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I Love Thy Kingdom Lord

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I have entitled my sermon this morning “I Love Thy Kingdom Lord.” Many of you will recognize this as the title of the hymn written by Timothy Dwight. I have chosen to preach on the love we should have for church of God because this morning marks the first time since March 15 that we have gathered in corporate worship. We have been able to listen to sermons on the internet or radio. We can listen to beautifully arranged and preformed Christian music from home. We can enjoy Christian fellowship with our families. Although all these things are true, it has not been the same.
What is going on? What is it that make corporate worship so special? Most Christians have no idea, because few preachers will preach on this topic. I am going to take the opportunity today to correct that.
For my text, I have chosen Psalm 122:
Psalm 122:1–9 ESV
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.
The Psalm begins with an expression of the psalmist love for the House of the Lord. Timothy Dwight picks up on this theme in his opening two verses, beginning with these words, “I love thy Kingdom, Lord, the house of thine abode. The church our blest Redeemer saved with his own precious blood.”

The House of Thine Abode

Was Timothy Dwight, the hymn writer justified in equating the House of the Lord with the church? When we look carefully at the New Testament, especially the Gospel According to John and the Letter to the Hebrews, we discover that the answer is yes.
In John 2, Jesus refers to himself as the true Temple of God, in the same way that He refers to Himself as the true Israel. What many people fail to understand is that all that is found in the Old Covenant serves as a type or shadow of the greater reality found in Christ. Everything in the Old Testament points to Christ and finds its fulfillment in Christ. Moreover, when a person unites himself with Christ by faith, that person is so united to Christ that what is true of Christ is true of the believer. For example, Paul says that those who are united to Christ share in His death and resurrection. As to the question at hand, Paul tells the Corinthians that by virtue of their union with Christ their bodies are now the Temple of God.
A temple is God’s abode or house. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “where two or three gather in my name, there I am among them” (Mt 18:16). What is being referred to here is not an informal gathering of Christians, but the formal gathering of Christians as a local congregation.
What makes the House of the Lord so special? Many argue nothing, they say, “I can worship God just as well alone as I can in a congregation.” In fact, many claim they can worship God better!
What makes the House of the Lord so special is the fact that this is where God’s Glory resides. In Scripture we see God’s Glory manifested as a cloud or fire. At Mt. Sinai, we see God’s Glory manifesting itself as a fiery cloud. God’s Glory descended upon the Tabernacle and Temple as a fiery cloud. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the church as tongues of fire.
Now you need to understand something. Once the forty years of wandering were over, the Glory Cloud stopped visibly descending upon the Tabernacle. After the initial dedication ceremony, the Glory Cloud was never again seen descending upon the Temple. After Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was never again visible seen descending upon the gathered church, but that doesn’t mean God’s Glory is not there. God’s Glory Cloud is here this morning, we can’t see it with our physical eyes, but we can see it with eyes of faith!
This is what the psalmist had to do. This is what we have to do.
This is why the psalmist rejoices. He could worship God back home in his village. Perhaps he received better teaching from his local rabbi than he did from the priests in Jerusalem. Perhaps his local choir sang better than the Temple choir. However, the one thing we could not find back home was God’s Glory Cloud.
God’s flaming Glory Cloud is here today. In fact, it is at every true Gospel believing congregation, both large and small. That is what you have been missing. That is what makes this a day of rejoicing!
This too is found in Psalm 122 and in Timothy Dwight’s hymn. The gathered church is...

Where the Thrones of Judgement are Set

God is a God of Justice, and because we are made in His image we long for justice. The psalmist rejoiced that in Jerusalem the judgement seats of the kings of Israel were set. Reading the Old Testament, we discover that rarely did the kings of Israel judge justly. Even the best, such as king David, failed in this area, but their failure points to a greater King—King Jesus!
Where do we see King Jesus’ judgement throne today? You guessed it, in the gathered church. Timothy Dwight picks up on this when he wrote, “The Church our blest Redeemer saved with His own precious blood.” When we see a Christian, we see the place that “mercy and justice met and kissed one another.” Before Jesus went to the cross, He said this, “Now is the judgement of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:31-32)
The ruler of this world that Jesus was referring to was Satan. Satan is a Hebrew word that means Accuser. In the book of Revelation, we learn that Satan accuses us both day and night. The basis of his accusation is our sin, but on the cross Jesus took our sin and paid the penalty we owned. This is why Jesus said He saw Satan thrown down; He was kicked out of God’s heavenly courtroom forever!
Just as we must see God’s Glory Cloud with the eyes of faith, we must see God’s Judgement Throne with faith. Look around you, when you see a fellow believer, you are seeing God’s justice!
I now want to close by briefly looking at the last half of Psalm 122 and the closing verses of Timothy Dwight’s hymn.

To Her My Tears and Toils are Given

The psalmist’s love for the House of God was not mere emotionalism, it was a love that expressed itself in concrete action. In verses 6-8, he says he prays for the peace of Jerusalem.
Psalm 122 lays out three obligations we have towards God’s Temple. The first is found in verses 1-2:

Pray for Her Peace (vs. 6-8)

Under the Old Covenant, people prayed for the peace of Jerusalem because this was the only place upon the whole earth, that people could worship God in the presence of His Glory. People would travel from all over the ancient world to worship God in Jerusalem.
Thankfully, we don’t have to do that any longer. Now the presence of God’s Glory can be found in any true Gospel believing church. Jesus said this to the Samaritan woman:
John 4:21–24 ESV
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Are you praying for the peace of God’s church? The church is the MOST essential business in every community. Without the church, the presence of God has departed from a community. One only has to look at Europe to see what happens to a society when gospel-believing churches are absent.
We pray for many things, but how often do we pray of the peace of the church? My hope is that this pandemic has taught us how essential the church is and that we will all be more faithful in praying for her.
The Psalmist also says that he seeks the good of Jerusalem.

Seek Her Good (vs. 9)

This is similar to the last point and done for the same reason—without a healthy local congregation, people have nowhere to go to enjoy the presence of God’s Glory. I think the reason the psalmist adds the obligation to seek the good of the church, in addition to praying for the church, is because as the old saying goes, “Sometimes God wants us to be the answers to our own prayers.” It is quite disingenuous to be praying for the peace of the church when we don’t do anything for the good of the church.
I am proud of our church in this regard. Many in our congregation do much for the good of our church. They give faithfully, they volunteer, they attend and support the church and its ministries in many ways. However, I think most of us (if not all of us), could think of some more we could do.

Conclusion:

I would like you to take your worship bulletin and look at the words of our closing hymn, “I Love Thy Kingdom Lord.” Look at the last verse, it reads as follow, “Sure as Thy truth shall last, to Zion shall be given, the brightest glories earth can yield, and brightest bliss of heaven.” This verse is an allusion to the closing chapters of the book of Revelation where we find the promise of the New Heaven and New Earth, upon which the heavenly Jerusalem will descend, and God and man shall dwell as one. Both the book of Revelation and Timothy Dwight are reminding us that God’s present Temple on earth, the church, is but a type and shadow as well. There is a greater and better reality coming, but that better reality does not take away from the glories of this present Temple. Just as the psalmist could rejoice in the Temple of the Old Covenant, we too can rejoice in the Temple of the New Covenant! So, let us respond to this message by singing together, “I Love Thy Kingdom Lord.”
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