The Word Made Fresh
(A psalm of ascent. Of David.)
1I rejoiced when they said to me,
“Let’s go to the LORD’s house!”
2Now here we are, standing inside your gates, Jerusalem.
3Jerusalem! A city built to be solid and strong.
4The LORD’s families come up to it as Israel was commanded to do,
to give thanks to the LORD’s name.
5This is where the seat of justice has been established,
along with the throne of David and his descendants.
6Pray this prayer for Jerusalem:
“May all those who love you be prosperous.
7May there always be peace inside your walls
and safety inside your towers.”
8For the wellbeing of my family and my friends
I will pray, “Peace be within your walls.”
9For the wellbeing of the temple of the LORD our God
I will strive for your prosperity.
Superscription: the third “song of ascent,” and the 62nd of the “psalms of David.”
1-5: Verse one is one of the most familiar sayings in the Bible. The author is among a group of pilgrims arriving in Jerusalem for one of the festivals the tribes were required to attend. They are enthralled with the city, the temple, the walls and “the throne of David and his descendants” – probably a reference to the Hall of the Throne built by Solomon to be the place where kings would pronounce their decrees (see 1 Kings 7:7).
6-9: Peace and security was of course uppermost in the minds of the pilgrim groups who arrived in the city for the festivals, and that is the prayer they raise here. The good of the city is sought by all the believers who come there, for that is where the house of God is located. It has been suggested that the psalm is post-exilic, for the peace of Jerusalem was certainly a primary concern for those who were allowed to return. Much of this 5th collection of psalms (Psalms 107-150) seems to be designed for the edification of the people during that time in their history. It seems to me, though, that the psalm has all the elements of an early composition, regardless of its position in the book of Psalms.
Our modern church sanctuaries are designed to draw us toward God. The next time you enter to worship, take note of the things that point to some part of the story of God’s love for us – stained glass windows that may present some scenes from the scriptures, an altar table that represents the (now empty!) burial bench on which the body of Jesus was laid, candles to remind us of the story of the angels Mary saw sitting in the tomb on the empty bench, a choir “loft” elevated above the level of the pews to represent the heavenly chorus in the book of Revelation, and so forth. See how many things you can find that draw worshipers to some part of the story of God’s dealings with humankind.