I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
Our feet are standing
in your gates, Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is built like a city
that is closely compacted together.
That is where the tribes go up—
the tribes of the LORD—
to praise the name of the LORD
according to the statute given to Israel.
There stand the thrones for judgment,
the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels. ”
For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your prosperity.
The Songs of Ascents is a collection of fifteen psalms the Israelites sang as they journeyed to Jerusalem for various festivals. In this psalm, the third in the series, the psalmist sings: "I rejoiced with those who said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the Lord'" (Psalm 122:1). The words capture a sense of communal joy and anticipation, the sort many of us experience during Christmas.
The psalmist goes on to say, "Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together" (Psalm 122:3). This isn't just a geographical observation; it's a symbolic reflection of unity. Jerusalem, as the spiritual and political heart of Israel, symbolized the nation's unity under God. And the close-knit construction of the city mirrored the close-knit relationships of its inhabitants.
God is big on unity. He wants his children to be united. In one of his last prayers before his Passion, Jesus prayed for unity among believers. He prayed for the protection of his apostles from the evil one. Then he said, "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you" (John 17:20-21).
The early Christian church lived out this unity. Scripture says: "All the believers were one in heart and mind." (Acts 4:32). Just as Jerusalem's compacted structure symbolized unity in the Old Testament, the early church's communal life symbolized their unity in Christ.
But why is unity so important? The psalmist provides a clue: "For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, 'Peace be within you.'" (Psalm 122:8). Unity brings peace. When a community is united, its members work towards the common good, support one another, and resolve conflicts amicably.
The church is in so much disarray now because there is so much disunity. Historical and theological differences, cultural and sociopolitical factors, modern challenges, and, of course, human nature have all contributed to dividing it. How can we change this? By letting what we have in common unite us rather than let our differences separate us. And what do we have in common? Paul wrote: "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:4-5). One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God — isn't that enough to unite us? If we can humble ourselves, it most certainly is!
As we sing this psalm, let us remember it's not just about a city or a place. It's about the joy of unity, the peace it brings, and the call for us to live in harmony with one another. And let us try to achieve it. It will make our Father happy.
Peace be with you.