where pilgrims rest


[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.

[6] Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
“May they be secure who love you!
[7] Peace be within your walls
and security within your towers!”
[8] For my brothers and companions’ sake
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
[9] For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your good. (ESV)
              Psalm 122, ESV

In Nepal, a chautari is a place to rest along the rural trails, or sometimes in a village.  Stones are used to create a raised earthen platform and often a tree is planted on it or nearby for shade, often as a memorial.   On the first day of our trek, after a couple of hours, we came to one.  Already we needed it.

Sometimes I would need a break before we found another one, and I would settle down on the ground beside the trail, or find a rock or a stump.  But I was always glad to see the occasional chautari, comforted that someone had been intentional in making it.  Others had come before me and they had needed what I needed. A couple of times our entire group would end up at one together.  And we lingered, not just because we were tired, but because we were not alone.  There is a companionship of the trail, born of shared hardship and satisfaction.

I’m not sure the Hebrew pilgrims had such resting places.  But I am sure they stopped to rest.  I am also sure they looked forward to it.  Climbing up and down mountains all day is hard work.  But just as we persisted because there was a tea house or lodge ahead, the Hebrew pilgrims were pushing on, up the mountains to Jerusalem.  Their goal was not just to crawl into a warm bed or eat a hot meal.  There was a greater joy before them: “I was glad when they said to me, let us go unto the House of the Lord (vs. 1).”

The temple then, and church now, are chautaris—­a resting places to which the tribes go up “to give thanks to the name of the LORD (vs. 4).”  For God’s people, doing this sustains and strengthens us.  Any true sanctuary feels “bound together (vs. 3),” a stable place where justice and righteousness are exalted (vs. 6). By gathering to worship, we mark the journey and are restored.  The soul needs rest as much as the body does.

Nepal Christians do this on Saturday, not because of some theology of the Sabbath, but because, in a Hindu nation, Sunday is a work and school day.  But on our trek, traveling alone through the mountains, we paused one Sunday after lunch to worship because worshiping together is what God’s people do.  It was a simple service. Several students talked about what the Lord was showing them.  We prayed for our churches at home. Then Rachel led out on “King of My Heart:”

Let the King of my heart
Be the mountain where I run
The fountain I drink from
Oh, He is my song

Let the King of my heart
Be the shadow where I hide
The ransom for my life
Oh, He is my song.

I heard Jamie’s tenor rising on the refrain, as he tapped out the rhythm on the side of his stool:

You are good, good, oh
You are good
You are good, good,  oh
You are good

And then the coda:

You’re never gonna let
You’re never gonna let
You’re never gonna let me down
You’re never gonna let
You’re never gonna let
You’re never gonna let me down

It was beautiful, haunting even.

And it was true.  Although we were not at the highest point of our trek, we may have been at the highest point of our trip, a couple of dozen believers coming together around the Word on a windswept mountain far from home. I shared a brief sermon on Psalm 121, and we sang the doxology, uniting ourselves to Christians across the centuries.

Such moments are the chautari of our souls, resting places where we pray for the peace of Jerusalem (vs. 6) and for the safety of our brothers and companions (vs. 8). In worship, pilgrims find the songs they need and the peace they seek.

Here too we find our feet have always been standing within His gates (vs. 2).  He is never going to let us down.

He is never going to let us down.


Note:  Thanks to my friend Richen, a Nepali pastor who taught me this word.  And whose church is the Chautari Community Church.

You can hear a performance of “King of my Heart” by Steffany Gretzinger here.

This is the third in a series of devotions for trekkers, based on the Psalms of Ascent.  Look for a new one each Monday.  You can also read the first two if you missed them:  Psalm 120 and Psalm 121.


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