Gathering in the House of the Lord

Psalm 122

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”
Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!
built as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the Name of the LORD.
There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! “May they be secure who love you!
Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!”
For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, “Peace be within you!”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.

The Psalm is called the song of ascents because it’s together with the others from Psalm 122 to 134. These were a collection of songs that the people of Israel would sing as they travelled to Jerusalem for temple worship. They were Psalms that were sung by Jewish pilgrims as they made their way to Jerusalem to observe all the mandatory feasts given in the law to them by the Lord and these songs were to be sung as these worshipers made their way to the holy place of worship. Those days they didn’t just sing only when they got inside the place to worship, they sang all the way there.  So I hope that the pandemic will be over soon then we can walk all the way from the Mall singing in the streets. We can even sing in the street and we can sing in here with abandon. These are one of those songs that they would sing as they did that.  They were designed to glorify the Lord and to help to prepare the hearts of the worshippers as they went up to the place of worship.  There’s already a lesson for you – when you coming to worship, the car on the way is just not a good place to have an argument in – you need to have a song in your heart together to prepare your heart to be ready to sing.  The singing starts on the way to church already and that’s what the Israelites did as they went up.  This particular Psalm talks about the place of worship: Jerusalem, the purpose of worship: the Lord and the power of worship: to bring gladness and peace to the hearts of God’s people and to God’s holy place.  And that’s what the Psalm speaks of. David writes: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”

You know what that word glad means – it means to cause to rejoice!  Several things in the Old Testament were said to bring gladness to the hearts of people.  When you read the Old Testament, you will find several things that the Lord says these things will bring gladness to your heart, and there are some of them:
a. Wine (Psalm 104:15, the book of Judges 9:30, Ecclesiastes 10:19) – God made wine to gladden the heart of man.  
b. Ointment and perfume (Proverbs 27:9) – They are to make our hearts glad.  When my wife has put on some nice perfume, and she walks past me it makes my heart glad.  Ointment and perfume gladdens the heart.  
c. A wise son makes a father’s heart and a mother’s heart glad (Proverbs 15:20, Proverbs 10:1, Proverbs 27:11) – three times in the Book of Proverbs the Lord says that a wise son makes a father’s heart glad.  Sons be wise – you young ones here – be wise sons that make your father’s heart glad – my sons are wise, my heart is glad.  
d. A kind word (Proverbs 12:25) to someone makes them glad. I don’t want to dip into that as the sermon now, but you know people need very little encouragement.  We live in a world that is so broken that we think people need a lot of encouragement. Let me tell you don’t need a lot of it. You just need a little encouragement. Have you seen what a little encouragement does to you? A little encouragement immediately puts gladness in your heart.  Susan and I went to have a pizza yesterday down at Woodstock. That’s not an advertisement, that’s just what happened. And there was a waiter and he came to us and we asked him his name and he told us his name and then he said thank you for asking. And the next thing I said to him was ‘how’s your family?’  He said ‘they’re fine, thank you for asking’.  I said ‘thank you for serving us, for being here such long hours’.
I tell you – you could see the change in demeanour.  People need very little encouragement.  Give each other a little kind word – just a little – it’s all you need. You don’t need a whole big book on motivation – the joy of the Lord – just somebody to say a little kind word.
I’ve deviated now, but I think it’s an important deviation, because we are talking about gladness this morning.
e. Meeting a loved one (Exodus 4:14) – when you meet a loved one and you find somebody who’s a mate – somebody that may just be the one the Lord is giving to you. It brings gladness to the heart. Pray for everyone who is single in our congregation.  And the young people – that the Lord will give you great gladness with that when the time comes.
f. God’s law (Exodus 19:8) – God’s law makes the heart glad.  People think the law makes you sad or mad. God’s law brings gladness to the heart.
g. The increase of righteousness (Proverbs 29:2) brings gladness to the heart.
h. God’s festivals, God’s feasts (Nehemiah 12:43).
i. Right at the top, what brings gladness to the heart: The Lord and His salvation (many Scriptures: 2 Chron. 20:27; Psalm 5:11, Psalm 9:2, Psalm 60:9, Psalm 32:11, Psalm 40:16, Psalm 63:11, Psalm 64:10, Psalm 86:4, Psalm 90:15, Psalm 92:4.

So there’s a little list for you. But in this Psalm David tells us that he’s found a reason for gladness in going to the house of the Lord, and I was thinking to myself maybe it’s because I’m in the Pastoral Ministry and generally people approach you when there’s a problem. So I do get to see most of the sad ones. I wish some of the glad ones would also call me sometime. Thank you for those who do, but maybe it’s just because I get to see all the sad ones, that I have to tell you as your pastor what I’m observing at the moment is an increase in that. I am praying because what I’m seeing looks like the people of God losing their joy – losing their gladness!  We shouldn’t be surprised that if we can’t go up to the house of the Lord, we’ll lose our gladness. And that’s why I’m preaching to you from the Psalm this morning. You need to pray every day that the Lord shuts this virus down so that we can go back to the house of the Lord, take off our masks, hug one another and worship together. If you lose that desire to fear, that’s a bad trade-off. Don’t trade the desire to want to be with God’s people for a fear that you hope will bring you safety. I’m not saying don’t be careful, I’m just saying don’t lose your desire for that gladness to go to the house of the Lord.

As we know not everybody shares that gladness when it comes to going to the house of the Lord if they did, this house would be full every time we open the doors. Some people are glad when it’s time to go to church, and of course some are mad, some are sad and some can be bad and if you go to some Churches, you maybe had!  David found overwhelming joy in going to the house of the Lord and so the same should be true of us. We don’t worship at the Tabernacle anymore. We don’t gather at the temple – we gather at our gathering place here. Sometimes we call it the church. It’s not the building that’s the church, but you know what I mean – that’s the place of worship. And this song gives us some important and valid reasons why we need to go there.

  1. The Purpose for going there
    What does king David tell us? I see at least three primary purposes for going to worship – three very important ones.
    a. To Hear God’s Precepts
    Look at what David says in this word. He speaks of the testimony of Israel.  Thrones of judgement – it’s a reference to God’s command to Israel to gather at the Tabernacle and later at the Temple for the three great Jewish feasts. The Feasts of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Pentecost in the Feast of Tabernacles. The Jews made their pilgrimage to that place because doing so honoured the word of God. It’s to hear the precepts of the Lord, to hear His Word.  One of the primary reasons we come together is to hear and heed God’s word. In fact, the word is why we gather – we read the Word, we sing the Word, we pray the word, we preach the word, we display the word in the ordinances. That’s one of the primary reasons the Bible should be at the heart of everything we do – every event should and must be centred on the word of God. Every service we have is a God-given opportunity to open this book and to share the gospel. The place of preaching in the church is very important.
    b. To Herald God’s Praises
    David says they are also going there to give thanks unto the name of the Lord. They’re there to give thanks to the name of the Lord (v 4) – to herald God’s Praises, not just to hear His precepts.  The ancient Jewish people made their way to the Tabernacle and the Temple at great personal cost and difficulty. Some of them travelled for days to do what?  To offer their praises to the Lord. To herald His praises. They believed He was worthy to be praised – worthy for His grace in their lives as they paid the price and stood before His prescribed place and they praised His Name. It didn’t take much effort for most of us to get here today did it?  Was it a big deal to get here? To come and herald the praises of God.  No-one had a walk a hundred miles in their sandals to get here. Can you imagine what the place smelled like afterwards?  No-one had to write on the back of a donkey to get here today. No one had to contend with dust, dirt and danger to get here today, except the danger of traffic. But here we are to hear God’s precepts and to herald His praises.
    c. To Have God’s Peace
    Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. We’re here to have God’s peace. That’s the purpose of being here – to gain peace for the Church of Jesus Christ. And at the moment, if there’s anything we need, it’s the peace of Jerusalem. I want to save you at a pastoral note – don’t fight about your views on Covid-19.  People have various views about it. I have made peace with the fact that we’re never all going to agree. Can you see that? We’re probably going to have a thousand new political parties as a result of this. Who knows how many new churches? I can tell you this – Constantia Park Baptist is not going to split into even two, let alone three or four. We’re not going to fight about that here. But if ever there was a time that we needed to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, it is now with regard to that. Look what’s happening in the United States how even churches are fighting one another and beloved Brethren getting attacked and beloved Brethren attacking others.  One of the reasons for going to church is not so that we can have an opportunity for debates and fights. It’s to have the peace of Jerusalem – to be in agreement in the Lord – to gather around His word and His glory to hear His precepts, to herald His praise and to have His peace.

  2. The People who Gather there (verses 1 & 4)
    David found gladness in the purpose of they’re going to the house of God. He also found gladness in who would meet him in that place. And he gives us another reason for being glad about going to church and it’s an important one – with joy I’m going to lift it up for you.
    a. A People United in Fellowship
    The people who gather there are people united in fellowship. Where do I get that from? David said: “They said, let us go”. You see how united in fellowship they were? “They said, let us go”. That’s how we ought to be. We say to each other “let’s go” – a people united in fellowship!  My heart yearns to see this place packed out with the Lord’s people again. Sitting closer and not afraid to laugh – not afraid to sing – not afraid to give one another a hug.  The people united in fellowship.  The Jews saw their time at the Tabernacle as a time when they could come together on common ground – for a common purpose.  Petty disputes and family disagreements were put aside so they would worship the Lord together. You and I can learn a lot from the ancient worshippers. I have a great source of joy in this – there’s John, my fellow Elder and the other Elders who are listening. I think one of the things that we rejoice in as Elders in this church is: In the years that I’ve been here now, what’s it almost nine, John? John, correct me if I’m wrong – I can’t think of one serious conflict that we’ve ever had in the Eldership – not one!  I can’t think of one serious conflict we’ve had in the church.  Can you?  I’m not saying people have not had their disagreements – we’re Baptists, we like to know everything. But we’re a people united in fellowship.  It’s a wonderful thing to be the pastor of this church in such an atmosphere in reality with the people united in fellowship and we going to keep it that way, by the Lord’s Grace.  Tonight, I’m going to be speaking from Philippians. When you look at that passage in Philippians, you will see how important it is that we be united in fellowship; that we don’t fight with one another.  Secondly, it’s not just the people United in Fellowship. It’s more intimate than that.
    b. A People United as Family
    David says where the tribes go up – the tribes of the Lord.  We’re a family – we’re the tribes of the Lord.  We are blood family.  We’re the family of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are blood family.  We got our life from the same source, the same Father.  There’s a reason why you say brother.  There’s a reason why you say sister.  We are family and that’s the people who gather there.  The people united as family.  It’s not just the ancient Jews who were people connected by blood. They were a family biologically when they come together for worship. There was a family affair – a time to renew acquaintances, catch up on family news and meet the new members of the family.  It was like a family reunion every time they gathered.  I’m one of those people who yearn for families to be together.  Yesterday at the prayer meeting we prayed for those who have children or relatives who live overseas. It’s a hard thing!  My daughter’s just down in George. I have these two little granddaughters. I haven’t seen them for a while – almost didn’t recognize them when I saw them again last week.  To be united as families is a very important thing.  Look after your families.

  3. The Person who is Glorified there
    I think you know who that is. That’s why we go – it’s because of the Person that we glorify there.  Four times in this Psalm David mentions the Lord.  He was at the heart of all they did.  Every moment an event of Life revolved around the Lord and His Worship.  The Lord was the centrepiece of everything – the very heart throb of everything.  And when David calls God the Lord, he’s using the most common name for God in the Bible. The word used here is Yahweh. That’s the Covenant name of God. It appears over 6,800 times in the Old Testament and it identifies God as the Eternal self-existent One.  It reminds us that He had no beginning and He will have no end.  I have a book in my book shelf at home says ‘God is back’. O, but He’s never been gone. I wonder where the writer’s been.  Anyway, He is the Eternal One. He has no beginning and He will have no end and He’s the one they gather there to glorify.
    It also identifies God as the Covenant keeping One.  He’s a God who makes covenants with His people and He never breaks Faith.  He’s a God who keeps every promise He makes and exerts all His power so that He can keep His promise.  That’s why we should glorify Him. In the first analysis and the final analysis, He’s the reason why we come to church. Amen?!
    God is the reason – if it weren’t for Him, we would not even have to care about His Word, His worship or even about you. He saved us, He keeps us, He blesses us, and we want to praise Him, serve Him, worship Him, and get together with others who feel about Him just the way we do.  That’s why we come here – to glorify God.  

So as we conclude – pray with me that very soon a throng of people will gather. We saw in the United States that pastors were live streaming services and the people yearn so much for worship that they just spontaneously started returning – they just came back – walked in! I’m not saying anything about it – I’m just stating the fact that what I like to see there is that desire to be together to worship the Lord, to glorify Him, to hear His precepts, to sing His praises and to have His peace.  And for us to be a people united in fellowship and a people united as family who come together to worship our Father.  May the Lord soon grant us the joy of having that back to the glory of His Name.