Are You Glad to be in Church Today?

Bible Book: Psalms  122 : 1-9
Subject: Worship; Faithfulness; Joy; Church

Warren Wiersbe wrote…

Are you glad when it’s time to go to the house of God to worship? Are you really happy when, on the Lord’s Day or any other day, you can go to church? The psalmist was.

In Psalms 122:1, David wrote these words, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.”

I must confess that there have been times when I was not eager or enthusiastic about coming to the house of God. And over the years, I have heard the excuses that people offer for not coming. And those excuses range from the reasonable to the ridiculous.

On April 6, 1991, Ann Landers shared this little piece in her column. It said…

In order to make it possible for EVERYONE to attend church next week, we are planning a special ‘No-Excuse’ Sunday.

1. Cots will be placed in the vestibule for those who say, “Sunday is my only day for sleeping in.”

2. Eye drops will be available for those whose eyes are tired from watching TV too late on Saturday night.

3. We will have steel helmets for those who believe that the roof will cave in if they show up for church ser­vices.

4. Blankets will be furnished for those who complain that the church is too cold. Fans will be on hand for those who say that it’s too hot.

5. We will have hearing aids for the parishioners who say, ‘The pastor doesn’t talk loud enough.’ There will be cotton for those who say, ‘The pastor talks too loud.’

6. Score cards will be available for those who wish to count the number of hypocrites attending.

7. We guarantee that some relatives will be present for those who like to go out visiting on Sundays.

8. There will be TV dinners available for those who claim that they can’t go to church and cook dinner, too.

9. One section of the church will have some trees and grass for those who see God in nature, especially on the golf course.

10. The sanctuary will be decorated with Christmas poinset­tias and Easter lilies to create a familiar environment for those who have never seen the church without them.

On the other hand, I came across something that magnified a commendable faithfulness among believers. In the “Our Daily Bread” devotional for October 20th, 1996, Dave Branon wrote…

It was late winter in Kishnau, Moldova, a city near the Romanian border in what was formerly a part of the Soviet Union. “Uncle Charlie” VanderMeer, director of Children’s Bible Hour, was visiting the city to encourage Christian workers and to tell children about Jesus Christ.

Another cold Sunday didn’t deter the Christians in Kishnau. They turned out in force – 1,500 strong – to worship at a church built 10 years earlier during strong communist persecution. According to VanderMeer, of all those who attended, only 20 or 25 arrived in cars. The rest either walked in the snow (some as far as 3 or 4 miles) or took public transportation. Some had to change buses up to five times. Then they did it all over again for the evening service. Amazed at the dedication of these people, Uncle Charlie wondered, “Would we go to church if we had to do that?”

The Christians of Moldova, like the people David wrote about in Psalm 122, were willing to go to great lengths to worship God. Neither the faithful in Jerusalem nor the worshipers in Kishnau had it easy. They faced many hardships and obstacles, yet they went with gladness and dedication.

This morning, we are looking to the book of Psalms for our text. “Psalms” literally means “book of praises,” and it seems certain that one cannot partake in full and genuine worship until they venture into the praise pages of psalms.

Harold Wilmington wrote that…

The book of Psalms is a collection of (150) poems and songs written by various Israelites over a period of about 900 years. Most of the psalms were obviously meant for public worship, while others seem more suitable for private worship or reflection.

Psalms is divided into five “books” each ending with a similar doxology. Many scholars believe this division reflects the historical development of the Psalms, with Books One and Two being compiled during or shortly after the time of David, Books Three and Four being added after Israel’s fall, and Book Five coming after the return from exile. Others have seen in the division an effort to match Israel’s five books of Law with five books of praise.

The five “books” of Psalms is set forth like this…

Book One (Ch. 1-41)

Book Two (Ch. 42-72)

Book Three (Ch. 73-89)

Book Four (Ch. 90-106)

Book Five (Ch. 107-150)

Nelson’s Complete Book Of Bible Maps And Charts says…

A number of different classification systems for psalm types have been developed, systems often based on the content or life-situation of the individual psalms. It is common to speak of psalms of lament, thanksgiving psalms, enthronement psalms, pilgrimage psalms, royal psalms, wisdom psalms, and imprecatory psalms.

This morning, we are looking at a Psalm that is in a grouping which is sometimes called “pilgrim psalms” or “songs of degrees” or “songs of ascent.”

As John Phillips said…

There are fifteen psalms in this collection, of which ten are anonymous (in authorship), four are attributed to David, and one, the central one, to Solomon. The fifteen psalms are arranged in five groups of three psalms each. The Davidic psalms occur in a discernible pattern:

Group 1: 120, 121, (122 David)

Group 2: 123, (124 David), 125

Group 3: 126, (127 Solomon), 128

Group 4: 129, 130, (131 David)

Group 5: 132, (133 David), 134

In the first and fourth groups David’s psalms come last, and in the second and fifth groups David’s psalms are in the middle. To deny the Davidic authorship of Psalm 122 destroys the structure. The psalm might have been written by David soon after the removal of the ark to Jerusalem, when he himself planned to build a house for God. David no doubt intended the song to encourage the tribes of Israel to regard Jerusalem as the rallying center of the nation.

There are varying ideas as to what is meant by the inscription: “song of degrees” or “song of ascents.” But as the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says…

The most probable explanation of the meaning of the expression is that these 15 psalms were sung by bands of pilgrims on their way to the yearly feasts in Jerusalem.

In his book, “The Temple – It’s Ministry and Services,” Alfred Edersheim wrote…

The journey was always to be made slowly, for the pilgrimage was to be a joy and a privilege, not a toil or weariness. In the morning, as the golden sunlight tipped the mountains of Moab, the stationary man of the district, who was the leader, summoned the ranks of the procession in the words of Jeremiah 31:6: ‘Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion, and unto Jehovah our God.’ To which the people replied, as they formed and moved onwards, in the appropriate language of Psalm 122: ‘I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of Jehovah.’ First went one who played the pipe; then followed a sacrificial bullock, destined for a peace-offering, his horns gilt and garlanded with olive-branches; next came the multitude, some carrying the baskets with the firstfruits, others singing the Psalms, which many writers suppose to have been specially destined for that service, and hence to have been called ‘the Songs of Ascent’; in our Authorised Version ‘the Psalms of Degrees.’

This third “song of degrees,” Psalm 122, may correspond to 1 Chronicles 16 where the Bible tells us that the ark of the covenant was brought into the city of David, the city of Jerusalem. The Bible says…

(1 Chronicles 16:1) So they brought the ark of God, and set it in the midst of the tent that David had pitched for it: and they offered burnt sacrifices and peace offerings before God.

And the rest of 1 Chronicles 16 describes this wonderful worship environment.

Whether Psalm 122 is David’s personal commentary on what happened that day, or whether it refers to another day of worship, we find in this Psalm that…

I. David Had A Delight In This Worship Environment

(Psalm 122:1–2)

A. Notice The Invitation That He Mentions – A Going

(Psalms 122:1) I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.

Again, Alfred Edersheim said…

The leader, summoned the ranks of the procession in the words of Jeremiah 31:6: ‘Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion, and unto Jehovah our God.’ To which the people replied, as they formed and moved onwards, in the appropriate language of Psalm 122: ‘I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of Jehovah.’

And The Pulpit Commentary says…

We see the procession starting; we see beaming eyes and happy faces, and hear the music of gladness with which the pilgrims beguile the tediousness of the journey.

The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary says of David that…

His design was to conciliate the Ten northern tribes, which had been slower in recognizing him as king, to Jerusalem, the newly-constituted capital and religious center of the nation. The ark, ‘the heart of the Israelite religion’ (Hengstenberg), had been just brought up to Zion by David.

After David has set aside the musicians and priests in 1 Chronicles 16, he prepares a psalm to be sung on the great day when the ark is placed beneath the tent in Jerusalem. Perhaps the chief priest comes and tells David, “It’s time. Let us go into the house of the LORD.”

Matthew Henry wrote…

“Let us go together, for the honour of God and for our mutual edification and encouragement.” We ourselves are slow and backward, and others are so too, and therefore we should thus quicken and sharpen one another to that which is good, as iron sharpens iron. Those that rejoice in God will rejoice in calls and opportunities to wait upon him.

B. Notice The Impact That He Mentions – A Gladness

(Psalms 122:1) I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.

The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament says…

The poet, now again on the journey homewards, or having returned home, calls to mind the joy with which the cry for setting out, “Let us go up to the house of Jahve!” filled him. When he and the other visitors to the feast had reached the goal of their pilgrimage, their feet came to a stand-still, as if spell-bound by the overpowering, glorious sight.

Wiersbe said…

David lived in Jerusalem and had to go but a short distance to reach the tent and the ark. Though he lived in the holy city, David did not take this privilege for granted, for he had a heart for God and for God's house.

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says of this word “glad” (OT:8057)…

The root samach denotes being glad or joyful with the whole disposition as indicated by its association with the heart (cf. Exodus 4:14; Psalms 19:9; Psalms 104:15; Psalms 105:3), the soul (Psalms 86:4); and with the lighting up of the eyes (Proverbs 15:30).

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words says…

Samach usually refers to a spontaneous emotion or extreme happiness which is expressed in some visible and or external manner. It does not normally represent an abiding state of wellbeing or feeling. This emotion arises at festivals, circumcision feasts, wedding feasts, harvest feasts, the overthrow of one’s enemies, and other such events. … The emotion expressed in the verb samach usually finds a visible expression. In Jeremiah 50:11 the Babylonians are denounced as being glad and “jubilant” over the pillage of Israel. Their emotion is expressed externally by their skipping about like a threshing heifer and neighing like stallions. The emotion represented … is sometimes accompanied by dancing, singing, and playing musical instruments. This was the sense when David was heralded by the women of Jerusalem as he returned victorious over the Philistines (1 Samuel 18:6). This emotion is usually described as the product of some external situation, circumstance, or experience.

C. Notice The Involvement That He Mentions – A Gathering

(Psalms 122:2) Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.

Albert Barnes said…

[Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem] We shall enter the sacred city. It appears now in full view before us – its walls, its palaces, its sacred places. We shall not stand and gaze upon it at a distance; we shall not merely be charmed with its beauty as we approach it; we shall accomplish the object of our desire, and enter within its walls and gates. So the believer approaches heaven – the New Jerusalem above. He will not merely admire its exterior, and look upon it at a distance; but he will enter in.

This is how the believer should approach the place where the church meets as well.

The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary says…

‘Our feet have taken their stand (or have been standing) within thy gates, O Jerusalem.’ In which view the pilgrims are regarded as halting within the gates of the holy city. A somewhat long stay had to be made at the gates until all the pilgrims had come up, and the procession to the sanctuary was arranged.

Cf. (Psalms 42:4) When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.

Spurgeon said…

If we are within the church we may well triumph in the fact. While our feet are standing in Jerusalem our lips may well be singing. Outside the gates all is danger, and one day all will be destruction; but within the gates all is safely, seclusion, serenity, salvation, and glory. The gates are opened that we may pass in, and they are only shut that our enemies may not follow us. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion, and so do we when we are enclosed within them. What a choice favour, to be a citizen of the New Jerusalem! Why are we so greatly favoured? Many feet are running the downward road, or kicking against the pricks, or held by snares, or sliding to an awful fall; but our feet, through grace divine, are “standing” — an honourable posture, “within thy gates, O Jerusalem” — an honourable position, and there shall they stand for ever-an honourable future.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary said that David “relished the experience of actually standing within the city’s gates.”

II. David Had A Description Of This Worship Environment

(Psalm 122:3–5)

A. There Is A Togetherness There

(Psalms 122:3) Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together:

compact – Hebrew 2266. chabar, khaw-bar'; a prim. root; to join (lit. or fig.); spec. (by means of spells) to fascinate: (Also translated in the O.T. as…) --charm (-er), be compact, couple (together), have fellowship with, heap up, join (self, together), league.

Barnes said…

[Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together] literally, “joined to itself together;” that is, when one part is, as it were, bound closely to another part; not scattered or separate. The walls are all joined together; and the houses are all united to one another so as to make a compact place.

The Pulpit Commentary says of this verse…

The primary reference is probably to the compact shape and look of the ancient city, which, as Josephus says, was “one and entire,” with no straggling suburbs, shut in on the north by a wall, and on the three other sides both by walls and by deep, rocky valleys. But the material “compactness” was perhaps taken to symbolize the close internal union of the inhabitants one with another, whereby they were all knit together into one Church and people.

B. There Is A Testimony (and Thanksgiving) There

(Psalms 122:4) Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD.

The “testimony” here speaks specifically of the ark of testimony. The old tabernacle had been erected at Gibeon, some six miles northwest of Jerusalem. But the ark was beneath a tent at Jerusalem. Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary says that…

Within the ark were the two stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments (Exodus 25:16, 21), considered to be the basis of the covenant between God and His people Israel. Thus the ark was often called the ark of the Testimony. The golden pot of MANNA, which God miraculously preserved as a testimony to future generations (Exodus 16:32-34), was also deposited in the ark. The third item in the ark was AARON’S ROD that budded to prove that Aaron was God’s chosen (Numbers 17:1-11). While the New Testament states that the ark contained these three items (Hebrews 9:4), the ark must have lost two of them through the years. At the dedication of Solomon’s Temple, Aaron’s rod and the golden pot of manna were gone: “There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb” (1 Kings 8:9).

Barnes wrote…

[Whither the tribes] The twelve tribes of the children of Israel.

[Go up] To the great feasts and festivals of the nation. See Exodus 23:17. This language of going up is such as would be used anywhere respecting the capital of a nation-as it is now of London; but it was literally true of Jerusalem, since it was elevated far above most parts of the land.

[The tribes of the LORD, unto the testimony of Israel] The “ark of testimony;” the ark within which were the tables of stone, containing the law considered as God’s testimony or witnessing as to justice, right, equity, duty, truth. See Exodus 16:34; 25:16, 21; 40:3, 20; 30:6, 36; 31:18.

[To give thanks unto the name of the LORD] To worship Yahweh-the name often being put for the Being himself. A main part of Hebrew worship was praise, and hence, this is often put for the whole of worship.

They were coming where God’s testimony and law was. And when we come to church, we are coming where God’s Word is shared!

Matthew Henry said…

They come together, (1.) To receive instruction from God; they come to the testimony of Israel, to hear what God has to say to them and to consult his oracle. (2.) To ascribe the glory to God, to give thanks to the name of the Lord, which we have all reason to do, especially those that have the testimony of Israel among them. If God speaks to us by his word, we have reason to answer him by our thanksgivings.

C. There Is A Throne There

(Psalms 122:5) For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David.

judgment – Hebrew 4941. mishpat, mish-pawt'; from H8199; prop. a verdict (favorable or unfavorable) pronounced judicially, espec. a sentence or formal decree (human or [partic.] divine law, individual or collect.), includ. the act, the place, the suit, the crime, and the penalty; abstr. justice, includ. a partic. right, or privilege (statutory or customary), or even a style:-- + adversary, ceremony, charge, X crime, custom, desert, determination, discretion, disposing, due, fashion, form, to be judged, judgment, just (-ice, -ly), (manner of) law (-ful), manner, measure, (due) order, ordinance, right, sentence, usest, X worthy, + wrong.

The IVP Bible Background Commentary says of the “thrones of judgment”…

As the highest judicial authority in the land, the king periodically held audience to hear cases that were being appealed. A throne was set up precisely for this purpose, either in an audience hall in the palace complex or at the main gate of the city.

Matthew Henry said…

It is the royal city (v. 5): There are set thrones of judgment. Therefore the people had reason to be in love with Jerusalem, because justice was administered there by a man after God’s own heart.

It is the place where the King’s authority is supreme, and it is the place where decisions are made (the King’s decisions). Does that sound like what the church should be?

Spurgeon said…

We who come to the church and its public worship are charmed to come to the throne of God, and to the throne of the reigning Saviour. … To a true saint the throne is never more amiable than in its judicial capacity; righteous men love judgment, and are glad that right will be rewarded and iniquity will be punished. To see God reigning in the Son of David and evermore avenging the just cause is a thing which is good for weeping eyes, and cheering for disconsolate hearts. They sang of old as they went towards the throne, and so do we. “The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice.” The throne of judgment is not removed, but firmly “set.”

III. David Had A Desire For This Worship Environment

(Psalm 122:6–9)

The Pulpit Commentary says…

“Peace” is a word with an extensive, beautiful, and suggestive connotation. We, perhaps, cannot fully realize it by any aid of memory; we can only enter into it with the help of the familiar engravings of ‘War’ and ‘Peace.’ It is not possible to overrate the value of peace for nations, or for Churches, or for families. But it largely depends on prosperity. This may be illustrated by the inward life of the religious man. When devotion and work are allowed to flag (grow weak), soul-prosperity fails, and at once doubts and fears come to spoil the soul’s peace. It may be illustrated in the life of the Church. When work and zeal and spiritual life - the signs of Church prosperity - fail, then differences are sure to come, roots of bitterness spring up.

The Psalmist here desires peace (shalom – safety, welfare, prosperity, favor) in the Jerusalem (the city of peace, or that which has been founded for peace).

A. He Refers To The Prayer For Peace

(Psalms 122:6-7) Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. {7} Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.

pray – Hebrew 7592. sha'al, shaw-al'; or sha'el, shaw-ale'; a prim. root; to inquire; by impl. to request; by extens. to demand:--ask (counsel, on), beg, borrow, lay to charge, consult, demand, desire, X earnestly, enquire, + greet, obtain leave, lend, pray, request, require, + salute, X straitly, X surely, wish.

peace – Hebrew 7965. shalowm, shaw-lome'; or shalom, shaw-lome'; from H7999; safe, i.e. (fig.) well, happy, friendly; also (abstr.) welfare, i.e. health, prosperity, peace:-- X do, familiar, X fare, favour, + friend, X greet, (good) health, (X perfect, such as be at) peace (-able, -ably), prosper (-ity, -ous), rest, safe (-ly), salute, welfare, (X all is, be) well, X wholly.

Adam Clarke wrote…

[Pray for the peace of Jerusalem] ‎Shalom ‎signifies both peace and prosperity. Let her unanimity never be disturbed; let her prosperity ever be on the increase!

Matthew Henry said…

Here, David calls upon others to … Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, for the welfare of it, for all good to it, particularly for the uniting of the inhabitants among themselves and their preservation from the incursions of enemies. This we may truly desire, that in the peace thereof we may have peace; and this we must earnestly pray for, for it is the gift of God, and for it he will be enquired of. Those that can do nothing else for the peace of Jerusalem can pray for it, which is something more than showing their good-will; it is the appointed way of fetching in mercy. The peace and welfare of the gospel church, particularly in our land, is to be earnestly desired and prayed for by every one of us.

B. He Refers To The Path Of Peace

(Psalms 122:6) Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.

prosper – Hebrew 7951. shalah, shaw-law'; or shalav (Job 3 : 26), shaw-lav'; a prim. root; to be tranquil, i.e. secure or successful:--be happy, prosper, be in safety.

love – Hebrew 157. 'ahab, aw-hab'; or 'aheb, aw-habe'; a prim. root; to have affection for (sexually or otherwise):--(be-) love (-d, -ly, -r), like, friend.

He indicates that this peace can be obtained through love; a love for Jerusalem. In our context, the church can be a happy church and a healthy church when we love the Lord, and the people of God, and the church.

Albert Barnes said…

The word prosper conveys an idea which is not in the original. The Hebrew word means to be “secure,” “tranquil,” “at rest,” spoken especially of one who enjoys quiet prosperity. The essential idea is that of quietness or rest; and the meaning here is, that those who love Zion will have peace; or, that the tendency of that love is to produce peace.

C. He Refers To The Purpose Of Peace

(Psalms 122:8-9) 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.

1. It Will Help The People

(Psalms 122:8) For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee.

The writer may have been a pilgrim in journey to the holy place, but he was not a stranger.

F. B. Meyer wrote…

Let us ascend the staircases of prayer and praise; let as mingle our rivulet of adoring love to the mighty torrent that is setting in towards the throne of God and the Lamb; for we are come to the City of God, to an innumerable company of angels, to the spirits of just men made perfect and to the blond of sprinkling that speaketh better things than Abel’s. Wherever my brethren meet, in whatever section of the Church on earth, so long as they belong to the one Church, the Body of Christ, nothing shall stay me from wishing them prosperity and peace. They may not recognize me here, but five minutes in Heaven will do away with all these earthly estrangements. When the Church is at peace within herself she flourishes best. “So the Church,” we are told, “throughout all Judea, and Galilee, and Samaria, had peace, and was edified.” Peace is the condition of up-building and multiplication; but it is only consistent with Truth and Righteousness. First Righteousness, then Peace, then Prosperity.

2. It Will Help The Place

(Psalms 122:9) Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good.

The Pulpit Commentary says…

The last four verses of the psalm breathe a spirit of the noblest, most unselfish, patriotism. Not for his own sake, but for the sake of his brethren - the people at large - and for the sake of his God, his temple, and his service, he wishes peace to Jerusalem, and calls upon others to wish her peace. With love to Israel and love to Jehovah there is naturally united a warm affection for Jerusalem, a hearty interest in her welfare.


Writing of this passage, Charles Spurgeon said…

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.”

(Isaiah 2:1-3) The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. {2} And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. {3} And 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: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

According to the last verse of 1 Chronicles 15, Michal got mad when David got glad.

Don’t let the fact that some are sad or bad or mad keep you from being glad!