Pastor Edward Brouwer 1-21-18 Psalm 122 “How glad are you?”
Are You Glad?
Introduction—have you ever wanted to start a project but “your get up and go”, just “got up and went!?” A decade ago our family was living in a beautiful home built in 1940, the manse of the Black Mountain Presbyterian Church. Built of quarried rock it was a lovely sight. But like many old homes the bathroom needed renovations. I got several estimates, all of which were beyond what we felt we could afford so I decided, somewhat impetuously, to tackle the renovation myself. I asked a friend at church that Sunday if I could borrow some of his tools (like a sledgehammer). I budgeted a week for the reno and tore into it on Monday morning. I gutted that space. Near the end of day one I remember looking at the mess, the rot, the huge cast iron bathtub that I had no idea how to get out of the space and regretfully thought to myself “I’m in over my head!” Literally just at that moment, my friend from church stuck his head in the door and asked “how’s it going?” I conveyed to him my feeling of being overwhelmed and within a minute Jeff was saying things like “well we’re going to need to do this first and then we are going to need to take on that…” Jeff came alongside of me, and throughout that week, every evening he would check in on me, offer a hand and advice and within 2 weeks I had a brand new bathroom. We need vision, we need focus, we need community and we need encouragement in our lives and that is what the psalmist is talking about today.
Read Psalm 122
The psalmist begins by saying “I was glad when they said let’s go up to the house of God”. Do you ever wake up on a Sunday morning and think to yourself how much you would rather sleep in, hangout at home, or go and do something rather than go to church? Join the club! But then you get up and you go soon you are glad that you went? The opening words of the psalm speak from the perspective of a worshipper who is now in the gates of the City and he says in retrospect “I was glad when they said”. Past tense. Other’s encouraged the worshipper to go up, he did and he was glad he did! Jerusalem is the place of God’s choosing for the people of Israel to gather. The Temple is the place of encounter with God. The psalmist makes a curious comment about this place: the City “that is bound firmly together”. The city was a defined space with walls and inside the walls the dwellings of stone were “bound firmly together”. This is not just an architectural observation, it is a spiritual observation. God himself chose the city and built its foundation as a spiritual place. He instructed Solomon to build a temple with specific dimensions because it was a replica of a spiritual city. The City was a shadow (in real stone) of a grander spiritual reality. Jesus reveals this when he said in John 2:19 “Tear this temple down and in 3 days I will rebuild it!” When Jesus talked about and walked amongst those grand buildings on the temple mount he was clear on two points: I came to replace this shadow. I am the Temple. I am the place of encounter with God! I will be torn down but rise again! And these edifices will be torn down within this generation. 1 Peter 2:4-5 speaks of Jesus Christ as the stone that the builders rejected that has become the cornerstone.
The Peter writes something metaphorical—Jesus is the Living Stone rejected by Israel, who is now the cornerstone—and that we ourselves are being built up and neatly fitted together into a spiritual temple. In Christ we find encounter with God and we are individually being brought into this house and fitted together. But the individual stones are part of a community. God is raising up a people, a priesthood, and holy nation. And that is why we must reject the notion of so many people today who reject church because “it’s organized religion, or full of hypocrites, or a drag”. Our culture prides itself in rugged individualism. This notion that we can do it ourselves, that permeates so much of our lives. God’s command to come together in the psalm “as was decreed to Israel to give thanks” is further underscored in Hebrews where the author writes in Hebrews 10:25 “don’t neglect to meet together as is the habit of some but gather and encourage one another and all the more as you see the day of Christ approaching”. When we come together we unite in the presence of Christ to worship him and to encourage one another in the faith. In community we also become less vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy who is trying to get us away from each other and pick us off. I watched a nature program of the Muskox of Ellesmere Island in Canada. The wolves that hunt in packs there are cold, hungry and ferocious. The strongest and biggest Musk ox circle up and face the wolves and in so doing provide protection for the young and vulnerable. And so too in our gathering we strengthen and encourage one another in our faith, while raising up the new in the faith and resisting the enemy.
What are we to do with the call of the psalmist to “pray for the peace and security of Jerusalem?” I personally pray often for Jerusalem. I pray for the salvation of the Jewish people and indeed all the inhabitants of that city. Praying for and seeking the peace and security of that city is in some ways praying for ourselves. Why? Because Jerusalem is a bell weather for humanity. Things will happen in that place which will affect us. The Bible says that Jerusalem will fit tightly into the end of world history. So let us pray and seek its peace and prosperity. But what is really at play here in our call to pray? I believe that there is a continuous calling (past present and future) for believers to understand what Jerusalem stands for and to pray for and actively seek the conditions that will fulfill the promise of what Jerusalem stands for.
Jerusalem stands for all the things that God has done for humanity to draw them to Himself, i.e. to restore relationship. Since Jesus is the sum and total of true encounter with God, then we should pray that God will fulfill the promise of Christ when he said “If I be lifted up I will draw everyone unto me”. So we should pray for and seek the conditions where the gospel is told to everyone. Do you pray everyday for opportunities to share the hope of the gospel that is within you? That is what praying for the peace and security of Jerusalem can look like for you personally. For He (Jesus) is our peace! Who has broken down every wall! Ephesians 2:14
But when we pray for the peace and security of Jerusalem as believers today we are not to look at a piece of hotly contested real estate in the Middle East. We are actually praying for the fulfillment of the promise of the New Jerusalem and all that it entails. We are longing for and praying for the day when every tear shall be wiped away. We are praying for heaven on earth! We are praying the prayer of John “even so Lord Jesus come quickly!” We are looking forward to the day when Jesus makes all things new! We are praying for the fulfillment of the vision that John describes at the very end of the Bible in Rev 21:1-5
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”