For the Sake of the Church

Psalm 122

Messed up culture – separation of church and state – began with one-way wall keeping state out of church business, silent regarding church influence in state affairs. 50 years ago, transition to wall in both directions. Has rapidly changed since then, state moving to assert authority over church. And here is what is more disturbing, state attempts to regulate conscience – telling average citizens by all three branches (executive, legislative, judicial) what is acceptable to believe and how to practice that belief.

None of that should surprise. What is surprising: that America pretended to be Christian nation for so long. Now… mask is coming off, moral heathenism present all along becoming more obvious. Why is that important? Consider how Christians are responding – two things primarily being addressed: personal rights and idea of Christian nation. “I have right to…” and “we need to rise up and take our country back”. Notice how strongly focused response is on individuals, individual rights, even in idea of taking country back – why?? to regain my rights. Also, attitudes expressed are contentious, even hostile toward evil government and its agents.

Contrast that with Lord Jesus… and others: “Christ loved the church and gave himself for her” (Eph. 5:25) Also of great significance, how does that difference in attitude play out in public square, private choices, etc. Things do lead to things, you know! One thing before getting into the text: Jerusalem used several times in this and following psalms; more to its use than simply label for dot on a map. We use Washington / Augusta to indicate name of city; also use it to refer to that city as seat of government. Same true for Jerusalem: stands for name of city; city as seat of David’s government; also, place of God’s residence (tabernacle and later, temple) and place of worship. We view attack on Washington as assault on the nation. Jewish perspective: attack on Jerusalem assault on nation (the king) and church (God). So, to speak of Jerusalem, lots of mental images and concepts rush in.

Expressed in song here: love for the church (house of the Lord); love of praise (give thanks); love of peace; love of the brethren.

A. love for the church v.1-2

not expressing a love for architecture or ambience – people in that day didn’t go to admire stained glass, to sit in silent contemplation as retreat from life/world

think about tabernacle worship – not a chair to be seen, mostly open to the weather, often loud and overpowering, not for spectators but active participants

were number of things about tabernacle that had artistic beauty – never seen by average worshipper, hidden by one or more curtains, seen only by priests

love prompted by what house represented, who would be there, what would take place there – all things tied to specific place

“they said… let us go” – place of fellowship with other worshipers of God; place of worship and praise, not kind that can be done by one person alone

“house of the Lord” – the one place in Israel, in the world where God said he would demonstrate his presence among his people

invitation to worship was cause for joy – doesn’t appear it was difficult decision, immediate response one of joy at opportunity

going to church treated first as blessing to be enjoyed, not duty to be endured; did recognize duty, delight far outweighed

matched by distress when Providentially hindered from participating in corporate worship: Psa. 84:2My soul longs, yes, even faints For the courts of the LORD.”

also cause for action, not simply emotion – camer focuses on invitation, joyful response… cuts to next scene, on location Jerusalem

documentary opening – “we are here, on location, in the city of Jerusalem; you can see behind me the outer courtyard…”

some points of application – countercultural actions and responses on both sides of initial encounter

neither inviters nor invited had attitude “matters of faith are private” – put it out there, let’s go to church, got positive response

weren’t afraid to ask political figure, the king, to engage in worship (true-God-centered, btw); king didn’t mind participating

“they” weren’t afraid to ask – fear of rejection, embarassment in front of friends, negative public opinion not factors

“The survey showed that many would respond to an invitation from a friend or acquaintance (41 percent), their children (25 percent) or an adult family member (25 percent).” –Scott McConnell, LifeWay Research

now for believer made aware of opportunity to “go to church” – can easily picture response: don’t even get to finish sentence, on their way to the door

a pent-up desire to be there, will immediately abandon other pursuits for that one – no hesitation, excuses, higher priorities

B. love of praise v.3-5

city itself comes into view, then place of worship – much of what describes city applies also to “house of the Lord”

“built as a city solidly joined together” – certainly benefit to city in those days: wall for protection and security, not looks

city divided cannot stand; unity necessary for good health, true just as well in families and church family

think about illustration – one of things choir / chorus director works on incessantly: timing, getting entrances, staying together… all for very good reasons; sounds awful when those things are off

praise of God when worshipers not unified sounds awful, is unpleasant to experience and displeasing to one being worshiped

primary activity of worshipers that psalmist focuses on: major cause for joy, get to go praise God with other believers

praise / thanks essential part of true worship – and… must be sincere: God criticized “people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me,” Isa. 29:13

worshiper who begins with love for God and his church will also have love / desire for praise: will express individually, greater joy when there is opportunity to praise corporately

follow the logic – the one who loves desires to give to object of love; what can we give to God that isn’t returning what is his? what belongs to him anyway? praise!

Heb. 13:15 “…let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”

if there’s anything we can give to God out of our own store, is sincere praise – even then, we use life and breath God supplies

praise / thanksgiving should be under pressure – ready to pour out whenever given opportunity – this is most important task, greatest privilege of all worshipers

here’s why: Psalm 22:3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.

C. love of peace v.6-7

here where it gets even more counter-cultural – seeking peace for the church, for the community, for the individuals represented

“Peace, ” in this case, means much more than mere absence of war. Rather, completeness, wholeness, harmony, fulfilment, are closer to the meaning. Implicit in shalom is the idea of unimpaired relationships with others and fulfilment in one’s undertakings. …This sort of peace has its source in God. He is the one who will speak shalom to his people. …The classic statement of this concept is the Aaronic benediction (Num 6:24-26) which identifies the man to whom God has given shalom as the one who is blessed (barak), guarded (shamar), and treated graciously (hanan), by Yahweh. TWOT

The LORD bless you and keep you;the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

not a prayer that those who are true patriots would experience peace and prosperity; it is for those who love what Jerusalem stands for – those who love Jerusalem as place of God’s house, iow, love the church

if primary entity in view is the Lord’s house, peace and prosperity prayed for is first and foremost a spiritual blessing

peace in the church because of shared love for God, his worship, thankfulness for blessings, common goals and priorities

those who have true love for the church will be blessed abundantly – first with spiritual blessings, then often with other blessings

God’s people, when living / thinking as they ought, desire peace – not peace at any cost, no willingness to compromise biblical principles

is a desire that plays out in action – both verbal expression and active follow-thru, starting first with God as source, then pursuing in all spheres of life what leads to peace

when civil peace is not present or possible, shalomis to be character of life in the church – “within your walls”, “within your fortresses”

by God’s design, people’s desire sanctuary should live up to its name – v.6 “pray City of Peace live up to its name”

D. love of the brethren v.8-9

becomes apparent v.8, not just church folks in view here – “for the sake of my brothers and my neighbors”, pray for peace

love for fellow believers and love for neighbor both prompt prayer / desire for peace and harmony

don’t forget: not asking that brothers and neighbors find contentment in their sinfulness; asking for it within framework of choices and actions that are in line with biblical principles

not all or nothing: don’t have to be a Christian person / nation to live in relative peace

looking outside church walls – is a prayer that God’s “will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, also for restraining work of Spirit

“…the Holy Spirit works in two ways. In some men’s hearts He works with restraining Grace only, and the restraining Grace, though it will not save them, is enough to keep them from breaking out into the open and corrupt vices in which some men indulge who are totally lacking the restraints of the Spirit.” CHS, Acts 24.25

recognition here that peace within the church is good for the community, for sake of those outside as well as inside

when church experiences internal troubles that carry over into surroundings, gives opportunity for people to think / say what is dishonoring to God, increase their condemnation

here’s one reason above all else to seek good of city/nation/government: the sake of the church, “the house of the LORD our God”

desire for good of the church goes far beyond its local expression – original author had entire “local” church in mind

true, even gates of hell cannot overcome church; however… hostility of evil people / governments can greatly hinder her work

trace spread of Christianity from Jerusalem to four corners of world – Gospel first has “civilizing” influence, takes root and begins to permeate culture/people group, conflict diminishes and church snowballs

So… if we consider world in general around us, specific details closer to home, what should our framework / worldview be? Principles laid down in this psalm: motivated by love for the church, of praise (what goes on at church), of peace (atmosphere in church), for brothers (people in church), pray for / pursue what is best… for the sake of the church. 3 or 4 examples:

abortion – bomb clinics, ramp up the rhetoric, make it litmus test for political office or offer help to pregnant moms, homes for unwanted babies, hope to those who have had abortions

marriage issues – carry signs bashing gays, call for boycotts against manufacturers/retailers or demonstrate true love in God-honoring relationships, offer help / hope to casualties of broken sinful ones

immigration – seal the borders, deport all the aliens (that haven’t been locked up), avoid those lines in the store or thank God for bringing mission field here, use desire for language instruction to share Gospel of eternal hope

As God blesses efforts we make in each of these areas, church will grow, become stronger, more effective as light in dark world.

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