Psalm 122

Readings for this week June 22 – 26
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – A Psalm of Worship

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 122:1

Psalm 122 is the third psalm in the sequence known as the Songs of Ascents. Many scholars believe the fifteen Songs of Ascents were sung by pilgrims as they ascended the road to Jerusalem on their way to one of the three pilgrim festivals held there. The first two psalms in the sequence set the scene, preparing the way – and the singer – for what follows. Psalm 120 is a psalm of repentance, a psalm designed to express the sorrow felt by someone who has wandered from the path and let the cares and concerns of the world dominate their thought and actions. Then comes Psalm 121, a psalm of trust that God will work out his purposes in our lives and guard us in the midst of trial. Then comes Psalm 122, a psalm of worship, as the people come together to worship God.

We need to approach God humbly aware of our sin, but also knowing he loves us. We are to offer our entire being – the good bits and the bad bits – in worship before our holy God. He knows all about us anyway – what would we be saying if we refused to give him everything we are? If we are honest about our sin, he will forgive us; if we offer all we have in loving service to him, he will welcome and affirm us. He will neither abandon us nor ignore our worship. If we feel God’s presence, it is not because we somehow rise up to him, but because he chooses to come down to us. When we worship God without trying to cover up who we really are, we see ourselves clearly and can also see God as he is.

Question to Consider
What do you find most difficult about being completely real and honest in your worship?

Prayer
Almighty Father, help me to be real and honest with you at all times, no matter what I am feeling. All of me is yours. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – An Act, Not a Feeling

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 122:1-2

We worship because we want to, not because we are forced to. Yes, sometimes it can feel like we are forced to, that we have no choice in the matter (especially when younger perhaps!). God commands our worship and as grateful, loving, subjects of the king, worship is our natural response, the natural dwelling place of those – all of us – made for God, made for his pleasure, made to find our beginning and our end and our very existence in him. When we worship God we find ourselves at the very centre, the very core of our being, operating in the very way we were created to do.

Of course this doesn’t mean we always feel like worshipping. And, to be blunt, this isn’t important. This isn’t the point. We don’t worship because we feel like it. It is tempting for us to give in to ‘If it feels good, do it’, or to think that if something is hard, God can’t be in it, or if we don’t feel something then there is no authenticity in doing it. But how we feel is not the most important thing. Emotions can so easily cloud our view. God is always worth worshipping, no matter how we feel or what our situation is. There is plenty of room for our emotions in worship – indeed, we know that we are meant to offer our entire being to God – but worship does not depend on how we feel. Worship is an act from which feelings for God can arise, not a feeling for God that we express in an act of worship.

Question to Consider
What is the difference between going through the motions of worship, and really worshipping God even though we don’t feel like it?

Prayer
Lord God, in the good moments, in the bad moments, when I feel like it, when I don’t, you are still my God and I choose to worship you in all I do. Help me be faithful to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Worship as the Framework

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 122:3-4

Look at what the psalm says about Jerusalem. “A well-built city, built as a place of worship! The city to which the tribes ascend, all God’s tribes go up to worship.” In this psalm, as throughout much of the Hebrew bible, Jerusalem is first and foremost the place of worship for God’s people. All the great festivals were held in the city, the Temple was there. Jerusalem was where you went to be reminded of who you were and who God was; to be reminded of the story of God and his people and of your place in that story, and to witness that story being re-enacted in the rituals and actions of worship. In Jerusalem, everything comes together into a single unified whole – including the people. Everything fits together here. Nothing is left out, there are no loose ends.

That’s what worship does. It provides the framework, the solid structure and rhythm that tell us who we are and where we stand. That framework of worship and the rhythm of worship it engenders are crucial if we are to be able to be God’s people in the world. To piece our lives together, to bring them together into a unified whole – both our individual lives and our corporate identity – requires a framework of worship in order to be effective, not just for our sake and for the sake of offering genuine worship to a worthy God, but also for the sake of a broken, unordered, split, hurting world in need of repair.

Questions to Consider
What does it mean to be God’s “chosen people”? What are we chosen for? How does worshipping structure your life and being?

Prayer
Holy God, thank you that you call me your special possession, your precious child. Help me live in a way that reflects your great mercy and love, that others may see all you have done in my life. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – God Speaks

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 122:5

Worship is the place where we hear God speak to us, where we hear his word to us. He calls us to worship; we hear and read his holy word and hear the words he spoke to those who came before us. We sing words of praise to God, often based on psalms, like this one, that articulate the very prayers and cries to God that are on our hearts also. Everything about worship focuses our attention on God and his word. We hear what he says, we are reminded of who he is and what he wants – justice, mercy, loving kindness, compassion – and are reinvested as his kingdom-working people in his world. The reality of who we are and the meaning of our lives find their true expression to ourselves when we focus on God and his word and are reminded of who he is and who we are.

We often think this is a solo task. But that’s not the case at all. Worship is a communal act too, something that the community does together. In today’s reading the entire community is called together to focus on God. There are times when we gather together specifically for the purposes of worshipping our God together. Although we can worship God on our own it’s also a key community activity. Individual worship is valuable, but there is a new dimension when we gather as a group of his followers. We can only really begin to get a sense of who we are as God’s ‘people’ when we worship together. When we do this God is with us – and speaks to us – in a way that binds us together with a common purpose.

Questions to Consider
Who are your people? Do you worship regularly with them? How? How does this affect your life as an act of worship?

Prayer
Loving Father, thank you for the community of faith you have placed me in. May I play my part in the community’s worship and honouring of you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – A Worshipping Week

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 122:6-9

Can an hour or so of worship a week (whether with others or alone, or a combination of both) actually make any difference in our lives? 168 hours in a week, yet so few of them (no matter how conscientious we are) spent engaging in this seemingly crucial activity. What impact does that hour have on the rest of the week outside that hour, and on the rest of the world beyond us? The psalmist insists that it has a major impact, going so far as to suggest that it is crucial for the welfare of the people and the thriving of the city, and, by extension, the world.

Worship overflows the hour we set aside for it and bleeds out into the rest of the week. Worship is not the place where all the cares and concerns and realities of our week come to be forgotten, assuaged or washed away, where we find God waiting for us to take us away from all of that, as if our deep need for God is meant to be taken care of by engaging in worship. It is not the place we stagger to at the end of the week, but rather, is the place where our everyday needs and concerns are changed, ordered, prioritised and given their proper place in the scheme of God’s love. It is where the agenda for our week is set. Our needs are changed by worship; we become aware of the sacredness and beauty of our whole lives; lives of creatures made in the image of God. Worship leads us into the week, into true, authentic participation in the world for the cause of the peace and prosperity that the psalmist speaks of in these concluding verses.

Questions to Consider
What things clamour for your attention and try to claim your allegiance ahead of God? How do you combat this?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, may I hold fast to you in all I do. May I offer every aspect of my life and each moment of every day as an act of worship and as a sign of trust in you and your will for my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)