Growing up in church, I heard the opening verse of this verse (“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.'”) used to open up Sunday morning church services. Like the author’s intent was to get people to go to a building where they will sit and stand as they were told, sing what they were told to sing, and listen to a sermon. Somehow, I got the feeling that those using this verse not only wanted to convey their pleasure that those who were there decided to show, but to somehow telepathically get those who weren’t there to feel guilty for not coming to “God’s house”: the church building. He supposedly lived there. If that was the case, why didn’t He ever invite me over to kick back and watch Monday Night Football?
This Psalm has nothing to do with church attendance. And it certainly has nothing to do with where God lives. Instead, it is one of several “Psalms of Ascents”. These psalms would be sung by travelers as they climbed the mountain where Jerusalem was located as they flocked to the city for a national feast.
Psalm 122 is all about Jerusalem. It talks about Jerusalem as the place where the tribes of Israel gather to give thanks to God. I love how the psalm ends. Look what the author, King David, writes in Psalm 122:6-9,
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
“May they be secure who love you!
Peace be within your walls
and security within your towers!”
For my brothers and companions’ sake
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your good.
The New Testament writers make it clear that the church–the community of God–is now the temple, the house of God. One of the things that has turned people away from the church is the inner turmoil that sometimes leads to fighting and a church splitting up. It’s shameful, and it gives people far from God another excuse to stay far away from the church.
The question for us today, then, is this: do we pray for peace in the church and, for the sake of God and His church, do we seek the church’s good? A great way to tell is how you approach church. If you see the church as a provider of spiritual goods and services for you, you’re not seeking the good of the church… you’re a parasite. But if you see the church as the forgiven community of God (it’s a beautiful mess, really) who is on mission with Jesus to take back people and places for the kingdom, then you seek the church’s good.
Let’s work for peace within the church, and for the sake of the church that Jesus bled for, let’s seek her good. And relieve people of an excuse to stay far from God.