By Meryl Herr; excerpted from The Four Mondays of Advent: Daily Meditations on Faith and Work.
Editor’s note: This week only, The Four Mondays of Advent is available at the special introductory price of $2.99; the price goes up on November 12.
“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.”
Scripture Reading: Psalm 122
When I stepped out of the car, the brisk wind coming off the lake stole my breath. As soon as I recovered it, I inhaled deeply. And then I inhaled again. Crisp freshwater and fir trees. How could I capture that scent to carry it with me always?
When we step into a new place for the first time, our eyes and hearts open wide as our feet touch the ground. We exhale from the weariness of travel, but then we inhale with expectation – breathing in possibility, filling our lungs and our souls.
The psalmist had anticipated such a day in such a place. With joy, he made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. With anticipation, he entered her gates. With awe, he beheld the house of the Lord. He arrived in the center of Israel’s cultural and spiritual life. He entered the “city of peace” and beheld the walls, the houses and the temple.
He took it all in – surely the sights and the smells but also the historical and spiritual significance of this city in which God chose to dwell among his people. And then he exhorted those who would read his psalm to pray for the city, to seek its peace and prosperity.
When God sent his people into exile in Babylon, he urged them through the prophet Jeremiah, “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7).
We hear echoes of this counsel in the psalmist’s words. But, this time, the psalmist prays for the flourishing of a city to which he is a mere pilgrim. He links the peace and prosperity of the city to the well-being of his family and friends and the spiritual well-being of his people.
God no longer dwells in a temple in a city. Instead, he dwells in many people in many cities, in small towns, in remote villages. The apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” (I Corinthians 3:16)
This psalm, in light of the coming of Christ, encourages us to pray for the peace and prosperity of our places – our cities, neighborhoods, workplaces, schools and homes. And the psalmist’s commitment, “I will seek your prosperity,” invites us to partner with God in pursuing justice, peace, mercy, goodness, truth and beauty in our spheres of influence.