Psalm 122:1-5 (ESV)
1 I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
2 Our feet have been standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem!
3 Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together,
4 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.
5 There thrones for judgment were set,
the thrones of the house of David.
The Psalms of Ascent (120–134) perhaps mark the progression to the temple for Israel’s three annual holy festivals. Whatever they’re for, they reflect a joyful anticipation and celebration about coming to the house of the Lord.
We rightfully regard Lent as a season of repentance; but consider the link between repentance and joy. We’re prone to see repentance as a melancholy sort of thing, an occasion to go about feeling bad about ourselves. But this misses the point.
In a book about true repentance, C. FitzSimons Allison explores repentance as renewing our power to love. “Renewing the power to love conveys a much different spirit from merely feeling bad about what we’ve done… As long as our hearts are unchanged ‘it’s all about me.’ I must control my desires, hide my self-interest, and pretend to virtues I do not possess. It’s a real prison compared to a heart changed to genuinely desire to do, think, and feel as I should. Change of heart is an exquisite expression of true freedom.”
C.S. Lewis comments: “Repentance is not something God demands of you before He’ll take you back and which He could let you off…; it is simply a description of what going back is like.”
Repentance isn’t about feeling bad. It’s about getting set free where we’re bound. It’s about turning back onto the right road when we’ve been merrily racing along in the wrong way.
As we ponder our hearts this Lenten season, ponder the joy of the freedom to love, and how that might shape your life.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. Amen.