In reading this psalm, we may feel angry or overcome that the reality of Jerusalem’s history is so very far from peaceful. We may pray, “When, O Lord, will you do these things for this poor, besieged city?”
This may be our reaction, but we can and do feel the pilgrim joy of the writer and his friends who gather to worship and celebrate Israel and Israel’s God in one of the great annual festivals in Jerusalem. Psalm 122 is one of fifteen Songs of Ascents (Psalms 120–134). Psalm 122 specifically falls within the category of a pilgrimage psalm, one that pilgrims sang on the way. The Songs of Ascents prepare the worshipers to come to the Temple in the right spirit. The festivities unite the whole nation. The king and secular authorities attend; representatives of all the tribes come to worship. Conditions like war must often have interfered.
Even after the destruction of Jerusalem and the sojourn in exile, the hope remained that one day every Jew would participate in worship like this. Israel then looked to the messianic era for its fulfillment.
The importance for us today lies in what the psalm says about the quality of relationship among the pilgrims and worshipers. The New International Version Study Bible (1985) notes as follows: “These constitute a loving brotherhood, who worship together, [and] pray together.” In South Africa we experienced such quality of relationships in the 1980s when large, united worship services became the spiritual powerhouse leading to the overthrow of the racist regime in South Africa. There was joy, and glory was given to God.
The whole community experiences the beneficial effects of such inclusive worship; when that fails, the community suffers.
When have you entered into joyful worship with many different kinds of people? Do you desire such inclusiveness?
Advent is a new year, new time, new life: a genuine newness wrought by God in the world. As both the pro- phetic oracle and the psalm attest, Israel hopes for justice, peace, and well-being. The biblical community knows God’s intention for these matters and trusts God’s faithful promise. Thus Advent begins in a vision of a healed alternative for the world. The New Testament readings intensify the long-standing hopes and make the promises of God immediate prospects. The intensity and present tense of New Testament faith revolve around the presence of Jesus, whose very person initiates a new beginning in the world. The church at Advent watches in order to notice where God is bringing justice, peace, and well-being.
• Read Isaiah 2:1-5. What are your experiences of freedom and un-freedom? Consider how your demands for freedom in certain areas cause others to experience un-freedom.
• Read Psalm 122. When have you gathered for worship with a diverse community? What do you perceive as the bene ts of such a gathering?
• Read Romans 13:11-14. The writer suggests that we con- sider our salvation as a journey. Where are you along the way?
• Read Matthew 24:36-44. We are to KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON. How do you manifest your “readiness” for the coming of the kingdom?
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