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Author:Rev. Mark Chen
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Congregation:First Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore
Title:The Christian’s Love for Christ and Church
Text:Psalms 122:1-9 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Communion of Saints

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Trinity Hymnal Revised 1990, The Psalter 1912

Psalter 292 - Redeeming Love

Psalter 350 - Devotion for the Church

TH 353 - I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Are you happy as a Christian in the church? Are you happy with Jesus? Are you happy with the people of Jesus? The problem is, as sinners we rub one another the wrong way. It’s not just misunderstanding. It could be actual sin. And the reason for that is because we are sinners. Yes, in the church - people don’t get along - they sin against each other. We’ve seen this in the morning service in the systematic reading of 1 Corinthians. The Corinthians were always trying to one up one another. They gossiped and slandered. They dismissed Paul even though he was the one who brought the gospel to them. But at the same time, not even Paul was exempt. Paul had his share of issues. He couldn’t agree with Barnabas over John Mark - even though Barnabas was the one who stood up for him when no one else would. The contention was so sharp that they split ways. Sad. But we live on earth, not in heaven. We don’t expect perfection. 

But according to this Psalm, Christians should be happy precisely because of the church. Psalm 122 is part of the songs of degrees - psalms that were sung when pilgrims climbed up the stairs to the temple. They’d been traveling many days to Jerusalem to celebrate the feasts, and during the feasts, the population of Jerusalem could go up 1000%. They’d also been traveling together for days, and now they were singing about their commitment to one another. How can we understand this psalm as New Testament Christians? How can we harmonize this psalm with what we experience? In short, this Psalm teaches us that we must be overwhelmed by Christ and what he has done for his people. And this should drive us to love the church and one another more.

To expound on this, I will draw out 3 propositions from this Psalm. They are firstly, Christians love to serve Christ with each other. Secondly, Christians love to love each other and the church. Thirdly, Christians love to pray for the church because of Christ.

Firstly, Christians love to serve Christ with each other. The psalmist was happy. He said in verse 1 - “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.” We see here that he loves to worship God. He’s glad because the house of God is the place he wants to go. We see several things. It says go. Three times a year all male Jews were required to go to Jerusalem. Why? They had to celebrate the feasts. And it was a rare privilege for those living further than a Sabbath day’s journey. But they went. Why? Not only because the Law required them but also because they found God’s earthly presence at the temple - the ark, the symbol of God’s presence, was housed in the tabernacle that David had erected, before Solomon’s temple was built. So they were to go to the Lord’s house where his glory was present. And the reason was to serve God through the means of sacrifice - to receive atonement for their sins. That’s why they went to the city of God. Furthermore, they would go there corporately. Let us go. Whole families would make the journey together to Jerusalem. It was quite a treat but it was expensive. And for safety they generally travelled in groups. If you remember, Joseph and Mary traveled with other pilgrims from Nazareth for the annual Passover festival. And this is why it was a joyful time. I was glad. It was a joyous time because of these two reasons - God’s people would receive forgiveness and they would receive it together with others. He can’t wait, as verse 2 says, for his feet to be standing in Jerusalem, within its gates. There, he will receive forgiveness and be freed to worship God. 

Now, for us, we’ve been to the temple - to Christ. He’s our temple. We’ve found forgiveness in him. He’s our sacrifice, our atonement. He’s Emmanuel - God with us - our ark of the covenant. And in him is demonstrated the righteousness and mercy of God. He’s passed through the veil into the real holy of holies - to the right hand of God. And God receives anyone who comes through Christ. And we don’t come individually. We’re part of a joyful company of people. Hebrews 12:22-24 says, “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” That’s why Christians love to serve God with other Christians. In Christ we’re forgiven despite all our sins. We’ve been brought to Christ together with others. That difficult brother or sister - they’ve been purchased by Christ too. We were condemned by our sins, others were condemned by theirs, but in Christ we’ve been forgiven by sacrifice - not the blood offerings  Abel and the others brought - but his infinitely valuable sacrifice. This desire to worship Christ together with others is a sign that God has worked in us. Christians love to serve Christ together with other Christians. We love to serve him because of what he has done. And we serve Christ together because we genuinely love each other.

Secondly, Christians love to love one another and the church. As we saw in verse 1, the psalmist’s gladness was stirred because he was going to the temple, not with just anyone, but with a group of God’s people. And it made him rejoice because he loved them. Let us go! I was glad! Remember that God doesn’t only save us as individuals. He saved us as a people. You shall call his name Jesus because he shall save his people from their sins. Believers in both Old and New Testaments were called a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, and holy nation - these are all group nouns. These were the people he delighted in. If he hated God’s people, it would be a chore for him. But God’s people love God’s people. 

And what we see about this people is that they’re united. Verse 3 says, “Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together.” The city is compacted - united. Now, we know Psalm 133 uses the word “behold” to emphasize the unity of God’s people - “behold how God and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” This Psalm also does it but differently. It uses a step parallelism. Verse 2 ends with the word Jerusalem - Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem. Then verse 3 immediately starts with the word Jerusalem - Jerusalem is a city compactly built. This parallelism is meant to emphasize the joy at seeing the city. “Our feet shall stand within the gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem!! Such a united city!

And these united people are also an obedient people. Verse 4 says - “Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD.” The Divine Author is trying to tell us something here. These are not just any tribes - but obedient tribes. Using parallelism again, the author says in effect - when the tribes go up, the Lord’s tribes you know, they’re a testimony! They show their obedience to God. Now, who are these tribes? Notice it doesn’t say the tribes of Israel but the tribes of the Lord. We use the New Testament to interpret the Old. Verse 3 says -“Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together.” Ephesians 4:16 describes the church, “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” Therefore the psalm has in view not the physical city per se, but all true believers of God. And the tribes? Who are they? Revelation 21:9-10, 12 - “…Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God…And this city had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:” The tribes of the Lord are all people who are the Lamb’s bride and wife - the church. We are to love the church. Why? It’s made up of the unified and obedient people of God  

We also love because Christ loves the church. He dwells with her. Verse 5 - “For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David.” Jerusalem is the home of God’s king. For a third time in this psalm, step parallelism is used. In this city, there’s the rule of justice - ruled by David’s descendent! King Jesus - son of David - rules in the church. He dwells with her and makes her righteous. By herself she’s sinful and problematic. But Christ rules. That’s why we ought to love God’s people. He’s working in us. He’s made us clean. He continues to wash us. 

But this is the problem when it comes to church problems. We look away from Christ to the sins of others. And then we react and behave sinfully. Instead of reacting like our gracious king, we sit on thrones to judge; but not with righteousness, but unrighteousness. We forget they’re God’s tribes. They’re God’s city. We judge - what a terrible and sinful person! But why not, what a wonderfully saved person? Wow! Christ is their lord and master even as he’s mine! We react without love if we forget how much Christ loves the people of the church. And that’s why we ought to love her. 

Which is why, knowing our own weakness, we must pray. That’s the third proposition, Christians love to pray for the church because of Christ. Because we love to serve Christ, because we love Christians, we will pray for her well-being. Verses 6-8 - “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee.” What do they pray for? There are 3 things. He prays for peace within the walls, prosperity or strength in the towers, and a blessing of prosperity on those who love the church. 

So he prays for peace within the walls. Jerusalem literally means “city of peace.” The word Jerusalem is mentioned 3 times in this psalm and now the word peace is mentioned 3 times. The meaning is clear. He’s praying she’ll live up to her name. We’re saved to be at peace with God and each other. A church must be characterized by peace. He also prays for the prosperity of the church. The word ‘prosper’ means to ‘be secure’, ‘quiet’ and ‘at ease,’ but then it can speak about the success that such security brings like thriving and flourishing. He desires the church not only to be at peace but also to flourish and grow. And he also prays for the prosperity of those who love the church. “They shall prosper that love thee.” And this is the irony. In so many church conflicts, we’re strongly worded because we feel strongly. We sometimes even degenerate into slander and complaints - not loving at all! Have you ever thought that this very act works against your own prosperity? It’s ironic isn’t it? The very zeal may be our very undoing. That very zeal we think would reform the church - may lead to its dismantling. That’s why we’re to pray. We’re too quick to speak and act. Let’s pray. 

Now there’s a play on words in these verses. Jerusalem or it’s shortened form shalem sounds similar to the word for peace - shalom. And the word for pray is shaalu. And the word for prosperity is shalah. If you read it in Hebrew you’d hear the words shaalu, Shalom, shalem, shalah. Why such a play on words? Why this alliteration? It was to remind God’s people to pray for peace and prosperity of the people. That’s our own alliteration. That God’s people pray for peace and prosperity - purposeful, persevering, patient, protective, positive preference for God’s people. No pessimism. That would be our undoing. But as verse 9 says, because of the house of God, I will seek your good. We are positive about the church purely because of Christ.  

Dearly beloved, how shall we apply this psalm to ourselves? Concerning our church there are so many things to give thanks for. Because Christ has established the church, we can be confident that he loves the church - more than you or I ever will. He has sacrificed himself for her. He loves and honors this church. And for others who are visiting from your various congregations, he loves your churches as well. Every single one - warts and all. This is despite all of our shortcomings. Therefore, we must love him for that. We must serve him and one another in our churches. 

And that’s why we must love one another because Christ loves us. The church must be united. Jerusalem is a compact and united city. As Ephesians 4 says, everyone of us must do our part to work in love - to build the kingdom and keep unity? How are you serving each other? How are you using your mouth? And the church must also be holy - we’re a testimony of God. Christ rules over us in righteousness. How do we pursue after holiness - in our person and public lives? And that’s why we must look to him - we must pray. If we don’t love one another as we should, keep the unity, or pray, how shall we prosper? Pray for her peace and prosperity. And remember that our own prosperity comes when we love the church. Remember that our eyes must be beholding the right things. We can focus on so many wrong things. In Luke 21, the disciples and others were admiring the beauty and splendor of Herod’s temple that made Jerusalem so attractive. But Jesus saw the city and wept over it - he foretold its destruction. They saw the outward beauty, Jesus saw the inward rot. Do we pursue her outward prosperity, or her inward holiness? 

Let us pray for the peace and prosperity of this city until all whose names are in the book of life are brought in and the Lamb and his people are for ever together in the home of righteousness, where there are no tears and no curse.

Sermon Outline:

1. Christians Love to Serve Christ with Each Other
2. Christians Love to Love One Another and the Church
3. Christians Love to Pray for the Church Because of Christ

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2022, Rev. Mark Chen

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