalem," of which this psalm is full, may stand for the Church of Jesus Christ. Thus regarded, we have—
I. THE HOUSE OF GOD.
1. The Divine Presence. God's house is the place where he dwells; where, in the fullest sense, he is. And though the Omnipresent cannot be said to be in one place more truly than in another, yet is there a sense in which he is especially present in his own "house."
(1) Going there expressly to meet and to worship him, we are more conscious of his nearness to us than we are elsewhere.
(2) He will and he does manifest himself in his revealing truth and in his gracious influences as he does not elsewhere.
2. United worship. "Let us go into the house of the Lord." It is not enough for a man to say that he can pray and sing and read at home. Nothing will compensate for united worship. There is a fervor in prayer, and a heartiness in praise when many souls are outpoured in the one, and many voices are united in the other, which solitary worship does not know; there is an influence in uttered truth, spoken in the sympathetic hearing of a hundred hearts, which no book can communicate in the silent chamber. There is a sacred joy which gladdens the pure heart (Psalms 122:1) in the anticipation and in the act of public worship, of which it is a serious mistake to deprive ourselves.
3. The duty of encouragement. "Let us go;" "Let him that heareth say, Come" Those who are not able to enforce Divine claims or human obligations can graciously and effectually invite their neighbors to go where these great spiritual realities will be enforced by others. Andrew rendered his brother Simon, and the Church of Christ, an invaluable service when "he brought him to Jesus ' to hear his word and to become his disciple.
II. THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST. Jerusalem was "the city of God." The "New Jerusalem" will be composed of the glorified spirits of men of every age and from every land. The spiritual Jerusalem today is the multitude of unrecognized men, but beloved of Christ, that, under every sky, are loving and serving him.
1. We must not be satisfied till we have been enrolled in this company; till we can say, "Our feet are standing within thy walls."
2. To belong to this Church is our most sacred duty; it was "a testimony" or ordinance "in Israel" to go up to Jerusalem (Psalms 122:4). It is the clear, decisive will of Christ—and that is our "testimony" that constitutes our obligation—that we should become members of his Church on earth.
3. The strength of the Church is in the close association of its members; it must be compact together (Psalms 122:3); its forces not scattered, dissipated, lost, but united, well-ordered for defense and for aggression. Where there is unity of spirit, aim, and action, there is strength to withstand and to achieve.
4. A wise regard for our own welfare and a true concern for others' good will make us love and serve the Church of Christ.
(1) They will prosper that love it (Psalms 122:6). Association with Christ and with his people is, if not a guarantee, a strong assurance of present and temporal well-being; sufficiency, if not wealth; all that is needful, if not all that is pleasant.
(2) As we love our brethren and our companions, we shall wish well to the Church; for as its holy influences extend and reach their hearts, and cover their lives, they also will be shielded from evil and enriched with good.
5. Christ calls for believing prayer and faithful labor. Pray for the peace, and for the prosperity, of Jerusalem (Psalms 122:6, Psalms 122:7). It is a poor thing to pray for it if we do not strive for it, if we do not contribute to it. "I will seek thy good;" and it is a very imperfect method of seeking good if we do not bring our personal contribution to it. To do that for the peace and prosperity of the Church, we must command ourselves, be gracious and genial in word as well as in spirit, take our part in earnest work, labor till the Master himself takes the weapon from our hands.
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
Jerusalem a type of the Church.
That which is said or implied here of Jerusalem is appropriate in a symbolic sense to the New Jerusalem, the Church of the living God.
I. FOR THE CHURCH IS AS A CITY.
1. Built. The result of thought and toil and care.
2. As Jerusalem, a captured city. It was once the home of all heathen abomination, but by David it was won for God. So the Church is a captured city, a trophy of God's omnipotent grace.
3. Has walls and bulwarks. Jerusalem had (Psalms 122:7). So the Church (Isaiah 26:1). The Spirit, the Word, and the work of God in human hearts, these are her defenses.
4. And palaces. There were many of these in Jerusalem. The palaces of the Church are those spiritual privileges which those who are high in the favor of God are permitted to enjoy.
II. HER PEOPLE. Those who love God's worship, who love to be asked to go to the house of the Lord, and also to ask others. These are they in whom the Spirit of God dwells, and who are the people of the city of God.
III. SHE IS CHARACTERIZED BY UNITY, ORDER, STRENGTH. (Psalms 122:3, "compact together.") For Jerusalem this was inevitably so by reason of the site on which she stood, which allowed no room for indefinite enlargement (see Exposition; and Stanley's 'Sinai and Palestine'). And so when the Church of God has attained to its perker form, the divisions and discords, the disorder and consequent weakness, which too much characterize the Church now, shall all have disappeared. And even now there are Christian Churches which, by reason of their peace and unity and order, are strong—are as a city compact together.
IV. SHE IS THE CENTER OF UNITY FOR OTHERS. (Psalms 122:4.) Jerusalem and the temple were, in Israel's best days, the rallying-point of all her tribes. The strength which this gave them excited the jealousy of Jeroboam, and caused him to set up the rival worship of Samaria. And to-day the Church is the real bond of nations, and is becoming increasingly so.
V. THIS UNITY OF THOSE WHO GATHER TO HER IS A WITNESS FOR GOD, AND RENDERS HIM PRAISE. The gathering of the tribes of the Lord (Psalms 122:4) at the great annual festivals bore testimony to all men that Israel was the covenant people of God, and that they rejoiced therein; thus they rendered praise to the Name of the Lord. And the united companies of believers bear a like testimony and render like praise.
VI. JUDGMENT JUST AND RIGHTEOUS GOES FORTH FROM HER. (Psalms 122:5.) From the judgment-thrones of the princes of the royal house went forth the decisions which the people obeyed in all matters on which judgment had been given. So today, from the real Church of God goes forth that law which hinds or looses the consciences of men. This is "the power of the keys" which Christ has given to his Church. What she says today all peoples will sooner or later accept as right and true. They may resist, but ere long they will yield. God wills it so.
VII. SHE IS TO BE DEVOTEDLY LOVED AND PRAYED FOR. (Psalms 122:6-9.) For God the Lord dwells within her (Psalms 122:9). All her excellence, authority, and strength are because of this, and only this. Do our feet stand within her gates?—S.C.
Glad to go to the house of the Lord.
The feeling expressed here is noteworthy, to say the least of it; for—
I. SUCH GLADNESS IS RARE. The proof of that is seen in the multitudes that never go at all. And of those who do, how many go as seldom as possible!—an hour and a half a week is considered ample for church-going. And of those who are more regular and frequent, can it be said that they are glad to go? Is it not the sense of duty, the necessity of upholding a religious reputation, desire to please friends, force of habit, wish to set good example, fear of a condemning conscience, or some other motive such as these? But how seldom is there much gladness about it, except when it is all over! What a contrast to the exuberant delight which is evident throughout this psalm! We often sing it, but how often do we mean it?
II. BUT RIGHT. Ought we not to be "glad when," etc.? Surely yes. For:
1. It is "Divine service." But how should we like s child of ours to grudge rendering us service, to get out of it whenever he could, and, when he could not, to render it in as half-hearted a way as possible? But this is just how we treat God in this service which he enjoins upon us.
2. And it is God's chosen place of meeting with us. Ought we to be loath to meet him, or to avoid such meeting whenever we can find any sort of excuse to do so? We do not so deal with earthly parents or benefactors.
3. And it is tire place where he blesses those who come. Mere gratitude should make us glad to "go into the house," etc.
III. AND MOST REASONABLE. What led the psalmist to thus feel and speak? He does so oftentimes.
1. The remembrance of the revelations of God he had received there. (Cf. Psalms 63:3, "To see thy power and thy glory, so as," etc.) His soul had been filled with holy rapture and joy in God.
2. The confident expectation of similar blessing. He went desiring God, which is ever the condition of blessing from God.
3. His whole spiritual life had been so quickened and strengthened there. There the chains of sin had fallen off, the burden of guilt removed, the sorrows of his life soothed, and he had been filled with the Spirit of God.
4. The worship itself was beautiful, and the throng of worshippers, and all the associations and memories of the place, enhanced the joy of worship.
5. And like reasons are in force still. The age, place, forms, are all different; but the spiritual realities which the psalmist knew, the true worshipper knows still. He too has met with God, and God with him, as the holy Word has been preached, the fervent prayer offered, the hymn of praise sung, and the holy bread and wine of the Communion partaken of. Often and often has it been the ante-chamber of heaven.
IV. AND RESULTFUL. They who are glad to join in worship, to whom it is a real delight, are a very favored people. And the results of their worship will be many.
1. For themselves. It is a witness of the reality of their faith and love and acceptance with God. It is full of inspiration; such glad worship will not evaporate in mere feeling, but will become embodied in holy word and deed and life. It gives them heaven before they get there, and it is a mighty means, through the Holy Spirit, of their sanctification.
2. For the Church: they are the conservators and the promoters of its best life.
3. For the world: they are witnesses for the love of God and the joy of his service.
4. For God: he is glorified in them.—S.C.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
Joy in God's service.
"I was glad," etc. It is well agreed among Bible writers that this cannot be a psalm of David's; it must belong to the time immediately before, or the time subsequent to, the Exile, but very different opinions are entertained concerning its immediate associations. Liddon says, "The pilgrim who composed the psalm would have belonged to one of the ten separated tribes, but he had remained, alter the general defection, true to the divinely ordered worship at Jerusalem, and this psalm may well have been composed on the occasion of his first visit. We observe in it his delight at the mere prospect of the journey; his ecstasy at finding himself, or at the very thought of finding himself, within the sacred gates; his wonder at the aspect of the city lying before him as he stood, probably, on the Mount of Olives; his sense of its past glories and of its present titles to honor—the thrones of David and of Solomon, the sacred temple. But there are presages of coming trouble in the air, and as the psalmist thinks of his brethren in the faith who live within its walls, and of the house of God, which was its prominent and its most precious feature, he offers a prayer for the peace of the holy city which has so large a place in his heart." Perowne says, "The poet is living in the country. As the time of the feast draws near, his friends and neighbors come to him, inviting him to join them in their visit to Jerusalem. It is with this picture that he begins his psalm. He tells us how his heart filled with joy as they bade him come with them to the house of Jehovah." We see the procession starting; we see beaming eyes and happy faces, and hear the music of gladness with which the pilgrims beguile the tediousness of the journey. The next verse transports us at once to the holy city itself. "Our feet have stood within thy gates;" the few words are enough. They have reached their journey's end; they are in the city which they love. Then the poet tells us, first, the impression made upon his mind by her stateliness and her beauty; and next, how there comes crowding upon his memory the scenes of her earlier grandeur, the thought of all she had been as the gathering-place of the tribes of Jehovah, the royal seat of David and of his house. Filled with these thoughts, inspired by these memories, he bursts forth into hearty, fervent prayer—the prayer of one who loved his country as he loved his God, with no common devotion—for the welfare of that city so glorious in her past history, and with which all hopes for the future were so intimately bound up." The "Four Friends" support the suggestion of Ewald, who thinks the psalm may be a blessing on a party of pilgrims, uttered by an old man returned from the Exile, himself unequal to the journey. "The departure of his friends reminds him of the alacrity with which he, too, had once obeyed a similar summons; his spirit is fired by sympathy with their enthusiasm, and he pours forth the praises of that city which from the earliest times had been recognized as the key-stone of the national unity, the civil and religious metropolis of the tribes." We fix attention on the personal pleasure in the public worship of God which the psalmist expresses. For him the sacred duty had come to be a sacred joy. And we never worship with full acceptance until we have entered into a similar experience. The attitudes of worshippers towards worship may be compared and illustrated.
I. THERE IS COMPARATIVE NEGLECT, Presence at Divine service occasionally. Attendance interrupted on the slightest occasions. No evident heart in the service. A duty got through.
II. THERE IS COMPARATIVE INDIFFERENCE. There may be fair regularity of attendance, but the "heart divided." The man there, but the heart elsewhere; so the service but a routine, instinct with no mental attention, and no pious feeling. For such Divine service is as though it had not been.
III. THERE IS COMPARATIVE INTEREST. That of the intellect and that of the aesthetic faculties, not that of the heart. Sermons may be intellectual treats, and services artistic gratifications, they are not what they should be unless the whole man is interested.
IV. THERE IS SPIRITUAL DELIGHT. But this must depend on the man's being spiritually quickened, and on having his spiritual tastes cultured. Then he finds his supreme joy in God, and therefore in acts of worship that bring near the sense of God.—R.T.
Religious attachment to places.
"One thing that would have struck a pilgrim to Jerusalem who should approach the city from its north-eastern side was its beauty. The stately buildings erected by Solomon on the south side of the temple area—Solomon's own house of judgment, the house of the Forest of Lebanon, the palaces of the kings of Zion, the palaces of the princes of Judah around it, the circuit of the walls, above all, the temple, with its courts, with its burnished roof, with its lofty gates, with its tower, surrounded as all this was on three sides by deep ravines and olive-clad hills. Possibly the pilgrim had seen Damascus, straggling out amid the. beautiful oasis which surrounds it in the plain of the Abana; or he had seen Memphis, a long string of buildings, thickly populated, extending for some twelve or fourteen miles along the west bank of the Nile. Compared with these, Jerusalem had the compact beauty of a highland fortress, its buildings as seen from below standing out against the clear Syrian sky, and conveying an impression of grace and strength that would long linger in the memory" (Liddon). The attachment of Mohammedans to the sacred city of Mecca is well known, and almost every religion has its special center, and every god his shrine. The realistic presentation of a divinity in some image involves the localization of his worship to some place. An unfamiliar instance of special interest in sacred places was given by Professor Minas Tcheraz to the "World's Parliament." Speaking of the Armenian Church, he said, "One result of the manifold persecutions has been to strengthen the attachment of the Armenians to the Church of St. Gregory the illuminator. Etchmiadzin has become a word of enchantment, graven in the soul of every Armenian. The Armenians of the mother country bow down with love before this sanctuary, which has already seen 1591 summers. And as regards those who have left their native land, if it is far from their eyes, it is not far from their hearts. A Persian monarch, Shah Abbas, had forcibly transported into his dominion fourteen thousand Armenian families. Like the captive Israelites at the remembrance of Jerusalem, these Armenians always sighed at the recollection of Etehmiadzin. In order to keep them in their new country, Shah Abbas conceived the project of destroying Etehmiadzin, of transporting the stones to Djoulfa (Ispahan), and there constructing a similar convent. He actually transported the central stone of the chief altar, the baptismal fonts, and other important pieces, but the emotion of the Armenians was so great that he was forced to give up his project of vandalism." The sentiment of Christians in relation to the Holy Sepulcher may be compared with the sentiment of the Jews in relation to the holy city and temple. And a subject which may be suggested for consideration is the value and the peril of this association of religion with places and buildings.
I. THE VALUE OF THE ASSOCIATION OF RELIGION WITH PLACES. That value lies in the help which material things can be to the spiritual life of beings who have material forms. The wholly spiritual is at present unattainable by us. We are compelled to shape the spiritual in formal words, and to present the spiritual in material images. The sacraments are based on this value of sensible helps to spiritual feeling. And so historic and beautiful church-buildings cultivate reverence; familiar services nourish the spirit of worship; the church we have attended since childhood, or in which we have felt the power of Divine things, readily quickens emotion and renews faith. The hermit who retires even from hallowing associations, does but make new ones for himself, for none of us can afford to neglect the help that sacred places and things may be to us.
II. THE PERIL THAT MAY LIE IN THE ASSOCIATION OF RELIGION WITH PLACES. It is the peril that always lies in the connection of the material with the spiritual. The material is always trying to encroach. In exaggeration we see this in the ignorant heathen who thinks of his image as a god, instead of as a help to the apprehension of God. This subtle peril lies in services, sacred buildings, sacraments, and even formal doctrines. They become absorbing in themselves, not agencies of the spiritual.—R.T.
The emblem of spiritual unity.
"Compact together." Stanley thinks this term indicates the impression made on country visitors by the conformation of the ground on which the city of Jerusalem stood. "Those deep ravines which separate Jerusalem from the rocky plateau of which it forms a part, and acted as its natural defense, must also have determined its natural boundaries. The city, wherever else it spread, could never overleap the valley of the Kedron or of Hinnom. The expression of compactness was still more appropriate to the original city, it, as seems probable, the valley of Tyropoeon formed in earlier times a fosse within a fosse, shutting in Zion and Moriah into one compact mass, not more than half a mile in breadth." This compactness is taken as a type of the higher national unity. The nation restored from the Captivity was regarded as a whole nation, the distinction between Judah and Israel being no longer recognized. The sigma of unity was the gathering from all the tribes of worshippers at the Jerusalem feasts. The crowds of worshippers pressed into the area of the temple seemed to be represented by the compactness of the city.
I. SPIRITUAL UNITY IS THE UNITY OF A COMMON LIFE. And the real sign of life is lore. Those multitudes of Jews in the temple had one common love, and so one common life. They loved Jerusalem, they loved the God who glorified Jerusalem by his presence. And so the Christian unity is the unity of a common life, whose sign is a common love to the Lord Jesus Christ. Every Christian will join in saying, "Grace be with all them who love cur Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and in truth."
II. SPIRITUAL UNITY IS THE UNITY OF A COMMON INTEREST. And that interest for Jews was the honor of Jehovah, the nation's God; it is for Christians the honor of Jehovah-Jesus, the manifested God. How a common interest blends men together is seen in societies, clubs, conferences, etc. It is the secret of the unity of Churches.
III. SPIRITUAL UNITY IS THE HARMONY OF VARIED FORMS. Different-shaped hills made up the unity of Jerusalem. Different-colored flowers make up the unity of the garden. Different moods in worshippers make up the unity of a religious service. Different mental apprehensions of truth make up the unity of the Christian doctrine. Reunion of mere samenesses is not a pleasing thing either to God or man. We do not care for things cut to an exact pattern, or pressed into one mould. In variety lies charm; and variety is not only consistent with unity, it is a condition of unity if the unity is to go deeper than mere appearances. "That vast society in whose ample bosom the souls of Christian men from generation to generation find shelter and warmth and nourishment, is the reality of which the old Syrian city was a material type. This is the Jerusalem of the Christian Creed, 'I believe in one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.' There may be controversies among Christians as to the exact extent and direction of its walls, just as there are controversies among antiquarians as to the extent and direction of the walls of its material prototype, but as to its place in the thoughts and affections of the true Christian man there should be no room for controversy. No other association of men can have such claims on the heart of a Christian as the Church of God." "The true remedy for disappointment and sorrow on the score of shortcomings and differences within the sacred city is to be found in such prayers as we offer in our holiest service to the Divine Majesty, beseeching him to inspire continually the universal Church with the spirit of truth, unity, and concord."—R.T.
The mission of the great feasts.
"The pre-Mosaic festivals were pure nature-festivals. In the changes of the seasons, and of the phenomena of heaven, nature always displays a gracious adaptation to the needs of man, giving him special opportunities and intervals when he may rest for a considerable while from his ordinary toil, and devote himself unreservedly to higher thoughts." The work of Moses in developing, and adapting to a purpose, these nature-festivals needs to be carefully studied. He gave them precisely historical and religious relations and suggestions. The "tribes of Israel" is a phrase belonging to the old times of Israel's glory. (For the three assemblies, see Exodus 23:17; Exodus 34:23; Deuteronomy 16:16.) These annual pilgrimages are spoken of as the subject of a Divine testimony or precept to Israel. Without attempting to discuss elaborately the mission of these feasts, there are four things to which attention may be directed.
I. THEY WERE DESIGNED TO PRESERVE THE NATIONAL UNITY. It should be kept in mind that Israel was not so much a tribe as a set of tribes, and there was always the danger of jealousies producing divisions. The times of the judges reveal how easily the national life could be broken up. Something in which the unity of the nation could be publicly recognized was absolutely necessary. This something must be in the nature of a command from the central authority; and it must take a regular and systematic form. Compare pilgrimages to Mecca, and even the country fairs and national holidays, which have their distinctly national uses. Show the moral influence of such blendings of people from different parts of the country; and explain that the preservation of the unity of Israel as a nation bore direct relation to the testimony it made for Jehovah among the nations. Statesmen still make it their supreme aim to secure the essential unity of the composite sections that make up the nations they govern. Their mottoes always are, "United we conquer; divided we fall." "Union is strength." A constantly repeated united national act is an important help to preserving national unity.
II. THEY WERE DESIGNED TO PRESERVE THE RELIGIOUS UNITY. Unity is the key-note of the Jewish religion. It expresses the conception of God. "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord." So unity must be the idea everywhere and in everything. The primary idea of the religion must get representation in every conceivable form. A multiplicity of conceptions of God is condemned. A variety of altars is regarded as distinctly mischievous. And even an extension of sacrifice and service beyond Jerusalem was not permissible. The whole nation was required to join in the most solemn acts of worship—the Passover, Day of Atonement, etc. Subject to all kinds of disintegrating influences in their tribal associations, the nation was recalled to what may be termed its doctrinal and ecclesiastical unity three times a year. The formal religious unity so jealously preserved for the Jews should not be thought of as requiring our formal imitation. It was the outward and pictorial illustration of that spiritual unity which is the true religious unity, the family unity of those who have one Father.
III. THEY WERE DESIGNED TO CONSERVE THE GREAT NATIONAL TRUST. Israel, or the Abrahamic race, was called out from other nations to be the depositories of those primary truths concerning God which were imperiled by man's being left to his self-development. "To them were committed the oracles of God," which include the threefold conception of God as one, spiritual, holy; and only to be served by righteousness. This was the national trust; and it must be kept ever before the minds of the people. In the most solemn way they were reminded of it at the great feasts.
IV. THEY WERE DESIGNED TO SANCTIFY THE NATIONAL HOLIDAY-TIMES. The feasts of heathen religions are times of moral license, only suggested by the drunkenness and immorality of country fairs. Israel must realize that all life and relations are consecrated to God. They must see that the true relations and pleasures of life must be sanctified, must be kept within the holy restraints of religion. Their feast-times were their great holiday-times, and in them joy must blend with self-restraint, and freedom with purity.—R.T.
The blending of the civil and religious.
This subject need not be treated controversially. All are agreed that a vital union of the civil and religious, of Church and State, is desirable, and even necessary. There may be differences of opinion as to the formal ways in which such union may be represented. If we look for its realization in the ancient Jewish nation, we must bear in mind that it was based on the theocratic notion. The unseen Jehovah was as truly the Head of the State as he was Head of the Church. Modern difficulty arises from the apparent necessity for making an ordinary human being at once the head of both State and Church. What was possible when men could look past all delegated authorities to one unseen, spiritual, and supreme Being, in whom absolute authority rested, may not be possible under modern conditions. We must fully recover the theocratic sentiment before we can safely blend the civil and religious. Jerusalem was first the civil metropolis before it became the "city of God." It became the religious capital of the nation because it was already the civil capital (Deuteronomy 17:8, Deuteronomy 17:9). Israel, as the people of the revelation, was at once a civil society and a Church—the two were not then essentially distinct, as has been and is the case in Christendom.
I. THE CIVIL AND RELIGIOUS ARE THE TWO SIDES OF MAN'S RELATIONS. There is no conceivable antagonism between them ideally, whatever there may be actually. Man is a being who is set in relations with God and with his fellow-man. And one set of relations is as right and as necessary as the other. A man's relations with God are the concern of religion. A man's relations with his fellow-man are the business of civil governments. No man can meet his natural obligations by exaggerating the importance of either one of those relations and neglecting the other. No man can be truly religious and neglect his civil duties. And this the apostles clearly taught the early Christians.
II. THE CIVIL AND THE RELIGIOUS CAN BE HARMONIOUSLY BLENDED. They always have been in the most manly and most Christian man. They have been in the representative nation of Israel. They have been in the healthiest and best periods of modern nations. They can be when the sense of God dominates both.—R.T.
Psalms 122:6, Psalms 122:7
Peace, prosperity, and prayer.
Emphatically a pilgrim-song, and by a poet who usually lived in the country. Describes the pleasure felt at invitation to join a party who were going up to one of the feasts. We have the joy and music of the journey; then the impressions on arrival, the first passionate delight of being in the holy city—a city beautifully built, well compacted, adorned with palaces, and strongly fortified. Observe the intense feeling with which Jerusalem was regarded by Jews. Beautifully situated, it was the center of national and religious interest. Relics of the national feeling remain in the desire of modern Jews to die within its walls, and in the scenes at the "Place of Wailing." Many of us can understand this. We have a Jerusalem round which our thoughts entwine—the church of our fathers and of our childhood. What associations we have with it! Three words are here connected—Peace, prosperity, and prayer.
I. PEACE VERY LARGELY DEPENDS UPON PROSPERITY. "Peace" is a word with an extensive, beautiful, and suggestive connotation. We, perhaps, cannot fully realize it by any aid of memory; we can only enter into it with the help of the familiar engravings of 'War' and 'Peace.' It is not possible to overrate the value of peace for nations, or for Churches, or for families. But it largely depends on prosperity. This may be illustrated by the inward life of the religious man. Devotion and work are allowed to flag, soul-prosperity fails, and at once doubts and fears come to spoil the soul's peace. It may be illustrated in the life of the Church. When work and zeal and spiritual life—the signs of Church prosperity—fail, then differences are sure to come, roots of bitterness spring up.
II. PROSPERITY VERY LARGELY DEPENDS UPON PRAYER, Show the natural influence of prayer. It lifts into strength the better nature. Show the supernatural influence of prayer in bringing to us spiritual power. Plead for renewal of interest in private and individual prayer; and for more frequent and earnest united prayer. Secret forces are the mighty ones. Men take little count of the atmosphere, but it holds up the clouds. Who is it, then, upholds the prosperity of the Churches? Who are the peacemakers and the peace-keepers? Look below the surface, and you will be sure to see the men and women of faith and prayer. They gain for us prosperity, which leads in peace.—R.T.
The religious value of the patriotic spirit.
"For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will wish thee prosperity." This may be the expression of a pilgrim on leaving Jerusalem to return to his home. The love of the psalmist for his country was patriotism. Perowne says, "The last four verses of the psalm breathe a spirit of the noblest, most unselfish, patriotism. Not for his own sake, but for the sake of his brethren—the people at large—and for the sake of his God, his temple, and his service, he wishes peace to Jerusalem, and calls upon others to wish her peace. With love to Israel and love to Jehovah there is naturally united a warm affection for Jerusalem, a hearty interest in her welfare.
I. THE PATRIOTIC SPIRIT IS KIN WITH THE RELIGIOUS. The moral value of both is the same, and it lies in taking a man out beyond himself, and interesting him in something other than himself. The patriotic spirit interests him in other people, the religious spirit interests him in God. They are also alike in their power to arouse and culture emotion, and to inspire self-denying acts.
II. THE PATRIOTIC SPIRIT NOURISHES THE RELIGIOUS. According to the principle laid down by St. John, "If a man love not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" It is a delusion that religion claims isolation; it is both expressed and nourished through the temporal. Religion separated from life and its common claims and obligations is but weak and deluding sentiment. Patriotic Moses is pious Moses. The separation of Christian men from political, civil, and social interests is entirely a sectarian delusion. The noblest and the healthiest Christian lives have always been, and are always sure to be, in the truest sense patriotic.
III. THE PATRIOTIC SPIRIT QUALIFIES THE RELIGIOUS. For while it is quite true that man is not all body and human relations, it is also quite true that he is not all soul and soul-relations. The religious side of man's nature can be exaggerated, and often is. The unworldly may become a snare as well as the worldly. It is helpful to qualify the heavenly by the duties of the earthly.—R.T.
Piety blessing national life.
"Yea, because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek to do thee good" (Prayer-book Version). Piety is seen in the tender, almost pathetic, interest the man has in the temple, where the worship of God is conducted; the temple which is so rich with hallowed associations. That interest fills the psalmist with admiration for the city, and concern for the well-being of those who dwell in it, and the nation of which they all form parts. There is a possible injurious selfishness of piety, which all sectarianism tends to nourish. It localizes and narrows the interest; encourages a kind of tribal jealousy. The sect should never be permitted to take our concern from the nation, whose moral and spiritual well-being should ever be the subject of our prayer and our service. The psalmist "prays for Jerusalem because of Zion. How the Church salts and savours all around it! The presence of Jehovah our God endears to us every place wherein he reveals his glory."
I. PIETY GOES WITH GOOD CITIZENSHIP, AND THAT BLESSES NATIONAL LIFE. Character is power in city and in national life, and even the higher possibilities of human character belong to the religious life. The peace-loving and peace-seeking citizens are the truly religions. Those who plead for righteousness in business relations, and charity in human relations, are the truly religious. The examples of good citizenship—not of noisy citizenship—are the truly pious. Of old the blessing of a nation was conceived to be its numbers; we know better than that now. "Righteousness exalteth a nation," and righteousness depends on righteous men, and righteous men are they who have the fear and love of God before their eyes. The heavenly citizens are the best earthly ones.
II. PIETY GOES WITH SACRIFICING MINISTRY, AND THAT BLESSES NATIONAL LIFE. It should never be lost sight of that the two key-notes of Christianity are righteousness and service. A Christian cannot be content without doing good. And so the Christian citizen is an active force for good. Wherever he is, he is doing some good, lifting some burden, helping some struggler, and his ministry therefore becomes a national benediction.—R.T.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
"I was glad when they said unto me," etc. This beautiful ode is supposed to have been by one dwelling in the country, who had been invited to join, and had joined, a company of pilgrims on their way to one of the feasts at Jerusalem; on his return, this ode embodied the sentiments that had been inspired.
I. THE JOY OF WORSHIP. The delight of anticipation. (Psalms 122:1.) The brooding gladness which dwells on some anticipated great occasion. His imagination would draw pictures of Jerusalem and the temple on the way thither, and all their sacred historical and religious associations; as we try to think of heaven and of the scenes in which our nature shall be perfected.
II. THE JOY OF RETROSPECTION. (Psalms 122:2-5.)
1. He remembers with what awe and delight he was spellbound within the gates of the city and temple. Think how a Mohammedan would feel at Mecca, or a Roman Catholic at St. Peter's in Rome, or a modern Christian in visiting Calvary, or Bethlehem, or the sepulcher where Christ lay. But the awe and delight of spiritual worship transcend all the emotions inspired by hallowed places—"in spirit and in truth."
2. He was greatly moved by the sight of the stateliness and beauty of the city, which had been rebuilt after the Exile. (Psalms 122:3.) The restoration of a national structure, or of the nation itself after forfeiting its glory, or of a human life and character after loss and shame, greatly moves all sympathetic minds. The transition from darkness into light is very great.
3. The tribes gathered on such occasions, came up in obedience to the Divine law, to worship God with a national thanksgiving. (Psalms 122:4.) The author of the psalm was a grateful participant in the worship. The law of grateful worship is the law of all reasonable spiritual beings, the very necessity of their nature, and therefore full of delights.
4. The "thrones of judgment" for the civil law were under the shadow of the throne of mercy, or "the mercy-seat." The supreme tribunal was to be in the same place as the sanctuary (Deuteronomy 17:8, Deuteronomy 17:9). Law and mercy, both in God and in the best man, are always closely related.
5. The highest result of true worship is to produce the spirit of peace. (Psalms 122:6-9.) Between God and man, among nations and Churches, and between man and man.—S.