COMMENTS ON PSALM 122
Martin Luther 1483-1546
Verse 6.Â—Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, let them prosper that love thee.
To pray for the peace of Jerusalem, is to pray for the safety, prosperity, and welfare of the church of God, that Satan have no power to hinder the course and fruit of the word. David saw, first in spirit, this horrible contempt of the word and ministry; and moreover he saw that this glorious gift could not be preserved by man’s diligence. Therefore he goes about here to stir up the hearts of men to pray for the preservation of this gift. As if he said: here is the Lord’s own seat and throne of judgment: notwithstanding how few do reverence and regard it as they should do. Yea, the greatest part of the world hates it, and wishes the subversion thereof. Wherefore I exhort you, O ye little flock, to honour and reverence this seat, to pray for the peace thereof, lovingly to salute it, and to say: The Lord out of Sion bless thee, &c. So long as this city flourishes, ye have the Lord himself speaking, saying, giving victory against all the assaults of Satan, against sin, the terror of conscience, &c. What cause have ye then to pray for the prosperity of this city, whereby ye enjoy such heavenly benefits? When the church of God does not prosper, it cannot go well with any particular member thereof. No marvel then why David so earnestly exhorts all the
faithful to pray for the peace and prosperity of the church. Wherefore if we will pray as we ought to do, we must first and principally commend unto God the common state of the church. For he that seeks his own welfare and neglects the state and prosperity of the church, does not only shew himself to be void of all sense and zeal of true piety, but also the prayers which he makes for himself are in vain and profit him nothing.
“Let them prosper that love thee.” He wishes unto them which love the word and reverence this seat, that God would bless them with all manner of blessing and felicity. And this prayer is very necessary. For we see daily how the true professors of the Gospel are in danger by the ministers of Satan, the enemies of God and his truth, on every side.
Verse 7.Â—Peace be within thy walls and prosperity within thy palaces.
Now that the prophet has exhorted all men to pray for the peace and prosperity of Jerusalem, he turns unto the city, and does not only wish well unto it, but also he shews unto others how they should pray for it. The sum whereof is, that true religion may flourish: the ministry and ministers of the word may be defended against the false prophets, that concord may be maintained amongst the pastors and preachers of the word, and that the civil government may prosper. How necessary this prayer is, experience daily teaches us. For where these two things are, namely, concord in the church, and peace in the civil state, there can no good thing be lacking, and therefore the devil so busily labours to trouble the peace of them both. This was the cause why there was such a multitude of false prophets, rebels, and seditious persons amongst this people, as the histories do testify. Wherefore David being taught by his own experience, prays for these two things: without the which the world is nothing else but a wild desert.
Recent times are an example of this when we lived under the pope before this light of the Gospel began to shine. For then, when the sound doctrine of the word was lacking, what could the pope and all his shavelings do? What one verse did they rightly understand throughout the whole Psalter? Whereby it came to pass that they were not able to resist most manifest impieties, which by the strong and mighty delusions of the devil overflowed the world, as in pilgrimages, where they maintained most damnable idolatries, and caused the people to adore the works of their own hands, and if any man spoke against them, he was by and by taken and burnt as an heretic. So true is it, that when the word is once lost, the world remains in most horrible darkness, and can do nothing else but abuse the gifts of God, and so falls to most detestable impiety or else to desperation. This David foresees, and therefore he prays so
earnestly for the prosperity of Jerusalem, for faithful pastors in the church, and godly princes in the political state.
Verse 8.Â—For my brethren and neighbours’ sakes, I will wish thee now prosperity.
Here David shews the cause, as he does also in the verse following, why he prays thus for Jerusalem. As if he said: In that I wish that peace may be in thee, O Jerusalem, in that I desire thy prosperity and welfare, I do it for my brethren and neighbours’ sakes, that is, for my fellows and companions in faith and religion. And here in his own person he shews the common complaint of all those that rule either in the church, or in the commonwealth, or in families, which is, that the greater part of men is ever perverse and wicked. The godly pastor when he goes about with great care and diligence to reform the corrupt life and wickedness of the people, sees notwithstanding that the most part still remains perverse and intractable. The magistrate travailing with like care and diligence in his calling, finds the people disobedient and incorrigible. Likewise is it in household government. What unfaithful service you will find even amongst those who you thought to have found most true and faithful? Hereof it comes that many are discomforted and utterly discouraged, seeing so little fruit and success to ensue of their godly travails. Notwithstanding we see it cannot otherwise be: for Satan, our perpetual enemy, ceases neither night nor day to stir up discord and perverse opinions in the church: in the civil state stubborn and disobedient persons, in household government, negligent and unfaithful families. Here we must look with David, not to the greater part, which is ever wicked, but to our brethren and neighbours. So doth Paul in the 2 Timothy 3: “For the elect’s sake I sustain and suffer all things,” saith he. For if it were not for their sakes, who would willingly take upon him the office of a pastor or preacher in the church? These, the elect, I mean, the Lord has here and there dispersed among the wicked, as precious stones in the midst of the earth. Therefore you must not think to preach to these only, (which were to be wished:) for that cannot be because they are mixed with the ungodly multitude. Likewise, when thou art called to be a civil magistrate, or a governor of a household, thou shalt not find all to be precious stones, gold or silver; but let it suffice thee if in a whole multitude (as it happens in mines) you find but one vein of silver, or amongst a great deal of earth but one precious stone. For the greatest part in the church is heretical and godless: the least part in the civil state obedient and loving of virtue. Hereof it cometh then, that all things are full of trouble to the godly pastor, the magistrate, the householder, because the wicked with such success contemn and disobey all godly orders.
Notwithstanding, you man of God, stand in your calling, do your
duty, pray for peace, exhort, counsel, reprove those whom you have charge over. For since by the word of God, the church is somewhat purged of false religion, superstition, and idolatry, and the magistrates better instructed of their duty and office, Satan rages as a strong armed man, keeping his house when a stronger comes. Be strong therefore in these temptations, so though he rage against you ever so much, you must not be discouraged or slack the Lord’s business: but first serve the Lord and then your brethren and neighbours. For their sakes the churches must be instructed and the commonwealth governed. Thus I expound this verse to be a consolation for pastors, civil magistrates, and governors of families, against the multitude of the wicked, and the troubles which, by them, the godly do sustain.
Verse 9.Â—Because of the house of the Lord our God I will procure thy wealth.
This is another cause why he prays for the peace and prosperity of Jerusalem, for that the sanctuary of the Lord and the seat of true religion being established in that city, if it prospered not, the worship and service of God could not there continue. As if he had said: The Lord our God has established His seat in you, O Jerusalem, and in the midst of you hath He set up his worship. For the which cause I love you, and think you worthy of all prosperity.
But why does he add hereunto: our God? Because God has chosen this nation to be as his own peculiar people. And this also was the causes why David so loved them, and was not discomforted with these troubles which he for their sakes sustained both in the church and in the civil government: but being chosen to be a king and a prophet to this people, he constantly endured all troubles, and herewithal comforted himself, that first he served the Lord his God, and then his brethren, and was not an unprofitable servant, but fruitful unto God that he might be glorified, and to his neighbour and brother that he might be saved.
Let us likewise pray for the welfare of our brethren, and for the house of the Lord with David, who, as this Psalm shows, did well understand the power and glory of the word, and therefore he neither gives thanks nor yet rejoices for the abundance of gold and silver (which notwithstanding he lacked not) but for the word and true worship of the Lord. Where these two are not lacking, all other incommodities may easily be borne. For if we have the Lord abiding with us, if we maintain His word and His true service, and seek the salvation of our brethren, what can we desire more? But where the word and true worship of God is not regarded, there is no God, no mercy, no salvation, neither does any thing else remain but the cursed multitude which shall be damned in hell. Therefore David exhorts us in this Psalm, above all things to reverence the word, and
by faithful prayer to seek the advancement thereof. Also to give thanks unto God for peace and true preachers which govern the church according to His word: for where these things are not, there dust needs be trouble and vexation, unquietness of conscience, murder, adultery, and such other horrible sins, which the Lord turn way from our churches, and preserve that poor remnant amongst the ungodly multitude, which serve and worship Him according to
By these two latter verses we are admonished, first how every Christian ought to regard him which is his fellow in faith and religion, that is to say, as his brother and neighbour. Then also why he ought to have a hearty love and zeal to the church and congregation of the faithful. For my brethren, saith David, and for my neighbours. And again, for the house of the Lord our God.
These two things ought to be considered in the church of Christ. In it are our brethren and neighbours, in it is the house of God, yea rather it is the house of God itself, in the which are the children of God and true brethren. O happy is he, and a right Christian indeed, which being endued with the true knowledge and faith of Christ, and also with that brotherly love which is according to the spirit of the children of God, can unfeignedly and heartily say: for my brethren and neighbours, and for the house of the Lord our God I both seek and I wish the prosperity and welfare of the church of God.