PSALM 122 OVERVIEW.
TITLE AND SUBJECT. This brief but spirited Psalm is entitled "A Song of Degrees of David", and thus we are informed as go its author, and the occasion for which it was designed: David wrote it for the people to sing at the time of their goings up to the holy feasts at Jerusalem. It comes third in the series, and appears to be suitable to be sung when the people had entered the gates, and their feet stood within the city. It was most natural that they should sing of Jerusalem itself, and invoke peace and prosperity upon the Holy City, for it was the centre of their worship, and the place where the Lord revealed himself above the mercy seat. Possibly the city was not all built in David's day, but he wrote under the spirit of prophecy, and spoke of it as it would be in the age of Solomon; a poet has license to speak of things, not only as they are, but as they will be when they come to their perfection. Jerusalem, or the Habitation of Peace, is used as the key word of this Psalm, wherein we have in the original many happy allusions to the salem, or peace, which they implored upon Jerusalem. When they stood within the triple walls, all things around the pilgrims helped to explain the words which they sang within her ramparts of strength. One voice led the Psalm with its personal "I," but ten thousand brethren and companions united with the first musician and swelled the chorus of the strain.
Verse 1. I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD. Good children are pleased to go home, and glad to hear their brothers and sisters call them thither. David's heart was in the worship of God, and he was delighted when he found others inviting him to go where his desires had already gone: it helps the ardour of the most ardent to hear others inviting them to a holy duty. The word was not "go," but "let us go"; hence the ear of the Psalmist found a double joy in it. He was glad for the sake of others: glad that they wished to go themselves, glad that they had the courage and liberality to invite others. He knew that it would do them good; nothing better can happen to men and their friends than to love the place where God's honour dwelleth. What a glorious day shall that be when many people shall go and say," Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths." But David was glad for his own sake: he loved the invitation to the holy place, he delighted in being called to go to worship in company, and, moreover, he rejoiced that good people thought enough of him to extend their invitation to him. Some men would have been offended, and would have said, "Mind your own business. Let my religion alone;" but not so King David, though he had mote dignity than any of us, and less need to be reminded of his duty. He was not teased but pleased by being pressed to attend holy services. He was glad to go into the house of the Lord, glad to go in holy company, glad to find good men and women willing to have him in their society. He may have been sad before, but this happy suggestion cheered him up: he pricked up his ears, as the proverb puts it, at the very mention of his Father's house. Is it so with us? Are we glad when others invite us to public worship, or to church fellowship? Then we shall be glad when the spirits above shall call us to the house of the Lord not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
"Hark! they whisper: angels say,
Sister spirit, come away."
If we are glad to be called by others to our Father's house, how much more glad shall we be actually to go there. We love our Lord, and therefore we love his house, and pangs of strong desire are upon us that we may soon reach the eternal abode of his glory. An aged saint: when dying, cheered herself with this evidence of grace, for she cried, "I have loved the habitation of thine house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth," and therefore she begged that she might join the holy congregation of those who for ever behold the King in his beauty. Our gladness at the bare thought of being in God's house is detective as to our character, and prophetic of our being one day happy in the Father's house on high. What a sweet Sabbath Psalm is this! In prospect of the Lord's day, and all its hallowed associations, our soul rejoices. How well, also, may it refer to the, church! We are happy when we see numerous bands ready to unite themselves with the people of God. The pastor is specially glad when many come forward and ask of him assistance in entering into fellowship with the church. No language is more cheering to him than the humble request, "Let us go into the house of the Lord."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. Foxe, in his "Acts and Monuments," relates of Wolfgang Schuch, the martyr, of Lothareng in Germany, that upon hearing the sentence that he was to be burned pronounced upon him, he began to sing the hundred and twenty second Psalm, Laetus sum in his quae dicta suni mihi. etc.
Whole Psalm. Perhaps the true text of this Psalm is found in its designation, "A Song of Degrees." Every verse is treated as a degree of advancement in the spiritual life, beginning with "help" from the eternal "hills" for the trials of time, closing with preservation "for evermore." Henry Melvill.
Verse 1. I was glad when they said unto me, etc. Gregory Nazianzen writeth that his father being a heathen, and often besought by his wife to become a Christian, had this verse suggested unto him in a dream, and was much wrought upon thereby. John Trapp.
Verse 1. I was glad when they said, etc. These words seem to be very simple, and to contain in them no great matter; but if you look into the same with spiritual eyes, there appeareth a wonderful great majesty in them; which because our Papists cannot see, they do so coldly and negligently pray, read, and sing this Psalm and others, that a man would think there were no tale so foolish or vain, which they would not either recite or hear with more courage and delight. These words, therefore, must be unfolded and laid before the eyes of the faithful: for when he saith, We will go into the house of the Lord, what notable thing can we see in these words, if we only behold the stones, timber, gold, and other ornaments of the material temple? But to go into the house of the Lord signifieth another manner of thing; namely, to come together where we may have God present with us, hear his word, call upon his holy name, and receive help and succour in our necessity. Therefore it is a false definition of the temple which the Papists make; that it is a house built with stones and timber to the honour of God. What this temple is they themselves know not; for the temple of Solomon was not therefore beautiful because it was adorned with gold and silver, and other precious ornaments; but the true beauty of the temple was, because in that place the people heard the word of the Lord, called upon his name, found him merciful, giving peace and remission of sins, etc. This is rightly to behold the temple, and not as the visored bishops behold their idolatrous temple when they consecrate it. Martin Luther.
Verse 1. I was glad when they said unto me, Let us (or, We will) go, etc. You have here,
- David's delight.
- The object or reason of it.
In the object there are circumstances enough to raise his joy to the highest note.
First, A company, either a tribe, or many of, or all, the people: "They said unto me." So, in another place, he speaketh of "walking to the house of God in company:" Psalms 55:14 . A glorious sight, a representation of heaven itself, of all the angels crying aloud, the Seraphim to the Cherubim, and the Cherubim echoing back again to the Seraphim, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth."
Secondly, Their resolution to serve the Lord: Dixerunt, "They said it:" and "to say" in Scripture is to resolve. "We will go," is either a lie, or a resolution.
Thirdly, Their agreement and joint consent: "We," This is as a circle, and taketh in all within its compass. If there be any dissenting, unwilling person, he is not within this circumference, he is none of the "We." A Turk, a Jew, and a Christian cannot say, "We will serve the Lord;" and the schismatic or separatist shutteth himself out of the house of the Lord. "We" is a bond of peace, keepeth us at unity, and maketh many as one.
Fourthly, Their cheerfulness and alacrity. They speak like men going out of a dungeon into the light, as those who had been long absent from what they loved, and were now approaching unto it, and in fair hope to enjoy what they most earnestly desired: "We will go;" we will make haste, and delay no longer. Ipsa festinatio tarda est; "Speed itself is but slow paced." We cannot be there soon enough.
Fifthly and lastly: The place where they will serve God: not one of their own choosing; not the groves, or hills, or high places; no oratory which pride, or malice, or faction had erected; but a place appointed and set apart by God himself. Servient Domino in domo sua: "They will serve the Lord in his own house." They said unto me, "We will go into the house of the Lord." Anthony Farindon.
Verse 1. Let us go into the house of the Lord. "Let us go," spoken by one hundred men in any city to those over whom they have influence, would raise a monster meeting... But who among those who thus single out the working classes, have gone to them and said, "Let us go -- let us go together into the house of the Lord"? The religious adviser, standing at a distance from the multitude, has advised, and warned, and pleaded, saying, "Go, or you will not escape perdition;" "Why don't you go?" The Christian visitor has likewise used this kind of influence; but how few have taken the working man by the hand, and said, "Let us go together"? You can bring multitudes whom you never can send. Many who would never come alone would come most willingly under the shadow of your company. Then, brethren, to your nonattending neighbour say, "Let us go"; to reluctant members of your own family say, "Let us go"; to those who once went to the house of God in your company, but who have backslidden from worship say, "Let us go"; to all whose ear, and mind, and heart, you can command for such a purpose say, "Let us go -- let us go together into the house of the Lord." Samuel Martin (1817-1878), in a Sermon entitled "Gladness in the Prospect of Public Worship."
Verse 1. I was glad when they said unto me, etc. Such in kind, but far greater in degree, is the gladness, which the pious soul experiences when she is called hence; when descending angels say unto her, Thy labour and sorrow are at an end, and the hour of thy enlargement is come; put off immortality and misery at once; quit thy house of bondage, and the land of thy captivity; fly forth, and "let us go together into the house of the Lord, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." George Horne.
Verse 1-2. This is a mutual exhortation. The members of the church invite each other: "Let us go into the house of the Lord." It is not enough to say, Go you to church, and I shall stop at home. That will never do. We must invite by example as well as by precept. Mark the plural forms: "Let us go into the house of God. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem." We are to speak as Moses did to Hobab, his brother-in-law, "Come thou with us, and we will do thee good; for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel." The same duty is binding upon us, with regard to those who make no profession of religion, and whose feet never stand in the house of God. Zechariah, in an animated picture of the future glories of the church, describes the newborn zeal of the converts as taking this direction. They cannot but speak of what they have seen and heard, and others must share in their joy. "And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts: I will go also." N. M`Michael.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Whole Psalm. Observe,
- The joy with which they were to go up to Jerusalem: Psalms 122:1-2 .
- The great esteem they were to have of Jerusalem: Psalms 122:3-5 .
- The great concern they were to have for Jerusalem, and the prayers they were to put up for its welfare. M. Henry.
- David was glad to go to the house of the Lord. It was the house of the Lord therefore he desired to go. He preferred it to his own house.
- He was glad when others said to him, "Let us go." The distance may be great, the weather may be rough, still, "Let us go."
- He was glad to say it to others, "Let us go," and to persuade others to accompany him. G. R.
- Joy in prospect of religious worship.
- Because of the instruction we receive.
- Because of the exercises in which we engage.
- Because of the society in which we mingle.
- Because of the sacred interests we promote.
- Joy in the invitation to religious worship.
- Because it shows others are interested in the service of God.
- Because it shows their interest in us.
- Because it furthers the interests of Zion. F.J.B.
Verse 1. Gladness of God's house. Are you "glad when," etc.? Why glad?
- That I have a house of the Lord to which I may go.
- That any feel enough interest in me to say, "Let us go," etc.
- That I am able to go to God's house.
- That I am disposed to go.
J. G. Butler, in "The Preacher's Monthly," 1882.
Verse 1. I was glad, etc. So says,
- The devout worshipper, who is glad to be invited to God's earthly house. It is his home, his school, his hospital, his bank.
- The adhesive Christian, who is glad to be invited to God's spiritual house. Church is builded together, etc. There would he find a settled rest. Has no sympathies with religious gipsies, or no church people.
- The dying saint, who is glad to be invited to God's heavenly house. Simeon -- Stephen -- Peter -- Paul. W. J.
- The duty of attending the services of God's house.
- The duty of exciting one another to go.
- The benefit of being thus excited. F.J.B.