21 September 2020
COME NEAR TO GOD AND HE WILL COME NEAR TO YOU.
READ: – PSALM 122. A SONG OF ASCENTS. OF DAVID.
I REJOICED WITH THOSE WHO SAID TO ME, “LET US GO TO THE HOUSE OF THE LORD.” OUR FEET ARE STANDING IN YOUR GATES, O JERUSALEM. JERUSALEM IS BUILT LIKE A CITY THAT IS CLOSELY COMPACTED TOGETHER. THAT IS WHERE THE TRIBES GO UP, THE TRIBES OF THE LORD, TO PRAISE THE NAME OF THE LORD ACCORDING TO THE STATUTE GIVEN TO ISRAEL. THERE THE THRONES FOR JUDGEMENT STAND, THE THRONES OF THE HOUSE OF DAVID. PRAY FOR THE PEACE OF JERUSALEM: “MAY THOSE WHO LOVE YOU BE SECURE. MAY THERE BE PEACE WITHIN YOUR WALLS AND SECURITY WITHIN YOUR CITADELS.” FOR THE SAKE OF MY BROTHERS AND FRIENDS, I WILL SAY, “PEACE BE WITH YOU.” FOR THE SAKE OF THE HOUSE OF THE LORD OUR GOD, I WILL SEEK YOUR PROSPERITY.
As we plan to resume our Prayer-meetings on the 22nd of September, this will be probably the last Web-Bible-study for a while. Let us, then, MEDITATE on another Psalm of Ascents, – Psalm 122 – with the wonderful prospect of re-opening our church for Sunday morning worships at the beginning of October, as an invitation given to us here in this psalm: – Let us go to the house of the Lord (verse 1).
As we worked our way through the Psalms of Ascent, we have received a very realistic view of the Christian’s journey in life. It is not all the way up all the time but very often three steps forward, one step back. All fifteen psalms together represent one big journey to God, and yet within this larger pilgrimage we find five groups of three psalm each of the same pattern: trouble-trust-triumph of some sort. For example: – Psalm 120 begins with the psalmist in trouble in a faraway land. In Psalm 121 he puts his trust in God. And in Psalm 122 he gathers with God’s people for worship in Jerusalem. This pattern of trouble-trust-triumph repeats in Psalms 123-125, Psalms 126-128, Psalms 129-131 and then again in Psalms 132-134. Each group of three psalms begins with the psalmist in trouble and then moves upward to victory, although each time, the psalm of trouble starts a little higher than the one before. Here you can see again what I say so often: the Bible explains itself. Studying it, we get not only a deeper, but also a wider picture, of God’s eternal message to us.
Psalm 122 is a song of arrival. It is a song of someone who has been looking forward to arriving at Jerusalem, as we all long to return soon into our church. The trouble of Coronavirus-Pandemic kept us away for more than half-a-year, but we all have the trust in the triumph of finally being gathered to worship God together again. Psalm 122 teaches us that worship with God’s people should not be just a simple duty, but also delight as we re-discover the joy of Christian fellowship with God and each other in that place. So, let us follow the teaching of this psalm about church and our faithful journey together to God.
- – LOOK FORWARD TO GATHERED-WORSHIP. (verse 1-2) Remember, the Psalmist is on a journey. He started his journey in Psalm 120 surrounded by people who did not care about God. Along the way in Psalm 121 he learned to trust in God’s providence and care. And now he remembers the joy from the beginning of the journey when he was often told by his fellow pilgrims: – Let us go to the house of the Lord. The Psalm begins with an invitation to go to church. It is about mutual encouragement to gather for worship, looking forward to being together with God’ people as the Body of Christ. Whether you do that by a phone call, a conversation or posting on Facebook, remember that some people really need to be invited to decide to come to church. Secondly, there is joy of arrival: Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem. The long-awaited moment has come with a sense of wonder and delight for the traveller as he was standing at the gates of Jerusalem. When we go to church on a Sunday, it should feel like arriving at a wonder-full-destination after a long trip in life. Psalm 100 says: – Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name (Psalm 100: 4).
- – REAP THE BENEFITS OF REGULAR WORSHIP. (verse 3-5) Here the Psalmist is talking not only about the physical architecture of the city. He has travelled to Jerusalem for one of the three great feasts, and so there were many others assembled, and there was a great excitement in the people coming together. But remember, the church is not the building of stone and brick and mortar. It is the PEOPLE. One of the benefits we reap from regular worships is enjoying the closeness of Christian fellowship we so much need nowadays. And this is how we can experience the unity that comes from praising God together. We all come from different backgrounds, places, and situations, but we have a unity because we are all members of the same Body of Christ. We are not merely members of a church; WE BELONG TO GOD! – Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others (Romans 12: 4-5). Verse 5 of the Psalm speaks about judgement as another benefit. In the context of the Bible God’s judgement always means: – receiving direction from God’s Word. It is in our Bibles; it is in our hymns; it is in our prayers; it is in our preaching and teaching. – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Colossians 3: 16-17). Judgement is not merely punishment, but God’s Righteousness, Truth and Grace ruled through Jesus Christ.
- – PRAY FOR GOD’S PEOPLE REGULARLY. (verse 6-9) From the very beginning we Christians were to be one Family. – They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done…(Acts 2: 42-43). As the Family of God, we are called to …pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints (Ephesians 6: 18). This includes – according to our Psalm – praying for the peace of Jerusalem (= the Church), for our sisters and brothers, and seeking the peace and prosperity of our own church, for which we are responsible.
The bottom line is this: if we love God, we will love God’s people. And if we love God’s people, we will love gathering with God’s people to worship our Lord. We need each other for this journey. What a privilege it is to gather with God’s people, to set all our differences aside, and to worship our great God and Saviour through Jesus Christ our Lord! Regular worship with God’s people is life changing. -“You wouldn’t start your day without food, and you shouldn’t start your week without worship and your days without prayer” – this is how David Livingstone often used to teach his African attendance.
Writing sermons and Bible-studies for you in these hard times, it is more than ministerial duty to me. It is a confession and a call that common worship is non-negotiable in the life of a Christian, even if they have to read for a while from a website, the usually “preached sermon” of a common church service is irreplaceable. My prayer for you is to never give up on God and our worshiping fellowship, to reaping the benefits of God’s blessings for the rest of our lives.
LET US PRAY: – GRACIOUS LORD GOD, give us faith that is real, meaningful, and relevant; a faith that makes the difference both to us and to others. Give us commitment that shows itself in the way how we belong to You and to the Church of which we are members, reflected in the people we are and the things we think, say and do. Help us to walk with Christ more surely, and when we lose our footing, be there to support us or to pick us up. Lead us in the right path and guide us this day and always. We thank You for the fellowship of the Church, deeply missed for such a long time because of the Pandemic. In Your good time, Lord, bring us back into out togetherness with You and each other to glorify Your name as we used to do regularly at Sunday-worship. Save us from self-pity, from brooding on our troubles and magnifying our woes. If we feel sorry for ourselves these days, teach us that we have far more to celebrate and to be grateful for. You have blessed us each day so richly with good things. Whatever fears we may have, or problems we may be facing, help us to welcome each new morning as Your gift and to live every moment as fully as we are able. Thank You for the knowledge that You are always there, ready to carry us when we cannot continue, to tend our wounds when we lie bruised and broken, providing for us healing and renewal, in body, mind and spirit. Teach us and send us to minister to life’s casualties in turn, reaching out with supportive hands and caring touch, in Your name. Help us in our troubles to trust always in You and rejoice in the triumph that only You can bring back into our lives, and may we worship You in all our days. Help us to continue and never give up praying. Hear us as we ask for comfort, support, and healing for those affected by Coronavirus. Be with and guide those who work to contain the virus. Bless Your Christian Church Universal and our Church of Scotland in all its Presbyteries and Congregations. Be with us as we plan to re-open our church and hear our individual prayers from the depths of our hearts for … … and to the glory of Your name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN…
SUGGESTED HYMN: – THROUGH THE LOVE OF GOD our Saviour all will be well; free and changeless is His favour, all, all is well. Precious is the blood that heals us, perfect is the grace that seals us, strong the hand stretched out to shield us; all must be well.
Though we pass through tribulation, all will be well; ours is such a full salvation, all, all is well. Happy, still in God confiding; fruitful, if in Christ abiding; holy, through the Spirit’s guiding; all must be well.
We expect a bright tomorrow; all will be well; faith can sing, through days of sorrow “all, all is well”. On our Father’s love relying, Jesus every need supplying, or in living or in dying, all must be well.
OUR HELP IS IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, THE MAKER OF HEAVEN AND EARTH (Psalm 124:8). MAY YOUR UNFAILING LOVE REST UPON US, O LORD, EVEN AS WE PUT OUR HOPE IN YOU (Psalm 33:22). AMEN.
Sandor, your Minister.