Psalm 122 - An Invitation To Worship The LORD
Our text for this morning is Psalm 122,
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” 2 Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!
3 Jerusalem—built as a city that is bound firmly together, 4 to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord. 5 There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David.
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! “May they be secure who love you! 7 Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!” 8 For my brothers and companions' sake I will say, “Peace be within you!” 9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.
This morning I wanted to preach from a passage that would help us to celebrate the fact that we are gathering together for the first time in sixteen months.
As you look at this psalm notice the superscription which is part of the original text of scripture. It says, ‘A Song of Ascents. By David.’
This psalm then is one of fourteen psalms (120-134) that have the superscription, ‘A Song of Ascents.’. Within these fourteen psalms: four are given authorship to David, Solomon has written one, and the rest do not list the author by name.
These Psalms were written to be sung by the people as they made the long journey to Jerusalem to attend the required feast days that were required by the Law. No doubt this journey was not always an easy journey to make; yet, the journey was made much more pleasant and exciting when it was motivated by the love for God which was begun and continued by the grace of God.
For example, this week little Genny came to church with her mother to help clean the church. They brought donuts into the office to eat but Genny would rather clean the church with her mom than enjoy delightful donuts anywhere else. Similarly, this journey to worship was not to be seen as a burden that had to be done to finally find God; rather, this psalm reminds us that God enables the journey by abundant gifts of His grace.
During COVID19 I found myself reading these songs of ascent and I came to really appreciate them. I have chosen Psalm 122 to celebrate this particular occasion today as we gather for the first time in one room. I bet we are all able to appreciate this Psalm more now because of the journey we have experienced over the last year and a half. The road that we have traveled has not always been easy has it. And yet, we have seen God’s faithfulness through it all.
Psalm 122 is a passage that reveals that David had a genuine and sincere faith. He was not simply a religious man, a pious individual, a devout disciple of Judaism. No, he loved the LORD, thanked God consistently for the grace and mercy he was given, and he rejoiced when he could go and worship the LORD at His Tabernacle. In this psalm David wants to cultivate these same things in the people of God as they come and worship the LORD throughout all generations.
Let’s begin by looking at Psalm 122:1-2 which says,
“I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” 2 Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!”
As we have previously discussed, this is a Psalm of David. As we all know, David was not a perfect person or a perfect king. He was a sinner who fell short of the glory of God. He broke God’s commandments and for a season he was slow in repenting for his sexual sin and the murder of Uriah. The Law of God declared him guilty and demanded His death.
David, like all of us, can only come to the LORD because of the grace of God. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The Law of God has condemned us all and we are silenced before the Holy One of Israel.
Yet, by faith in Christ Jesus’ redeeming work we have been saved from our sins, from the condemnation of those sins, fellowship with the LORD has been granted, and eternal life has been given.
Because of the grace of God, when someone says to us, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”, we do not need to shrink back in shame and condemnation. We do not need to hesitate in fear. We do not need to run and hide. No, rather we can come boldly to the throne of grace knowing that we have been cleansed and purified by the life, death and resurrection of Christ (Hebrews 4:16).
As a result of this grace we love the LORD (Luke 7:47), we are grateful and thankful for this grace and display it through obedience and through verbal testimony (Psalm 66:5), and when the invitation comes we are filled with Joy (Acts 3:1-9)!
Why should a believer shrink away from an invitation to worship? Christ could have shrunk back from the cross at any point. He could have easily let the cup of wrath pass by Him without drinking it; yet He partook of it and drank it completely. He was forsaken by the Father upon the cross so that we could be reconciled to Him.
That being the case, what is left to keep you from saying with David, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!'”? What sin, what transgression, or what iniquity can keep you from coming to Christ? Some men who are self-righteous falsely believe they are worthy by their own merits to come close to the LORD, but it is the undeserving who humble themselves before the LORD who actually find justification (Luke 18:9-14).
All need encouragement to come to the LORD at times. We sometimes need an invitation to go to the house of the LORD in worship. So let this psalm be a reminder to invite people to come and worship together. Let each person in every family decide today that they will excitedly invite the family to go and worship each week.
One application that I have seen in this psalm was to be better at ending my conversations with people throughout the week by saying something like, “I look forward to worshiping with you this Sunday with the rest of our congregation.”
We can always be more diligent to invite others to worship. Yet, I do see this happen a lot among the members of this congregation. Yet, there are times when we become convinced that no one is doing this.
Yet, determine today that when the invitation comes you will have a glad heart that accepts the invitation. If the invitation comes will you have an excuse as to why you cannot accept the invitation. (They are tired, they had a busy week, I don’t feel well, there is too many people, no one cares if I am there or not, its not really worth the trouble, church is just a man made institution and doesn’t matter, they are all hypocrites, the music is too loud, the sermons are too long)
Maybe you have not received an invitation to church by someone but does that really mean that the LORD has not invited you in some other way?
Maybe the LORD is sending this invitation through His living and abiding Word. Such an invitation is always being held out to each of us. We actually see two invitations within Psalm 122 to go and worship the LORD. The first we have already seen in Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the House of the LORD!’”. The second one is easy to overlook but it is found in Psalm 122:3-4 and it carries far more weight and authority, “Jerusalem – built as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD.”
This decree that is spoken of here is regarding the occasions that the people were to come together each year. For example, Deuteronomy 16:16, “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed.” Or in Exodus 23:14 which states, “Three times in the year you shall keep a feast to me.”
The Jewish people were given this invitation in other places in Scripture. Like in Zechariah 8:21, “The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord and to seek the Lord of hosts; I myself am going.’”
Or consider Isaiah 2:3 or Micah 4:2 which both say,
“...and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
There are also texts that specifically apply to New Testament believers. Places like Hebrews 10:24-25 which says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Or we can be encouraged by the priority that this was for others in the New Testament. For example, Jesus displayed this in His earthly ministry. We read in Luke 4:16, “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.” We also see this as a priority in the life of the apostle Paul. In Acts 17:2 we read, “And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures…”.
When we are invited by scripture, through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, by a friend, or a family member let us respond with gladness and joy and accept the invitation. Let us determine not to shrug it off with some excuse (Hebrews 3:15).
Let’s remember Hebrews 12:1-3, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”
So far, in Psalm 122:1-2 we have considered the invitation to go to the house of the LORD. Let us now consider briefly the need to pray for our leaders to be like David. Again we read, “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!”
David speaks of a decree that was given to the Jews were to attend these feasts. We would be well served to see that David speaks of three graces at work that that motivated these worshipers. These graces made obedience to this decree a blessing and not a burden.
First, David’s heart was filled with gladness. He says, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’” (1) Although this is first in our text, it appears to be the outward expression of the grace of God that dwelt deep within David’s heart. In other words, it is not enough to tell someone, “You should be happy to go to church!” Instead, we should encourage them in the things that will stir up these graces. Gladness is the outward expression of a love for God and the gratitude for His grace.
Consider the grace that is mentioned in Psalm 122:6, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! ‘May they be secure who love you! Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!” Here David speaks of a worshipers love for the LORD. David was not pessimistic about the congregation of God. David loved the LORD and he longed to be with the congregation who also loved the LORD. If all of Israel only gathered to fulfill a religious duty apart from a love for God then they could not be assured of security and peace.
In Psalm 122:3-4 we see another expression of grace. We read, “Jerusalem – built as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD.” David looked forward to going to the house of the LORD so that he could thank the LORD for His grace, His mercy, His kindness, the fact that He has revealed His Word to His people and so much more.
There are many who say that this can be done in the quietness of one’s own heart apart from the congregation; but David wanted to go with all the people to give thanks to the LORD at the Tabernacle. We are to gather together as the church and give thanks to the LORD in our fellowship, in our worship, in the preaching of the Word and in the celebration of the sacraments of baptism and communion.
Notice also that we see in these two verses that David surrounded himself with the right people. These individuals would encourage him by saying, “Let us go to the House of the LORD!”. They would not only encourage him to go to the house of the LORD, but they were individuals who would encourage him to go with them to worship. He surrounded himself with people who would go to worship the LORD and would do so joyfully because they also had experienced the grace of God. They loved the LORD and had much to be thankful for.
The sin of the Northern Kingdom after the Israel divided was that those Northern kings never said to each other, “Let us go to the House of the LORD!” Instead they built other places of worship. And they proved that once this was done it is almost impossible for that type of idolatry to be pulled down and corrected. Let us learn from their folly and once again say to each other, “Let us go the house of the LORD!”
In our psalm David begins to pray for Jerusalem. We too need to pray for our political and religious leaders. There are many leaders who speak religiously but their hearts are far from the LORD. There hearts have not experienced the love, thankfulness and joy that we see in this psalm. There are also many leaders who never consider the LORD and the decree that He is to be worshiped. They would benefit by considering the words of Dr. Michael Horton who has said, “Christ is the King of His Church, He reigns in order to save and He saves in order to reign. You cannot separate the offices of Christ.” (Psalm 122:3-5)
Secondly, we need to pray that our leaders would be surrounded by men and women who will encourage them to be faithful to the LORD by saying, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”
Our leaders really do need to be prayed for and encouraged in this way. I was reminded of this recently as I was talking with a pastor of a fairly large church. From my perspective, this church seemed to have no problems. It appeared to be like what David says in Psalm 122:3-5 about Jerusalem, “Jerusalem – built as a city that is bound firmly together...There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David.”
As a result of this perspective, I rarely prayed as David did in Psalm 122:6-9. I was not praying for their peace and security. I did not pray for them to grow in the grace of loving God and each other.
I was with this pastor and I had heard that he might be getting out of the ministry. I approached him and asked if he would miss being in the ministry with all of the success that he seems to have had. He looked at me a moment and said with sadness in his face and tears in his eyes, “After the last few years I am ready for it. Lately it has been so tough. I thought that I would be able to make it through my ministry without experiencing the pain that other ministers have gone through. But in the last few years I have had to personally endure great pain and disappointment.”
As he opened up to me about some of these things my heart broke for him and I was reminded about how all of us need encouragement to go and worship the LORD. We all to often believe that our leaders don’t need to be encouraged. However, they also need to hear the words, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”
If someone would do this for that pastor then perhaps that tired and discouraged leader could say for the first time in a long time, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’” Maybe if someone would do this for the pastor that I just spoke of he would not leave the ministry. Instead he would say with David, “Our feet have been standing within your gates, but we will now go to the House of the LORD together.” That is the invitation that Psalm 122 invites us to encounter this morning.
We have seen in Psalm 122:
That it was because of the grace, mercy, and kindness of God that David was glad when he was asked to go to the house of the LORD. This same grace motivates us to go gladly to the house of the LORD in every circumstance and situation in our life.
We have also seen that God draws people to worship in many ways. He draws people through personal invitation, through the drawing of the Holy Spirit and by the Scriptures. Through these invitations God grants great grace.
We have seen that at the heart of our worship is a love for the LORD because of the grace given to us. This grace then is expressed in journeying to gather together joyfully and giving thanks to the LORD.
We have also seen the need for us to consistently pray for our leaders and those around them to reflect what we have seen in Psalm 122. We need leaders who will surround themselves with people who love the LORD, who will invite them to worship God, and be glad when the invitation comes.
Finally, let me leave you with this thought. Those who are led to worship with the congregation by the grace of God will also be able to carry the burden of the people of God in prayer.
When David arrives in Jerusalem he sees more clearly the things that would not be seen otherwise.
He sees the strength and unity of the city, he appreciates the godly judgment and authority that is set up there.
He prays for the security and peace within the walls and within the towers.
When he is surrounded by the people of God, his brothers and companions, he desires peace, wholeness and well-being.
When he is there to worship his passion and vision is strengthened to seek the good of the LORD.
Similarly, it is those who by the grace of God consistently gather together with believers who are in the best position to not only see the strengths, weaknesses, successes and dangers in the church who are given more grace to carry those burdens to God in prayer and used by Him to strengthen and encourage the church. I am not speaking of those who can’t for very legitimate reasons come to worship but to those who simply have decided not too and who do not experience joy and gladness when the invitation comes. Yet, whoever will make the journey will receive more grace to strengthen the church.
They will see things more clearly than when they were gone.
They will see the strength of the church and appreciate the Word of God that is taught there.
They will be more prone to pray out of the burden for the church to experience peace and security.
They will desire more strongly that the church will experience peace, well-being and wholeness.
And they will have a renewed passion and vision for the church to the glory of God.
Spurgeon said, “Those who receive Jesus by faith into their hearts, receive also His church, His ministers, His Word, and His cause. As the old proverb has said, ‘Love me, love my dog’, so they love all who belong to Jesus for their Lord’s sake.”