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!
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.
(Psalm 122 ESV)
A friend of mine at church commented during coffee hour on Sunday that in the Old Testament God presents himself as the God of War and Vengeance. In the New Testament he is the God of Love. I was uncomfortable with what she was saying, both because I don’t believe in Dispensationalism (the theology that says God acts differently in different eras), and because I believe that, taken as a whole, the Old Testament revelation presents a much stronger case for a God who is constantly holding out the way of peace to his people than of a God of conquest and war.
The Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120-134), thought to have been sung on “going up” to Mt. Zion for the three major pilgrim festivals of the Jewish calendar, present good evidence as we consider God’s ways. Psalm 120:6-7 says, “Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!” If you adopt the way of peace, you will get opposition. It may even cost you your life. Psalm 121 talks about God as a protector of Israel, but in terms of him being Israel’s “shade”, one who keeps her away from the harmful effects of the sub-tropical sun.
Here in Psalm 122, God talks about going up to the Temple and about judgment. But look at how judgment is framed here. Judgment – God’s righteousness – is decreed from Mt. Zion; from Jerusalem. And what is the standard of that judgment? First, it is to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” and specifically to pray for security for those who dwell within the walls and towers of Jerusalem. Second, it is to speak peace. “For my brothers and companions' sake I will say, “Peace be within you!” For my brothers and companions’ sake. The motive of peace must be other-minded. And Third, it is to seek peace, For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.” The motive of seeking peace clearly is not purely for the safety of those huddled inside of Jerusalem. It is “for the sake of the house of the Lord.” The writer of this Psalm has as great a concern for the honor of God as he does for his own safety or that of his companions. And yet he doesn’t say, “I will defend your house to the death!” To him, defending God’s house IS praying for peace, speaking peace, and seeking peace. It is active and it is proactive. Nothing will do more to raise up God’s name than these three activities.