Entering His Gates - Ps. 122
Gates in ancient times fulfilled numerous roles. In addition to allowing one access to the city, gates were also a place where transactions were brokered, wisdom given, and justice dispensed as a seat of authority (Ruth 4:1, Proverbs 8:1-3, Amos 5:15). They were also a symbol of the well-being of a city. Nehemiah mourned for the state of Jerusalem's gates and petitioned the king to be allowed to return that the gates and walls could be rebuilt.
In the Songs of Ascent, as they proclaimed their willingness to be kept by the Lord and have lifted their eyes to His Presence (Ps. 121), the first thing they came to were the gates of Jerusalem which would grant them access to the temple – God's manifest presence.
I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD."
Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem,
Jerusalem, that is built as a city that is compact together; to which the tribes go up, even the tribes of the LORD – an ordinance for Israel – to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
For there thrones were set for judgment, the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces." For the sake of my brothers and my friends, I will now say, "May peace be within you." For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.
The gates, according to this Psalm, were a place of rejoicing. They had declared in Psalm 121 that this was the place their help came from – the manifest presence of God. Psalm 100:4 admonishes us to enter the presence of God with thanksgiving, and this is precisely what is transpiring. This is why we sing, in most cases, at the beginning of Sunday service with thanksgiving. It is viewed as preparation to enter the presence of God. However, there is something different about their approach.
Often we go into our worship with the thought of what we will get out of it, making it personal. However, Psalm 122 contains a declaration that Jerusalem is "a city that is compact together." This is an interesting phrase in that it means united, joined together, and in fellowship. The idea is that as we enter God's gates with rejoicing, we are doing it collectively and united. We worship as one. They also declared that this act was an "ordinance for Israel," meaning that their ascent together acted as a testimony. They were witnesses of each other's desire to enter God's presence, but their act of going together was a witness to the other nations and people groups that God was among them.
That was Jesus' prayer for us as His disciples. Before His death and resurrection, Jesus prayed in John 17:7-8, 11b,
"Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me…Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are."
There is also the acknowledgment that the gates are a place of judgment. When people entered the city's gates, they knew their hearts and lives needed to be correctly aligned with God's Word. In John 12:47-49, Jesus states regarding His Word,
"If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak."
Christ makes it clear that His Word is what judges us, even as the elders of the tribes of Israel ruled according to the Torah. His Word and our unity cannot be separated. God has given us all His Word, and it is the basis of our relationship with Him and one another. Therefore, compromise of the Word is not an option. It is what we gather around in oneness. It judges our interactions.
As Psalm 122 continues, it is understood that their purpose was the same – to access the manifest presence of God. Because their motives aligned, they spoke blessings over the place of His presence - where worship occurred individually and collectively. When we come to worship as a church, peace should prevail. We should seek the prosperity of the leadership, that they will act as wisdom dictates and that as we worship together, the shalom of God will reign. One of the things necessary today is for the church to enter oneness and become complete in Him. When we do so, there is a tranquility and contentment that reigns over our relationships and interactions as the Body of Christ that lead us up and causes us to ascend into the manifest presence of God.