St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

We Rejoice In The House Of The Lord

Sermon on Psalm 122:1

 

Text: I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”

 

Psalm 122 is part of a group of psalms, spanning from Psalm 120 to Psalm 134, which are called psalms of ascent.  Jewish pilgrims would sing these psalms as they approached Jerusalem and the temple mount for one of their religious festivals.  You can imagine the excitement building as they got closer and closer to the temple.  They would be able to participate in the sacrifices and praise of God with their fellow believers.  It is very understandable that the Psalm 122 would be included, especially as we read the first verse, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’”  Perhaps, we feel a bit of the excitement today.  After eight and a half weeks, we are able to come together to worship.  There has been a longing to be together here.  We rejoice because we have the opportunity to come to the house of the LORD.  For those, who are not able to be here, I know that there is this longing to be together with your fellow believers.  I pray that day will come soon.  As we gather together in worship, we rejoice in THE HOUSE OF THE LORD.  1. It Is A Place God Wants Us To Be.  2. It Is A Place We Want To Be.

 

God wants us to be in his house.  The reason for this is that he wants to give us things.  Last Sunday was Good Shepherd Sunday.  When we think of the picture of the Good Shepherd, our minds recall the 23rd Psalm.  In that psalm, David describes what the LORD, our Shepherd does for us: “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.” (Psalm 23:2)  In other words, our Good Shepherd wants to provide what we need.  This goes beyond the physical needs of our bodies.  It also includes the things that we need for our spiritual well-being.  He wants to feed our souls.

 

God does this in a number of ways as we gather in his house.  First of all, he feeds us with his Word.  We need his Word to tell us exactly who God is and what he has done for us.  He teaches us the law, where he tells us exactly what he demands of each of us.  In the law, one of the things he tells us is how we are to treat his Word.  For example, Jesus said in John 8:47, “Whoever belongs to God hears what God says.”  When we hear those words, we might think to ourselves that we do that.  We hear what God says.  However, can we say that we have always been glad to hear and learn God’s Word?  Think back to your confirmation class.  Were you always glad to learn your memory work for the next class?  Have we always been glad to hear God’s Word or were there times when we found ourselves to be bored with the same old thing?  We, also, must admit that there have been times when we let the things of this world crowd out God’s Word.  We know that we should study God’s Word, but there are so many things to do in one day and so little time to do them all.  Something has to give.  Though God demands that we treat his Word with respect and that we gladly hear and learn it, we must confess that we have not always done this.  God also says that, in order to enter heaven we have to be perfect.  The law shows us that we are far from that standard and rightly deserve God’s punishment.

 

However, the law is not the only message that we hear from God in his Word.  He, also, shares the beautiful gospel message, which points us to our Savior, Jesus Christ.  In the Gospel, we see the one who came to rescue the world by being our Substitute.  Jesus lived a perfect life for us.  For example, we can see the way that he treated his Father’s Word.  Already at the age of twelve, he knew that he had to be in his Father’s house.  In Luke 4:16, we read that Jesus went into the synagogue and then adds the words “as was his custom.”  Although he was God himself, he always gladly heard his Father’s Word.  Then, Jesus went to the cross where he laid down his life to pay for all of our sins, including those against his Word.  The blood that Jesus shed washed away all of our sins.  Because of that death on the cross, God’s wrath against mankind was stilled.  Because Jesus rose from the dead, we have the assurance that our sins have been forgiven and the gate to eternal life was flung wide open.  Through this gospel message, the Holy Spirit creates faith in our hearts so that we might receive all that Jesus has accomplished for us.  God wants us to be in his house, so that we might be fed with his Word.

 

It is also in his house that we receive feeding for our souls though the reception of the Lord’s Supper.  What a wonderful thing it is to hear as we receive the bread and wine to hear “This is my body which is given for you” and “This is my blood, which was poured out for you.”  Jesus comes to us in this very intimate way to forgive our sins and to strengthen our faith.  Jesus wants to give you this assurance again and again, because he wants us to know that, although you have sinned, you are forgiven.  God wants us to be in his house, because he wants to bless us there.

 

It is true that we could receive these things on our own.  We can read and study God’s Word by ourselves.  For the past number of weeks, we have been worshiping by ourselves as we tuned in to the livestreamed services.  We are thankful that we have had this option available to us.  We are thankful that it continues to be available to those who are not able to join us today.  Yet, the fact remains that, as Christians, we long to gather together in the Lord’s house with our brothers and sisters in the faith.  It is a natural thing for us to want to do.  As we look at various portions of the Scriptures, we see that we benefit when we gather together in the Lord’s house.

 

When you read the descriptions of the early church, you see them gathering together and the activities that they did.  For example, we read in Acts 2, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer . . . Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.” (Acts 2:42, 46)  Look at what the church did together.  “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching,” in other words, they studied God’s Word together.  They devoted themselves to “the breaking of bread.”  This was part of the meal that took place before they received the Lord’s Supper.  This is a blessing that we have when we commune with our fellow believers.  Earlier, I mentioned that the Lord’s Supper is an intimate meal with Jesus.  It is also a banquet, where we have the opportunity to gather together with our brothers and sisters and receive this gift from our Savior’s hand.  We read that they devoted themselves “to prayer.”  This was an opportunity for them to come together and pray for each other.  We gather together in the house of the Lord to bring the needs of others to God’s throne of grace and mercy.  We also offer our prayers of thanksgiving for specific blessings that God gives to our church family.  It is interesting to note that “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.”  I’m sure that they were very busy people, just as we are today.  Yet, they saw the need to gather with their fellow believers.  This is where they wanted to be.

 

In Hebrews 10:24-25, we are reminded of another reason that we want to be together in the Lord’s house.  “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  I would like to highlight one phrase in those verses: “encouraging one another.”  We gather together to encourage each other.  We encourage each other to be strong in the face of temptation.  We encourage each other in our living for God.  We, also, encourage one another when things are difficult for us.  It is a wonderful thing to have Christian brothers and sisters who are there for us.  They care about us and want the best for us.  We want to be in the Lord’s house to be there for each other and to encourage one another.

Another reason that we want to be in the Lord’s house is that it is a little foretaste of heaven.  Just think about it.  Right now, we have come into the presence of God.  There, we will be in the Lord’s presence forever.  Right now, we join our voices in praising God for everything that he has done for us.  There, we will be eternally praising God for everything that he has done in our lives, even those times when we didn’t completely understand what was happening in our lives now.  Here, we are with our brothers and sisters in the faith at this time and place.  There, we will be with all of our brothers and sisters from all time and from every place.  Right now, we get a foretaste of what is described in Revelation 21:2-3, “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look!  God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’”  How we long for that day!

 

It has been said that you never really miss something, until it is not there.  I will have to admit, during this time, I have realized just how flat life feels when we have not been able to get together in worship.  I would guess you felt similar feelings to that.  I would guess that those who are not able to be with us today may feel a bit down.  This is all completely understandable.  As Christians, we want to be in the house of the Lord.  We want to hear what God says to us in his Word.  We want to receive the Lord’s Supper with the rest of our family.  We want to be there to pray for each other and to encourage each other.  Today and every time in the future that we have the opportunity to gather together, may God help us to see what a blessing it is.  We echo the words of King David, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’”  Amen.