Psalm 122: What He wants

Session 6 in the series "Bringing sons to glory"

Psalm 122 is the third of the fifteen Psalms of ascent (Psalm 120 to Psalm 134). Verse 6 says to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. This is the only place in the Bible where a particular Hebrew word is translated 'pray'. It actually means something more than asking for there to be an end to conflict in Israel. We discover that this is linked to King Saul and to Saul of Tarsus, the apostle Paul. Learn what is the LORD's heart for Jerusalem and for Israel.

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Psalm 122

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Psalm 122: What He wants (Session 6)

What He wants

Psalm 122 is the third of fifteen Psalms of Ascent. These psalms were sung by Jews as they climbed the path up the mountains to Jerusalem, for each of the three main feasts.

They were heading to the city of Jerusalem, where the Temple was. We are heading for the spiritual Jerusalem, the Jerusalem that is above. The LORD is in the process of building His spiritual Temple ... a temple of living stones.

Psalm 122 expresses the LORD's heart. He is going to have a people for Himself from among the Jews, and from among non-Jews, out of all nationalities. Jesus wants us to share His objective.

We have seen in Psalm 133 (the second to last of the fifteen Psalms of Ascent) ... that Jesus wants us to be joined together in unity. "His purpose is to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace ..." (Eph 2:15)

Psalm 122 - English & Hebrew

Here is Psalm 122 ... a translation closely following the Hebrew text.

  1. Song of the ascents, unto David. I rejoiced in (their) sayings to me, "(To the) house of the LORD we will go."
  2. Our feet have taken a stand within your gates, Jerusalem.
  3. Jerusalem, the built up, like a city that is joined together,
  4. to which tribes go up; tribes of the LORD; testimonies to Israel; to give thanks to (the) name of the LORD.
  5. Because there are set thrones unto justice, thrones unto (the) house of David.
  6. Demand peace (for) Jerusalem. They will be at ease who love you.
  7. Have peace within your walls; ease within your citadels.
  8. For the sake of my brothers and my friends I will say: "Grant peace in you."
  9. For the sake of (the) house of the LORD our God I will request good unto you.

Here it is, in the Hebrew: (Read in Hebrew)

Psalm 122 Verse by verse (1-5)

(In Hebrew) ... "Song of the ascents unto David"

Most of the Psalms of Ascent start with the words ... "Song of the ascents". Four of these Psalms have this addition ... "unto David". English translations usually read, "Song of ascents of David" ... and treat this as a sub-heading. But, in the original text, they are the opening words of the Psalm, and they should be seen as the opening words of Verse 1.

"Song of ascents of David" is acceptable as a translation, but it doesn't go to the heart of the Hebrew. It gives the impression that this is incidental information, that the Psalm was written by King David. There's more to it.

To understand ... In English we say, "I have (something)" ... for example, "I have a book"; or, "you have a house"; or, "David has a song in his heart". The way we phrase it, ownership is claimed ... "this is mine" ... "I have a book"; or "you have a house".

It's not phrased that way in Hebrew. In Hebrew we say, "yesh li sefer" ... literally, "there is to me a book" ... "yesh" ... "there is"; "li" ... "to me"; "sefer", "a book". "Yesh li" ... "there is to me".

Hebrew doesn't place emphasis on ownership. "The book has come to me". It is a gift from the LORD. Even if I worked to earn the money to buy the book, without the LORD it wouldn't have happened. I have no reason for pride of ownership. I ought to acknowledge the LORD.

That's what we see in verse 1 ... "To David there is this song". It's from the LORD ... it's the LORD's heart ... the LORD has given the same heart to David, and David is passing it on.

Will you take on the heart of the LORD? His desire for what is to come.

"I rejoiced in (their) sayings to me".

Psalm 120 ... the first of the Psalms of Ascent ... had an emphasis on me. I turned to the LORD ... I called to Jesus ... I confessed my shame ... and I received His peace.

Psalm 121 had an emphasis on "you". The LORD watches over you. And, of course, The LORD watches over me.

The first two Psalms of Ascent are personal. I am involved. You are involved.

Now, in Psalm 122, there's an emphasis on many of us ... a company of pilgrims. We are not alone. We need each other.

We started this series on the Psalms of Ascent with Jesus' statement, "You are gods". That is the destiny of all who are in faith in Jesus. But, nowhere in Scripture does it say, "You are a god".

So we see that we have our identity, first of all, in Jesus; and second, we have our identity corporately ... together with others of faith in Jesus. It's possible for an individual to exclude themselves from the group, through unbelief, but even full of faith, no-one is a super-hero in themselves.

"I rejoiced in (their) sayings to me". Note: They spoke up. Faith isn't silent. I rejoiced in it.

"To the house of the LORD we will go" ... Together. For Jews, it was to Jerusalem, and to the Temple, that they were heading. The Temple ... "the house of the LORD". "Beit" means: house or household.

The spiritual sense, for us, is the household of faith, with Jesus as the head. And we are already in that household, because we believe in Jesus. Where are we heading? We are heading to our completed state. The Bible talks of us in terms of saved, being saved and will be saved. Jesus is building a temple of living stones. He hasn't completed His task. We participate in His project, and a major part of that project is the people of Israel coming to faith in Jesus.

Verse 2 ... "our feet have taken a stand" ... "within your gates, Jerusalem"

This is an important verse. It indicates commitment. We are making a stand for the LORD's purposes for Jerusalem.

In the New Testament, the present city of Jerusalem is associated with Mt Sinai. The Law was given at Mt Sinai. Jews who have not come to faith in Jesus are still under The Law. But the LORD wants them to be free too. He wants them to come into the righteousness of Jesus.

Christians may make one of two mistakes when they view the Jewish people: Certain Christians grow sentimental. They sympathise with the Jews in their sufferings. Some Christians even get enchanted with the rituals of The Law.

And then there are Christians who view the Jews with hostility. They hold an attitude that the Jews deserve to be alienated from the LORD.

But a mature Christian sees the Jews, (like all lost people), as needing the grace of God. May love draw Israel to the place where the veil may be lifted from their eyes.

The LORD has a particular heart for Jerusalem and for the Jewish people. "I have loved you with an everlasting love," He says. (Jeremiah).

Jesus came as a Jew. Jews are His brothers. Jerusalem is His city ... the city of the Great King (Psalm 48). Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Heaven is waiting for their redemption.

Verse 3 ... "Jerusalem, the built-up ... like a city that is joined together"

King David was gathering the materials for the Temple that his son, King Solomon, would build. In a spiritual sense, the LORD is building a temple. His city is being "built up". It will be a city that He joins together.

"Like a city" ... The KAF prefix means "like"

"Like a city that is joined together". That's a hint that this verse is speaking about the eternal Jerusalem. Not "a city" ... but, "like a city".

The SHIN prefix means "that" ... "is joined". Literally, "joined to her".

The root of this verb indicates partnership, association, being attached. That's our status ... in Christ Jesus. We are attached to Him. He has called us to partner in His work of gathering souls and bringing us into unity in Him.

The root of YACH'DO is YACHAD ... "together". That's the goal that is set before us, in Psalm 133. "Behold how good and how pleasant it is when brethren dwell together in unity." (Read in Hebrew).

"YACHAD" ... together ... "GAM YACHAD" ... "in unity"

Verse 4 ... "To which tribes go up". "(they) go up."

Jews who migrate to Israel, are said to be "making aliyah" ... to be "going up". Wherever a Jew is in the world, if they are going to Israel, they are "going up". If they are in Israel and they are going to Jerusalem, they are "going up" to Jerusalem.

SHVATIM ... "tribes". The twelve tribes of Israel, the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob.

Now, a separate phrase: "tribes of the LORD". Is this simply repeating the thought ... "tribes" ... "tribes of the LORD"? Maybe.

Or, it could be a hint that the LORD has other "tribes". There are many believers in Jesus, grouped in "tribes" ... from different nations, and in different streams of Christian thought.

One day, the LORD is going to unite Israel (see Ezekiel 37:15-22). They are a very divided people today (among themselves). It's going to take faith in their Messiah to bring them together. And, the LORD will join Gentiles with the saved remnant of Israel. We will all be united in Christ.

"Testimonies to Israel". "Testimonies" (plural). We who believe in the Jewish Messiah, testify to the Jewish people.

"To give thanks to (the) name of the LORD". Israel has not had a name to call on. We do. Israel needs to know His name.

Verse 5 ... "Because there are set thrones unto justice".

"Because there are set ...".

KISEH is a chair or a seat or a place of authority. KISOT is the plural. Because of the next word: LE'MISHPAT ... we translate KISOT as thrones. The LAMED prefix means "unto". MISHPAT means judgment or justice.

The image is of the seat of a succession of reigning kings ... the ones who had authority.

"Thrones unto the house of David". With this phrase, the kingly line is defined. It's the line of the tribe of Judah ... of King David. From David came the line to the Lord Jesus ... the King of kings, whose reign is forever.

Psalm 122 Verse by verse (6-9)

Psalm 122 mentions the LORD three times.

Psalm 122 mentions Jerusalem three times.

Psalm 122 mentions peace (SHALOM) three times.

The LORD wants Jerusalem to have peace.

In the first of the Psalms of Ascent (Psalm 120), I called to the LORD (I turned to Jesus); I confessed my shame; and I received peace ... His peace. That's the peace that the LORD wants for Jerusalem. That they will come out from under The Law, by recognising their Messiah, and confessing their need. The peace that we want for Jerusalem is not the absence of conflict so much as that they be reconciled with God.

Verse 6: "Demand peace for Jerusalem" Most English Bibles translate this word ... SHA'ALU ... as "pray". "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem". But ...SHA'AL ... means to ask intently ... even demand. The main words for prayer in Hebrew are ... PALAL ... and ... T'FILAH. There are a few other Hebrew words that also get translated "pray", but this is the only place where the Hebrew word ... SHA'AL ... gets translated as "pray".

SHA'AL comes from the same root as the name of King Saul, "SHA'UL". Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin. Saul got his name because the people of Israel "demanded" a king. They didn't just ask. They didn't pray that the LORD would give them a king. They desperately wanted a king so they could be like all the other nations.

So the LORD gave them Saul as king ... SHA'UL. The LORD said, "They are rejecting Me as their King".

With the same intensity that Israel had ... (to be like all the nations) ... we should want them to be unlike the nations.

This is not an image of us praying a little prayer that Israel will be a relaxed place. It's us pleading: "LORD, do whatever it takes to get them to turn to You." That way, they'll get lasting, and eternal, peace. It's our heart attitude about the Jewish people more than praying a rote prayer.

Saul failed as king, because he was self-absorbed. Much later, the LORD sent another Saul ... Saul of Tarsus ... also of the tribe of Benjamin – the same Saul who became known among the Gentiles as the apostle Paul – the LORD sent that "SHA'UL" to preach the good news of Jesus. And this was the LORD's choice, in the LORD's timing. And look at his heart attitude. Saul the apostle was despised and persecuted. He never sought glory or gold. And he would say that he "could wish himself accursed, and cut off from Christ, for the sake of his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh, the Israelites ..." (see Romans 9:3-4).

Wow! Paul said he would give up his own salvation for the sake of his fellow Jews! That's how much he wanted them to know their Messiah, and for Israel to come into the peace of the LORD.

"They will be at ease who love you" ... Here is a promise from the LORD. Meet the condition and you receive the promise. The condition is: take on the LORD's heart for the salvation of Israel ... (which is true love for the Jews) ... and the LORD will give you ease. I don't know about you ... I'd rather have the "easy yoke and light burden" of Jesus (see Matt 11:29-30), than all the money in the world.

Verse 7 ... "have peace within your walls" ... "ease within your citadels".

Now we make a declaration to the Jewish people. It's your city. You can have His peace. You can have His ease. There is one way you can have peace ... and that's what we want for you.

All your frantic diplomatic work, all your military build-up, will in the end come to nothing. What you need is to have the LORD take care of all your problems.

Verse 8 ... "for the sake of my brothers and my friends" ... "I will say, 'grant peace in you'"

"You" is Jerusalem ... and the people of Jerusalem and of Israel. I want this peace for them "for the sake of my brothers and my friends."

When Israel comes into right relationship with the LORD, it's going to release spiritual blessings into the church and into the world (see Romans 11:12,15)

Verse 9 ... "For the sake of the house of the LORD our God".

Here is the first of two times in the Psalms of Ascent where the LORD(YUD, HEH, VAV, HEH) is linked to the expression ELOHEINU ... "our God".

Jesus is the LORD, and Jesus is our God, and Jesus is the God and Saviour of the Jewish people.

For His sake, and for the sake of His house ... the temple of living stones that He is building up ... "I will request good unto you" ... I will request good (from the LORD) to you, Jerusalem. That's what the LORD wants. That's the heart of a mature believer in Jesus.