George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 5

Psalm 122

1. Structure

Going up to Jerusalem to honor the Lord and His King there
Prayer for Jerusalem: “Peace be upon the city of peace”

2. A psalm of David

Was it written by David, since he is referred to by name in v. 5? Or, more likely, was it written by one of his prophets, such as Heman or Obed-edom?

I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. There is little sign before the time of David of all the tribes joining with one mind in the worship of Yahweh at any central sanctuary. David seems to have been the first to bring all the tribes together in worship (see on Psa. 133): 2 Samuel 6.
Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem. This ceases to be a statement of the obvious when it is realized that only a short time before David set up God’s tabernacle on mount Zion, there was no Israelite foot at all set inside the walls of Jebus/Jerusalem (2 Sam. 5:6).
Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together: whither the tribes go up. It was David who first built up “Millo”, the landfill or land bridge, as a fortification between Jebus and Moriah (2 Sam. 5:9; 1 Chron. 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.

In later days, “go up” came to be used as a technical term to describe any pilgrimage to Jerusalem to keep a feast of the Lord (Matt. 20:17; Luke 2:42; 18:31; 19:28; John 2:13; 5:1; 7:8; 11:55). “Up” refers, then, not so much to Jerusalem’s physical elevation as to its elevated status as the city of the most High God.
The tribes of the Lord emphasizes the purpose behind this gathering in Jerusalem. The words also make implied contrast with the pagan Jebusite tribe which hitherto boasted of its possession of Jerusalem.

To give thanks for the capture of the city, now a focus for their national worship.

The name of the Lord. Right from the time of Melchizedek and through all generations, Yahweh, which is and was and is to come (Rev. 1:4,8; 11:17), has an abiding purpose with this holy city.
For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David. If this plural thrones is to be taken literally, it must refer to the time when David had Solomon crowned as regent (1 Kings 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 (2 Sam. 8; Psa. 60).

The house of David expresses faith in the great promise made to David, when he had no “house” in the sense of a dynasty:

“Also the Lord telleth thee that he will make thee an house. And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever” (2 Sam. 7:11-13).
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 (2 Sam. 24:17; 1 Chron. 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.
My brethren and my companions are, respectively, Judah (David’s first kingdom) and the rest of the tribes, who also accepted him as king in Jerusalem.

3. A psalm of Hezekiah

The reasons for this psalm of David being selected as one of Hezekiah’s Songs of Degrees are not hard to find.

Let us go into the house of the Lord. The house of his God was Hezekiah’s constant care and desire. His first official act was the reopening of its doors, which through his father’s apostasy had fallen into disrepair (2 Chron. 28:24; 29:3; Isa. 22:22). It was his life’s ambition that all Israel (i.e., the twelve tribes) be joined together in its service, and to this end he soon proclaimed a great national Passover (2 Chron. 30:1). That this failed to achieve the desired effect was through no fault of the righteous king. But the great overthrow of the Assyrian invader brought another opportunity for the righteous of the scattered ten tribes to return and join themselves to Judah.

Contemporary with the overthrow of the enemy’s host was the miraculous healing of the king, so that he could “go up” to the house of the Lord (2 Kings 20:5,8). Even as the shadow of the sun-dial was turned back, so was the “shadow of death”. And soon enough, time also was turned back for the nation for a few brief years, as the ten tribes came back to Zion with joy and singing, and the days of David’s former glory were a reality again! So their voices swelled the chorus as Hezekiah’s “songs of Zion” filled God’s house (Isa. 38:20). As their king had been made whole, so was the nation made whole — “one nation upon the mountains of Israel” — though it did not last for long. Yet while it did it was an exquisite preview of the kingdom of the Messiah.
Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem. 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. (Edersheim has a beautiful and detailed description of Jerusalem at the time of Christ in The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, pp. 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 (87:6). The word “stand” suggests permanence, a remaining or standing fast in contrast to the “sojourn” of 120:4. “They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed” (125:1).
Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together. The reference in this context is to the “Millo” (or “filling up”), the work of David which was expanded by Solomon (1 Kings 9:15; 11:27), and which was later strengthened further by Hezekiah (2 Chron. 32:5).
Whither the tribes go up... unto the testimony of Israel. With such a man as Hezekiah directing affairs, there was of course copious opportunity for instruction afresh in the Laws of God (Psalm 119?): 2 Chron. 30:22.
Thrones (intensive plural?) of judgment... of the house of David. Compare Isa. 22:23, which refers to Hezekiah, not to Shebna or Eliakim (Isa. 22:20 should read: ‘I will call my servant — i.e., Hezekiah — to Eliakim, etc.” All of v. 21 describes the accoutrements of a king. And it was Hezekiah and no one else who, in line with v. 22, opened the doors of God’s house: see notes on v. 1 above.)
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. 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 (2 Kings 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. 127 and 128; Psalms Studies, Psa. 45, Par. 3).
And prosperity within thy palaces. In this context especially, this refers to a spiritual prosperity such as had not ever been known there in the reign of Ahaz. (There is a lovely alliteration between shalom — “peace” in vv. 6-8 — and shalav — “prosper... prosperity” in vv. 6,7.)
For my brethren and companions’ sake, I will now say, Peace be within thee. See the earlier note on this verse. There was in Hezekiah’s day the identical situation as in David’s time: the other tribes were now being added once again to the king’s own tribe of Judah, in rendering united praise to God in His own city.

4. Messiah’s Kingdom

I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem. Now all nations — Gentiles along with Jews — will eagerly make their pilgrimages to Jerusalem:

“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. 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” (Isa. 2:2,3).

“And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles” (Zech. 14:16).

Joyfully and gratefully will they go up to “the city of the great king” (Matt. 5:35) to experience the greatest pleasure of the Kingdom Age: the spiritual peace of God’s own city and house.
Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact 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!

“Bound firmly together” (RSV): Efficient, dedicated, consistent — as a city and a people, Jerusalem, ruled over by a righteous king who will never die. The capital city of a world empire, the “Mother of us all” (Gal. 4:26; cp. Psa. 87:2-6), the headquarters of an army of immortal rulers and priests who maintain their authority over the nations with a loving and merciful discipline. Could there be a more perfect arrangement, a more perfect fellowship?

“All the building fitly framed together... a holy temple unto the Lord... through the Spirit” (Eph. 2:21,22; 4:16).

This is the destiny of Jerusalem that lifts the heart and soul of the enlightened believer.
Whither the tribes go up... unto the testimony of Israel. In Old Testament times, the most holy place of the tabernacle, where God inhabited the cherubim, was called the “testimony” (Exod. 16:34). The ark which rested there, the central and visible hope of the nation, was called the “ark of the testimony” (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; 1 Cor. 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.
For there are set thrones of judgment... the thrones of the house of David. Jeremiah speaks of Jerusalem as “the throne of the Lord” (3:17). The thrones of judgment in Jerusalem are first of all for the resurrectional judgment of the responsible ones (see Psalms Studies, Psa. 68, Par. 8), 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” (Matt. 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; Matt. 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 (2 Sam. 17:14-16; Psa. 89:29-36; Luke 1:30-33).

The word for “judgment” is also used of the breastplate of judgment worn by the high priest (Exod. 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 (Deut. 33:8), which authority is now vested in Christ.
In these verses 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 (John 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 (Zech. 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).
While it is true that they shall prosper that love thee, the converse is also true: They shall surely suffer who abuse Jerusalem and the Jews — whether commoners or kings — because God’s holy Name must be upheld in His promises (Gen. 12:3; Num. 24:9; Zech. 12:3).
Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. 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” (vv. 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! And if by an emperor’s decree the walls of Rome could be extended to encompass an empire (John Thomas, Eureka, vol. 2, p. 651), how very proper that within the far-flung embraces of this city, the true “Eternal City”, man should find the well-being and security he has so long sought!
For my brethren and companions’ sake, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good. “Blood” brethren by their faith in the atoning death of Jesus, and companions through their common trials and salvation, both spiritual and natural Israel at last find rest in Jerusalem. Those who have too long dwelt in a world that hated peace (Psa. 120:5-7) have been delivered, to find shelter and peace and pleasure (Psa. 84:3,10; Zech. 8:4,5) in Jerusalem.

5. Postscript

Pray for the peace of Zion
Psa. 122:7
That God may end her grief:

That Israel’s tribes restored may be
Jer. 30:10
From sorrow and captivity,

In love be purified
Zech. 12:10
By him they crucified,

For ever lay aside

Their unbelief.

Then Zion, city of our God,
Psa. 48
Shall we thy beauty see;

When Israel’s King returns to thee
Zech. 8:3
In glorious power and majesty —

To thee shall nations flow,
Isa. 2:2
From thee the Law shall go,
Isa. 2:3
And distant lands shall know
Zeph. 3:20
The fame of thee.

The joy of all the earth shall be
Psa. 48:2
Thy throne, Jerusalem,
Jer. 3:17
In glory set, mid hills around
Psa. 125:2
Where cedar, pine and palm abound,
Isa. 60:13
Thy temple filled shall be
Jer. 33:11
With praise and melody
Isa. 35:10
When Christ, returned to thee,
Matt. 5:35
In peace shall reign.
Luke 1:32,33

Ernest Pitt
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