When I restore the fortunes of my people,
when I would heal Israel,
the iniquity of Ephraim is revealed,
and the evil deeds of Samaria,
for they deal falsely;
the thief breaks in,
and the bandits raid outside.
But they do not consider
that I remember all their evil.
Now their deeds surround them;
they are before my face.
By their evil they make the king glad,
and the princes by their treachery.
They are all adulterers;
they are like a heated oven
whose baker ceases to stir the fire,
from the kneading of the dough
until it is leavened.
On the day of our king, the princes
became sick with the heat of wine;
he stretched out his hand with mockers.
For with hearts like an oven they approach their intrigue;
all night their anger smolders;
in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire.
All of them are hot as an oven,
and they devour their rulers.
All their kings have fallen,
and none of them calls upon me.
Ephraim mixes himself with the peoples;
Ephraim is a cake not turned.
Strangers devour his strength,
and he knows it not;
gray hairs are sprinkled upon him,
and he knows it not.
The pride of Israel testifies to his face;
yet they do not return to the LORD their God,
nor seek him, for all this.
Ephraim is like a dove,
silly and without sense,
calling to Egypt, going to Assyria.
As they go, I will spread over them my net;
I will bring them down like birds of the heavens;
I will discipline them according to the report made to their congregation.
Woe to them, for they have strayed from me!
Destruction to them, for they have rebelled against me!
I would redeem them,
but they speak lies against me.
They do not cry to me from the heart,
but they wail upon their beds;
for grain and wine they gash themselves;
they rebel against me.
Although I trained and strengthened their arms,
yet they devise evil against me.
They return, but not upward;
they are like a treacherous bow;
their princes shall fall by the sword
because of the insolence of their tongue.
This shall be their derision in the land of Egypt.
(Hosea 7 ESV)
A Song of Ascents.
In my distress I called to the LORD,
and he answered me.
Deliver me, O LORD,
from lying lips,
from a deceitful tongue.
What shall be given to you,
and what more shall be done to you,
you deceitful tongue?
A warrior's sharp arrows,
with glowing coals of the broom tree!
Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech,
that I dwell among the tents of Kedar!
Too long have I had my dwelling
among those who hate peace.
I am for peace,
but when I speak, they are for war!
(Psalm 120 ESV)
A Song of Ascents.
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
(Psalm 121 ESV)
A Song of Ascents. Of David.
I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the LORD!”
Our feet have been standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem!
Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together,
to which the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
There thrones for judgment were set,
the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
“May they be secure who love you!
Peace be within your walls
and security within your towers!”
For my brothers and companions' sake
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your good.
(Psalm 122 ESV)
For the Love of God
AMONG THE SONGS OF ASCENT (see vol. 1, meditation for June 29) is the delightful Psalm 122. Here the psalmist joyfully accompanies those heading to Jerusalem for one of the high feasts: “Let us go to the house of the LORD” (122:1). Already in verse 2 the pilgrims have arrived: “Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem.”
Two themes dominate the remaining verses of the psalm.
First, verses 3-5 emphasize the unity of God’s people, brought about by their common worship in Jerusalem of the true God and by their common submission to the rule and justice of the house of David. There was of course diversity — not only the diversity common to all collections of human beings, but the diversity implicit in the twelve “tribes” (122:4), each with its own marked character. The unity was more profound than blood ties. It was based on a common covenant with the one God. These were “the tribes of the LORD” (122:4). Small wonder, then, that when the northern ten tribes revolted, the leader, Jeroboam, greatly feared that Jerusalem and its temple would become the rallying point for renewed unification (1 Kings 12:26ff.).
Yet unity was merely the byproduct of the festive ascents to Jerusalem. The purpose of the ascents was “to praise the name of the LORD according to the statute given to Israel” (122:4). When God becomes the means to the end, unity is never achieved; when God himself is the end, the glorious byproducts of unity and peace are never far behind. The sheer God-centeredness of biblical religion is one of the things that regularly distinguishes it from paganism, which commonly sees religion as a means to certain ends (cf. Hosea 2:5).
Second, in another distinction between means and ends, David exhorts people to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, not for the sake of an abstract ideal or for the sake of the city per se, but for the sake of people (122:8) and above all for the sake of “the house of the LORD our God” (122:9). To pursue political peace and forget people is a sham. Indeed, the exhortation to pray for the “peace” of “Jerusalem” (122:6) includes a pun: we are to pray for the shalom of Jerusalem; the Hebrew consonants are the same, and remind us that Jerusalem rightly conceived holds out the fullness of “well-being” to people. To pursue merely physical benefits for people and forget the presence and purposes of the Lord God is at best short-term thinking and at worst a route to disaster and to hell itself. “For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,” David writes, “I will seek your prosperity” (122:9).
Reflect on how to transpose these two points to the Christian antitype (Heb. 12:22-24), not least in detailed application (Heb. 12:28—13:13).