Going to the Festival


I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
Our feet have been standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem!

Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together,
to which the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
There thrones for judgment were set,
the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
“May they be secure who love you!
Peace be within your walls
and security within your towers!”
For my brothers and companions’ sake
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good. Psalm 122 ESV

These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival. Psalm 42:4 ESV


Do you know the hymn, “Onward Christian Soldiers?” Did you know that this hymn was never meant to be sung in church? It was written by a man named Sabine Baring-Gold in 1865. He was the curate of a church in England, and he wrote this hymn for the children of his village. They were going to join the children of another village for a festival on a holiday, and the curate wrote “Onward Christian Soldiers” for them to sing while they were walking together to the other village. It would have been a happy and exciting time for the children as they looked forward to the good times they would have together.

Psalm 122 is one of what is called the “psalms of ascent.” These psalms were sung as people walked or rode animals up to Jerusalem together. Jerusalem is on a hill, and so people would be able to see it from a distance as they walked toward it and climbed the hill together to celebrate a festival. These would have been times of excitement and happiness, traveling and singing together and looking forward to the celebration. There were three festivals in a year that the men of Israel had to go to Jerusalem for–Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths. They were all times of great joy and of thanksgiving for God’s blessings to his people, and women and children also joined the crowds if they could. Psalm 122 prays for peace and blessings for the city of Jerusalem. This was the place where God’s anointed king was, and also the place where the ark of the covenant was kept. Jerusalem was the place where people felt close to God and knew that the Lord was with them in a special way.

We can also know the joy and excitement of being in God’s presence. God is everywhere, but there are times and places when he is especially close to us. He comes to us in his Word, every time we read the Bible. He also comes to us when we gather together as God’s family in church. Most importantly, God came to us once and for all in Jesus. Jesus came to us to teach us God’s word and his ways, and to die on the cross for us. Because of Jesus, we can be close to God and know the joy and the peace of being his people, no matter where we are.


Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending us Jesus to bring us close to you. In His Name, Amen.


Hymn Stories: Onward, Christian Soldiers