The Call to Pilgrimage – Psalm 122
“I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord!”Psalm 122:1
Take a moment and read Psalm 122.
On the prie-dieu (kneeling prayer desk) in my home, I have a printed copy of this psalm. It is a constant reminder for me that when I am in prayer I am in the house of the Lord; I am standing in the New Jerusalem. In verse 2 of Psalm 122, the New American Standard Version translates the Hebrew as, “Our feet are standing within your gates Jerusalem.” The Hebrew is difficult to translate, and the verb could be present, perfect, participial, or past tense. The KJV makes it future tense: “Our feet shall stand…” Wycliff translated it as past tense: “Our feet were standing…” But regardless of the tense, the fact remains that for the exiles in Babylon, they were looking toward the Holy City and the future temple and were seeing it as a present reality. For us today, we know that when we are in Christ, we are standing within the gates of the New Jerusalem, and worshiping in His Holy Temple.
There are three significant statements in the first half of this Psalm to which we can cling as citizens of Christ’s Kingdom. The first was exposited in the previous paragraph. The second statement which has an impact on our situation and relationship with the Lord is found in verse 3: “Jerusalem…a city bound firmly together.” Though we cannot physically see the oneness of the New Jerusalem, we know that in Christ we are one. There is one body in Christ, and we all worship together in the one Spirit (Eph. 4:4; Rev. 5:11-14). And thirdly, we go up to Jerusalem, “as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the Name of the Lord” (vs. 4). We come together in the Spirit to worship, to give thanks, to praise His Holy Name. All of this is present tense and fulfills the command to go up to Jerusalem to worship the Lord.
There is abundant good news in this truth. St. Paul gave us a glimpse of this in chapter 2 of his epistle to the Ephesians. He said, “So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (vv. 19-22). In our worship of God in the New Jerusalem, whether physically together or separated by miles and time, we are being built up into a Holy Temple in the Lord. When we come together as One Body in the Spirit, God richly dwells in our midst.
This psalm celebrates the chosen city and the privilege we have in making our daily pilgrimage to Zion. When we recite this psalm, or even better, when we sing it together in our gathered worship, we are fulfilling the task of pilgrim worship in God’s holy temple. And when we are “bound firmly together” then Jesus, our Davidic King, is lifted up and is tangibly present with us, and our feet are firmly planted as we stand within the gates of the New Jerusalem.