A song of David for those journeying to worship.
This is a Davidic psalm celebrating the grandeur and significance of Jerusalem and its temple. It is ironic that Jerusalem means “city of peace” since more battles have been fought over it than over any other city.
I was so happy when my fellow pilgrims said,
“Let’s go to the house of the Eternal!”
We have made the journey, and now we are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem! What a magnificent city!
Buildings so close together, so compact.
God’s people belong here. Every tribe of the Eternal
makes its way to Jerusalem—
Just as God decreed for Israel
to come together and give thanks to the Eternal.
In Jerusalem, justice is the order of the day because there sit the judges
and kings, the descendants of David.
Ask heaven to grant peace to Jerusalem:
“May those who love you prosper.
O Jerusalem, may His peace fill this entire city!
May this citadel be quiet and at ease!”
It’s because of people—my family, friends, and acquaintances—
that I say, “May peace permeate you.”
And because the house of Eternal One, our God, is here, know this:
I will always seek your good!
Teach a child how to follow the right way;
even when he is old, he will stay on course. (Proverbs 22:6)
A song of Solomon for those journeying to worship.
Psalm 127 is attributed to Solomon, underscoring the futility of human endeavor apart from God. It is similar in tone and theme to other wisdom literature.
Unless the Eternal builds the house,
those who labor to raise it will have worked for nothing.
Unless the Eternal stands watch over the city,
those who guard it have wasted their time.
God provides for His own.
It is pointless to get up early,
work hard, and go to bed late
Anxiously laboring for food to eat;
for God provides for those He loves, even while they are sleeping.
Know this: children are a gift from the Eternal;
the fruit of the womb is His reward.
Your sons born in your youth are a protection,
like arrows in the hand of a warrior.
Happy is the man who has
his quiver full, for they will help and protect him when he is old.
He will not be humiliated when he is accused at the gate,
for his sons will stand with him against his enemies.
What are you waiting for? Return to your God!
Commit yourself in love, in justice!
Wait for your God,
and don’t give up on Him—ever! (Hosea 12:6)
Then Jehoshaphat took a position before the assembled people of Judah and Jerusalem at The Temple of God in front of the new courtyard and said, “O God, God of our ancestors, are you not God in heaven above and ruler of all kingdoms below? You hold all power and might in your fist—no one stands a chance against you! And didn’t you make the natives of this land leave as you brought your people Israel in, turning it over permanently to your people Israel, the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived here and built a holy house of worship to honor you, saying, ‘When the worst happens—whether war or flood or disease or famine—and we take our place before this Temple (we know you are personally present in this place!) and pray out our pain and trouble, we know that you will listen and give victory.’ (2 Chronicles 20:5-9)
The businessmen engage in wholesale fraud.
They love to rip people off!
Ephraim boasted, “Look, I’m rich!
I’ve made it big!
And look how well I’ve covered my tracks:
not a hint of fraud, not a sign of sin!”
“But not so fast! I’m God, your God!
Your God from the days in Egypt!
I’m going to put you back to living in tents,
as in the old days when you worshiped in the wilderness.
I speak through the prophets
to give clear pictures of the way things are.
Using prophets, I tell revealing stories.
I show Gilead rampant with religious scandal
and Gilgal teeming with empty-headed religion.
I expose their worship centers as
stinking piles of garbage in their gardens.”
Are you going to repeat the life of your ancestor Jacob?
He ran off guilty to Aram,
Then sold his soul to get ahead,
and made it big through treachery and deceit.
Your real identity is formed through God-sent prophets,
who led you out of Egypt and served as faithful pastors.
As it is, Ephraim has continually
and inexcusably insulted God.
Now he has to pay for his life-destroying ways.
His Master will do to him what he has done.
I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.
But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
Released from the Law, Bound to Christ
Grace is no license to sin. As creatures, we are made to serve our Creator. In the absence of truth, we will serve somebody or something. It’s an essential part of our nature. Our only choice is this: whom will we serve? At one time, we all served sin and grew weak under its deadly power over us. Now, through God’s grace, we have become servants of obedience that sets us right with God, each other, and ourselves. We must daily decide whose servant we are and offer Him our hands, our feet, our hearts, our eyes.
Before Christ came, Moses’ laws served as our guardian. Christ came so that we could receive God’s approval by faith.
Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. (Galatians 3:24)
The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak–
Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4)
Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. (Galatians 3:25)
But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)
And now they’ve come to kick us out of the country you gave us. O dear God, won’t you take care of them? We’re helpless before this vandal horde ready to attack us. We don’t know what to do; we’re looking to you.”
Everyone in Judah was there—little children, wives, sons—all present and attentive to God.
Then Jahaziel was moved by the Spirit of God to speak from the midst of the congregation. (Jahaziel was the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah the Levite of the Asaph clan.) He said, “Attention everyone—all of you from out of town, all you from Jerusalem, and you King Jehoshaphat—God’s word: Don’t be afraid; don’t pay any mind to this vandal horde. This is God’s war, not yours. Tomorrow you’ll go after them; see, they’re already on their way up the slopes of Ziz; you’ll meet them at the end of the ravine near the wilderness of Jeruel. You won’t have to lift a hand in this battle; just stand firm, Judah and Jerusalem, and watch God’s saving work for you take shape. Don’t be afraid, don’t waver. March out boldly tomorrow—God is with you.”
Then Jehoshaphat knelt down, bowing with his face to the ground. All Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping God. The Levites (both Kohathites and Korahites) stood to their feet to praise God, the God of Israel; they praised at the top of their lungs!
They were up early in the morning, ready to march into the wilderness of Tekoa. As they were leaving, Jehoshaphat stood up and said, “Listen Judah and Jerusalem! Listen to what I have to say! Believe firmly in God, your God, and your lives will be firm! Believe in your prophets and you’ll come out on top!”
After talking it over with the people, Jehoshaphat appointed a choir for God; dressed in holy robes, they were to march ahead of the troops, singing,
Give thanks to God,
His love never quits.
As soon as they started shouting and praising, God set ambushes against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir as they were attacking Judah, and they all ended up dead. The Ammonites and Moabites mistakenly attacked those from Mount Seir and massacred them. Then, further confused, they went at each other, and all ended up killed.
As Judah came up over the rise, looking into the wilderness for the horde of barbarians, they looked on a killing field of dead bodies—not a living soul among them.
When Jehoshaphat and his people came to carry off the plunder they found more loot than they could carry off—equipment, clothing, valuables. It took three days to cart it away! On the fourth day they came together at the Valley of Blessing (Beracah) and blessed God (that’s how it got the name, Valley of Blessing).
Jehoshaphat then led all the men of Judah and Jerusalem back to Jerusalem—an exuberant parade. God had given them joyful relief from their enemies! They entered Jerusalem and came to The Temple of God with all the instruments of the band playing.
When the surrounding kingdoms got word that God had fought Israel’s enemies, the fear of God descended on them. Jehoshaphat heard no more from them; as long as Jehoshaphat reigned, peace reigned.
(2 Chronicles 20:12-30)