Build An Ark: The Peace of Jerusalem

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The Peace of Jerusalem

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May they prosper who love you.” Psalm 122:6

Isn’t it interesting that the name Jerusalem in Hebrew means “founded peaceful” or “city of shalom (peace).” Its very name implies a city of peaceful existence, and yet throughout its history this city has known anything but peace, and has been the center of more spiritual and political conflict than perhaps any other location in the world. Psalm 122 directs us to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” For as often as we hear this phrase mentioned, it only appears once in the Bible. Here is the context in which this phrase is set:

(A Song of Ascents, of David.) I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the Lord." Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that is built as a city that is compact together; to which the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord-- an ordinance for Israel-- to give thanks to the name of the Lord. For there thrones were set for judgment, the thrones of the house of David. 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. Psalm 122:1-9

Why pray for the peace of Jerusalem? Of all the cities in the world, this is the only one mentioned in the Bible specifically by name for which we are to pray. To understand the significance of this scriptural admonition, we must view not only it, but all scripture, through what has been referred to as the “Bridal lens.” This “Bridal lens” is a particular focus or way of looking at scripture, as well as prophetic and historical events, from an eternal perspective which points to the grand culmination of the mystery of the ages: the marriage of the Lamb to His beloved bride. It will be very helpful to remember that everything recorded in the Old Testament, while often having temporal implications during the time in which it was written, also has a spiritual fulfillment under the New Covenant. It is to this spiritual fulfillment, prophetically foreshadowed in the Old Testament, to which we must ultimately look. Keep this in your understanding as we explore what it means to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”

Now these things happened…as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
1 Corinthians 10:11

but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory… 1 Corinthians 2:7

Rather than getting involved in discussing the escalating intensity of the political turmoil in which Jerusalem is presently embroiled, it will be helpful in discovering the meaning of this passage to consider three key words: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Let’s take a look at peace first. The Hebrew word for peace, shalom, means safe, well, happy, friendly, welfare, health, prosperity, completed. It speaks of well-being, something good, and very desirable.Peace is mentioned more times in the Bible than any other quality both God and man esteem as to be highly valued, even more times than love, joy, mercy, or righteousness. When David exhorted those who would hear his psalm to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, clearly he was looking for the greatest welfare, prosperity, and success of the city. It meant to beseech the Lord to do everything in His power to ensure that Jerusalem was the best, most prosperous city on earth. In the Old Testament, Jerusalem was the physical embodiment of God’s kingdom on earth, the earthly designation for the house of God. So it wasn’t just an earthly peace David was looking for, but the ultimate success and prosperity of the kingdom of God in the earth and the tranquil union of God with His people.

This was not some kind of “we are the world, let’s all live together in harmony” desire for peace that impassioned David’s heart. No, its parameters were defined by one thing only: love for God, and the yearning for His presence and reign in the heart and in the earth that were the fruit of this love.

Let’s look at peace through the prophetic bridal lens.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal {jealousy} of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:6-7

This passage speaks prophetically of the One who is the Prince of Peace, Jesus. When He was born, this was the announcement proclaimed from the heavenlies into the earthly realm:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:14

Did this mean that it was Christmas time, and everybody should be nice to each other? No, this was God’s way of saying that true peace could only be found in Him, and that He had just sent His Son to earth as the very embodiment of His desire to live in peaceful union, and ultimate marriage, with those He had created. It was the fulfillment of David’s heart cry:

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. Psalm 122:6-9

In a statement that seems strikingly contradictory, but is really the echo of the Holy Spirit speaking through David a thousand years before, Jesus declares:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword…He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. Matthew 10:34, 37-38

Now wait. Isn’t Jesus the Prince of Peace? Yes, but He is also the Truth, and it is in Truth that the parameters for peace are defined: they are marked by love for God and death to self. True peace can only be found in union with Jesus Christ, and our access to Him can only be found through the blood He shed to take away our sins and reconcile us to Himself and to one another .

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.
Ephesians 2:13-18

To put it simply, Jesus is our peace, and the obtaining of that peace, so highly valued by God and man, cannot be found outside of relationship with Him. This realization will help us when we pray for the peace of Jerusalem because we will be aligning our hearts with God’s heart and not looking with false hope to some humanistic, temporal harmony brokered by the efforts and ingenuity of man.

Now let’s take a look at what Psalm 122 means when it says to “pray.”

On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; all day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the Lord, take no rest for yourselves; and give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.
Isaiah 62:6-7

This is serious stuff. Taking no rest for ourselves? Giving God no rest?Under the Old Covenant it was understood that Jerusalem was the physical representation of the kingdom demonstrated in the earth. There could be no higher aspiration than to seek the peace and success of Jerusalem because it represented the fulfillment of all that created order dwelling in harmony under the rule of God could imply. Jesus said the same thing a little differently when He was instructing His disciples about the highest priority of our existence:

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness… Matthew 6:33

When Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray, one of the first specific things for which He told them to pray was for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. In other words it was a seeking, inquiring, and requesting of God to accomplish His eternal purposes in the present. All our praying must be with an eternal view, and yet with the earnest desire that God’s kingdom would come and His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Reuven Doron, director of Embrace Israel Ministries, eloquently describes the experience laboring in prayer for the peace of Jerusalem:

“Life in and around Israel these days, for the intercessor, is a powerful model of the life which is called to be connected to both earth and heaven simultaneously. The person who lives in the gap, that distance between the way things are and the way things could be if God had His perfect way, is fully subject to the downward pull of the pain and wickedness which flood the natural creation, while at the same time ever connected to the hope and glory of heaven.”

“The biblical priority is to pray for Israel's salvation. Romans 11: 15 says that Israel's salvation will transform the Middle East and bring life from the dead to all the peoples of the world. God has purposed to bring life; the enemy has purposed to bring death. Pray that God will bring resurrection life out of death, salvation out of destruction, and mercy out of judgment. Pray for God to open the eyes of His people to their crucified Messiah, and that He would establish His Kingdom of peace and justice upon the earth. Remember that interceding for Israel's salvation, her entering into God's magnificent purposes, and her call to be a light to the nations - all are being opposed by the enemy.”

He goes on to say:

“I am convinced that, as painful and sorrowful as {the} current events are, there are no short cuts to the promised peace and harmony in the region, and that difficult times are ahead. In fact, some say that these events are an answer to the prayers of many who have been asking the Lord to remove the political facades, strip the humanistic masks, and expose the spirit of Islam and its objectives as it manipulates and drives the Arab masses.

God is working during these times, flushing out and exposing the true nature of the principalities of Islam and humanism, while He forwards His purpose for the region…The future will prove to all who have eyes to see that only a genuine change of heart will heal the region's ills, and this change, we know, can only be effected by the gospel as it alone has the power to draw man to God, Who alone can redeem and resurrect the dead human spirit and transform our broken lives.

The Lord has chosen to place the two most wounded and troubled people groups in world history, the Jewish and the Arab, together in this tiny speck of land, and here to work the miracle which will touch the whole world. Ishmael still cries in the desert, broken hearted and rejected by his father Abraham (Genesis 21:17), while Jacob still wrestles with the Angel of the Lord as he anxiously tries to reenter the land, fearing Esau's vengeance (Genesis 32:24). Only God can heal these hearts…”

This is why we pray for the peace of Jerusalem: for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done. However, we stop far short of His intents and purposes if we settle only for an easing of interpersonal hostilities while the people for whom we are praying remain lost and unredeemed. For there to be true peace, the inhabitants of Jerusalem must embrace the Prince of Peace.

Finally, let’s look at Jerusalem.

If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her skill. May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy. Psalm 137:5-6

Looking at this passage through the bridal lens, what is this proclamation but the passionate cry of the bride for her Bridegroom? That even the loss of all earthly comforts would be better than to lose her first love. Jerusalem represents the consummation of God’s desire for His beloved bride and her loving response of surrender and devotion to Him. This is why Jesus wept as he looked upon the city shortly before He was crucified. The eyes and hearts of those He had created to be married to Him for eternity had become dull and blind and had gotten so caught up in pursuing the earthly, temporary peace of Jerusalem that they had forgotten their first love and completely missed Him when He came in person to betroth her to Himself.

And when He approached, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank before you, and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation. "
Luke 19:41-44

Jerusalem’s history has been one of tragic bloodshed, destruction, and rebirth. As we pray for Jerusalem, it must be that there will be a spiritual rebirth and that God’s people will repent and recognize the time of His visitation. Reuven Doron says in reference to oppression the lack of peace which Jerusalem has experienced throughout her history:

His most severe judgments are His most gracious mercies lavished upon us, without which we would never have known our need…Leaving theological, ideological, and historical facts aside for a moment, the immediate reality is that an unredeemed heart can only take so much oppression and pain before it loses the anchor of sanity and reason and becomes susceptible to every foul spirit of hatred, deception, and murder…Should matters continue in the present vein, before long God will remain the "only" way out of the trouble, which is precisely the way this drama could play itself out. Only a vision from above and a powerful conviction of the Spirit will restore the nation's sense of purpose, hope, and confidence. Pray with us as we prepare for a season of a far greater exposure of the Body of Messiah in the land, and far more penetrating proclamation of the gospel in Israel. But even before that, a sense of increasing hunger, desperation, and conviction must come upon the land, exposing and amplifying the poverty of spirit and leanness of soul in many Israeli hearts. May the word of the Lord be fulfilled which says,

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3

My wife Laura’s great-grandparents traveled to many places in the world, one of which was Palestine sometime around 1906. They brought back some flowers from the hills of Judea which have been preserved since that time. On our living room wall hang these preserved flowers against a cotton backing in a wooden frame. In the very center of this frame is a poem which itself is framed and was also brought back from Jerusalem with the flowers. The poem is entitled A Flower’s Message.

We grew upon the very hills
Where Jesus used to stand.
We blossomed on the lonely paths
Of God’s once Holy Land.

There is a city near our home-
A sad and lonely place-
For those who lived within her walls
Let slip the day of grace.

Yet beautiful in all the earth
Mount Zion used to be-
The city of the Heavenly King,
And Israel’s glory she!

Now filled with misery and sin
Defiled by guilt and shame,
And trampled under foot by those
Of every creed and name.

Oh pray, then, for Jerusalem,
The city of our birth;
Oh shed a tear for her who was
The joy of all the earth!

The ancient promise holdeth good-
It hath not been reversed-
“Blessed is he who blesseth thee,
And he who hates is cursed.”

So we from Judean hills
This simple message bring:
Oh, pray for poor Jerusalem,
The city of our King.

Fortunately, the story doesn’t end here. “Poor” Jerusalem must see its poverty before it can obtain the peace for which it has longed for thousands of years. God promises that there will be peace in Jerusalem, and it will be glorious. But it will be on God’s terms. The word of God describes to us what this will look like:

“'The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,' says the Lord of hosts, 'and in this place I shall give peace,' declares the Lord of hosts.’ "
Haggai 2:9

He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. Revelation 3:12

As we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, let us earnestly seek God for His passionate heart of compassion for His beloved people, Israel, that they will behold Him and be restored to His original purposes for them. Let us set our hearts on being made ready as pure virgins for the return of our Husband in whose presence we will enjoy shalom for eternity.

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. Revelation 21:2