Psalm 122 Sermon Week 3 Psalms of Ascent

This sermon is part 3 of the series, The Pslams of Ascent as we work through Psalms 120-134 using Rev. Eugene Peterson’ book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction as our guide.  As with all of the sermons here on my site, I post this and all of them for the glory of God with complete permission for you to use them as the Lord leads you.  You may deliver any of them as they are, alter them, or pull parts from them. No citing of sources is necessary.  Praying for blessings upon your calling.


Psalm 122 attributed to David, so we must see if from two perspectives. On the one hand, the NIBC says it was originally written after the pilgrimage has been accomplished, and he was on the eve of his departing for home.

He sums up his impression of the city as the scene and symbol of Israel’s past, the bond that holds the scattered tribes of Israel together, and concludes by invoking rich blessings on the city and calling on others to pray with him for the peace of Jerusalem and the prosperity of all who love the city. And this word for prayer is not the word they use for worship. In Peterson’s A Long Obedience, he focuses from the beginning on the worship – that is why the writer was glad when they said to me let us go into the house of the Lord. But I want to point out to you that this word for pray is the only place in the Bible it is translated as pray – nearly every other time it is translated as ask, request, inquire. It is not the word they would use for prayer in temple worship or we would use in sanctuary worship, but more along the lines of asking for a second helping of mashed potatoes, or for directions when you are lost. I have a note in my Bible that it is the “asking of the Lord in between Sundays”.

It begins with him recalling the joy at the invitation from others to go with them to the house of the Lord. We have covered the dangers of the trip, therefore it was a rare trip to make for those in distant parts, and when they did go, they would go in groups. And now, after the trip is nearly complete – the reflection occurs.

You have, no doubt been somewhere special, and after having been there a number of days, are at the night before you head home. “We head home tomorrow, but was this not a special time?” I remember my second mission trip to New Orleans, and I remember being in a circle on the last day working in a home that had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina – I witnessed nearly every person’s tears hitting the floor as we sang Amazing Grace, heads bowed in the living room.

I vividly remember at least one of them being very anxious heading into it, leaving two young children at home, and not knowing what the week held.

Yet, the day before we left to go home, every person in that circle would have gladly written, “I was glad when they said to me, Let us go on this mission trip to New Orleans.”

So firstly, Psalm 122 was written as the journey there was complete and the time there had been spent.

Secondly, we recognize it as the psalm of a pilgrim en route to, ascending to Jerusalem – by one of the company of Jews to journey to Jerusalem in a soul stirring experience. I have written in my Bible “A picture of where they will be even as they begin”. In other words, even as it had been written from the perspective of the end, The pilgrims who later would sing it would do so on the way, with the end in mind. They would likely be asking God for blessing on the city on their way to the city, believing their faith would become sight.

In my blog, I usually take something and translate it into a teachable Biblical lesson, and that is the direction we will take now – drawing some lessons for our good as followers of Jesus Christ in the 21st century. So the rest of out time, I plan to transition from what the Psalm meant to them to what we can take from it for ourselves, as God has given it to us for more than just learning history. And view it in light of the New Testament.

Eugene Peterson immediately takes us to a fork in the road. 40 years ago he talked about the difference between those who make excuses to skip church and those who find reasons to go to church. Peterson argues that people who make excuses to miss church miss the mindset of the beginning of Psalm 122, I was glad when they said to me Let us go into the house of the Lord.

Last week Earl Wonders, who is receiving cancer treatment introduced me to family visiting from Virginia. I told him I was so thrilled to have them with us, that it drives me crazy when anyone tells me they missed church because they had family in. That may seem like a good excuse to them, but it must seem like a pretty pathetic excuse to God. I told Earl it was great the family came with him.

For the pilgrims singing this psalm on their journey, Their worship made the heart glad.

the gladness spoken of in this psalm is a gladness – or joy that is found only in the presence of God.

It matters not if you are on the way to Jerusalem, on mission in Haiti, sitting in a sanctuary, sitting under a tree or picnic shelter, joining us online, or sitting here in your vehicle. We gather together seeking joy, peace, comfort, encouragement and strength.

I read a book about how the church still has this “Temple mentality”. At the time the psalm was written and sung, it was all about going to the temple. The journey to God was the journey to the temple. God was found at the Temple. Oh, sure, on rare occasions He would show up in a burning bush, or in the desert as He did with Jacob as he wrestled with God, but those were unusual. The usual was to find Him at the temple.

When Jesus comes on the scene, does what He does, and goes back to heaven with God the Father, and that changes. Jesus said He was going to send a helper – and we know that helper as the Holy Spirit of God.

What happens? You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. When Jesus came to earth, the Creator entered His own creation. God enters the story of mankind. Then, Jesus accomplishes the way of salvation and the Holy Spirit comes and God not only enters creation. He enters the Created!!!! He enters the redeemed – the saved.

You are now the temple – Ephesians – you are no longer strangers and aliens – you are members of the household of God – Jesus is the chief cornerstone – being built as the new temple.

So as opposed to the Old Testament mentality of going to the Temple to meet up with God, God comes to us, enters the redeemed and now He calls us the temple.

1 Peter 2 4-5 – As you come to him a living stone – you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house.

Illustration I tell people in Haiti – If God is at the top of the mountain, people try to climb the mountain to reach God. It’s impossible – never happens. But God came down the mountain to reach us. And better than just reaching us, but comes to live within us.

Here is where it gets sketchy. And then we gather as we do – as the church, at the place we call the church, but we know when we really think about it that a building is not the church. That is where the church gathers. Now, realistically your car holds the church. The picnic shelter is the church. That big maple tree is the church.

And the church gathers, and ideally we bring others to the gathering of the church. We bring people who are not yet the church – not yet redeemed and saved. But we are so tenderhearted, sentimental, and eager to see them join us that we get them on any grounds at all, if they just say the right words for us, we will go along with the idea that because they come here and join the church in our gathering that they are the church. That God resides within them. But maybe some of these people have never been converted. Do we still want them to join us? Absolutely. But they should not be running committees. And they and we should be honest enough to call them seekers. Would it not be easier if we who were Christians would say so, and we who were seekers would say so?

John 2:18-25 follows Jesus cleansing the temple.

So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.

The Discerner of Hearts

Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit (same word as translated believed above) Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.

JD Walt – We think of discipleship as the process by which we grow in our faith and trust in Jesus. What if discipleship is actually the process by which we grow to become the kind of people Jesus can trust?

So you receive Jesus as your Savior and become the temple of God, your body is a temple – Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price… 1 Cor. 6:19

JD Walt wrote: The temple is the dwelling place of God and in the absence of God dwelling there we will fill it with everything under the sun.

******Jesus – turn my Father’s house into a den of thieves VERSES – Pentecost

The church membership book and the Lamb’s book of life are not always identical. ~ Samuel Chadwick in The Way to Pentecost

I was glad when they said to me Let us go into the house of the Lord.

I was glad when He said to me, let me make IN YOU a house for the Lord.

The Grand Finale

All week I struggled to hear from the Lord about Psalm 122 – I had the history of it covered, but what about the relevance to us – the Bible is more than a history lesson. And yes, I know it is not about us, but is there a doubt that God speaks to us through it? That’s what I was waiting for and yesterday He revealed it to me – Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem WHY? (because it contains the temple):

Pray for the peace of that which holds the temple.

May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
Prosperity within your palaces.”
For the sake of my brethren and companions,
I will now say, “Peace be within you.”
Because of the house of the Lord our God
I will seek your good.

If you are not yet a child of God, it is nothing to be embarrassed about. Admit it freely. There are no more beautiful words to say than “I finally get it”, Maybe you did not even realize until today that you had not been a follower, but have been a seeker. A seeker is good – because the scripture says in Jeremiah 29:13 – You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Matthew 7:8 – the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

One of three reasons God gave me this word and led you to hear it.

One – God wants you to become a seeker. Oh ultimately He wants you to be saved, but if you are not ready for that, become a seeker. You’ve never heard me or likely any other preacher ever say become a seeker today, but I am saying it. If you are not ready to be saved, make a decision to start searching for God today.

Two – Maybe God brought you to hear this message today to honor your searching by saving you today and allowing you to finally become a temple of the Holy Spirit.

Or Three – God brought you here to understand how precious you are in that everywhere you go, He is. And in light of the New Testament, Psalm 122 can be translated to be a prayer for you:

In light of the NT – I can see in Psalm 122: I was glad when He said to me, let me make IN YOU a house for the Lord.

Pray for peace that which houses the temple.

May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
Prosperity within your palaces.”
For the sake of my brethren and companions,
I will now say, “Peace be within you.”
Because of the house of the Lord our God
I will seek your good.