A Foretaste of Glory Divine (Phil Johnson)

Psalm 122   |   Sunday, October 12, 2014   |   Code: 2014-10-12pm-PJ

Psalm 122 is our text tonight. It's the third in a series of

15 psalms that are linked together with a common

inscription. They come in sequence in the canon, starting

with Psalm 120, and concluding with Psalm 134. It's clear

that these psalms go together by inspired design, because all

15 of them are labeled "A Song of Ascents," or "A Song of

degrees." And these are the only fifteen psalms in the entire

psalter that carry that label. It's clear that they go together.

Most commentators believe this was a collection of short

choruses that were sung by pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem

for the annual feasts. Both the style and the content of these

psalms seem to support that theory. These are songs for

pilgrims to sing along the way. Like the choruses we used to

sing on the bus on the way to camp, they are all short and

easy to memorize.

There are nine verses in our psalm (Psalm 122). Four of

the fifteen pilgrim psalms expressly identify David as the

author, and this is one of them.

Tonight I want to start with just a simple reading of the

text. Psalm 122:

A Song of Ascents. Of David. I was glad when they said to

me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD!"

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2 Our feet have been standing within your gates, O


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


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.

First of all, let's look a little more closely at that

superscription: "A Song of Ascents." The word "ascents," we

believe, refers to the upward journey every pilgrim had to

make when traveling to Jerusalem from anywhere else in

Israel. "Songs for an uphill journey."

Of these fifteen pilgrim psalms, only three (120, 127, 130)

contain no reference to Zion, or the city of Jerusalem. This

psalm zeroes in on Jerusalem in a particular way.

I mentioned that only four of the pilgrim psalms are

attributed to David, and this is the first of those. In fact, the

psalms of ascent appear to be ordered in two groups of

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seven. Each group of seven contains two of David's psalms.

And then dead in the center is Psalm 127, which is attributed

to Solomon.

Now, the fact that this psalm was written by David is

intriguing and unexpected. If all you had were the words of

this psalm without a superscription, you would never think to

attribute it to David, and I'll show you why in a few minutes.

First, let me say that the opening sentence of this psalm is

the first Bible verse I ever memorized. I learned it when I

was about 6 or 7 years old in a Methodist Church in Wichita,

Kansas during summer Vacation Bible School. (Here's an

intersting point of trivia: Tom Patton went to that same

church in Wichita. He was a few years behind me. But his

dad was the Sunday School teacher in my parent's class. If

his mom taught Vacation Bible School, I would have been

one of the brats in her class, but I don't remember for sure.)

That was 55 years ago. I may be the only person in this room

who remembers anything that we learned in Vacation Bible

School 55 years ago. But I do remember a few things clearly.

We made little model church buildings out of wooden

popsicle sticks, and we memorized this verseCand the theme

of VBS that year was Church. We were taught the

importance of weekly church attendance, and we were

lectured on the importance of remembering the Sabbath Day

to keep it holy. (That was back in the day when there were

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still a few Methodists who cared about keeping anything

holy. Methodists like that are harder to find nowadays.) We

were also told that the church building is God's house and

told we need to respect it as a sacred place. (Today I might

quibble with that, but those ladies meant well.)

Anyway we memorized this verse: "I was glad when they

said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD."

And the Methodist VBS ladies said that's how David felt

about going to church, and we should be glad, tooCbecause

Sunday School is a glad place, with glad stories to hear, and

really cool flannel-board illustrations, and pictures to color,

and little churches made of popsicle sticksCall to make us

glad. And to this day when I hear this psalm, I think about

vacation Bible School and how glad I was when we got out.

But I didn't really understand the gospel, and I didn't

come to full faith in Christ, until I was 17 years old, about a

month before I graduated from high school.

That was in 1971. It was four years after the Six-Day

War, which took place in June of 1967. So four years before

I was saved, the modern nation of Israel had gained control

of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza strip, the West Bank, and

(most important) the city of Jerusalem. The Middle East was

in the news daily at the time, and evangelical Christians were

obsessed with trying to interpret Bible prophecy in light of

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current events. Hal Lindsey's book The Late, Great Planet

Earth was a multi-million-copy best-seller.

That's what was happening when I became a Christian.

And I sought and found (not far from my home) a fellowship

of believers who loved the Word of God and affirmed the

gospel, and I joined them and was baptized. (The interesting

thing is that my new church's building was a very simple,

plain structure, and it kind of reminded me of that little

popsicle-stick model I made as a kindergartner.) But this was

a Bible-believing congregation, a teaching church. No fun 'n'

games, and no elaborate liturgies, but their Sunday services

consisted of a few songs and a sermon.

As a teenager, I didn't really fit the demographic of that

church, but I was hungry to learn and glad to go, and I loved

the fellowship of other believers. And the opening words of

this psalm took on new meaning for me. "I was glad when

they said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the LORD!'"

The pastor and the people of that church helped get me

established and learning as a new Christian, so I will forever

be grateful for the encouragement I got there, and I hesitate

to say anything critical about the ministry of that church. But

one thing about the teaching I heard there was not as helpful

to me as it might have been: the sermon every single week

was a message on Bible prophecy and current events. That

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was literally the only thing that pastor ever preached to us


And this psalm was often quotedCespecially verse 6:

"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love

thee." My teachers in those days were all old-school Scofield

dispensationalists who made such a hard-line dichotomy

between Israel and the church that they ended up, in effect,

acting as if large portions of Scripture simply don't pertain to

Christians at all. (They seemed to simply write off much of

the Old Testament, because they said it pertained to Israel,

not the church.)

They pointed out that in this psalm David wasn't talking

about going to church. This psalm is about Jerusalem.

Furthermore, they said, the message of this psalm is

prophetic. "The house of the LORD" in verse 1 is a reference to

the Millennial Temple. They said the key to this psalm is

verse 6, which encourages us to hope and pray for the

triumph of modern Israel over their enemies. So the message

of this psalm is political and prophetic, they saidCrelevant to

us only because it sheds light on events in the middle east

and tells us how to respond to the political situation there.

Now, I know that some of you guys who are seminary

students will instantly see the problems with that

interpretation. In some ways, that's even worse than the VBS

ladies' interpretation.

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Both interpretations are problematic for similar reasons:

David isn't writing about the church; he didn't even know

about the church, because according to Ephesians 3:1-11 and

Colossians 1:26, the church was a mystery (a truth that was

kept concealed) until the time of the apostles. Furthermore,

this isn't about the modern state of Israel and the political

problems in that city today, because David knew nothing

about that, eitherCand there's no hint in the psalm itself that

this is talking about the Millennial Kingdom.

So what is the alternative? I think some of our

seminarians might look at this psalm and say: You've got to

be careful not to go beyond the surface of a literal

interpretation. All that ultimately matters is the human

author's intent and experience, so let's keep our

understanding and application of the text within those limits.

And since David was writing about the city of Jerusalem in

his own time, they might conclude that this psalm looks no

deeper and no further ahead than that. It is a celebration of

worship the way it was done in Old Testament Israel before

the kingdom divided, and therefore it doesn't really pertain to

the church or the kingdom.

In my judgment that interpretation may be the worst of

the three, because it evacuates any meaningful application

from this psalm for you and me. Since we know that "All

Scripture is . . . profitable for teaching, for reproof, for

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correction, and for training in righteousness . . . [to equip us]

for every good work"Cwe have to read this with the

understanding that it means to teach us some truth or

principle that we can apply in the same way David did. If we

treat this psalm as nothing more than a piece of historical

trivia, I don't think we're doing justice to the Word of God.

In other words, I think all three of those interpretations

miss the real point of this psalm. (The VBS ladies who said

that this is all about the importance of church attendance; the

old-school dispensationalists who said no, it's really talking

about the Millennial kingdom; and the strict literalists who

say it's only about David's personal experience as he went to

the Tabernacle to worship. All of them miss the boat.)

Perhaps the way to say it is that all three are partly right

but mostly wrong. This psalm is not a celebration of earthly

Jerusalem, or the church, or the Millennial Kingdom per se.

It is a celebration of worshipCpublic worship, not one's own

private meditations. David is writing about the gladness

associated with worship when the people of God gather

together to worship in unison. So the psalm teaches

principles that apply to Old Testament Israel, the New

Testament church, and the millennial kingdom alike.

Specifically, this is a psalm about the joys of worship, and

its message is that the very essence of heaven is brought to

earth when the people of God gather to worship Him with

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their collective praise. The historical features of the text

aren't nearly as significant as the eternal principles it


But let's not skip over the historical context of this psalm

to get to those principles. Here's a brief introduction to the

history of this psalm:

I mentioned that it's a little surprising to read in the

superscription that this is a psalm of David. Here's why:

Three times in the psalm Jerusalem is mentioned by name

(vv. 2, 3, and 6). In David's time, Jerusalem was still in its

infancy as the heart and capital city of the nation, and it is

usually referred to as "the city of David." The location is first

mentioned all the way back in Genesis. Mt. Moriah (which is

the place where the Temple was located) is where Abraham

took Isaac to sacrifice himCand God intervened by

supplying a substitute sacrifice. The town that existed at that

location in those days was called "Salem," and that's where

Abraham met Melchizedek in Genesis 14.

The first use of the name Jerusalem is found in the book

of Joshua, where you find that name used about ten times,

and most of them mention "Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem."

He was a Jebusite, and in Joshua 15:8, Jerusalem is referred

to as "the southern shoulder of the Jebusite." Then in Joshua

18:28, the city is called "Jebus." Immediately the writer

makes clear that he is talking about Jerusalem. Judges 19:10

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uses the same expression: "Jebus (that is, Jerusalem)." So this

town was home to the Jebusites, and they called it "Jebus."

Even though this city was part of the land allocated for the

tribe of Benjamin, the Jebusites continued to live there and

call the city Jebus right up through the time of David. Judges

1:21 says, "The people of Benjamin did not drive out the

Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem, so the Jebusites have lived

with the people of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day."

David finally conquered Jebus almost immediately after

he was made king. He is finally installed as king in Saul's

place in 1 Chronicles 11:3, and then two verses later he

conquers Jebus.

It could not have been much of a battle. The whole thing

is described in about three verses in 1 Chronicles 11:4-7:

"David and all Israel went to Jerusalem, that is, Jebus, where the

Jebusites were, the inhabitants of the land. The inhabitants of

Jebus said to David, 'You will not come in here.' Nevertheless,

David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David." So

David took possession of that region, and the Jebusites more

or less disappear from biblical history after that. I gather

most of them became proselytes and intermarried with the


In any case, Jerusalem still did not take on its full

significance until David had the ark of the covenant brought

there, and that became the permanent resting-place of the


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Remember the disastrous history of the ark. At the end of

Joshua's conquests, the Tabernacle was permanently erected

at Shiloh, and the ark was kept there. But then on that final,

disastrous day of Eli's life, someone got the bright idea of

taking the ark into battle against the PhilistinesCas if the ark

were some kind of good-luck charm. The Philistines won

that battle and captured the ark. But they couldn't handle the

plagues the ark brought them, so they sent it back to Israel,

and it rested at Kiriath-jearim for all of king Saul's reign. In

all it was there for a century or more, and then David decided

to bring it to Mt. Zion. Zion, of course, is one of the chief

hills in Jerusalem. And sometimes in Scripture, the city is

referred to by that name: Zion.

But in those days it was generally known as "the city of

David." The name Jerusalem wasn't widely used until after

Solomon built the city into one of the true wonders of the


But remember: throughout David's lifetime, there was no

permanent Temple. Second Samuel 7:1-2: "Now when the

king lived in his house and the LORD had given him rest from all

his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet,

'See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in

a tent.'" He wanted to build a permanent Temple, but the

Lord said no, and the ark remained in that tent on Mount

Moriah until Solomon built the first Jewish Temple after

David died.

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So that's why it's surprising to learn that this psalm was

written by David. When he refers to "the house of the LORD"

in the first and last verses of this psalm, he is not talking

about an ornate Temple, but a makeshift tabernacle. And

when he refers to Jerusalem (v. 2) "built as a city that is bound

firmly together," he is envisioning the city not as it was then

but as it would be eventually. He is looking past the present

realities and describing a more perfect ideal.

And that is consistent with how Scripture speaks of

Jerusalem. The true ideal is not a dusty city on a rocky ridge.

In fact, the ultimate biblical ideal represented by the city of

Jerusalem is never fully described until Revelation 21:2,

which speaks of "the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down

out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her


That, of course, speaks of an eternal realityC"the city that

has foundations, whose designer and builder is God." That's

what Hebrews 11:10 says Abraham looked forward to by

faith. And I'm convinced David (together with you and me

and every redeemed person of all ages) likewise has looked

forward by faith toward that great, glorified, heavenly city. It

represents the central district and in essence the capital city

of heaven. "The holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of

heaven." It will stand at the very nexus of the new heaven

and new earth. It is the place where we will spend eternity.

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That's what the earthly city of Jerusalem symbolized to

David. It's what the church represents for you and me. And

the millennial kingdom will be the finest earthly symbol of

that same eternal reality. Heaven.

Do you get that? What Jerusalem was to David, the

church is to you and me. It is the dwelling-place of God. It is

a living, breathing, holy convocation of God's people, who

gather to worship Him in unison. It is the very same

fellowship of saints that will one day culminate in a heavenly

convocation. It is a place of safety from the evils of a

decadent world. It is a place where God's authority is

acknowledged and submitted to with gladness. It is an oasis

of divine grace in a desert of corruption. It is quite literally a

foretaste of glory divine.

That's what the church is to you and me.

JerusalemCespecially the Temple worshipChad a similar

meaning to David, and to every other Old Testament saint

who came after David.

So the divinely-ordained point of this psalm is not so

much about the geographical location (Jerusalem). It's about

the worship that drew these pilgrims to Jerusalem in the first

place. And that's what makes this psalm significant to us.

Here's what I believe this psalm is about: David is saying

that public worship with the people of God is a living,

breathing sample of the best delights of heaven and the New

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Jerusalem. When we gather for worship, we ought to sense

the glory and gladness of heaven. And if you don't, you need

to reorient your heart to worship in spirit and in truth.

Here, from our psalm, are five blessings of heaven's glory

that we can enjoy on earth whenever we worship in company

with God's people:


Verse 1: "I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go to the

house of the LORD!'" What is David going to the house of the

Lord for? Verse 4: "to give thanks to the name of the LORD."

See: the point he is making is about the worship, not the

location. "The house of the LORD" in Jerusalem at that point

was just a tent. That's where the ark was kept. But we know,

of course, that God is omnipresent. He doesn't physically

"dwell" in any one place. The ark was merely a holy symbol

of the Lord's presence. So the tabernacle was in that sense

the special habitation of God's glory.

In a similar way, the churchCnot the building, but the

assembly of saintsCis where God dwells today, in the Person

of the Holy Spirit. First Corinthians 3:16: "Do you not know

that you [collectively; the pronoun is plural: you the church]

are God's temple and . . . God's Spirit dwells in you." In

Matthew 18:20 Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered in

my name, there am I among them." (I realize the context has to

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do with church discipline and that's the primary application,

but the principle applies to worship as well.)

Psalm 22:3 says God "inhabit[s] the praises of" His people.

Or as it is translated in most modern versions, He is "holy,

enthroned on the praises of Israel."

So when we come together to worship as a body, we are

coming to the place where God is enthroned. And if (like

David) we are men and women after God's own heart, the

very thought of offering praise to God should make us glad.

Praise will be our primary activity and chief source of

delight in heaven. If you think the happiness of heaven is

grounded in an endless game of golf or some kind of angelic

amusement-park atmosphere, you need to mature in your

understanding of heaven. The greatest joy in heavenCthe

centerpiece of it allCwill be the unspeakable glory of God.

God's full glory will be on permanent display, and you will

be able to see it with an unhindered view: examine it, and

bask in it, and reflect it in all its perfection. You will be able

to stand in the resplendence of that glory without any sense

of guilt or shame. You will have a pure love for God that

exceeds any love you have ever known. And the natural,

inevitable, joyous response of your heart will be pure

worship. And everything else that you think brings you

delight now will suddenly seem very dull and

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commonplaceCbecause (after all) worship is the thing you

were created for in the first place.

What is the chief end of man? Man's chief end is to glorify

God, and to enjoy him for ever. And trust me: when you are

finally able to do that with a glorified mind and a pure heart,

completely free from the guilt and corruption of sin, that will

be the purest delight you have ever known.

And for the believer, we have an opportunity to taste that

delightCa kind of preview of heavenCevery time we gather

for public worship. The difference between David and most

of us is that he had trained his heart to relish that

privilegeCand to him, worship was a pure delight. That's

why David was truly "a man after [God's] own heart."

The psalms are filled with expressions of David's praise.

All you have to do to see what a high value David placed on

praise is read the psalms. He wrote psalms from the time he

was an adolescent herding sheep on the hillsides until he was

infirm and incapacitated by old age. Praise was his highest

honor and his favorite pastime.

We simply don't cultivate that perspective, and that is one

of the reasons the testimony of the church today is so weak.

When believers gather these days, too often it is not really to

worship God but merely to entertain one another. That's why

you have a proliferation of churches nowadays that play

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secular rock songs for the offertory and feature self-help

lectures instead of the preaching of God's Word.

Christians talk a lot about worship. There are more

"worship leaders" and "praise bands" in the evangelical

community today than there are men who are qualified to

preach God's Word with authority.

We tend to separate preaching from worship as if those

are two distinct activities. But true worship is the response of

an obedient heart to the truth of God and the holiness of His

nature. Worship is not that vibration that goes down your

spine when the guitar player does a really cool riff on the

praise tune, or that tingly feeling you get when a large

roomful of people are waving their arms and swaying to


Worship is praise offered to God for who He is. It starts

with a recognition of His holiness and a glimpse of His

glory. It is a response to truthCnot an ethereal feeling of

some irrational emotion. It is a deeper, more lasting gladness

than any artificially-stimulated thrill that depends on the

crescendo of music or the mindless excitement of some

charismatic mass hysteria. Those things are not really

authentic worship at all.

Now, that's not to diminish the unique power of praise

when it is offered in unison in a holy convocation of God's

people. In fact, I think that's one of the key points David is

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making here: There is a particular gladness that comes when

we participate in true praise together. This is why we gather

as a congregation every week. It's not just to be taught. If that

were the point, we could listen to recorded lectures

independently of one another. But our combined voices of

praise when we assemble for worship is the very thing that

makes our public worship so heavenly. There is nothing on

earth that more resembles heaven than the gathering of

faithful people to unite their hearts and voices in unison for


And this is the point number two in our outlineCanother

heavenly blessing that David celebrates in this psalm:

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Notice the plural pronouns in the first two verses: "I was

glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD."

Our feet are standing Within your gates, O Jerusalem." One of

the distinctive joys David is writing about here is the

corporate nature of this worship experience. He had spent

much of his youth alone on the hills tending sheep and

meditating on the truth of God in solitudeCand that's

certainly a good and valid exercise. But it cannot take the

place of fellowship and public worship with the multitude of

God's people. That is why the feasts were so important in

Israel. Verse 4: "The tribes go up, even the tribes of the

LORD--An ordinance for Israel--To give thanks to the name of the


This is a fitting psalm to be included in this collection. I

don't think these fifteen psalms of ascent are necessarily

organized in the chronological order they are to be sung,

because this one seems to pertain to that moment just after

the pilgrims have entered the city gates, but before they

arrive at the Temple. "Our feet have been standing within your

gates, O Jerusalem!" Let's go to the house of the Lord. You

may be very near the end of a long, tiring journey, but for

any believer, the prospect of going to the Lord's house with

God's people will bring gladness. Again, it's the closest thing

to heaven on earth.

Remember these are psalms sung by pilgrims on their way to

Jerusalem for the feast

Suited for that time after

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Heaven will be full of peopleC"a great multitude that no

one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples

and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb,

clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and

crying out with a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God who

sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'" These are people who

will share our passion for God, our confidence in His Word,

our delight in His glory, and our love for one another.

By the way, love for one another is one of the distinctive

characteristics of a true believer: "We know that we have

passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren."

That's 1 John 3:14. The apostle goes on to say, "everyone who

loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love

does not know God, for God is love."

The people of God are bound together by the love of God

in a mysterious way that unbelievers can never understand or

appreciate. And when someone lacks that love for the

brethren, Scripture says that's a sign they aren't truly

Christians at all. I've thought of that a lot in recent years,

because there has been a proliferation of blogs and books by

people who call themselves "Christ-followers," but they can't

seem to stand the church. (And frankly, they don't seem to

follow Christ in any meaningful sense.) Other Christians

embarrass them: the church isn't cool enough, or

forward-thinking enough, or sophisticated enough. They

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constantly belittle believers whose faith is simple and


Now, on the one hand, it's true that Bible-believing

Christians can be a fairly unimpressive lot. Look around, and

"consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise

according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not

many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the

world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to

shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the

world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that

are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of


But "We know that we have passed from death unto life,

because we love the brethren." We enjoy the fellowship of the

saints. Worshiping God together is a delight, even though

none of us is glorified yet.

I'm always wary of people who profess to be Christians

but don't go to church. Spurgeon called them "religious

gypsies." Churchless people. David, who before reaching

adulthood probably spent more time alone with God in quiet

meditation than most of us do in a lifetime, nevertheless

loved public worship and fellowship with the people of God.

It was a foretaste of heaven for him.

Here's a third feature of heaven we enjoy whenever we

gather with the people of God on earth:

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Verse 3: "Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact

together." The city of David was well-ordered and secure. It

had a perpetual spring that supplied sufficient water; the

lower city (where most of the people lived) was joined with

the upper city (where the tabernacle was situated). It was

encircled with hills that made it fairly easy to defend. Psalm

125, which we'll study in a few weeks, is all about this

feature of Jerusalem, and verse 2 of that psalm makes the

appropriate comparison: "As the mountains surround

Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people." The safety of

the city was a fitting picture of the even greater spiritual

security enjoyed by God's people.

That, again, is one of the benefits of our corporate

worship. There's a sanctifying influence in the gathering of

believers that you will not benefit from if you think watching

a church service on TV or streaming church on the Internet is

a valid substitute for real live participation in the public

worship of God's people. Hebrews 10:24-25: "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."

One of the great hedges of protection the Lord places

around us is the encouragement and accountability we get

from meeting regularly with God's people. Immediately after

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Hebrews 10 gives us that admonition ("Not [to forsake] the

assembling of ourselves together"), the very next verse is a

threat of judgment against those who sin willfully. Verse 26:

"For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the

knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for

sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that

will consume the adversaries." It seems to me that whatever

deliberate sin the writer has in mind there at least in part

involves the sin of forsaking the assembly. And that has been

the pattern I have observed in the church. Those who

abandon the fellowship usually abandon the faith.

And so the fellowship and encouragement and worship

together with other saints offer spiritual protection. Those are

means by which the Lord keeps us firm in the faith, and

that's why the corporate assembly is an emblem of God's

perfect protection. By those means He keeps us spiritually

secure both on the way to glory, and throughout an eternity

of blessedness there.

The praise of God, the people of God, the protection of

God. Here's a fourth hallmark of heaven that we can enjoy in

the gathering of saints to worship:

Psalm 122 24


Verse 5 (speaking, still of the city of Jerusalem): "There

thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of

David." When David brought the Ark to Jerusalem, for the

first time in Israel's history, the king's throne and the

priesthood were brought together permanently in one city.

Civil and spiritual authority were now centrally located side

by side. Kings and priests both dwelt in the same city.

Both the kingly and the priestly authority ruled as

delegates of God's own power. It is the precise power that is

embodied in the person of Christ, who is our Prophet, Priest,

and King. And believers under the New Covenant are all his

delegates in a royal priesthood. Listen to how Revelation

1:5-6 describes the benefits of our salvation. It says Christ

"loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and

has made us kings and priests to His God and Father."

So Christ, through His sacrifice, not only redeemed us

from the guilt and condemnation of our sinCwashing us

clean from our sins. But he also has made us joint heirs with

Him and co-regents with Him in heavenCpartakers of

immense spiritual blessings, including His authority as both

King and Priest. He has delegated power to us to function as

kings and priests. And therefore when our corporate worship

functions as God designed itCwhen we proclaim the truth of

God; sing His praises together; and minister to one another

A Foretaste of Glory Divine 25

through service and encouragementCGod's power is

channeled through. us and our praise is thereby magnified

accordingly. In other words, the very power of heaven flows

through the church and energizes the praise we offer God.

Furthermore, our worship itself is innately an expression

of our submission to God's power. To worship God as God is

to acknowledge Him as the source of all true authority, Lord

of the church, Judge of all the earth, and Sovereign over all


God's praise, His people, His protection, His power.

Here's the fifth and final feature of heaven that is expressed

in the collective worship of the saintsCand this is the key

word in this whole psalm: peace.


Starting in verse 6, three successive verses employ the

word peace. And it's married to the word security, which we

have already talked about. Peace and protection. Verse 6:

"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! "May they be secure who love

you!" Verse 7: "Peace be within your walls and security within

your towers!" Verse 8: "For my brothers and companions' sake

I will say, "Peace be within you!"

Now, obviously David had a keen interest in the peace

and safety of geo-political Jerusalem. Still, I think he is

looking beyond the issue of earthly, political, and civic

Psalm 122 26

peace. He is talking about a much deeper and more spiritual

brand of peace. And you see that in the final verse, where he

actually echoes the words of the first verse: "For the sake of

the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good."

That repeated phrase "the house of the LORD" becomes like

a set of parentheses that brackets the whole psalm and put it

in a clear context. That's a poetic device known as inclusio,

and it is a way of underlining the big-picture theme of the

psalm. It's one of the key signals that helps keep the focus of

this psalm as clear and precise as possible. This is not merely

about the city of Jerusalem per se, but the focus is "the house

of the LORD" in particular. This is one last reminder of the

central theme of the psalm. It's not a song about the

pilgrimage that brought us here. It's not about the destination,

either. Again: the governing theme of this psalm is the

collective worship of God's people. And therefore its truth

applies to us in the church age, and it will apply to those in

the kingdom ageCand it will apply to the saints in eternity

just as much and in the very same sense as David applied it

to himself. It's a celebration of worship as the means by

which we partake of heaven's finest delights.

And if you put them all together: The gladness and glory

we enjoy when we participate in God's praise; the joy that

goes hand in hand with our love for God's people; the

security we derive from God's protection; and the

A Foretaste of Glory Divine 27

blessedness of yielding to God's powerCall those things add

up to deep, authentic, lasting peace. And that is practically

the sum of all heavenly blessings.

Look once more at verse 6: "Pray for the peace of

Jerusalem." I've said already that I don't think that's a warrant

to pray for political peace in the modern state of Israel.

David is not expressing a wish for the leaders of the Knesset

to triumph over the Palestinians.

How should we pray for the peace of Jerusalem? What is

the significance of this prayer for us? Bear in mind that for

believers in David's generation, Jerusalem was the

designated place for sacrifices and offerings, the annual

feast-day gatherings, and the public worship of God's people

when the mass of believing Israelites came together in a holy

convocation. David was praying that God would safeguard

the city and the people so that their worship could take place


But the earthly city of Jerusalem doesn't have that

significance today. In fact, the worship that occurs there

today is all false worship. As Jesus told the woman at the

well: "Believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this

mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. . . . But

the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers

will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is

seeking such people to worship him."

Psalm 122 28

So you can look at it like this: This was an Old-Covenant

equivalent of the same prayer Jesus taught His disciples to

pray: "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in

heaven." God's will is never more accomplished in heavenly

fashion than in the corporate gatherings of His people when

they offer Him true worship. And wherever that occurs, it is

fitting to pray for peace and the blessings of heaven.

You want one more proof that this is the proper

understanding of this psalm? Listen to how the writer of

Hebrews characterizes our worship in the New Covenant era.

Hebrews 12:22-24: "You have come to Mount Zion and to the

city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to

innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of

the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge

of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to

Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled

blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel." Our

worship on earth is a foretaste of heaven divine.

Let me close with this: If worshiping with the people of

God is a drudgery or a burden to youCif you have no earthly

idea why these are the very best features of heavenCthen

your heart is cold and need to examine yourself to see

whether you are in the faith. If you are a believer who once

delighted in worshiping with the company of the faithful, but

now you find it wearisome or tedious, you have left your

first love and you need to "Remember . . . from where you

A Foretaste of Glory Divine 29

have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first." Christ

died to atone for cold-hearted people who don't love God as

they should. He renews the hearts of the faithful, and if your

heart has been renewed in that fashion, you should know the

gladness David was writing about in this psalm.

All the best blessings of heaven are there when we gather

to offer worship: the praise of God, the people of God, the

protection of God, the power of God, and above all the peace

of God. May that peace be yours throughout this week.