Growing In Grace
'I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord'. Psalm 122:1
In the psalms of degrees, or the songs of ascents, we see how God gradually works the results of redemption for His people. There is marked progress towards Zion in this series of fifteen psalms, a going up towards God's dwelling place, from an outward as well as an inward point of view. First of all, there is the outward redemption from the enemy's power and the return to Zion, the place where God chose to put His name. But this requires also the redemption of the souls of God's people, an inner growth in the knowledge of God and of His thoughts. This is especially the case in the last group of five songs, Psalms 130 up to 134, which we will discuss now. The spiritual growth we find here can be characterized as follows:
· Awareness of sin and of God's forgiveness (Ps. 130).
· Peace with God (Ps. 131).
· Fellowship with God in His house (Ps. 132).
· Fellowship with one another in God's house (Ps. 133).
· Worship in the sanctuary (Ps. 134).
Stages of spiritual growth
The starting point of all spiritual growth is the consciousness of being a lost sinner in God's sight. In Psalm 130 we hear someone crying from the depths of his lost condition to God: 'Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord' (v.1). Who could stand before God if He should mark all our iniquities and deal with us according to our sins (v.3)? 'But there is forgiveness with thee' (v.4). That is the wonderful answer to our need! There is forgiveness with the One who would otherwise have to condemn us, the One before whom we could not stand. He grants that forgiveness freely, because of the finished work of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. What is the practical result that flows from this? That I should fear Him and trust Him completely.
This leads to the next step in our spiritual growth: finding peace with God and, as far as our daily life is concerned, to go on our way with the peace of God in our hearts. In Psalm 131 the psalmist has found complete rest for his soul, like a weaned child with his mother. All his needs have been met and he is happy in the Lord. To say it in New Testament terms: 'Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God' (Rom. 5:1,2). There is nothing left to be desired. We have peace with God and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, fills our hearts and minds (Phil. 4:7).
The truth of God's house
The great salvation which has become our portion has common as well as individual consequences. Realizing this is an important step forward in our spiritual growth. The sinner's justification in the Epistle to the Romans is followed in the Epistles to the Corinthians by the subject of our joint responsibility as God's Church on earth. This second point is the subject of Psalm 132. God has a dwelling place here on earth in the midst of the people whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy. There He finds a resting place: 'Arise, O lord, into thy resting place, thou and the ark of thy strength' (v. 8).
So, not only do we find our rest in Him, as we noticed in the previous Psalm, but He also finds a resting place amongst His own. And we have to prepare that place for Him in our church life, because the whole topic is seen here from the viewpoint of our responsibility! In the same way as David and the people gave the ark a place of honour on Mount Zion, we should give Christ the place He is entitled to as the true Centre of gathering. This is our common duty as believers, and then further blessings also depend on our obedience to God's revealed will, though ultimately His sovereign grace is the source of all our blessings (v.12,13). Thus we enjoy fellowship with God in His dwelling place here on earth.
As a result (and this is what is dealt with in Psalm 133) we shall also continue in brotherly love and dwell together in unity. Then we are a priestly family blessed from above. This is expressed in verse 2, where the image of the anointing oil running down from the head of the high priest on the edge of his garments is used. Similarly, we receive from Christ our Head, the High Priest of our confession, the anointing with the Holy Spirit whom He has poured out on His own. Then in verse 3, this heavenly blessing is compared to the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion. How dry our Christian life would be without this refreshing and life-giving work of the Spirit!
All of this leads to the highlight of our spiritual growth, to which we are called in Psalm 134: to enter into the sanctuary as worshippers, with our sacrifices of thanksgiving. Since God has blessed us so richly as a priestly family, we should approach Him with spiritual sacrifices in which He is pleased. It is for this purpose that Christ Himself dwells among us and leads God's praises in the midst of His brethren (Ps. 22:22; Heb. 2:12;10: 19-22; 13:15-16).
The addition in verse 1, '... who by night stand in the house of the lord' is very interesting. The night is far spent in this world that has rejected the Lord Jesus. The day is at hand. But even by night we stand in the sanctuary, in the light of the lampstand. We have light in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, because the Holy Spirit enlightens us. There we serve our God and honour Him as a people of priests. The redeemed of the Lord sing His praises in the sanctuary, knowing that He will appear as the Sun of righteousness, to remove the darkness and to rule over heaven and earth on behalf of God Most High. Then His blessings will extend from Zion to the ends of the world (v.3).
What a privilege to fulfil this service before our God in the sanctuary while darkness still reigns in this world of sin! It is the highest privilege given to us as Christians. God has drawn us as sinners to Himself, when we cried to Him out of the depths of misery and sin. And now we can walk on our high hills and stand as worshippers before Him in the heights of the sanctuary. Let us never forget His mercy and always give Him the worship He is worthy to receive.