The Joy of Jerusalem
King David wrote this psalm and was undoubtedly filled with joy at the prospect of going up to the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. He had defeated the Jebusites (cf. 2 Sam. 6) and brought the tabernacle and ark to reside there.[i] His exuberance was evident when he danced before the Lord with all his might when the ark was retrieved, so it was no surprise that he was glad when he went to the house of the Lord.
Speaking personally and having spoken with many that have been to Jerusalem there is a joy that is evident which is difficult to put into a form of words. On visiting Jerusalem there are numerous sites which in terms of the geography, history and archaeology immediately connect you with the biblical accounts and bring the Bible to life. Of even greater significance though, is that this is where Messiah came and this is where Messiah will return and reign in His messianic kingdom.
David was glad when they said to him, “Let us go into the house of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1). We all need fellowship and others going up to the house of the Lord would have been glad also and prophetically this is what the nations with say to each other in the millennial kingdom (Isa.2:2-3; Jer. 50:5; Zech. 8:21-23; 14:16-21).[ii]
For David this was no burdensome duty or dreary routine.[iii] As a king he would have many demands on his time and numerous matters that would constantly occupy his thoughts. David made the time to mediate upon the Lord and His word and this is a helpful reminder of the importance of making genuine worship a priority and doing so with a joyful and grateful attitude. Almost all of the biblical feasts were and are joyful occasions and help us to focus on Messiah, David’s greater Son. We all have demands and pressures on our time, but is joy characterised in your life when you meet with others to worship the Lord?
This remarkable city has a history, being the location where the three great feasts were celebrated annually and Zechariah 14:16-21 tells us that there will come a day when all nations will go to Jerusalem to worship the King and keep the feast of Tabernacles. It is no surprise then that the world’s media attention is not centred around far larger and more populated cities, but in Jerusalem, the navel of the world at the meeting place between Europe, Africa and Asia. One can set foot there today and see many archaeological sites preserved throughout the centuries and walk within her gates. Jerusalem is mentioned over 800 times in the Bible and cannot be spiritualised away, since it is evidently at the centre of God’s purposes for both Jewish people and Gentiles.
Jerusalem is remarkably compact and when one is walking in the Old City it is like visiting a large open-air museum of which its history is continually unfolding. When the psalmist viewed the city, he considered unity and security; and just as the stones and houses were “bound firmly together,” so the people were bound together in their worship of the Lord.[iv] In addition, the twelve separate tribes as well as the tribe of Levi shared the same history and ancestors and were involved in the same worship in Jerusalem and were governed by the same laws.[v] Equally we need to maintain fellowship and be walking in unity with fellow believers.
The Testimony of Israel
The tribes go up to the Testimony of Israel which can also be rendered “As a Testimony to”. This testimony can be understood in two ways simultaneously. The Ark of the Testimony or Covenant was where the Lord dwelt, but “the Testimony of Israel” also refers to the command to go up to Jerusalem three times annually. The people went as worshippers, not sightseers.[vi] We should not meet for worship to be entertained or to focus on our needs, but to glorify God.
The preservation of Jerusalem itself is a testimony of the Lord’s faithfulness. Israel has survived numerous conflicts against outstanding odds since it has been re-established as a nation state. In human terms the survival of Israel is an anomaly because it is of course a miracle. Israel has blossomed and budded literally and is filling the face of the earth with fruit (Isaiah 27:6).
The thrones of the house of David are set there for judgement. Though Solomon would build the temple, God made a covenant with David that his house, kingdom and throne would be established forever (2 Sam. 7: 16). In connection with this, David also prophesied of the Messiah’s reign (Psalm 110:1-7).
Immediately before His ascension and whilst He was in Jerusalem, Yeshua’s disciples asked “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6)” Yeshua explained that it wasn’t for them to know the times or seasons that His Father had appointed. An angel however testified that this same Lord taken up into heaven would come in like manner as they had seen Him go up into heaven (Acts 1:11). Similarly, Zechariah wrote, ‘And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move the north and half of it the south (Zech. 14:4).
Praying for the Peace of Jerusalem
There is an emphatic declaration to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and seek her good. Jerusalem means “city of peace” yet even the casual observer of history or even the current era, will be aware that the city of peace has been in constant conflict for centuries until the present day. This conflict will continue until Messiah comes.
David declared, “For the sake of my companions, I will now say, “Peace be within you” (Psalm 122:8). The Hebrew greeting is remarkably similar, “Peace be with you” and is transliterated, “Shalom aleichem”. Yeshua said to His disciples, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). He promised His disciples that He would send His Holy Spirit to them. After Jesus rose from the grave and before He ascended, He stood in the midst of His disciples and encouraged them saying, “Peace be with you”, “Shalom aleichem”. He then breathed on them and stated, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:23). Do you have that peace that surpasses understanding in your life?
The Lord has set watchmen on Jerusalem’s walls who shall never hold their peace day or night and give Him no rest until He establishes Jerusalem as a praise in the earth (Isaiah 62:6-7). Jesus the Messiah will bring peace because He is the God of peace (Isaiah 9:6; Romans 15:33; Hebrews 13:20). When we pray for peace of Jerusalem we are praying in agreement with the Lord’s prayer, “Your Kingdom come” (Matt. 6:20).[vii]Are you willing to commit to praying for Israel?
Despite colossal opposition from many throughout the years and even today from those who would seek to blot out the name of Israel and cut her off from being a nation (Psalm 83:4-18), God has miraculously preserved and regathered her as the scriptures foretold (Deut. 30:1-10; Isa. 66:8-9). We are instructed in sobering and uncompromising terms that those who bless her will be blessed and those who curse her will be cursed (Gen. 12:3) and we are reminded of God’s intervention concerning those who would try to eliminate her (Numbers 22-24). Let us pray purposefully for Jerusalem and seek her good. Jerusalem is the city of God and the joy of the whole earth since from there, Messiah will reign (c.f. Psalm 48:1-14)!
[i] John MacArthur The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 2005; Nashville), p683
[ii] Merrill F. Unger Unger’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (AMG Publishers, 2002; Chattanooga), p945
[iii] William MacDonald Believer’s Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 1995; Nashville), p750
[iv] Warren W. Wierbse The Wiersbe Bible Commentary The Complete Old Testament (David C. Cook, 2007; Colorado Springs), p 1023
[v] Ibid, p1023
[vi] Ibid, 1023
[vii] Ibid, 1023