"a city that is compact together" (Psalm 122)
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 they prosper who love you. May peace be within your walls, prosperity within your palaces."
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God I will seek your good.
- Psalm 122
One reason we want to be friends of this world is that we like to be part of the pack. It sucks to be expelled from the camp along with the lepers. The men of this world love to shout slogans together and fall in love with lies together, thereby being in. It's been like that ever since they got together at Babel to build a tower to heaven.
The call to follow Jesus is to die to all that, to walk alone with him in the truth and to follow him outside the camp, and so few take that tight and lonely way. There's lots of company and reassurance on the broad and easy way that leads to destruction. This is why many go that way as Jesus said.
But as we see here in Psalm 122, there's all the companionship we crave in the truth; we just don't get to see it until we go there. God doesn't call us to stand in the truth as proud individuals, in which we are always deceived in our self-conceit. In truth that appeals to us because we're hoping that way to be admired by the crowd for our boldness; we're not really walking away from the world's party scene at all.
The city of God is compact together. We're brought into unity with others, but we're not shouting "United We Stand," or "Sieg Heil" because it's the truth from God, not our own unity, in which we stand. Our feet stand only when they're within the gates of Jerusalem, under the word of God issuing from the thrones of judgment that God sets up. That word is the mortal enemy of the unity which we devise for ourselves, as it has been since it scattered them at Babel. When Mary and his brothers got together to take Jesus away, Jesus publicly back-handed them and chose the community of the word of God, the truth, over the unity of his family in the flesh (Mark 3). We need to do likewise.
Mobs love their unity in the world because in them people can lose themselves, but not really. They lose their responsibility to the truth, to be decent human beings when the mob decides otherwise. As particles in the mob we lose our humanity, but we gain the fulfillment of our vilest desires, feeling bold in everyone's praise as we fully indulge our cowardice.
We lose ourselves in the unity of God, too, but differently. We lose our right to walk in darkness so as to indulge our own passions or the multitude around us that resents the demands of the truth.
We find ourselves in the truth, hated and persecuted for it, and not least by our own self-indulgent passions. Standing alone like that, we find ourselves in the company of those doing likewise, and only because we are of that great company. We can never really stand alone, not without the God of truth, and not without our companions in the truth. And then we don't have to shout "United We Stand!" - because it's true.
Labels: Songs of Ascents