Today, the psalmist rejoices at having reached the house of the Lord: “And now we have set foot within your gates, O Jerusalem,” he prays. That reminds me that, in those days, a journey was a serious undertaking. One didn’t just hop in the car and get to church in five or ten minutes. The journey to the temple in Jerusalem was probably a long one, on rough, dusty roads, in difficult weather, mostly on foot although one might have ridden an animal. It was difficult and would take a long time. For those looking forward to a pilgrimage to the temple, the expectation was probably palpable, and so we can understand the psalmist singing with joy as he arrives – finally! – in that holy place.
The psalmists goal was the temple in Jerusalem. Our goal is the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem, promised to us by our God as a place where there will be no more mourning or pain, but only basking in the light of the Lord. Our journey to get there is also long and difficult. We have to make our way along difficult roads, with all kinds of pitfalls, many obstacles, and much that would keep us from attaining our goal. We may get frustrated with our slow progress, or even the many times when we lose our footing and end up in places where we’d rather not be. Sin and frailty seem to claw at us, dragging us down yet again.
But the goal is always there, and we have our lives to travel that long and winding road. We yearn for the courts of the house of the Lord just as much as did the psalmist. We entrust our goal to God’s hands and pray to be open to the grace that he alone can give us to guide us safely there. Progress along the way may seem slow, but there is progress, and one day, we will get to sing with that psalmist in the new Jerusalem, as we all go rejoicing together to the house of the Lord.