Let us go to the House of The Lord
All reference NKJV unless otherwise stated
These beautiful words, "Let us go to the house of the LORD" (Psalm 122:1 ESV) were written by David and were reportedly sung as the Jewish people made their way up to the Tabernacle in Jerusalem for the solemn feasts, three times a year.
It was in David’s time that Jerusalem became the capital after the tribes of Israel accepted David as their king. It would become the place where the temple of God would be built and where Jehovah would be worshipped. It was during his reign that there were two tabernacles and a great desire to build a permanent house for the Lord.
The opening portion of the verse "I was glad when they said to me" shows the joy that David had when the people requested "Let us go to the house of the LORD." This was no burden to him, even with all the duties and responsibilities of being their King, his heart drew him to this house of prayer, providing an opportunity of public worship with his people.
When we look at the first three kings of Israel and the how the house of the Lord was represented during their reigns, we see that this could picture three periods of time, the Jewish age, the Gospel age (Christian era) and the Millennial Age.
Saul’s reign could represent the Jewish Age; the Tabernacle was the place of worship, a tent which although a temporary structure symbolized to the Jews the place where God’s presence dwelt. It was the place where the priest would offer sacrifices for the people and where once a year the High Priest would enter the Most Holy to sprinkle the atonement day sacrificed blood on the mercy seat. The Tabernacle served as a "…copy and shadow of the heavenly things", just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the Tabernacle; for, "See" He says, "that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain." (Heb.8:5)
David’s reign could represent the Gospel Age (Christian era); the Tabernacle was still around, the temple was not built, but the preparation work for the Temple was started. During the Gospel Age the foundation stone has been laid and the work of preparing the stones has begun. "You are…fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit." (Eph.2:19‑22)
Solomon’s reign could represent the Millennial Age. The preparation work had been accomplished during David’s reign and now the finished products were brought together. As "the temple, when it was being built, was built of stone finished at the quarry, so that no hammer or chisel or any iron tool was heard in the temple while it was being built." (1 Kings 6:7)
A more detailed look at each of these ages can be related to in David’s Psalm 122.
During Saul’s reign, the house of the Lord was the Tabernacle or the tent of meeting. It had been built under God’s instructions to Moses. "Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them." (Exod.25:8) The first ordinance given to Moses, after the proclamation of the outline of the law from Sinai, related to the ordering of the Tabernacle, its furniture and its service, as the type which was to be followed and during the forty days of Moses’ first retirement with God in Sinai, an exact pattern of the whole thing was shown him and all was made according to it. The materials to build the Tabernacle were a freewill offering made by the people. "Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering." (Exod.25:2) So the people in their homeland had a place for the home of God.
The Tabernacle and its services enabled the Jews, who had no visible representation of God, to feel the reality of God and religion. The Tabernacle as the most beautiful and costly object in the nation, and ever in the centre of the camp, set forth the truth that religion was the central and the most important part of the people’s lives. The pillar of cloud and of fire was a visible symbol of the living God. The Altar of Burnt Offering (Brazen altar) was a perpetual symbol that forgiveness could only come through the offering of blood. The access to the holies and the Most Holy were restricted, only the priests had access to the holies and the High Priest alone to the Most Holy on the Day of Atonement.
Before the Israelites were settled in the Promised Land, the Tabernacle moved with the people, when they stopped it was in centre of the camp. "The people of Israel shall camp each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ houses. They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side." (Num.2:2 ESV) The Tabernacle was thus the centre of their worship and yet they did not have access. Only the Levites were allowed to care for it. It finally came to rest at Shiloh.
Saul’s reign certainly mirrored that of the Jewish people. Saul started out as a reluctant King. But the lot fell upon Saul, his tribe and family and Saul was presented as the stateliest man in all Israel and he was thrown in the air to cries of, "God save the king!". (1 Sam.10:17‑27 KJV) Saul returned to his home in Gibeah with a bodyguard, a band of men whose hearts God had touched. On reaching his home he dismissed them, and resumed the quiet toils of his former life. Unfortunately, Saul did not remain humble for long and began to ignore God’s instructions until God told Saul through Samuel. "Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king" (1 Sam.15:23).
The Jewish Nation which had been delivered from bondage in Egypt also started with a humble heart. As recorded, Moses "took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, ‘All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient’"! (Exod.24:7) The trouble for the majority of the Jews was that instead of following Jehovah’s laws they followed the traditions of men and the idols of the nations around about. As a result, it says in John 12:40 (ESV) "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them." The leaders, like King Saul did not follow God and led their people away from God. Like Saul who lost the privilege of seeing his son on the throne, they lost their right as a nation to privileges available during the Gospel Age. "When the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said. ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold. we turn to the Gentiles.’" (Acts 13:45‑46)
David’s reign and lessons for this Gospel Age
It is interesting that during David’s reign that there were two tabernacles. The original one was at Gibeon where offerings burnt on the altar continually morning and evening, even according to all that is written in the law of the LORD (1 Chron.16:39‑40). The Ark of the Covenant had been taken from the Israelites by the Philistines after they were defeated in battle and thirty thousand soldiers were slaughtered. (1 Sam.4:10‑11). The story of the taking of the Ark finishes with the words "The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured." (1 Sam.4:22)
The Ark of the Covenant was not returned until all the twelve tribes of Israel were united under David. The ark was not returned to the Tabernacle; instead it was placed in a tent that David had constructed. David and all the house of Israel brought the ark of the Lord with shouting and the sound of the trumpet to the city of David. The ark of the Lord was set in its place inside the tent which David had pitched, and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. (2 Sam.6:15‑17) It was not till the Temple was built, that the ancient Tabernacle was allowed to perish and be forgotten.
David however had a great desire to build a suitable dwelling place for God. Nathan the prophet seeing his desire answered "Go, do all that is in your mind, for the LORD is with you." (2 Sam.7:3 NASB) However then Nathan received word from God that David would not be the one to build the Temple, but his son Solomon.
Then King David rose to his feet and said, "Hear me, my brethren and my people: I had it in my heart to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and for the footstool of our God, and had made preparations to build it, but God said to me, ‘You shall not build a house for My name, because you have been a man of war and have shed blood.’ However the LORD God of Israel chose me above all the house of my father to be king over Israel forever, for He has chosen Judah to be the ruler. And of the house of Judah, the house of my father, and among the sons of my father, He was pleased with me to make me king over all Israel, and of all my sons…He has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel. Now He said to me, ‘It is your son Solomon who shall build My house and My courts; for I have chosen him to be My son, and I will be his Father.’" (1 Chron.28:2‑6)
Although David was not permitted to build the Temple it says that he was able to prepare the materials for the Temple. So, David gave orders to gather the foreigners who were in the land of Israel, and he set stonecutters to hew out stones to build the house of God. David prepared large quantities of iron to make the nails for the doors of the gates and for the clamps, and more bronze than could be weighed; and timbers of cedar logs beyond number, for the Sidonians and Tyrians brought large quantities of cedar timber to David as David said, "Solomon my son is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the LORD must be exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorious throughout all countries." So, David made ample preparations before his death. (1 Chron.22:1‑5) (1 Chronicles chapters 28 & 29 records all the plans made by David and how he divided the work amongst the Levites.)
Lessons from David’s reign and words
By our Lord Jesus’ time Solomon’s Temple had been destroyed and Herod’s temple was in place. It was inferior to the original as it was without the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of God’s presence, the place where the blood was placed on the mercy seat. The High Priest no longer was able to perform his duties according to the law. At Christ’s death the veil of the temple was rent in two, the sun was obscured and Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "Father into your hands I commit my spirit" and he breathed his last. (Luke 23:45‑46 ESV)
Christ had paid the ransom for Adam and so access to the heavenly was now open for those who accepted Christ. No longer was the Tabernacle or the Temple the acceptable way to worship our heavenly Father. The Samaritan woman had asked Jesus where the acceptable place of worship was, and our Lord intimated the change that would come after his death in John 4:23‑24. "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him."
The coming to the house of the Lord had altered in another significant way. The Jews had many ceremonies and sacrifices that were required to fulfil the law. The sacrifices had to be carried out by the priest, the High Priest was the only one that had had access to the Most Holy. Now the individual has access to God through Christ. The coming to the Temple and the synagogue to worship was replaced with house meetings and meetings in public places. They had to bring animals and produce as sacrifices to God. We have to offer up personal spiritual sacrifices. "I entreat you, therefore, Brethren, by the tender compassions of God, to present your bodies a living Sacrifice, holy, well‑pleasing to God—your rational religious service." (Romans 12:1 Diaglott) Our sacrifice is our time, our money, our talents in service to our Heavenly Father. It also involves our services to others as it states "Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God." (Hebrews 13:15‑16 ESV)
The preparation for the building of the Temple took place during David’s reign. This picture equates to the preparation of the spiritual temple during this Gospel Age. The stones had to be prepared for the Temple just as we have to be prepared for the spiritual temple, "coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:4‑5)
One other interesting fact was that many of the workers were not Jews as we read in 1 Chron.22:2, "So David commanded to gather the aliens who were in the land of Israel; and he appointed masons to cut hewn stones to build the house of God." Material was also sought from the nations that were around Israel. Both of these can picture the fact that the majority of the material and workers came from the Gentile nations, just as the majority of the gospel church are made up from the Gentile nations. "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (1 Peter 2:9‑10 ESV)
Like the stones for the Temple that had to be chiselled and cut to the right shape to fit perfectly together we too also must be shaped. "You are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit." (Eph.2:19‑22 ESV)
The people could only wonder at the work being done to prepare for the Temple, they could give from their hearts and yet not really comprehend the beauty that would come from this work. This fits in with the development of the Church during the Gospel Age. Paul reminded the reader that "we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predetermined before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew…but as it is written: ‘eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’" (1 Corinthians 2:7‑9 margin)
It was in Solomon’s reign that the work of the people would be seen with the completion of the Temple. It was twice as large as the Tabernacle that it replaced. The hard work had paid off. The already finished stones were put in place quietly.
This is the same in the Millennial Age, the work has been completed and the temple is made ready and "he who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. I will write on him My new name." (Revelation 3:12)
Once again Jerusalem will be a place of worship, a place to learn of God. "Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plough shares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore." (Isa.2:2‑4)