If you are able to worship weekly for many years, you may begin to take that blessing for granted. When that routine is threatened, or lost for a time, you may be reawakened to the joy of worshiping the Lord together. The old saying “You don’t know what you have until it is gone” begins to ring true. When believers are able to return, they say with the psalmist, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’ ” (Ps. 122:1). This reaction to the experience of loss, and restoration, speaks volumes about spiritual health.
It is difficult for many of us to imagine the life of the Old Testament saints. Distances and trials separated them from the house of God much of the time. Saints such as David even experienced long periods of banishment. There were times when worship was neglected, even decades where God’s house lay demolished. Even in the best of times, believers could not simply jump in a car and attend a weekly service, and then be back home in a couple of hours. Many of them had to make long and risky pilgrimages. At best, some came to the temple for three feasts a year (Deut. 16:16).
Psalm 122 is a psalm of ascents, traditionally sung on pilgrimages to the temple. After expressing his gladness at his friends’ invitation, David goes on:
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. . . .
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
“May they be secure who love you!
Peace be within your walls
and security within your towers!”
(vv. 3–4, 7–8)
David recalls past visits to Jerusalem with thanksgiving. He enjoys looking around at the unified capital city of the newly reconciled nation and seeing the tribes come together to give thanks. There is a sense of fellowship and joy during a season of peace. After years of civil wars, family feuds, and tensions, David revels in times of peaceful worship.
How the true believer craves times of unified and peaceful church life. He loves seeing friends and family gathered again in the Lord’s house and around His table. One mark of a true believer is the desire to “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Rom. 14:19). The motive for this, however, is not just to keep the peace in a compromised or superficial way. Rather, the believer seeks the good of the “house of the Lord our God” (Ps. 122:9).
True believers still go through times where they cannot attend the worship of the Lord or times when peace seems to be in short supply. We still, however, have an enduring hope in Christ, who through His death “is our peace” (Eph. 2:14). Even now, His church is “being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (v. 22). Through challenging times, may we be a people who continue to love the house of God.