Psalm 122

Psalm 122


by David McMillan


(This address was given at an S. G.A. T meeting on 28th October, 1994).



Let me in particular draw your attention to the 6th verse of this Psalm 122, which reads ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee  This verse brings the name ‘Jerusalem’ very clearly to our attention.  There is a school of interpretation and when they read an Old Testament text such as this, they claim the words solely and entirely for the church.  They say that nothing else can be done with these words; nothing else can be done with such a text, but spiritualise it and apply it to the church.  Now there is no question that we can justly take these words and apply them to the church, but firstly and foremostly, the words of this text (and others like it) are to be taken literally to speak of the actual city of Jerusalem.


Let me prove that to you because you cannot read this psalm aright, and you cannot read the 6th verse of the psalm in the context of the psalm, without realising the fact that it is the literal city of Jerusalem that is spoken of here.  Look carefully at the opening words of verse 3.  It says ‘Jerusalem is builded as a city Nothing could be clearer than that.  Those words on their own leave us in no doubt that we are reading here of literal Jerusalem.  It is not referring to Jerusalem as a type or as a figure.  The psalmist is not referring to the church or to heaven.  It is so clearly stated that even a child can understand.  It is the city of Jerusalem that is in view in these verses.


And notice how strongly that fact is backed up in the other verses, because throughout this psalm, there is listed quite a number of features of the actual city of Jerusalem.  This is a city with walls.  ‘Peace be within thy walls’ (verse 7).  It is also a place with gates.  ‘Our feet shall stand within thy gates O Jerusalem’ (verse 2). It is builded; it is a place that has been constructed.  And we are given a description of the layout of the city, a description of the manner in which Jerusalem has been constructed – ‘Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together  Anyone who is familiar with the city of Jerusalem will know that is the case.  There is not much space wasted in the literal city of Jerusalem.


The first and the last verses of the psalm speak of ‘the house of the LORD  The city spoken of in this psalm is where the temple of God stands.  Verse 4 mentions that the testimony of Israel (or the ark of the covenant) is also found in this place.  Verse 4 again provides us with the information that this is the place where the tribes go up.  Those words ‘go up’ have their root in the original language from which the word degree is taken.  And this psalm is one of the songs of degrees.  So this psalm has to do with the going up of the tribes of Israel.  It has to do with the place to which those tribes went up, and surely they do not want to tell us that the tribes went up to the church!  Surely they do not want to make such a ridiculous statement as that!


So taking all these things together and looking at these words in their context, when we come to verse 6, we are left in no doubt that it is the capital city of Israel about which we are reading in these verses.  I believe for our study that it is vital that that fact is made clear.


Having laid that foundation let me ask you to note carefully what the psalmist is pointing out to us here about the city of Jerusalem.  He is drawing our attention to something specific about the condition of Jerusalem.  He is emphasising a particular characteristic in connection with this city.  In verse 6 he speaks of the peace of Jerusalem.  From Psalm 120 to Psalm 134, we have that group of Psalms known as the Songs of Degrees.  And in those 15 psalms the term ‘peace’ is used on 7 occasions.  And 3 of those usages are found in this 122nd Psalm.  So there is no doubt that this is a psalm that emphasises peace, the peace of Jerusalem.


At a time when so-called peace talks in the Middle East are so prominent, when they are so much to the fore in the news, in the week that President Clinton actually sat in Jerusalem talking peace with the Israeli prime minister, is it not providential that at such a time we are found in God’s house considering what the Scriptures have to say about the peace of Jerusalem?  I say it is very providential indeed.  So let us consider this matter.


1. The Certainty of the Peace of Jerusalem


There may be those in this world who doubt whether Jerusalem will ever experience peace, but we have news for them.  There is going to be peace in that city.  That is certain.  It is something that is beyond all question, beyond all doubt.  In verse 6, God directs us to pray for peace in Jerusalem.  Do you think God would ask us to pray for something that He is not going to give?  Do you think God would ask us to request something that would not take place?  The fact that we are directed to ask for peace in Jerusalem indicates to us that it is something which is certain and beyond question.


Jerusalem means ‘the habitation or the inheritance of peace  Down through history, Jerusalem has inherited many things, but to this day, it has never inherited peace.  Jerusalem has been the habitation of many things, but to this day, it has never been inhabited by peace.  There is no place on earth in which there is less peace than the city of Jerusalem.  Through past centuries Jerusalem has been a stranger to this very thing.  Yet God’s Word clearly emphasises that Jerusalem will inherit peace.  Jerusalem will be inhabited by peace.


Isaiah 66:12, speaking of the city of Jerusalem, says, ‘For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river  It is certain.  There is no doubt about it.  Men may laugh and mock when we talk of peace in that city, but God says (so it is certain), ‘I will extend peace to her like a river


2. The Extent of the Peace of Jerusalem


To what extent will Jerusalem experience peace?  What sort of peace will Jerusalem have?  Verse 6 says, Pray for the peace.  As I have said, that word is used on 3 occasions in this psalm - verses 6, 7 and 8.  It is the Hebrew word ‘Shalom  It is a word that has a very wide usage among Jewish people even today.  It is a word that denotes harmony, prosperity, comfort and happiness.  It means the absence of all evil and the enjoyment of all good.  That is the extent of peace that God will give to Jerusalem.


Many years ago a gospel tract entitled ‘Safety, Certainty, and Enjoyment’ was printed.  And I believe that there are no words, other than these three, that can better sum up the meaning of ‘shalom  Jerusalem is to experience safety, certainty and enjoyment.


Isaiah 11: 13 tells us ‘The envy also of Ephraim shall depart and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off. Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim  In the past, Israel was a nation divided into two kingdoms.  In those days Jerusalem was at enmity with her northern counterpart.  But here we are told that there will be peace in Israel, between north and south - the enmity will be gone for ever.


Also, that the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off in that day - they will be taken away.  Verse 9 of the same chapter, when speaking of the asp and the cockatrice, says ‘They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain  The words ‘My holy mountain’ are clearly speaking of Jerusalem.  So, we learn that nature itself will be at peace in Jerusalem.  There will be safety, certainty and enjoyment in Jerusalem even with dangerous creatures.


There is going to be such a transformation that there will be no danger for children who will be playing in the streets of Jerusalem.  There will be such peace between man and creatures that children will play with the asp and with the cockatrice in the city.        Zechariah 8: 5 tells us concerning Jerusalem, ‘And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof playing happily without a care or concern, in absolute safety and security.  And the verse that follows indicates that that is to be something that will be surprising.  But such will be the peace, such will be the change in Jerusalem that there will be no danger to the children playing there.


Isaiah 60: 18 tells us ‘Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise  What a day that will be!  Today, there is much violence, much wasting, much destruction in Jerusalem, and there has been over the centuries, but there will be such a peace in Jerusalem that violence, wasting, and destruction will be gone from its streets for ever.




Isaiah 65: 18-19 tell us, ‘But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.  And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in       her, nor the voice of crying  Jerusalem has often been associated with weeping.  Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, wept over the city.  The Lord Jesus stood on the Mount of olives and wept over that city.  There are many references in the Scriptures to weeping in Jerusalem.  There is much weeping in that city even today.  Weeping is something that indicates sorrow, grief, mourning.  When there is weeping there is no   peace but such will be the peace that God will bring to that city that there will be no more weeping there.


2 Samuel 7 is a key prophetical chapter.  In verse 10, the whole land is in view, but undoubtedly Jerusalem is included in the words and in the promise.  God says, ‘Moreover I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as before time  Israel is going to be so planted and so fixed in the land, that they will never be moved from it again.  Israel are going to dwell so securely that they are never going to be afflicted, never going to be attacked.  They are never again going to be caused trouble by wicked men.  Jerusalem will never again be demolished and brought to ruins.  Did you notice the comparison at the end of the verse?  The Lord says ‘as before time  In Israel’s history, many times they have been rooted out of their land; they have been afflicted over and over again.  The book of Judges gives a glimpse of that very fact. But such will be the extent of the peace which God will bring to that land that Israel will dwell in safety, certainty and security in the land.


The references given are by no means exhaustive, but they supply us with an indication of what is to come for that great city.  When the world leaders talk of peace for Jerusalem, it can only be a peace that is fragile and uncertain.  It can only be a peace about which we will have a doubt, one that will always have a shadow of uncertainty.  It is not a peace which can be guaranteed, that can be permanent.  It will be one that will have to be enforced by peace lines and peace-keeping forces.  That is the only sort of peace of which the world leaders can speak when they talk about peace for Jerusalem.  In reality it is only a shadow of the peace that will come to that city for the Scriptures teach that Jerusalem will experience something that is beyond the greatest hopes and expectations of these men.  It is something that will even be beyond their wildest dreams.  Such is the peace that God will bring to Jerusalem.


3. The Time of the Peace of Jerusalem


When will Jerusalem experience this peace?  There are those who want to dismiss the relevance of the words of this psalm to us and our day.  They say it does not apply to us.  They tell us that this promise was fulfilled in the days of Solomon; that the peace for which David is exhorting us to pray came to Jerusalem in its entirety during Solomon’s reign.  But did the extent of the peace that Jerusalem will experience happen then?  Was there no destruction, no violence in Solomon’s day?  Was there no weeping in the city when Solomon was on the throne?  Was Jerusalem planted at that time so as to move no more?  The answer is clearly ‘No


That promise that God gave in 2 Samuel 7:10 about Israel being planted so as to be moved no more, was given at approximately 1000 years before Christ.  And that same promise is repeated in Amos 9: 15, about 250 years later.  Also, on a third occasion in Jeremiah 31: 40, in approximately 587B.C.  Now in between 1000B.C. and 587B.C. the ten tribes were rooted out of the land and carried off.  One year later, in 586B.C., Jerusalem was rased to the ground, and the Jews carried off into captivity.  In A.D.70, history repeated itself when the very same thing took place.  So, the promise was not fulfilled in Solomon’s day.  The fact that it has been repeated is proof to us that that promise is still to be fulfilled.  In fact, it has not been fulfilled to this very day.  All those prophecies have yet a future fulfilment.




But the question is, when are they to be fulfilled?  The Lord Jesus Himself gives us the answer, in the words that He spoke in Luke 21: 24. He said ‘And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled  Jerusalem will be a place of unrest, devoid of peace, until when? – ‘until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled  We are at present in the times of the Gentiles, when Gentile power, Gentile rulers, Gentile nations hold sway in this world.  We live in the time when Jerusalem is trodden under foot of the Gentiles.


Daniel 2 teaches us that that time began in the days of King Nebuchadnezzar and it will continue until the time when Jesus Christ will come and set up His [millennial] kingdom upon this earth.  The times of the Gentiles will end when Jesus Christ returns.  So the peace of Jerusalem will take place when Jesus Christ comes, when He has set up His millennial kingdom upon this earth, and when He is literally reigning and ruling in the city of Jerusalem.


Sin and war shall not cease till the Prince of Peace comes back to this world again.  Of Christ’s [millennial] reign upon this earth, the psalmist, in Psalm 72: 7, said ‘In His days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth  In His days, during Christ’s reign, this peace will come to the city of Jerusalem.


4. Our Responsibility Towards the Peace of Jerusalem


We have, as God’s people, a vital responsibility that we must fulfil in order to bring peace to this city.  David sets that responsibility before us when he says ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem


A few years ago, I had the opportunity to go to the land of Israel.  I went with a tour leader who was a very ardent post-millennialist.  And a very strange thing was, that on all his literature and on all the badges and name tags that he gave out, he had this phrase ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem  And yet he did not believe that Jerusalem literally would have peace!  I thought that a very strange thing indeed.


But God says to us, ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem  We may have the idea that all we have to do with regard to prophetic matters is to understand from God’s Word what we are to expect, to find out from the Scriptures what is actually going to happen, and then sit back and wait until it happens.  But here we learn that we have a part to play in the fulfilment of God’s prophetic plan.  You and I have a responsibility towards God’s prophetic purposes, a part in bringing peace to the troubled city of Jerusalem, because we have a responsibility to pray for it.


When Daniel read in the book of Jererniah and meditated upon the Scriptures, he learned that Jerusalem would be desolate for 70 years, and then the Jews would return to the land.  What did Daniel do when he learned that fact, when he understood the time of the captivity was almost up?  Did he just sit down and rejoice in it, wait till it happened?  This is what he did – ‘I set my face unto the Lord God to seek by prayer and supplications’ (Daniel 9: 3).  On the basis of what God had said, Daniel pleaded the promises at the Throne of Grace.


As we sit in this meeting, the leaders of all the prominent nations of the western world are searching for the key for peace in the Middle East.  All the experienced diplomats, the senior ambassadors of these great nations, are trying to find the formula for bringing peace to Jerusalem.  They have searched hard.  They have searched long.  And they have searched in vain.  Yet, in these very words that are before us, God has given you and I the key.  God has given us the answer to the troubles in the Middle East.  God has revealed to us the way to bring peace to Jerusalem.  We are to pray for it.


And God has even given us the very prayer that we are to offer. He says ‘Peace be within thy walls and prosperity within thy palaces’ (verse 7); ‘Peace be within thee’ (verse 8). … If you have an interest in prospering in the things of God, then you [and I] ought to have a love for Jerusalem.  You ought to have a love  for its peace, and you ought to be praying for its peace.


In 1917, in the latter part of December, Jerusalem was besieged by a part of the British Army.  The Turks were inside the city, occupying it, and they refused to surrender.  The man in command of the British troops was General Allenby, and he could have bombed the Turks out.  He could have demolished the place and killed every man in it.  But he was a Christian and he did not want to take life unnecessarily.  And he had a love for that city and he did not want to destroy it unless it was completely necessary.  So he sent a telegram to the prime minister asking him what to do.  He did not receive an answer from the prime minister.  The reply came from the king, who sent the message ‘consult your Master  In other words, pray about it.


Brethren and sisters, we look out at the capital city of Israel, with all its bloodshed and violence, with all its bombings and shootings, with all its troubles and unrest, with all its destruction.  And we wonder what can be done for that city.  What can we do?  God is saying to us, pray for it, pray for Jerusalem, and for its peace.  In closing, I urge the opening words of that 6th verse upon you, ‘pray for the peace of Jerusalem  If this peace has not yet come, and it is clear that it has not, then we have a responsibility before God to obey this command today.  Take Jerusalem upon your heart and pray for its peace.





[P.S.  When we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, we are praying for the return of Jesus the Messiah and the establishment of His Millennial Kingdom.]