Today’s reading: Psalm 122, John 20
I spent this week in Columbus, OH on business. Because it really doesn’t save time to fly, and since it is a lot less expensive, I just picked up a company car and drove the 5.5 hours. For some reason this week, I found the drive to and from Columbus very nostalgic. It was either the Christmas music to which I was listening or simply the power of suggestion (as I smiled when I saw the I75 sign for Toledo, OH), but it brought back memories of driving to my Grandpa and Grandma York’s house in Toledo for Christmas when I was a little girl.
Back in the mid-1970’s I don’t remember having anything but a radio in the car. We probably listened to it quite a bit, but I mostly remembering singing on long car rides. As preacher’s kids, my sister and I grew up in church. Hymns, Christmas carols and praise & worship songs were about the only songs to which we knew all the words (we also knew the words to The Gambler by Kenny Rogers, but that is a story of stern motherly discipline for another time). We sang our hearts out on those rides.
As I read Psalm 122 this week, it made me think of singing songs on the way to Grandpa and Grandma York’s house at Christmas. Psalms 120-134 are referred to as Songs of Ascent. These were songs of praise and worship to God sung by Jews who were walking to Jerusalem for annual Jewish festivals. The city of Jerusalem sits on a high hill. No matter where you’re coming from, you have to travel uphill to get there, thus the name Songs of Ascent.
Psalm 122:6-9 talks about peace. Very fitting for a time of year when it is common to hear the word peace or phase peace on earth.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your prosperity (Psalm 122:6-9).
Vocabulary.com defines peace as a stress-free state that comes when there’s no fighting or war; everything co-existing in perfect harmony and freedom. I’d say this is a pretty common understanding of the word “peace” in the 21st century. The peace about which the Jews were singing in Psalm 122, however, was much more than just the absence of conflict. According to the Life Application Study Bible (Tyndale House), the Jews were singing about a peace that brought completeness, health, justice, prosperity and protection. This isn’t a peace this world can provide, but one that can only come from faith in God. This peace is the confident assurance that God works all things together according to his divine plan; a comfort that he has every situation under control.
On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week we read through John 14- 17. These three chapters are often referred to as Jesus’ Farewell Discourse – his guidance to the eleven disciples (sans Judas) after the last supper, before his crucifixion. Jesus was trying to prepare them for life without him. The disciples still didn’t completely understand his plan, and it was causing them anxiety. Think about it. These eleven men left everything to follow Jesus, and now he was talking about leaving. How could they be at peace? Can you identify with their fear and unrest? Jesus comforted the disciples with these words:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me. Rise, let us go from here (John 14:27-31).
Do you see Jesus’ words of peace? – “…for the prince of this world is coming…he has no hold over me…” Knowing that Jesus has all power over Satan is the source of our confident assurance. Jesus is our peace.