Song of Praise and Prayer for Jerusalem
A Song of Ascents. Of David.
1 I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
2 Our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
3 Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together.
4 To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
5 For there the thrones for judgment were set up,
the thrones of the house of David.
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.
7 Peace be within your walls,
and security within your towers.”
8 For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.
This psalm is the third in a group of psalms called Songs of Ascent. In the ancient Near East, major cities were built on higher ground, including the city of Jerusalem. Pilgrims would sing these songs as they literally ascended to the Holy City during major festivals. These psalms are relatively short, so they would have been easy for people to sing from memory. In fact, it’s not unlikely that Jesus and his disciples would have sung these songs as they entered Jerusalem for Passover. Jerusalem was a prominent city for the Jewish people because that is where the Temple was located, and the Temple was where God physically resided. There was no other place where people could be this close to God.
While most of the songs in the Book of Psalms are attributed to high-profile people like King David, the Songs of Ascent are sung by average people like you and me, so it really isn’t difficult to imagine ourselves in their place. This song not only lauds the place itself, but it professes dedication to the community itself for the sake of God. Jerusalem is a very far-off place for us, and it’s likely that many of us will never see it. But there is something sacred about having a deep concern for physical spaces and the people who occupy them.
This psalm is a song about mutuality—that our wellbeing is wrapped up in the wellbeing of our community in the fullest sense. We are “bound firmly together” as bearers of God’s image. It is easy to shrug our shoulders and wash our hands of the things that don’t immediately impact us. But Jesus calls us to compassion and action for the sake of our neighbor. When Jesus and Peter meet after the resurrection, Jesus asks him if he loves him, time and time again. Each time Peter says yes, Jesus replies, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:17) Our love for Jesus cannot be separated from our love of people, from our love of the community as a whole. So we stay inside. We wear masks when we have to go out. We don’t overbuy at the store. We donate groceries to Christian Community Services Center. We call and check in on our neighbors. We feed Christ’s sheep and seek good for others for the sake of the house of the Lord our God.
Thank you for inextricably binding humanity firmly together. We pray for the peace and security of our neighbors, our relatives and friends, and for our entire community. Make us instruments of this peace and security wherever there is chaos and discord. We will feed your sheep. Amen.