Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord. (Psalm 122:3-4)
A few weeks ago we had the unique opportunity to walk on the temple mount. The tension was high. Armed soldiers walked around, women and children taunting them as they went. I could feel the anxious strain in my bones. And I realized that this was very much how it would have felt to walk here in the time of Jesus. At that time the soldiers would have been Roman and the worshippers would have been Jews. The taunting and goading still took place. Think of the children in the temple courts shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (see Matt. 21:15). The words meant “Lord save us!” but they were just as much a cry of freedom and rebellion. As I stood there, I wondered, How could people truly worship in a place filled with so much tension and anxiety? These words from Psalm 122 began to take on new meaning:
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
and security within your towers.”
For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say, “Peace be within you.” (Psalm 122:6-8)
This psalm was the prayer of the pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem—a psalm of ascent. They went there to worship God. Having felt the tensions on the temple mount, I understand this prayer in a new way. God’s people understood my question. It must have been difficult for them to come to God in a place of humble adoration and worship when there was so much political upheaval. But they came. And they came praying for peace. They came knowing that God would hear them. They came trusting that God would accept their worship no matter the atmosphere.
We may not have the same concerns the Israelites had when they came to worship God. But, we do still experience other distractions and hindrances in our worship. We learn from Psalm 122 that we too can bring these before God. And then we come to God in worship. We too pray for peace, know that he will hear our prayer, and trust that he will accept our worship.