Title: The Simple Pleasure of Public Worship
Text: Psalm 122
Introduction: Simple Pleasures. Most times, it seems, that what we enjoy most in life – are the simple pleasures.
I don’t know, maybe it is just because I’m getting older, but that is what I look forward to. I know everyone likes something different. Lisa and I are headed out of town for a couple of weeks of summer vacation. We’re going to do what we love. I’ve been praying the weather is nice and we can have a fire at night. I don’t know what it is about a fire in the fireplace or fire pit, but I could just sit and stare at it for hours. When you’re in the mountains it seems there are more stars – and they’re so much brighter.
The Simple Pleasures.
If the pilgrims are making their way up toward the Temple for worship and ‘singing’ these Psalms of Ascent, then, Psalm 120 is sung while they are still far off. Psalm 121 is sung as they see the hills of Jerusalem in the distance – maybe they don’t see the city, but they know they’re getting closer. If so, then Psalm 122 would be sung as they stepped inside the gates of the city. Just to be inside the gates! Man, they’re so close! Simple Pleasures.
What joy there would be when they arrived! The journey would have been long, but it at this time, would be considered worth it! Maybe they’ll be like Jesus who turned his face toward Jerusalem in Luke 9.51; There are like 6 references to their journey toward Jerusalem. You read through Luke and you follow Christ and where he goes, but if you’re not looking specifically at the references, you’ll miss the pilgrimage. These guys are probably thinking their journey is for a feast or festival – It is the Passover – but, I believe Jesus knew exactly what he was doing. He was going to be the Passover lamb to be sacrificed for the sins of the world.
Maybe the people have been on a long journey and now they’ve arrived. I wonder what went through their hearts and minds. I wonder what their senses picked up that was familiar and brought excitement. The sound of animal hooves on the stone road or the noises they make as they coo and crow. The sights and sounds of the big city that they’ve not heard since last there? I wonder… I’ll bet it was the simple pleasures.
Let’s pause for a moment and bring this home: What goes through your heart and mind when it comes time to go to church? What do you think? What do you feel? Is there excitement? Is there a sense of anticipation?
Look back with me now to Psalm 122; rd v 1-2; someone said, “it’s time!” and now they’re standing within the gates.
Transition: note with me the first simple pleasure David records…
I. There is a joy that arises from within when the Psalmist hears the invitation to go to the house of the Lord. (1-2)
exp.: I was glad! The House of Yahweh; which, by the way, forms bookends to this Psalm. You’ll see the House of Yahweh again in v9; I think this joy rises up within because the psalmist loves to worship Yahweh.
If this Psalm is of David, then the context is of David already standing within the walls of Jerusalem rejoicing at the call of someone who had previously said to him, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” For the Psalms of Ascent, this psalm was added to this collection because it works perfectly with the pilgrims who are making their way to Jerusalem. There is an excitement that arises when one considers coming to the house of God to worship him.
ill.: I liken it to Youth camp. You guys just got back. Some of you testified to how wonderful it was. If Duffey were to announce this morning that He is putting together a group of teens who will be going back to Camp, I wonder if any would be like David here and say: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go back to Youth Camp!” At Youth camp, you probably worshipped and fellowship and had experiences that are unlike being in the real world. You’ve withdrawn from the world and you’ve enjoyed the mountaintop experiences of getting away from the world and getting closer to God.
app.: Look at his experiences of worship: v4, to give thanks; v6-8, for prayer (peace, security, prosperity, unity, community);
t.s.: there is joy – and if you don’t have it, I can’t make you experience it. It is something that is born from within you. There is joy that arises from within when the believer hears the invitation to go to the house of the Lord because the believer loves to worship God. But there is a 2nd Simple Pleasure…
II. There is a gratitude that arises from within when the Psalmist thinks about the city where the Worship of God is central and the rule of David’s throne is set. (3-5)
exp.: Jerusalem, the psalmist loves Jerusalem! Why does he love this city?
- From the context of the king, David has been there all week at a festival. He now thinks about leaving and he can’t wait to return.
- For the pilgrim from a faraway land, he’s thinking and longing about standing there again. Whether that is someone who is coming back from exile, or if it is someone who lives in the country but has to travel to Jerusalem for a festival and a time of worship, that person is longing for the city – And, that person is so excited about getting there once again, because it isn’t just any city.
Ill.: Consider that those who lived out in the country of Judea had to travel to Jerusalem and how hard that would have been. Do you remember Hannah and her husband, Elkannah? Their journey was once a year – year by year. Every year they would travel from his city to Shiloh, where the ark was at that time. Consider when a family packed up and went, who took care of the business; fed and cared for the animals, etc.?
ill.#2: There is work to be done. Lisa and I are going out of town. It is absurd, the amount of work. Lisa had to make three bulletins this week. I had to line up someone to mow our yard. There was a lot of prep work. And, when we return, we’ll be playing catch up for a few days.
These people had it harder than we do! They would be gone for longer than we will be gone.
There was this hard work, but there was also this ‘emotional’ experience – an emotional attachment. But, it is more than an emotional attachment!
- There is stability here in Jerusalem.
- The gates (v2) are strong and sturdy; rd v 3,
- the city itself is built in such a way that it is described as; bound firmly together; And I think this is more than just stone and mortar, walls and towers (v7).
- It is also a community.
- You see this in v 4; there are 13 tribes of Israel and they’ve all come to this place for this celebration, this festival.
- This is where the king lives and rules. The Davidic lineage. Remember the Christmas story? Jesus was of the house of David.
- In the last section, you see two words that are very similar, but still different: Secure and Security. We’ll say more about these two words in a minute, but for now, note the feel of what being inside the city gates would bring to the pilgrim.
ill.: When I was in Harlingen as a young minister, my pastor required the staff to make hospital visits each week. In a church that size, there was always someone in the hospital. Every Thursday I would drive to Valley Baptist Hospital and visit members. To be quite honest, I didn’t know 99% of the people there who were members of my own congregation. But I got to meet some neat people. One such lady was in her late 90’s. She had been a part of FBC Harlingen most of her life. She played the piano and taught in the children’s Sunday School for decades. Her memories were much like what David is sharing here: they brought her joy and a deep sense of gratitude. She would refer to the church as ‘choych’. And she would say it with a sweetness, such a fondness that I think most folks just don’t get.
app.: I wonder if the younger generation is missing out on something truly wonderful in having an emotional attachment to the church? We’re so mobile. With 400 churches in Smith County, it is so easy to just move your membership.
Now, an emotional attachment isn’t everything, but it is something wonderful. There is an emotional attachment to the place and to the people. And I think it only comes through a loyalty of commitment to community and unity – to the people of God.
Let me ask you: What happens to you when someone mentions the church? Is there a feeling, an emotion that rises up within you of longing and desire? Is there joy and gratitude that arises within when you speak of the church?
Derek Kidner in his two-volume set on Psalms says: What Jerusalem was to the Israelite, the church is to the Christian.
Martin Luther: Our Jerusalem is the church and our temple is Christ.
app.: I think the text is clear that their reasoning for coming was to (v.4) give thanks. Unity and Community were byproducts of that mandate. They did not come to Jerusalem on a yearly basis to work on their unity.
t.s.: there is joy when he hears of and gratitude when he thinks of Jerusalem and the Temple. Then, there is a switch on the part of the Psalmist. His longing turns to an imperative. He commands the people to pray – and that is my 3rd Simple pleasure…
III. There is a concern that arises within the Psalmist for the welfare of this divine institution as he considers the fragile state of the human condition. (6-9)
exp.: it feels good to care about something; to take ownership! In v6 he begins with a command: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. There is a question about whether this should still be going on. Maybe you’ve seen this bumper sticker? The Psalmist tells you what to pray – I mean he gives you the words: “May they be secure who love you! 7Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!” These two words secure and security have the connotation of May they ‘securely prosper and secure prosperity’. Why pray for these things? His answer is in 8-9: For the sake of my family and friends, for the sake of the Lord’s house.
Do you follow the news of Jerusalem? UPI headlines yesterday: Muslims Worshipers, Israeli Police Clash at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Jerusalem continues to search for peace, but peace eludes them. Why? Jesus told them 2,000 ago: 41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19.41-44 – We learned in our Christian History class this summer that there were Christians who knew this and fled to the hills and were saved when Jerusalem fell in 70AD.
1,000 years after David commanded the Israelites to pray for peace, Peace came and stood in their midst. And they missed him! You see in v 41 that it broke his heart as he wept over the ‘city of peace’.
ill.: Do you remember when David was chilling out in his Palace and looked out across the way and saw the tent where the Ark of the Covenant was? His heart broke. He thought it wrong that he, the King of Israel should dwell in a palace and the presence of God in the Ark of the Covenant should dwell in a tent. He set his heart and his mind to build a Temple for God. You probably remember the story. God chose his son, Solomon to build the Temple. So David prepared everything ahead time for his son. He got all the lumber and materials in order before he died so that his son could build that Temple.
It was at that time that the Israelites were given a picture of the Messiah, the Prince of Peace:
- He is the king who was descended from David
- He is the great high priest who would intercede for us.
app.: And only when you come to the place where you surrender your life to the King and ask for him to intercede for you as your priest can you truly find peace. Peace can only come through Christ. That’s why he wept. Consider Luke 13: 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! He wanted to gather them! He wanted that peace for them. But they had other plans.
Now, you might be wondering really Fred, you got that from here? Do you see v 3? That phrase bound firmly together? That is the same wording in Exodus for the prescription of how the Tent, which possessed the Ark, was built: bound firmly together. Exodus 26.11; So you have this imagery of God and the command of the tribes of Israel to ascend (v.4 – go up) to give thanks to the name of the Lord. Verse 5 declares the rule of the King who administers justice and judgment.
t.s.: And for me, that’s point #4 this morning and the conclusion of the matter:
Conclusion – The Reality of it all: they missed it (Luke 19.41; 13.34)
exp.: But you don’t have to miss it. That really is the message of the Gospel: there is no peace without Jesus.
They came to their festivals. They sang their psalms. They longed for peace, but when peace was in their midst, when peace visited them, they missed him. Don’t miss your opportunity to find peace.
Application: What are we called to do in light of this message? Three questions for you to consider:
- When was the last time you said: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” The Psalmist loves Worship, he loves the place of worship, and he loves the people who worship God with him. There is a zeal and a passion for the Worship of God – for the Place of Worship, the People of Worship. Do you get excited about that, too?
ill.: One of the things I miss about my girls is that they used to get so excited about Sundays and going to church. There was an excitement about picking out their dresses; about picking out the necklace that would go with that dress; about the shoes that would match; about getting their hair done. I can remember driving by the church and my girls, when they were little would point it out with enthusiasm, there’s the church – like I was missing it somehow. When was the last time you got excited about church? When was the last time you said: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
- When you do come to the church, what are your expectations? What do you hope to accomplish? Do you look for those who aren’t here and make comments about them? Is this a social hour? Or, Do you come to this place for the sole purpose of giving thanks to the name of the Lord?
- Do you long for, deeply desire God’s favor to be visited upon the people of God? Do you pray for her peace? Do you pray for her prosperity? Do your prayers bubble up from the passion and longing you have for her? Pray for the Church.
- Matthew Henry: The peace and welfare of the gospel church, particularly in our land, is to be earnestly desired and prayed for by every one of us.
- Spurgeon said: For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. It is to the advantage of all Israel that there should be peace in Jerusalem. It is for the good of every Christian, yea, of every man, that there should be peace and prosperity in the church. Here our humanity and our children, our neighbors, and our fellow countrymen are likely to be blest.
Here at Calvary, we spend time in fellowship after our worship services. If you’re a guest, we’d love to visit with you, too. If you’ve never accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, we want to take advantage of this time and share Christ with you. Maybe you have a commitment you’d like to share with us: surrendering to missions, joining our fellowship and becoming a member – whatever it might be – we’re going to have a moment of silence to reflect upon the Greatness of God and consider what He is calling us to do. After that time of silence, join us in our time of fellowship – come and talk with us.