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TEXT: Psalm 122
SUBJECT: Songs on the Way to Heaven #3
Psalms 120-134 are sometimes called Pilgrim Psalms or Songs of Pilgrimage. These are good names for them because they were sung by the people of Israel as they made their way up to Jerusalem to observe Passover, Pentecost, or the Feast of Booths.
If the pilgrim were a worldly man, he would take these trips for a vacation-at best-or more likely, as a necessary evil, three weeks a year 'wasted' on God instead of spent making money or taking care of the money he already had. Pious men knew better! They saw their time in Jerusalem as the happiest weeks of the year, and more than that, as an inkling of something better to come.
Jerusalem, its Temple and Law Courts were not only places, they were also promises. The capital of Israel would one day become the center of the world with God Himself on the throne, ruling in wisdom, justice, and love. If Solomon built the Temple on earth, it was only a model of the one in Heaven-or perhaps the one that is Heaven-- where the full glory of God shines from between the living Cherubim.
Standing in the gates of the Holy City, the devout man must have felt something in his soul that he could not put the words to. It was a longing of sorts-like nostalgia, perhaps-only instead of looking back to a joy he had lost, it looked forward to a joy he had sensed now and then all his life, but which he had never quite possessed. It was a pain he felt that day, but a pain more wonderful than all the pleasures this world can offer.
That man's Jerusalem is no more, but what lay beneath it-the heavenly realities it was built on-are as firm today as ever. If he and his brethren sang Psalms on their way to that Jerusalem, let us outsing them on our way to The Jerusalem that is above. For the Pilgrim Songs are, in fact, Songs on the Way to Heaven.
HAPPY MEMORYPsalm 122 begins with a happy memory-
I was glad when they said to me,
Let us go into the house of the
For most Israelites, the journey to Jerusalem was the longest one they would ever make. The city is in the south of the country, and pilgrims coming from the north were often traveling more than one hundred miles to get there. While that doesn't seem distant to us, if we were walking the whole way-uphill, with wife, kids, and grandparents--we might feel differently about it! It was a long and tiring trip.
But now it's behind them, for the man and many others have just stepped into the City of God. In the shadow of its gate, he recalls the day his wife said the magic words, Honey, it's time to leave!
Most Jews of that time were homebodies; the land they lived on had always been their home, it was their father's home and his father, and by grace, his children and their children would live on it too. If leaving home for war was terrible, business trips were not much better.
But this will be a happy trip, because he's not going to war or to work, either; he's going to God-and not just any god-but the God of Israel, the God who heard the cries of His people, who judged the fatherless and visited widows, the God of compassion who is eager to forgive His people and wants their fellowship!
This is the One he was going to see-the Lord who invited him to His home and would be rich in hospitality.
It's a good day when someone tells you, Let us go into the house of the Lord.
A HAPPIER MOMENT
If that was a good day, this day is even better. Going to God is the second best thing you can do; the best thing is reaching God. He wasn't traveling to be traveling, he was traveling to get somewhere, to get to Jerusalem where the Lord was, in a unique way-
Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.
The language indicates that where he is at the moment, and he's been standing there for some time now, recalling the privilege of entering God's Home Town!
Every now and then Christians get a glimpse of heaven, but that's all it is, a hint of glory, and soon gone. We need these whispers of heaven because without them we'd lose heart. We live in a world of sin and sorrow and death, and we're prone to think ours is the only world--and that's when the other world flashes into our own.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a pastor in London from the late '30's to the late 60's, and a preacher always in demand. After several years of overwork, he was utterly spent; he couldn't preach or pray; he could barely function. As he shuffled his way through the parlor one day, he saw a book open on the table, and spotted only one word in it: the word was glory. The wearisome years rolled off the preacher's back, and he was a new creature in Christ.
Now we see the Holy City through a cold and heavy fog, but one day, the fog will lift and we will see it as it is-from the inside! Since the world-I think-was modeled on heaven, all the joys of this world will be kept, others will be added, and they will all be perfect and forever!
The greatest sermon I ever read was preached by John Jasper, a one-time slave, and then Baptist pastor in Richmond Virginia. It was a funeral sermon for a young lady who had died and gone to heaven. Jasper describes the place she had gone to-David playing his harp, Elijah wheeling around in the fiery chariot, the water of life, clear as crystal, and the Lord on His Throne. All images from the Bible, of course, but his punchline didn't come from the Bible; it came from the heart. After painting his magnificent word picture of glory, Jasper cried,
Oh, what must it be to be there!
If standing in the copy of Jerusalem was a thrill to the Psalmist, what must it be like to stand in the real one? Yet that's what ever believer will do one day-because our Savior said so!
In My Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go there to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
Jerusalem was a splendid city at the time, but for beauty, riches, and power, other cities in the Ancient World were far greater. But it wasn't the landscape or architecture that set the city apart apart, but the One who lived there!
In the same way, Heaven is a place of staggering beauty and goodness, but
The Lamb is all the glory in Immanuel's land
THE CITY OF GOD
If the first two verses tell us how the man felt about Jerusalem, he now turns away from his feelings to the City itself.
Jerusalem is built
As a city that is compact together.
The man is a country bumpkin, it seems, a fellow who never saw two houses together. But now, stepping into Jerusalem, he's amazed by its size and layout. We're all used to cities, of course, but go stand at Rockefeller Center in mid-town Manhattan, and you'll feel like a hick, too. For all the problems of urban life, there is still something magnificent about a great city.
That's what heaven is-a Great City, with billions of angels and saints, and in the heart of it, a Palace. I know Revelation is a book full of symbols, but symbols, if well chosen, are never more than the thing they symbolize, but less. What then must the symbols point to?
The city is 1,500 miles long, wide, and high! (Mount Everest is only 5 miles high). The buildings are made of pure gold, but the gold is transparent. The corner stones are all huge gemstones. The gates are pearls hollowed out in the middle. There is no sun or moon in the city because the whole thing is lit up by the face of the King, a face, by the way, that you can also look at and live!
We were born in the city of man, but we're going to the City of God.
Where the tribes go up,
The tribes of the Lord,
To the Testimony of Israel,
To give thanks unto the Lord.
Jerusalem was not a ghost town in those days, but a city full of life, happy and holy life, as the people of God pour in from all directions to praise the Lord before the Ark or the Covenant.
Jean Paul Sartre said 'Hell is other people'. But, like so many other things, he was wrong about this one. In fact, 'Hell is no other people'. Heaven is a Community-not an accidental jumbling of people, but a Fellowship.
Believers from all over the world will some day Sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. There will be no fussing in heaven because we will be too busy giving thanks to the Lord.
For thrones are set there for judgment,
The thrones of the House of David.
When the Psalmist went to Jerusalem, a good king was then on the throne, a man who ruled justly in the fear of God-and saw that others did the same. This means that God, in effect, was ruling the people. But His rule, in that city, was not perfect, because even the best judges are far from what they need to be.
But in the New Jerusalem, the Rule of God will be ministered through judges who are what they need to be. Paul, speaking to a church that couldn't police itself, reminded them of their high calling: Do you not know that we will judge angels? (I Corinthians 6:3). Heaven will be overseen by glorified saints who will do all their Master's bidding. Thus, heaven is a place we can live in in peace, because there's no crime or corruption.
Having praised the City of God to the best of his ability, the Psalmist turns to the people around him and tells them to
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
He did that because the Jerusalem he had in mind was not secure. As long as its king and people obeyed the Lord, all would be well. But therein lies the rub: the people could not obey the Lord-for long, I mean-because their sins were not forgiven, their hearts were not remade, and they didn't have the Holy Spirit indwelling them.
Thus the City could fall into war, poverty, and chaos. And it did. It wasn't long until Jerusalem was sacked by the Chaldeans, its people carried into captivity, and its Temple burned to the ground.
Some of the people came back (eventually), the Temple was rebuilt, and the city was restored, but they were a shadow of their former selves. In 70 AD, the new Temple was demolished and Jerusalem fell to the Romans in the worst massacre in the history of the world. And now, Jerusalem is just another town. Ichabod. The Glory has departed.
But this is not our Jerusalem; in fact it wasn't the City the God fearing Jew belonged to either. That City could be shaken-and it was shaken, shaken to pieces. But the heavenly City is stronger than the one on earth, and that's the one we belong to-
Therefore, we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken!
This is the real city, the city of which Jerusalem was only a bad copy. And its our city! The city of God.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we're going to heaven. Hallelujah!
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