It may seem a bit odd for us to do a post dealing with the Sabbath on a Saturday and then to do one considering our pilgrimage on the Sabbath. Yet, this is precisely where the church has historically sought to reorient their minds and hearts in regard to the Sabbath. As the stars are always brighter against the dark backdrop of the night sky, the Sabbath is always more delightful when considered against the backdrop of the world in which we sojourn. This is the focus of Psalm 120, the first of the Psalms of Ascent.
The Psalms of Ascent were the Psalms that were sung by the people of Israel as they traveled from their homelands to Jerusalem for the four major festivals each year. They are called the Psalms of Ascent, because of the topography of Jerusalem itself. Jerusalem is considered a high point in its region of Judah, and is alternatively called Mount Zion. Of all of the cities of Judea, Jerusalem was considered to be the most sacred, and it remained central in the hearts and minds of the people even during times of dispersion and exile.
In Psalm 87:2, David writes of Zion, “The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the other dwelling places of Jacob,” (NASB). Commenting on this verse, Benjamin Keach writes, “Therefore, the public worship of God ought to be preferred before private,” (The Glory of a True Church, pg. 77). And certainly it should. The difference for the people of God between the ingathering of the saints on the Lord’s Day and our private time with God Monday through Saturday should be comparable to the difference between Daniel praying in Jerusalem and his praying while in exile in Babylon merely being able to open his windows toward Jerusalem and long for her (Daniel 6:10).
Having sojourned in this world for a week since the last ingathering, take some time to reflect on the lying lips and deceitful tongues, the arrows and burning coals of your daily adversaries. Stop, and consider the loneliness of sojourning as a citizen of our heavenly kingdom among the kingdom of man, with those who hate peace. Ponder these dark and dismal realities and, with that dark backdrop in mind, soak in the glory of the kingdom assembly as you have the joy of gathering with the saints today.