Online Worship for Trinity Ten, Sunday August 16, 2020
Sermon for Trinity Nine – Sunday August 16, 2020
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
God’s Grace, Mercy and Peace are yours from God our Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Psalm 122:1 (NKJV)
“I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the LORD.”
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
In whom we are God’s Children,
Because of whom we gather for worship,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Precious Blood –
For many, if not all of you, the trip to our place of worship this morning was up hill. We do it all the time and probably think nothing of driving up and down hills (the possible exception being during the winter). It’s just part of life in the rugged landscape of the Upper Peninsula.
When the Israelites traveled to Jerusalem to worship the LORD in His Temple, the trip was on foot and literally up hill. The trip ‘uphill’ is borne witness to in the fact that the 122nd Psalm is ‘a psalm or song of ascent, of going up.’ This is one of 15 psalms (120-134) of ascent that were sung by pilgrims going up to Jerusalem to worship the LORD. They were also sung when going up the 15 steps that led to the Temple Courts.
When God gave David the throne, He came to live ‘up’ in Jerusalem on a hill south of the Temple Courts, called Mount Zion. While David lived in Jerusalem as a man, He grew up in the village of Bethlehem, about 5 ½ miles south of Jerusalem. While downhill from Jerusalem on a map, Bethlehem was actually higher in the Judean Mountains. Still, David and the Jews thought of ‘going up’ to Jerusalem (even though literally down).
We might assume that David traveled to Jerusalem many times as a child. What’s five miles, right? It wasn’t as often as you might think.
When David was a child, they didn’t travel up to Jerusalem for worship every week. There was a synagogue in Bethlehem where the people gathered on the Sabbath to hear the Word of God proclaimed and explained to them. There were only certain festivals that the LORD required the Jews travel to Jerusalem to attend. On those occasions, a great number of pilgrims, travelers would gather and travel together up to Jerusalem.
In this first verse of Psalm 122, David remembers what it was like to be invited to go up to Jerusalem to the house of the Lord for worship. It was a joyful opportunity. Our purpose in meditating on these words is to remember why we gather for worship and why it is to be a joyful thing.
Let us pray:
O God, you work in us to desire and to live according to Your will. Strengthen us in both soul and body so that we do what is pleasing to you and beneficial to others. Compel us by the love of Jesus and empower us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that we may be witnesses to your Gospel in both our words and our actions. We ask this in the name of your son, who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for all (Matthew 20:28). Amen.
“I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the LORD.”
There are times when we are excited to ‘go to the house of the LORD.’ There may also be times when we are anxious. It’s exciting to attend a wedding. It’s exciting to attend worship on festival days, like Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday. It can be an anxious thing to attend worship in bad weather or if we have been absent for a time or are caught up in sin.
When the caravan of people headed to Jerusalem invited David to go up to the House of the LORD – David was excited. He rejoiced to go to the house of the Lord.
When we hear the phrase ‘the house of the Lord’ we probably think of the Temple Building. However, David never saw the Temple of the LORD. In fact, it wasn’t built during his lifetime, but during his son Solomon’s rule. When the Holy Spirit directed David to write these words the house of the LORD wasn’t a house at all, but a movable tent, called the Tabernacle of meeting which had been constructed by the Israelites led out of slavery in Egypt by Moses.
It was the Tabernacle that David thought of when he spoke of the house of the LORD.
If you take the time to read the other eight verses of this short Psalm, you will read all about the city of Jerusalem, where the Tabernacle was set up. But David wasn’t merely happy to ‘get out of town’ or to ‘go to the big city of Jerusalem’. The reason that He looked forward to going up to Jerusalem was the opportunity to worship the LORD. It wasn’t the journey itself; it was the purpose of it.
So also, when we gather here, we may enjoy different things about it. We may enjoy ‘catching up’ with people we’ve known for years. We may enjoy sitting next to family members and singing together. We may even like to reminisce about other times we have gathered.
Still, our primary purpose in gathering is to worship our God. We come to confess our sins, rejoice in His forgiveness and sing his praise. In many ways, spending time together is like dessert after a meal, sweetness following the satisfaction of being fed. We come first to feed our souls, to receive the Word of God, and grow in faith and knowledge.
So, do you think that David always happy to go into the house of the LORD? Probably not. David may have been ‘a man after God’s own heart’ (cf. 1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22) but He wasn’t sinless. In fact, there was a time in David’s life – after his sin with Bathsheba – that he must have found it difficult to go into the house of the Lord. He had sinned with another man’s wife. He had arranged for the murder of her husband. He felt the guilt of sin upon his soul without relief because He did not come confessing his sin.
The Holy Spirit would later move him to write (Psalm 32:3-4):
“When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.”
Is our worship a joyful thing? Surely, we understand the joy of which David speaks…especially in view of the last six months.
For nine weeks, from March 22nd until may 31st we voluntarily stayed at home and worshipped in front of the television. Let’s take a moment to think back on those weeks. It was strange at first not to travel to this place of worship and gather together. After a while, we maybe got used to sitting on the couch and watching worship take place on the screen. In time, perhaps you even participated to a degree, as strange as it was.
Then on May 31st, Pentecost, we resumed face to face worship with changes. Do you remember how strange and wonderful it was to come again to worship?
Were you glad to come to the house of the Lord? Were you a little nervous or did you say to yourself; this is wonderful! I’m so happy to be here! I’ll leave you to answer that in your own heart and mind.
Now let’s fast forward to today. Did you know that last week was the 9th week since face-to-face worship resumed? Are we still just as glad to come to the house of the LORD…or has it lost its luster? Do we still appreciate the opportunity that we have been given…or do we take it for granted?
Do we say, each one of us, each week: “I was glad when they said to me, let us go into the house of the Lord?” Would we appreciate it more if it were taken away from us for another nine weeks? If we look at worship as a habit, a necessity rather than an opportunity…it can lose its luster, can’t it? It’s like the joy of the Resurrection. The excitement of Easter Sunday should last the whole year and yet only a few weeks after Easter we find our excitement fading.
The Psalm doesn’t say, “I was mostly glad” or “I was sometimes glad.” It shouldn’t be that way but because of our sinful natures we are so easily distracted. We sometimes don’t appreciate the blessings communicated to us in worship. We may think of worship as a burden rather than a blessing. Instead of considering the great blessings that can be obtained by attending Bible Study, we look for reasons why we just don’t have the time.
We may even gather here for the wrong reasons. We may attend for the sake of others – so they see – not because of our personal need of Jesus’ forgiveness and comfort. We may attend merely because it’s a habit, not because we see it as an opportunity to worship our creator and redeemer who has given us life and provided all our needs of body and soul. We may simply skip worship because we’d rather do something else or be somewhere else or because we think we’ve learned what we need to know.
When we place other things as more important than the LORD and His Word, we sin…plain and simple. We should say each week, “I can’t wait to hear and learn from the Savior” but it just isn’t that way, is it?
It’s not a minor infraction, but sin that has eternal consequences.
God help us that we never attend because think that our presence here can make up for our sin. God didn’t just overlook it or postpone our judgment until we patch things up with Him. Let us gather here to thank and praise God that He did something about our sin and guilt.
God sent His one and only Son into human flesh and blood – to live the sinless life demanded of us and to die burdened with our sins to atone for our misplaced values and sinful attitudes.
We gather here in the house of the LORD because Jesus died for us to erase our debt of sin. We sing His praise because He has made us children of God through faith in His living, dying and rising again. We rejoice to hear of His unchanging love and to be assured that our sins are forgiven when He says, “This is my body, given for you. This is my blood, shed for you for the remission of sins.”
This is a tremendous opportunity. Let us be glad to come to the house of the LORD. Let us gather for worship…not to measure up to the words of this Psalm or earn favor with God but because it is an opportunity to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from Him.
Let us always gather for worship because of Jesus…without whom we would be lost and condemned sinners. Let us return joyful and leave refreshed because of Jesus.