From My Soul Waits
Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem! (v. 2)
“And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God,” wrote John the seer (Revelation 21:2). The completion of all human history and the fulfillment of all Heaven’s promises are contained within this radiant vision of the glorified Jerusalem. It is a far cry from the broken and conflicted city we see today. Perhaps Psalm 122 can remind us that, even as we pray for peace in the Earthly city, we also join with Abraham, the father of faith, in looking “forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God,” (Hebrews 11:10).
Of all the psalms called “Songs of Ascent” – the fifteen thought to have been used by worshipers as they made their pilgrimage (“going up”) to Zion at a time of a Jewish festival – Psalm 122 seems to refer most directly to this practice, particularly from the point of view of one looking back upon a visit to the Holy City. It sounds as if the psalmist is reflecting on his experience, both with delight in the memory and with determination never to forget what he has seen.
The delight the psalmist feels is expressed in the first five verses, and it comes from the character of the city itself: Jerusalem is, above all else, the dwelling place of Yahweh, God’s chosen habitation among the people he has called to be his own – “In Jerusalem will I put my name,” (2 Kings 21:4). As such, the city embraces within its sacred walls both the “house of the Lord,” (v. 1), and “the house of David,” (v. 5), a unifying of spiritual and temporal authority under one roof. This is where all the disparate tribes of Israel find their common lineage, their common purpose; and the psalmist delights with all his heart as he remembers standing upon such holy ground.
This vision inspires the pilgrim to make Jerusalem’s future wellbeing a priority both in his prayers and in his intentions. In the closing half of the psalm, the writer seems to play on the name Jerusalem as he sings; pray, peace, prosper, good – these words each share a common connection with the Hebrew word that makes up part of Jerusalem: shalom. It is as if the city has now become part of him, and he part of it. The pilgrim returns to his own home even as he carries within his heart and upon his lips the name of a new home, Jerusalem.
“When I go and prepare a place for you,” said Jesus to his disciples, “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also,” (John 14:3). The goal of our life’s pilgrimage is not a temporary visit to the home for which we were created, but a permanent stay in it. Until we arrive, it is good to sing Psalm 122 along the way.
From The Fathers
Here, “feet” is to be understood not as of the body but as the soul. For how could a person on Earth have his physical feet in Heaven? Since Jerusalem, as Paul tells you, is in Heaven, he also shows you how to stand in Heaven when he says, “But our abode is in Heaven,” (Philippians 3:20) – the “abode” of your behavior, the “abode” of your deeds, the “abode” of your faith. (Ambrose)
I don’t think of Heaven all that often, Lord, but I do think about you.
I want to be close to you, near you, with you.
And where you are, certainly there is Heaven also.
So today, one foot on Earth and one in Heaven—
That would be the best way for me to stand…and to walk.