The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 122

Psa 122:1


CONTEXT: David, and Hezekiah, and Christ's kingdom.

V 1: (DAVID) All tribes joined together for first time in worship at Jerusalem: 2Sa 6.

(HEZEKIAH) The house of God was Hezekiah's constant care. His first official act was the reopening of its doors, which his father had allowed to fall into disrepair (2Ch 28:24; 29:3; Isa 22:22). His life's ambition was that all Israel (ie all 12 tribes) be joined together in its service; thus the great Passover (2Ch 30:1). Hezekiah was subject of a miraculous healing, so that he might "go up" to the Temple (2Ki 20:5,8).

(NT) In the Kingdom all nations -- Gentiles along with Jews -- will eagerly make their pilgrimages to Jerusalem (Isa 2:2,3; Zec 14:16). Joyfully and gratefully will they go up to "the city of the great king" (Mat 5:35) to experience the greatest pleasure of the Kingdom Age: the spiritual peace of God's own city and house.

Psa 122:2

(DAVID) In David's day, for the first time ever... (2Sa 5:6).

(HEZEKIAH) The exiles returning from Assyria.. retracing the steps of their father Jacob (cp Psa 121).

The returning pilgrims stop still in their tracks, spell-bound by the sight of Jerusalem the Golden City. The grandeur of the scene kindles their admiration into glowing enthusiasm. Jerusalem was a city of palaces, royally enthroned as no other. The deep valleys on all sides but one gave the appearance of an immense natural fortress. As a great tawny lion -- the "Lion of Judah" -- the city crouched on the rocks. High above the city, the temple itself stood out a mass of snowy marble and of gold, glittering in the sunlight against the half-encircling green background of Olivet.

In his wanderings, even to such places as Babylon or Nineveh, the Jew had never seen a city like his own Jerusalem. (See Temple 26-32.)

Here in Jerusalem is the Lord's "foundation", His "mountains of holiness". He has said that He loves the gates of Zion more than all the other dwellings of Jacob (Psa 87:1,2). The exiles from Syria and Mesopotamia retrace the steps of their father Jacob (cp Psa 121). Their former dwellings are but a dream that is past. The pilgrims upon the earth have found a home: enrolled in God's register they are henceforth counted as having been born in Jerusalem (Psa 87:6). The word "stand" suggests permanence, a remaining or standing fast in contrast to the "sojourn" of Psa 120:4. "They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed" (Psa 125:1).

Psa 122:3

(DAVID) David first built up "Millo", the landfill or land bridge, as a fortification between Jebus and Moriah (2Sa 5:9; 1Ch 11:8) -- thus "compacting (Jerusalem) together". The compactness of the city is seen as an evident figure of the solid unanimity of the tribes centering their worship there.

(HEZEKIAH) Hezekiah further strengthened David's city (2Ch 32:5).

A CITY THAT IS CLOSELY COMPACTED TOGETHER: How many wonderful thoughts this suggests. Jerusalem is now not just physically joined together and strengthened, but it is also spiritually "compacted together": No more two cities, part Jewish and part Gentile -- but one city! No more the Moslem mosque and the Catholic shrine, nor even the Jewish synagogue shrouded in Talmudic darkness -- but the glorious Temple of the Almighty God radiating light and truth upon all men! No more the Jerusalem as it has been, torn apart by Jewish rivalries and Arab threats, but a city living at peace within itself and with other cities! And no more the disorderly array of "Christians" professing to be the "New Jerusalem" -- but a unity of single-minded, loving men and women, without jealousy and bitterness and strife, at peace with themselves and with their Father in heaven, with one Husband and Master, even Christ!

Psa 122:4

WHERE THE TRIBES GO UP: A technical term to describe any pilgrimage to Jerusalem to keep a feast of the Lord (Mat 20:17; Luk 2:42; 18:31; 19:28; Joh 2:13; 5:1; 7:8; 11:55).

TO PRAISE THE NAME OF THE LORD: The AV has: "In Old Testament times, the most holy place of the tabernacle, where God inhabited the cherubim, was called the "testimony" (Exo 16:34). The ark which rested there, the central and visible hope of the nation, was called the "ark of the testimony" (Exo 26:33,34). It was there that God most emphatically manifested Himself, drawing near to Israel, giving "testimony" or witness to His existence and His covenant with them.

Christ is the antitypical "ark of the testimony", the rod that budded (signifying his resurrection to newness of life), the pot of manna (the "bread of life"), and the tables of stone (the law of God being perfectly engraved on his heart). After suffering affliction and death, he attained through the Father to immortality (symbolically passing through the vail of "flesh" -- Heb 10:20 -- into the most holy, or the "testimony"). Christ's brethren are called in Scripture the "one body" of Christ (Rom 12:4,5; 1Co 12:12-27). Together, this multitudinous body, with Christ the head, constitutes the ark of the cherubim resting upon the "testimony of Israel". The millennial temple which Ezekiel saw in vision contains a most holy place, the center of God's presence among men. Here, upon the verdant slopes of the elevated mount Zion, the "ark" of the Lord rests. From this sanctified place His ministers go forth, clothed in Spirit-fire, bearing the divine law to all peoples.

ACCORDING TO THE STATUTE: Or, "unto the testimony" (AV): another name for the "most holy" (Exo 16:34). Thus, the ark there = "the ark of the testimony" (Exo 26:33,34). Christ = the "ark" of the testimony, having passed through the veil of the flesh (Heb 10:20) into the most holy place.

Psa 122:5

THRONES: (DAVID) If lit, ref to David and Solomon (1Ki 1).

THRONES OF JUDGMENT: If this plural thrones is to be taken literally, it must refer to the time when David had Solomon crowned as regent (1Ki 1), when he was old and infirm. But those circumstances were very different from what this psalm describes. More likely, the word thrones is to be taken as an intensive plural, meaning 'a great or magnificent throne'. Or, this plural could express the glory of David's kingdom which expanded into an empire in record time (2Sa 8; Psa 60).

(NT) Jeremiah speaks of Jerusalem as "the throne of the Lord" (Jer 3:17). The thrones of judgment in Jerusalem are first of all for the resurrectional judgment of the responsible ones (see Lesson, Judgment seat at Jerusalem), and then for the administration of justice by Christ and the saints over the mortal peoples of the earth. Jerusalem will be the site of the twelve thrones of the apostles, to whom is reserved the rulership of the twelve tribes "in the regeneration" (Mat 19:28). Similarly the other saints will occupy "thrones"; that is, they will have political authority, some over one, some over five or ten cities (Rev 3:21; Mat 25:21; Luke 19:17,19). Their authority will be derived from Christ, the prince of the house of David -- through whom they are also related to the same dynasty (2Sa 17:14-16; Psa 89:29-36; Luk 1:30-33).

The word for "judgment" is also used of the breastplate of judgment worn by the high priest (Exo 28:29,30). The idea of judgment is related to the Urim ('lights') and Thummim ('fullness') of the breastplate, as symbol of divine authority and inspired and infallible judgment (Deu 33:8), which authority is now vested in Christ.

THE HOUSE OF DAVID: (DAVID) At this time, David had no "house" (in sense of dynasty). Thus expressing faith in the great promise made to David about a future "house" (2Sa 7:11-13).

Psa 122:6

Vv 6-9: In these vv the city is addressed, in formal Eastern fashion, as a person! "Peace be within thee" (v 8) was the greeting of a glorified Savior to the frightened remnant of disciples (Joh 20:19,21) as he stood in their midst. "Peace be within thee" is the saints' prayer for God's city even to this day. And "Peace be within thee" will be a wonderful reality when the Lord of hosts stands in that day upon the mount of Olives (Zec 14:4) and calls forth to a beleaguered city: "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in" (Psa 24:7,9).

The bliss of Hezekiah's days -- with the renewal of his wedding vows -- will then be revived on a far grander scale, when the greater-than-Hezekiah finds his delight in an immortal bride, and the marriage of the Lamb is celebrated in the city of peace (Rev 19:7-9; 21:2,10).

PRAY FOR THE PEACE OF JERUSALEM: Not peace in the sense of freedom from war, but peace with God. This is much the more common use of the word. David himself prayed for the peace of Jerusalem (2Sa 24:17; 1Ch 21:16,17). And when the sanctuary was erected, and altar and worship inaugurated, then the peace of Jerusalem would mean yet more: the blessing of "Peace!" which God's new High Priest (see on Psa 133 again) would pronounce on its people. This is suggested by vv 8,9: "Peace be within thee, because of the house of the Lord our God."

(HEZEKIAH) When Jerusalem was threatened by Sennacherib, the righteous king retired to God's house to pray for the peace of his beloved city. The king and his prophet, Isaiah, were enriched spiritually by this very psalm of David. Its echoes are quite evident in the prophet's words: "I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day and night: Ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, and give him no rest till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth" (Isa 62:6,7).

With the divine victory Jerusalem became once more a city of peace; and Hezekiah and the faithful remnant rejoiced in the land of promise, called by Isaiah "Hephzibah" (My delight is in her) (Isa 62:4). The real Hephzibah was the bride of Hezekiah (2Ki 21:1). After the twin threats of disease and invasion were averted, the king found his delight in her and she conceived a child to perpetuate the royal line (see Psa 45; 127; 128).

THE PEACE OF JERUSALEM: (DAVID) See 2Sa 24:17; 1Ch 21:16,17.

MAY THOSE WHO LOVE YOU BE SECURE: "Love of God. That is the ultimate. That is life. That is peace. That is power. That is everything. That is the pearl of great price for which a man gives away all he has -- and is thereby infinitely enriched. The 'of' is significantly ambiguous. It is not just love for God or love from God. It is the inseparable unity of both -- necessarily puny from the human side, a transforming flood from the divine side: but necessarily total for both. The mutual totality is the essence. Love is a total giving without reserve. 'Love' has many meanings, but its supreme meaning is a perfect two-way union of heart and mind. How do we achieve the exquisite, absolute peace of its perfection? Principally -- almost entirely -- it is simply a yielding and a self-emptying. All good and perfect gifts come from God and must come from God; and love is the ultimate, crowning good. Man cannot create it. Man cannot create anything. He must seek it from above, as a flower seeks life from the sun. Man's contribution is the yearning and the desire: the rigorous self-emptying of everything else: of every other love. That is, every other love that could mar, or obscure, or dilute the perfection of this love. The 'love' that pours forth to all creation is the result and flower and fruit of this love: the second commandment, whose fulfillment follows inevitably upon the achievement of the first commandment. The love of God, and it alone, has the power to change fleshliness to spirituality, filth to cleanliness, ugliness to beauty -- if we will only have the wisdom to choose beauty -- and faith and courage to yield ourselves wholly to it without reserve" (GVG).

Peace is not simply the absence of warfare and turmoil (though, plainly, Jerusalem needs that too!), but more especially a complete and perfect spiritual well-being. The city of Jerusalem, which Jesus addressed with the sad words of Luke 19:42, did not know such peace: "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace -- but now it is hidden from your eyes." And to this very day, the means of achieving peace is hidden from the eyes of the people of Jerusalem.

But the city which he WILL address upon his return will know such matters! It will know a growing in grace and knowledge for all who turn to Jerusalem and the protection offered by the King who dwells there. Psalm 48 depicts the renewed city and temple: "The joy of the whole earth is mount Zion, the city of the great king. God is known in her palaces for a refuge... Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following" (Psa 48:2,3,12,13).

For the God of this place -- Jerusalem, and particularly its Temple Mount -- will then have brought to our suffering world a spiritual peace and prosperity such as we have never known, and He (through His Son, and the glorified saints) will then dwell in THIS city!

Psa 122:7

MAY THERE BE PEACE...: Not simply the absence of warfare and turmoil, but a complete and perfect spiritual well-being. The city which Jesus addressed with the sad words of Luke 19:42 did not, and could not, know such peace. But the city which he will address upon his return will know such matters! It will know a growing in grace and knowledge for all who turn to Jerusalem and the protection offered there. Psa 48 depicts the renewed city and temple: "The joy of the whole earth is mount Zion, the city of the great king. God is known in her palaces for a refuge... Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following" (Psa 48:2,3,12,13).

For the God of this place has brought to our suffering world a peace and prosperity such as we have never known, and He dwells in THIS city!

Psa 122:8

BROTHERS... FRIENDS: Tribe of Judah... other tribes of Israel.

(HEZEKIAH) Hezekiah's ambition was to join together the 12 tribes again, as they had been in David's day.

PEACE BE WITHIN YOU: A formal address to a city. Cp Christ's greeting of his disciples in Joh 20:19,21.

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