1 I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.
2 Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.
3 Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together:
4 Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the Lord.
5 For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David.
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.
7 Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.
8 For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee.
9 Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good.
The church is admirable for its peace and judgment.
While some may dread going to church on Sunday morning, this is not the case with us. We are drawn to this place because it is a place where glad hearts thank God for His goodness. We are especially thankful for the church itself—an institution that is not going to disappear. We have confidence in Christ’s ability to build a church that cannot possibly be destroyed by the powers of hell or anything else.
This ascent psalm speaks of the heart of the man who is heading towards Jerusalem. He is coming home. The military man who has been away from home for a few years knows what it means to come home. He returns to the place of his kin, to the place he belongs, to the place of his childhood, to the place where he is loved and to the people he loves. When the Word uses the term “house of the Lord,” it refers to the place of the family of God, the home where God’s family dwells. There is a difference between a house and a home. If our children think that they come to a building when they worship God, they are thinking wrongly about the church. They come to a family. A good church is like a good home. Everybody enjoys being there, especially if they are members of the family of God.
Verse three speaks of the unity of the church and the solidarity of the body. Suppose you should come upon a human body where the legs and hands and kidneys were lying around in different places. Of course, you would be concerned about the integrity and the health of this body. When God puts a house together, there is integrity to it. This is one way to identify the church of God. It is held together not be sheer force and powerful dictators: it is held together by love.
These verses give a little more insight into what happens at this place called “Jerusalem.” Here they find the “testimony of Israel.” At the very center of the city and the temple, the children of Israel (and especially the priests) would see the “holiest of holies.” In the center of this place, they would find the ark of the covenant. Inside the ark, they would discover the tables of the law, which is the testimony of God Himself to His people. Wherever God’s people gather, they should find the Word of God at the very core of it. They will not find altars, candles, pictures, images, food, or even communion tables. They will find men telling and hearing the words of God.
Second, there is thanksgiving in this place. Where God’s people gather, they are sensitive to the good things that God has done to them. Despite the many trials and difficulties, they can still say that God has been kind to them through it all. He has bound up their wounds. He has healed their spiritual diseases. He has purged away the guilt and corruption of their sin.
Third, Jerusalem is a place of judgment. There are two things that make this world a terrible place—immorality and conflict. When God redeems a people, He solves both problems. Thus, the people of God will always be characterized by righteousness and peace. The church will be markedly different from society around them, and this will be clear by the standards of judgment. In the city of God, men and women are purified by the blood of Christ and by faith in Christ, There is cleansing going on, and Paul can say this of the church in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
Meanwhile, the cities of the heathen think nothing of convenience divorce, adultery, and habitual drunkenness—these are sins that warrant discipline within the church. Therefore, everybody walking into Jerusalem knows that, within the church, order replaces chaos. Those who walk disorderly are marked and firmly corrected—and sometimes removed from the fellowship (2 Thess. 3:6). These “thrones of judgment” bear the sword of the Word and the spiritual keys of the kingdom. Even in nations where God’s law is repudiated by the civil magistrate, there are faithful churches wherein righteousness prevails and good judgment is maintained. This should be comforting to every soul that hungers and thirsts after righteousness.
The remainder of this psalm focuses on a familiar element of the ascent psalms. Peace must also characterize the church of Jesus Christ. It is essential. Every elder and deacon in the church of Christ must be relentlessly, doggedly pursuing peace. No quarrelsome man belongs in church leadership, not in the city of peace. David here encourages us to pray for peace, to desire peace, and to pursue it with all our hearts.
When peace is shattered in a local church, or when denominations pull apart, the consequences are devastating. Relationships are destroyed. Hearts are crushed and embittered. Apostasy is usually present on all sides. Peace is a blessing to our family members, our brothers and sisters, and our friends (verse 8). For the same reason that you do not want foreign nations bombing your cities and your homes, you do not want the peace destroyed in the body of your local church.
Given that the church is the family of God, all elders, pastors, and stewards of the “house” should handle the “household” affairs carefully. This is a very special family, and God Himself has put much careful work into this house. Since it is the house of God, all of us should seek the good of the house.
Let us do all in our power to seek the peace of the church. As the passage puts it, those who love the church will prosper. Those families that are addicted to the ministry of the saints will flourish.
We come to the church to offer our sacrifices of thanksgiving. Let us not forget that the core of worship is thanksgiving (verse 4). It is praising God and thanking Him for what He has done for us. If we never quite make it to thanksgiving in all of our teaching and petitions and prayers, we haven’t quite made it into worship.
1. What is the house of the Lord?
2. What are the characteristics that mark out Jerusalem (or the church) in this psalm?
3. What would the Israelites find at the very center of the holiest of holies in their worship?
4. What is a chief characteristic of an elder or leader in the church?
5. Provide several examples of Thanksgiving Psalms.
1. Does our family love the church? How is this evident in our lives?