Psalm 122

The Arrival

A Song of Ascents. By David.

1 I was glad when they said to me,
"Let's go to YHWH's house!"
2 Our feet are standing within your gates, Jerusalem;
3 Jerusalem, that is built as a city that is compact together;
4 where the tribes go up, even Yah's tribes,
according to an ordinance for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of YHWH.
5 For there are set thrones for judgment,
the thrones of David's house.
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Those who love you will prosper.
7 Peace be within your walls,
and prosperity within your palaces.
8 For my brothers' and companions' sakes,
I will now say, "Peace be within you."
9 For the sake of the house of YHWH our God,
I will seek your good.

How do you feel when you arrive at your destination after a long trip?

America is a nation on wheels. Even before the Interstate Highway system was proposed over fifty years ago, Americans have loaded up their cars and set out across state or across country to see the sites and visit relatives. While the rise of fast food restaurant and motels have made travel easier, travel by car still wears on drivers and their families. The moment of arrival means relief, joy, and even a sense of satisfaction. At least, the driver can turn to their eight year old and say, "Yes, we're there."

Arrival should be a time of thanksgiving ("Thank you, God, we're here."). Psalm 122 was a prayer of gratitude and more. The psalm declared happiness for arrival in Jerusalem (122:1-2), praised the city for its place in the people and Scripture (122:3-5), then prayed for peace on the city (122:6-9). First, the psalmist expressed joy over the invitation to make the pilgrimage and an implicit sense of accomplishment at the arrival. Next, the psalmist praised the city for its defensible structure ("built compact"), then declared it as a place of pilgrimage (in obedience to Deuteronomy 16:16-17) and the seat of the monarchy. Finally, the psalmist prayed for peace upon the city, the gift of Shalom. Peace, in this sense, was equivalent to the presence of God and its realization. Shalom was a palpable sense that God was present and all was right with the world. Prosperity and security would certainly follow from this peace.

Arrival after a long journey can evoke many emotions. Arrival for a pilgrimage must magnify the emotions, for the journey seeks more than a warm reunion with family or a great photo-op. A pilgrimage is directed towards a holy place, and ultimately towards God. Arrival at the holy place means finding the presence of God. For Christians, the pilgrimage and arrival capture the spirituality the life journey towards our Maker and his peace.

Have you made a pilgrimage, either spiritual or geographic? How did you feel when you arrived? How did the journey and its end affect you?