Saturday, March 20, 2010

Psalm 122

I rejoiced with those who said to me, "Let us go to the house of the Lord."
Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together.
That is where the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, to praise the name of the Lord, according to the statute given to Israel.
There the thrones for judgment stand, the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels."
For the sake of my brothers and friends I will say, "Peace be with you".
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God I will seek your prosperity.

Just as Psalm 120 seemed to flow seamlessly into Psalm 121 - a distress call becoming a turning to the Lord - Psalm 122 continues the thought of Psalm 121. Knowing these were sang as a unit on a journey to Jerusalem, I can really see the connections that our artificial chapter divisions hide.

Psalm 121:7-8 contains a promise that God will watch over our lives, and over our coming and going. Psalm 122 opens with a rejoicing in going to the house of the Lord. This speaks to me of what He wants us to do with the freedom we have in the Lord. He gives us security. As believers we know that He is FOR us (Romans 8:31). We know that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:4). So - what to do with all that security and freedom? Psalm 121:7-122:1 gives us a portrait of the Psalmists answer to that question: WORSHIP. Free in the knowledge that God would watch over all his comings and goings, he chooses to go to the temple and rejoices at the journey.

Wow. What an amazing thought - that our joy, our freedom, could be so wrapped up in Him! That is upside-down thinking, but completely Biblical. Our joy and worshipping Him are not at odds. In fact, only in Him will we find true joy. John Piper puts it this way: "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." He is about creating willing worshippers - people whose heart wants to worship Him - not reluctant religious robots.

Worship is far more than the service we have on Sunday mornings - though we should gather as believers and experience the unity of corporate worship. Worship, according to the whole counsel of the word of God, is a life focused on loving God and loving others, on glorifying Him through our thoughts, words, and deeds. Worship is what we do at church and at home and at work and at the Wendy's drive-through. Worship occurs when we gather and sing and hear the Word; it also occurs when we turn off a movie that dishonors God and blasphemes His name; when we embrace the outcasts of our society; when our passion for God exceeds our passion for food or money or drugs or sex or work. All these things aren't bad. Some are quite good, under the control of the Spirit. But they are to be experienced secondarily to a passion for Him.

How can we have that kind of passion for Him? I think verse 2 contains a hint: "Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem." How easy it was to worship when standing in front of the temple ... when the Holy of Holies was only feet away ... when the Shekinah glory fell. In my life, the times of strongest passion for God have occurred when I recognized the reality of His presence ... when I knew that through Christ I could get closer to the Holy of Holies than these travellers ever dreamed of - I can go right into His presence (Hebrews 10:19-22). I can confidently enter His sanctuary - and He has made ME His temple! That is almost unfathomable. No, it is more than that. It IS unfathomable, because my past is anything but glorious. I'm not just talking about my pre-Jesus past. I'm talking about last week - yesterday - this morning! Yet because His Spirit indwells me, because His blood covers me, I am His temple. And so are you. Are you feeling the passion with me yet?

When things get routine or ritualistic, when I struggle to have that passion, inevitably I realize that I have stepped into my own flesh and quit believing Him for the dailyness of His presence. That doesn't mean that we don't go through what St. John of the Cross called "the dark night of the soul." We all at times don't have the feelings of passion. But we can still have it by faith, by trusting that He is with us and for us and in us and using us and hearing us, and we can rejoice at what He is doing or will do ... even if we don't "feel" it at the moment.

So the Psalmist then moves into a focus on Jerusalem. This passage is rightly used to challenge us to pray for Jerusalem, and we should. This Scripture even tells us HOW to pray. I love that we have permission to pray for Jerusalem to have peace. If there is any place in the world that needs it, that town does. And yet I seem something more in this passage. I see a missions Scripture (surprise!).

Acts 1:8 tells us that the disciples became Jesus' witnesses in "Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth." I'd like to use verses 3-9 to challenge you to prayer for YOUR Jerusalem. I want you to think about this along two tracks:
1) Your spiritual Jerusalem (your place of worship, a church or small group)
2) Your ministry Jerusalem (the town in which you live and work and do life)

The answers are going to be different for each of us, but I'd like us all to follow this pattern for both your spiritual and ministry Jerusalems based on vv. 3-9:

1. Describe how your Jerusalems are designed (not necessarily literally) (v. 3) - for example, for my hometown I can say that God has placed me in "Fayetteville, an eclectic city filled with people from all over the world." For my church I would say, "Calvary Chapel, a church devoted to sound doctrine and the teaching of the Word of God." Your approach will be unique to your situation.
2. Next, describe what happens in your Jerusalems (vv. 4-5). This can be related to your description, or unrelated if you have something else on your heart. For Fayetteville, I have said, "You have brought the nations to our door. They have a chance here to hear of Your name, to know You through our love." For my church I would say, "This is where people come to hear truth and find a place that tries to find a Biblical balance to many of the non-essential issues that divide Christians."
3. Write a prayer for your Jerusalems. (vv. 6-7)
4. Determine what you will do out of love for God and others (vv. 8-9).

I hope this exercise helps you as it has me. It's hard to know how to turn passages like this into practical application for today, but I believe that the pattern it sets is one that can help us whatever the current situation of our church and ministry "Jerusalems".

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