June’s Psalm of the Month: 122A

The sixth installment in URC Psalmody’s Introduction to the URC/OPC Psalm Proposal


 I was filled with joy and gladness
When I heard them say to me:
“Let us make our pilgrim journey,
Then the Lord’s house we will see.”

Welshman John Hughes’ 1905 tune CWM RHONDDA is most often associated with the hymn “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” but it makes a great fit for the text of Psalm 122. Not only does it convey the psalm’s jubilant enthusiasm, it also evokes climbing hilly terrain to reach a long-sought destination—in this case, Mount Zion, the city of God.

Speaking of hilly terrain, this setting of Psalm 122 provides numerous crags and corners that make singing it challenging but rewarding. Look out for slight rhythmic differences between the vocal parts, the repetition of one phrase (“We were standing! We were standing!”), and an alto/bass echo before the final line. Hold the fermata in the third-to-last measure as long as feels natural before continuing triumphantly on to the end of the stanza. As you sing Psalm 122A, let your heart fill with gladness at the opportunity to go up to God’s house with his people and worship him there.

Suggested stanzas: All

Source: Psalm 122B in The Book of Psalms for Singing, Psalm 122A in The Book of Psalms for Worship, Psalm 122 in the Trinity Psalter

Tune only: Blue Psalter Hymnal 407, Revised Trinity Hymnal 598

Digging Deeper

Themes for Studying Psalm 122

  • The pilgrims’ joy in Jerusalem (vv. 1,2)
  • The pilgrims’ esteem of Jerusalem (vv. 3-5)
  • The pilgrims’ concern for Jerusalem (vv. 6-8)

—outline by Matthew Henry

Seeing Christ in Psalm 122

Psalm 122 refers to the temple as “the house of the Lord” (v. 1)—the dwelling-place of God among his people. But what the temple foreshadowed, Christ incarnated. He is Emmanuel, “God with us.” Amidst the rampant strife of a fallen world, the psalmist’s prayer “Peace be within you!” (v. 8) offers a foretaste of the angels’ joyful announcement when Jesus was born: “Peace on earth!” (Luke 2:14). Praise God for the peace that Jesus came to bring!

When Jesus drove the merchants and money-changers out of the temple, John notes that the disciples connected his actions with the fulfillment of another passage from the psalms, Psalm 69:9: “Zeal for your house has consumed me” (John 2:17). With this zeal Christ came to ransom “people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). Through his work of redemption we are adopted as “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17), becoming his “brothers and companions” (Psalm 122:8). Now “the house of the Lord” takes on an entirely new meaning: Peter writes that we “like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (I Peter 2:5). Because Christ sought the good of his people (Psalm 122:9) we have the privilege of seeking the good of his Church.

Applying Psalm 122

  • Are you glad to be called to worship in the house of the Lord (v. 1)?
  • What hinders the church from being “bound firmly together” (v. 3)? How should we seek unity with the rest of the visible church?
  • What are some practical ways you can seek the good of the people of God (v. 9)?

First we love [the church] and then we labor for it, as in this passage; we see its good, and then seek its good. If we can do nothing else we can intercede for it. Our covenant relation to Jehovah as our God binds us to pray for his people,—they are ‘the house of the Lord our God.’ If we honor our God we desire the prosperity of the church which he has chosen for his indwelling.

—Charles Spurgeon

Michael Kearney
West Sayville URC
Long Island, New York

(A PDF version of this post, formatted as a bulletin insert, is available here.)

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