I rejoiced when they said to me, “Let us go to….
David begins the 122nd Psalm with the words, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to….’”
That opening line gets me thinking: What place on earth might generate such an exclamation from me?
Two places come immediately to mind:
I would rejoice any time someone would say to me, “Let us go to Yosemite National Park.” I feel such a thrill inside of me every time I descend into that valley and catch my first sight again of those amazing peaks and waterfalls. The beauty of that valley makes my senses spring to life and makes my heart leap within me. I have such wonderful memories of hiking to the top of Half Dome (several times), of swimming at the top of Yosemite Falls, of watching deer and bears, of ice skating under stars in winter, and of playing cards under lantern light in the summer. Every time I go there I am flooded with memories from the past, and I am filled with the anticipation of making wonderful new memories.
And I would rejoice if you could say to me, “Let us go back to your parents’ home on Golden Gate Avenue in Oakland, California. When my mom was alive, every trip to our family home was filled with the joy of her love and the delight of her baking. She always welcomed me warmly, telling me that I was “the light of her life and the joy of her heart.” In her later years, she repeated her stories often, but I never minded hearing them again because they were always filled with love and joy and affirmation. Though the house has been sold and gutted and transformed from the home I grew up in, I still get a thrill driving past it because it remains filled with so many wonderful memories.
My reminiscing helps me to understand and appreciate this psalm more fully. David is not referring to Yosemite or my childhood home in this psalm, but the thrill of those places touches on what David has in mind when he sings, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”
When we come to the Lord’s house to worship we get the opportunity to behold a beauty that is beyond the natural. We open our souls to something bigger and greater than ourselves. We are filled with anticipation of great things to come. Our senses spring to life, and our hearts leap within us. I think that is a bit of what David had in mind.
And when we come to the Lord’s house to worship, it’s like we are coming home to the One who will welcome us warmly and will assure us that we are the apple of His eye and the joy of His heart. Yes, we might hear some stories over again, but each of those stories is filled with His love for us. Worship connects us afresh with the true source of love in our lives. I think this is also a part of what David had in mind.
Interestingly, the psalm goes on to say, “Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together.” That may strike us, at first, as a strange comment, but Derek Prince points out, “Now that word translated ‘closely compacted together’ is formed from a root that means, ‘a fellow, a comrade, somebody very close to you.’ It’s one of the most affectionate words describing commitment between two persons that you can find in the Hebrew language. It’s still used that way in modern Hebrew…. The mortar that binds God’s people together in true unity is not doctrine, it’s not the time or the place of a meeting, but it’s that personal commitment, heart-to-heart, that makes each of us fellows, comrades, brothers together, brothers and sisters, members of the same home, members of the same family, committed one to another.”
Part of the life-transforming nature of worship is in how it binds us together with one another. F. Arlin Nave shares one example: “One time, when Alexander Solzhenitsyn was in a Soviet prison in Siberia, he was exhausted from the hard labor, weak from starvation and suffering from an untreated illness. He felt that he could not go on. He stopped working, knowing that the guards would beat him severely and maybe even kill him. Then, another prisoner, a follower of Christ, took his shovel and in the sand at the feet of Solzhenitsyn drew the sign of the cross and then quickly erased it. Solzhenitsyn says that the hope and courage of the gospel flooded his soul, and it enabled him to hold on. Was he saved by the sign of the cross? Yes! But was he not also saved that day by that caring fellow, a Christian person who cared enough to remind him of hope? Of course.”
Even in a Siberian prison, even with a call to worship that is as brief as a cross traced in the sand then erased almost immediately, life-saving hope can be passed along from one believer to another. No wonder David declares, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’”