Praying for the Peace of Jerusalem - Printable Version

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Praying for the Peace of Jerusalem - DeanZF - 10-25-2009

Prelude: Because our Bishop’s chosen sermon topic was to speak about "The Last Word on the Jews", including issues surrounding the Jewish people and by relation, Israel and Jerusalem, he offered to let me talk to the topic as well, especially in light of the teachings I've done this year on the God-given holidays and calendar of the Hebrew people.

We had a reading from Revelation 22:1-2 earlier in the month caught my attention.
Quote:Then he [the one sitting on the throne] showed me [John the Revelator] a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

There, we see a great boulevard with a river flowing from the throne. The river contains the water of life. On either side of the river was “the tree of life”. This seems to be a single creature rather than a bunch of similar trees lining the boulevard. The explanation of the tree is pretty neat. This tree evidently produces twelve different types of fruit, a different one for each month, and it produces leaves that bring healing to the nations. When I first reread this that Sunday, I did not hear it correctly and I was reminded of the passage from Isaiah 61. What I feel that I’ve discovered is one of those “on earth as it is in heaven” moments. We’re very familiar with v.1 of that chapter, but let’s look at a larger context.
Quote:The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,

    Because the LORD has anointed me

    To bring good news to the afflicted;

    He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

    To proclaim liberty to captives

    And freedom to prisoners;

To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD

    And the day of vengeance of our God;

    To comfort all who mourn,

To grant those who mourn in Zion,

    Giving them a garland instead of ashes,

    The oil of gladness instead of mourning,

    The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting

    So they will be called oaks of righteousness,

    The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.

Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins,[/]

    They will raise up the former devastations;

    And [b]they will repair
the ruined cities,

    The desolations of many generations.

Strangers will stand and pasture your flocks,

    And foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers.

But you will be called the priests of the LORD;

    You will be spoken of as ministers of our God

    You will eat the wealth of nations,

    And in their riches you will boast.

Instead of your shame you will have a double portion,

    And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion

    Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land,

    Everlasting joy will be theirs.

For I, the LORD, love justice,

    I hate robbery in the burnt offering [don’t steal or borrow from the tithe!];

    And I will faithfully give them their recompense

    And make an everlasting covenant with them [we know this as the New Covenant].

Then their offspring [of those who mourn in Zion: us, if we are mourners] will be known among the nations,

    And their descendants in the midst of the peoples.

    All who see them will recognize them

    Because they are the offspring whom the LORD has blessed.

I will rejoice greatly in the LORD,

    My soul will exult in my God;

    For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,

    He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,

    As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,

    And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,

    And as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up,

    So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise

    To spring up before all the nations.
(in the face of friend and enemy alike, a la Psalm 23.)[/b]

This is just all kinds of fun for me, and there is all sorts of wonderful symbolism and prophetic insight to be had here, weeks worth of teaching. For today, I want to concentrate mostly on the oaks of righteousness, and perhaps their primary reason for being, along with a couple of significant scriptural messages from God to us.

We learned in the Spring that God’s intention was for all of His children to all of their generations to celebrate His feasts and holy days. We see that reinforced in the writings of Zechariah the prophet where God declares blessings on those nations that go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles and profound troubles on those nations too proud to worship the God of the universe.


Psalm 122 is one of the Psalms of Ascent, or the Pilgrim Psalms. There are 15 in this series, 120 to 134. Four of them were written by King David, including Psalm 122. I often get all twisted up trying to figure out who’s talking to whom in the Psalms. These songs were traditionally sung by the Hebrews while they made their three-time a year treks up to Jerusalem. “UP to Jerusalem” is not a euphemism. To get to Jerusalem from ANYwhere in Israel, you have to go…well, up. At the southern and the northern ends of Israel, you start at sea level, at the Red and the Mediterranean Seas respectively. Jerusalem is 35 miles from the Mediterranean and about 15 miles from the Dead or Salt Sea. From the northern corner of the Dead Sea to Jerusalem is a change in elevation of more than 3350 feet! 3350 feet up in 15 miles long is a steep slope. It’s not the highest point in Israel, but it is still high and it is and always has been a destination.

Three times a year, observant sons of Israel made a trip and make a trip up to Jerusalem to celebrate the prescribed Festivals of the Lord. Tradition holds that these songs were the marching songs. “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord…” “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord…’” As the folks walked to Jerusalem, as the mood struck them perhaps, they explored the emotions and spiritual truths found in these psalms. Bishop plans to spend some time in these psalms soon, so read them and think about pilgrimage to His holy mountain, to the place called Zion.

Psalm 122:6-9 is a bit of a wild ride, grammatically. Sometimes certain translations actually help us. This is a psalm that starts in exhortation, moves to declaration, and then ends in this amazing little teaching. Thomas translation: “Pray this way for the shalom of Yerushalayim” or “Pray this way for God’s shalom to be on the City of Shalom”. Pray=“to ask for, to beg for”; Peace=“completeness, soundness, welfare, peace”, but not absence of war or conflict; Jerusalem, Yerushalayim= “city of peace” or “teaching of peace”. Jesus actually defined peace best when He declared to the disciples, “My peace I give to you—it’s not the peace that the world knows that I give you.”

To pray is an interesting concept. This reminds me of the Syrophoenician woman in Matthew 15:21-28 where the woman prayed and kept on praying that Jesus would heal her demon-possessed daughter. The disciples asked Jesus to send her away because she would not quit SHOUTING AT THEM! She prayed with purpose and intention and with huge energy. Can we learn something about prayer from her? Probably. Crises drive us to our knees. Sometimes we remember to fall to our knees when we have a great joy or triumph. Most everyone I’ve ever talked to about this stuff confesses that they forget to return to the prayer closet when the prayers are quietly or dramatically answered. It’s a point of discipline that needs to be revisited often, I believe. How then, do we remember to pray for things that don’t affect us personally? Write it down? Ask Father to remind you? Pray whenever you happen to think about it (like RIGHT THEN!?!?)? Make it into your screen saver at work or your wallpaper on your computer. How do you make anything into a habit? Whatever works for you. The point is to pray, and in this case, for God’s shalom in that city of His. His idea.

King David is writing as the Spirit prompted, so He the Holy Spirit is charging us to pray for the shalom of God’s City. Look at what else is in this psalm.

Quote:Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

    “May they prosper who love you.

"May peace be within your walls,

    And prosperity within your palaces.”

For the sake of my brothers and my friends,

    I will now say,
“May peace be within you.”

For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,

    I will seek your good.

[Could this be twisted slightly? The house of the Lord is generally seen as the Temple,

    constructed of stones. I Peter 2:5 says that we’re living stones and being built into a

    spiritual house. Not theology, just a thought.]

I also want to bring one more really important portion of Scripture into our discussion. Please turn to Romans 11. This chapter is Paul speaking to believers, probably both Jews and Gentiles, and is saying that God’s not done with Israel. You and I need to keep his words and thoughts from this chapter in mind when we hear people say things like “God’s done with the Jews. We the Church replaced them.” Not so. Paul spells it out pretty well. It’s all very exciting to me, but this business of provoking the Jews to jealousy and allowing that jealousy to bring them to new life in their Messiah? THAT’s exciting to me! Look at v.15 to see what the final revival will look like: “For if [the rejection of Jesus as Messiah] is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” The implication from Paul is that Jews need Messiah as much as Gentiles. While he was an apostle to and for the Gentiles, he still had in the back of his mind that through his work, he might provoke his flesh and blood, his countrymen, the Jews of Israel, to jealousy or to emulation (11:14, KJV, same Greek word). How can we share in Paul’s ministry in this regard? Salvation through the Good News of Messiah tabernacling among men, first to the Jew and then to the rest of us. Jealousy resulting in emulating Paul’s faith in Jesus as Messiah. How can we do that? It must absolutely be an action, not a passive hope or wish.

I believe that the minimum actions that each of us as believers should take are two, maybe three. First, as we just read, we do need to pray for the Shalom of Jerusalem. Regular, diligent, fervent, heartfelt prayer. The kind of prayer that you pray for someone you know and deeply love. Mike Caughron against cancer prayer. Pete Graeff against debility prayer. Second, the very first words of Handel’s amazing oratorio, The Messiah, are “‘Comfort ye My people,’ saith your God.” How can we comfort His people? Saw a great bumper sticker this week, “Wherever I stand, I stand with Israel”. I don’t want this to be political, that’s a different teaching. Find ways to comfort God’s people, Israel—not the country, the people! Maybe make a small donation to a reputable organization that has feet on the ground in Israel who provide the hands and feet of Jesus to needy folks in Israel, especially the Jews, but not just the Jews. We have supported one group for years who has a special outreach to Holocaust survivors and their families. Food, personal visits, paying utility bills, and other comforting activities. Those are both fairly easy, minimal-sacrifice-needed kinds of actions, and darned good ones. The third, “maybe” activity depends on you keeping your eyes open in your world activities like work, shopping, and community involvement: Do you know people of Jewish descent or practicing Jews? Make a friend! This means learning kid names, religious holidays, meaningful times in their lives and learning how to befriend a Jew. No need to preach, just be a friend. A GOOD friend. When they see you’re serious, eventually they will want to know why, and then you have permission to say, “Because I love what my God loves, Israel and the Jews.”

Discussions about Messiah won’t be far behind.