Grateful To Live Here
Some Bible passages make us super uncomfortable in the modern era. It's often because we don't take time to think about what they're saying and what they're not saying.
The Scriptures were not written in a vacuum, culturally or otherwise. Neither should we interpret them that way. Nor are all passages written in the same genre and so we must take the time to understand what is happening in a particular passage.
Psalm 122 is one of those kinds of passages.
A Pilgrimage Song. Of David. I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let’s go to the Lord’s house!” Now our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem! Jerusalem is built like a city joined together in unity. That is where the tribes go up— the Lord’s tribes! It is the law for Israel to give thanks there to the Lord’s name, because the thrones of justice are there— the thrones of the house of David! Pray that Jerusalem has peace: “Let those who love you have rest. Let there be peace on your walls; let there be rest on your fortifications.” For the sake of my family and friends, I say, “Peace be with you, Jerusalem.” For the sake of the Lord our God’s house I will pray for your good.
Some folks have taken it to mean that Christians must support Israel in all things without equivocation. I don't think that is how we should understand the Psalm.
I think it's significant that this particular song has a title. It is called a “Pilgrimage Song” and it is “Of David.”
Most likely, this was a song that was sung as folks entered the gates of Jerusalem at the end of their journey. They had arrived and were there. They were rejoicing in the fact that they could now finally worship at Temple and make sacrifices and be in the presence of God with their people.
The Temple and Jerusalem were awe inspiring sights. They pointed people to God in remarkable ways. If these people had traveled for a feast the city would be bustling and loud and chaotic and full of joy.
In light of their overwhelming joy they prayed for the peace and security of the city. They wanted it to have peace security so that they could continue to come and worship with joy. This song is a response to the emotion that they are feeling upon entering the “gates” with those who said, “Let's go to the Lord's house!”
This is more about the longing and desire to be able to enter the Lord's presence than some political statement about modern day Israel.
Their journey to the house of the Lord was complete. They were exuberant! They were ready to worship the Lord and they were grateful for the city that housed the Lord's house.
When we think about this song this way, we need to ask how do we see ourselves in it?
As I look for the mirror in this song it cuts me to my heart. Why? Because too often I take for granted the reality that I get to worship together with my friends so easily. God has been gracious to allow me to live in a place where worship is free. We can gather and celebrate together any time we want. There is no great journey, no great pilgrimage, no great threat to safety and well-being. We simply gather and celebrate.
Oh that I would respond with joy at this magnificent freedom!
I'm not saying that we ought to be nationalistic. What I'm saying is that as someone who lives in the United States needs the reminder that to live here is grace. I didn't do anything to deserve to live in a place where I can freely worship my God. It was by God's grace that I was born here, and so too it is by God's grace that people are born in many places where worship is free. Others are born in places where worship is not free. For some reason, God allows that too.
It is possible to pray for peace and security of your country from a position of gratitude to God and not from a place of nationalism. This, I think, is what this song is all about.
I realize that I need to be more grateful for where I live because it is a blessing and it is grace.