Though written by David whose palace sits in Jerusalem, he assumes the perspective of a pilgrim who has come from the farthest distance.
We have arrived! We are here in Jerusalem and the first thing we want to do is pay our respects to God. This first verse is very popular, though seldom properly understood in context. Instead of seeking rest and recovery from the journey, the pilgrims hurry to seek God’s favor. The anticipation that energized them on the journey brings a demand that cannot be denied. Meanwhile, they pause just a moment to celebrate the fact their feet are now inside the gates of the city. You can almost see them bowing down to kiss the stone pavement. This becomes a song to Jerusalem as the capital of the nation and the symbolic home of God’s Presence among His people.
It’s not just any city; Jerusalem is a most winsome place. The word typically translated as “compact” carries the connotation of communion, a place where the whole nation returns to their spiritual home. It signifies the sense of moral fitness, that everything is in its place, and that the whole universe is in proper balance under God’s favor. It’s a primary meaning behind shalom. The sense of unity in the vast nation is a testimony to God’s greatness. Surely we can all share our gratitude to Jehovah. How proper it is that the City is also the seat of government, the City David won for himself from the Jebusites.
So while we are in the House of God, let us pray for the continued shalom of this lovely place. Given what it represents, let the Lord’s favor rest on those who love to be here. Let there be that powerful sense of peace and rest and vivid life that demonstrates God’s promised blessings. And even if David has to write it himself, there is a standing command from God to pray for the welfare of the king.
Meanwhile, lest we imagine that David is tooting his own horn, he explains his true motives here: David is still the shepherd boy serving his Lord. All of this is for the sake of his flock, his tribe, his nation, his brothers and sisters Israel. If there is peace in the City, it’s a whole lot easier to insure that peace rests on the whole kingdom. So it is for the sake of God’s great name on the earth that David seeks the well-being of his whole nation.
Note: Keep in mind that when David wrote this, there was as yet no Temple. The “House of the Lord” would have been the Tent of Meeting standing in the courtyard outside his fortress-palace.