Community is a prominent theme in the Psalms of Ascent. As we’ve noted, the background for these psalms are the pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the three annual feasts. These trips were made in the company of others. It was not only a safe way to travel, it was also spiritually enriching. God’s goodness was experienced in and through the people around them.
And of course, it didn’t stop there. When the groups arrived at Jerusalem, things really kicked in as people from all over Israel came together. This is the background for Psalm 133 and its celebration of unity.
There’s power in community beyond what we are able to grasp. Our lives are deeper, richer, and stronger because of the people around us. One of the lessons the pandemic has taught our educational system is as cutting edge as virtual learning might be, it’s absolutely no replacement for children being together in the classroom. For all our technological sophistication, we’re simply unable to replicate the special dynamic that occurs when people are in close physical proximity with each other!
That doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone whose worldview is rooted in the biblical witness. While “It is not good for man to be alone” was certainly true for Adam, it speaks for all humanity as well. We were created for community.
But the first word for the psalmist in Psalm 122 is none of these things—it is joy. Joy and rejoice are mentioned 7 times in the Psalms of Ascent. His initial take on community is the joy that bubbles up within him at the thought of it. “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go up to the house of the Lord.’”
It’s true that when he writes this, he very much has in mind participating in the worship and celebration of God. But it’s also true that this was not done in isolation. Worship and community are two sides of the same coin.
What God has joined together, let no one separate.