Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem – Psalm 122

 

Mrs. Charlotte Yeoman was a member of our church in Calgary thirty-five years ago. She has remained such a family friend that Judy and I refused to visit Canada a few weeks ago without driving eight hours out of our way to spend a day with her and her husband. Sister Yeoman is a kind, generous and godly woman, who loves the Lord with all her heart. And she loves the Oldfields. Over the years she has sent countless packages to us – clothing, odds and ends, even postage stamps. And almost from the first year we met, she has been giving me books – all kinds of books. Some of those books have been a blessing, while others were not worth the waste of a match. Earlier this month, once again we were showered with used clothing and a few books.

Last week I read one of the books I was given – the subject of which was prophecy. Its author is a well-known pretrib, premillennialist, who wanted to tell me all about one of the Biblical signs which he had recently discovered proving the nearness of Christ’s second coming. He pastors a mega-church in San Antonio, and he has a TV, speaking and publishing ministry as well. I have to admit to having doubts about the thesis of his book even before opening to the first page. But of course, I fully agree with him on the imminent return of the Saviour.

The book began with the author’s second most favorite theme – his support of the nation of Israel. He is one of the leaders and founders of the organization – “Christians United for Israel.” He writes, “The purpose of our organization is to bring Christians and Jews together in an atmosphere of mutual respect and brotherly love, in order to emphasize that what we have in common is far greater than the differences we have allowed to separate us over the centuries.” Once again, I agree with the man in his support of Israel, but I cannot endorse that purpose statement. While approving of mutual respect, I think that only brothers can share mutual brotherly love. There are huge differences between Bible-believing Christians and Old Testament practicing Jews. And they cannot be swept under the rug for the sake of brotherly love. Then there is the fact that most Israelis are among the most secular and unreligious people on earth.

Most of the book’s first chapter had nothing to do with the author’s primary theme – the imminent return. It was spent answering question “Why Should We Support Israel?” As I was reading it struck me that I have never preached a message on that subject. In the light of all the negative things I have said lately about the Judaisers who were trying to corrupt the young believers in Galatia, I thought that perhaps I should say something positive about Israel. I said to myself, “Perhaps I can adapt this man’s chapter into a Sunday evening message.”

At first glance, I thought that he had, indeed, provided me with a good five point message. His first thought was that God promises to bless those who bless Israel. Genesis 12:3 – “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Then he said that we are commanded to pray for the peace of Jerusalem Psalm 122:6. We are commanded to be watchmen on the walls of Israel. Isaiah 62:6 – “I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence.” He said that we are commanded to minister to Israel in material things. Romans 15:27 – “For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.” And his last statement was that Jesus entreated His church to support Israel. Matthew 25:40 – “The King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

All five of those points initially sounded good to my ear. They were leading in a direction which my heart wanted to go. The first statement nailed the man’s doctrine to my theological wall. But then as I read his explanation of the other scriptures he quoted, I found flaws in his exegesis – his interpretation. I came to the conclusion that he is one of the typical modern preachers, twisting scriptures to reach conclusions for which they were never intended. After finding one or two solid Biblical statements, he augmented them with half-truths and mis-truths. Despite the fact I want to agree with his general position, I have to condemn the road he took to get there. And what is particularly upsetting is this man is one of the leaders of the modern Pretribulationalists. The pretribulational return of the Lord is a doctrine under severe attack today. But what is the likelihood that this man’s abuse of the scripture in one area might turn people’s ears from the truth in other areas?

Does God promise to bless those who are a blessing to Israel?

Yes, I believe he does. Please turn to Genesis 12:1-3. “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” I am aware that Abraham has both a physical family and a spiritual, and that today’s believers are spiritual descendants of this great man. But I am quite convinced that Genesis 12 is speaking about the physical nation which descended from Abraham. And “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” I will explain that blessing in a few minutes.

The covenant which God made with Abram was reiterated and expanded in Genesis 15. “After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” “And (the Lord) brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” Verse 12 – “And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him. And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.” There should be no doubt that the nation of which God spoke was Israel, which four hundred years later was delivered from Egypt. Israel’s oppressors in Egypt were cursed by God, because they cursed God’s Israel.

Conversely, we have Biblical examples of God’s blessings on those who tried to be a blessing to Israel. Ie. in Luke 7 a Roman military captain, a centurion, had a beloved servant who was near death. By faith, through some Jews, he sent word to the Saviour that there was a need in his family. The Lord visited his house, and the servant was thoroughly healed. What relationship to this healing was the Jews statement “He loveth our nation, and he that build us a synagogue?” In the midst of thousands of Romans who hated Israel, here was one man who tried to be a blessing to these children of Abraham. He was blessed by the God of Israel, while those who cursed were cursed by God. There is another example found in Acts 10. Cornelius, another centurion, this time of the Italian band, was a devout man and one that feared God. Acts 10:2 says, “he gave much alms to the people, and had a good report among all the nation of the Jews.” The Saviour made Cornelius, one who tried to be a blessing to Abraham’s seed, a spiritual child of that same Abraham. There are Biblical examples of God’s honoring the covenant which He made with Abram.

Unlike those who hate God’s Word and deny the precepts found therein…. Unlike the liberals, the agnostics, the Muslims, the communists, and all the so-called “Christians” who have usurped God’s promises to Israel …. I believe that true Christians need to listen to the Lord and seek to be a blessing to Abraham’s children.

The author’s second argument is that we are commanded to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

He says, “Praying for the peace of Jerusalem is not a request – it’s a command!”

How important is Jerusalem – politically, spiritually, historically, eternally? Can we say that from God’s perspective Jerusalem is the center of the universe? It was the place where Abraham offered Isaac, when it was an uninhabited hill – Mount Moriah. David, the grandfather of Christ, fought a bloody battle to make Jerusalem his capitol. It is where the greatest of God’s prophets ministered – Jeremiah, Isaiah and others. One area of Jerusalem is called “Zion,” and Zion is found throughout, as yet, unfulfilled prophecy. It was the place of God’s great Temple, and it will be once again – soon.

Should you and I pray for the peace of Jerusalem? Absolutely! And we should pray for the peace of Washington, DC., and Mexico City, Moscow, London and Tehran. Of course we should pray for the peace of Jerusalem, while we pray for peace in Spokane and Post Falls. When Jerusalem, in the past, has fallen to the Chaldeans, the Greeks, the Romans and Turks, terrible things have happened – even globally. And when Jerusalem is attacked during the Tribulation, even though today’s saints will not be here, the ramifications of that attack will be felt around the world. Of course we should pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

But I’m not sure that Psalm 122 should be taken as a command which God has laid upon us. This is one of the Songs of Degrees, sung by the sons of Israel as they made their semi-annual pilgrimages to the city. Verse 6 should be kept in the context of verse 9 “Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good (Jerusalem).” This is a command which the Lord lays on the Jew, and it only indirectly applies to the Christian saint. The same thing can be said for argument number three.

We are commanded to be watchmen on the walls of Israel.

My author says, “We are commanded by God, through the prophet Isaiah, to speak up and defend Israel and the Jewish people when they are slandered, attacked by their enemies and are subjected to any callous act of anti-Semitism.” Once again, I believe that God’s saints should always be ready to defend others when they are maliciously slandered or attacked, whether they are Semites or Shiites. We should not only be ready, but it should be looked upon as our Christian duty.

Isaiah 62 was quoted as the authority for this argument for our defense of Israel. (Please turn there.) God says, “For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.” This is a part of God’s promise to Abraham, Jacob and David. God is not finished with Israel and Jerusalem, and He will not be finished even at the conclusion of the Millennium. Verse 2 – “And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.” Now notice verse 6 “I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence, And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.”

The context of this entire section of Isaiah relates to the Millennial Kingdom. That will be the day in which Israel shall see the Messiah and believe on Him to the saving of their souls. Isaiah 60:1 – “Arise, shine, for they light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” “The Gentiles hall come to thy light, and the kings to the brightness of thy rising.” “Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction without thy borders; but thou shalt call they walls Salvation, and they gates Praise.” “Thy people also shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land for ever.”

Isaiah 61 begins with the Lord Jesus – “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek.” “And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves.” “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels. For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.”

The last part of Isaiah 62 says, “Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people. Behold, the LORD hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken.”

I won’t deny that Gentiles will share a part of these promises, but the primary lesson is to a future Israel.

So who and what are these watchmen in Isaiah 62:6? They are not watching for the enemy; they are watching for the blessing of God. They are regenerated Jews watching for returning Israel and the redeemed from among the Gentiles. The context has nothing to do with our ministry in the defense of Israel today. I believe that this interpretation is a wresting of the scriptures; totally evil on the part of the interpreter.

Argument four is that we are commanded to minister to Israel in material things.

In Romans 15:24 Paul nears the conclusion of his letter. “Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company. But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things. When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.”

What are some of the spiritual blessings Israel has shared with us Gentiles? We owe to them a large portion of the Word of God – both Old Testament and New. They have given to us the patriarchs, including Abraham. The greatest of God’s prophets have been Hebrews. The first twelve disciples were all Jews. And of course, Christ Jesus was a son of David of the tribe of Judah. John 4:22 is not incorrect when properly understood, “Salvation is of the Jews.”

But going back to what Paul said in Romans, was he collecting Gentile money to give to the unbelieving Jews who still wished him dead? Was he intending to be a financial blessing to those people who lobbied for the crucifixion of Christ? “But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor SAINTS which are at Jerusalem.” Paul’s collection was for Christians Jews, who were then under the persecutorial thumb of Rome. Romans 15:24 is not an exhortation for Christians to give unrestricted aide to those who hate our Saviour – as much as do the Muslims.

The concluding argument in this book, is almost as lame as the last one.

Jesus entreated the church to support Israel.

The argument given was Matthew 25:31-40 – “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Who are these “brethren” of Christ? Again, is He referring to those who tried to stone Him and had Him crucified by the Romans? I don’t think so. Doesn’t the Lord tell us who these brethren are in Luke 8? “Then came to him his mother and his brethren, and could not come at him for the press. And it was told him by certain which said, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee. And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.” Doesn’t the Lord tell us who His brethren are when He said the ladies at Joseph’s tomb, “Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me”? And again when He told Mary, “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God”?

I believe that we should love and support the people of Israel.

But when it comes to today’s NATION of Israel, we have to remember that Zionism is not a work of God. Zionism, in many ways, is a human effort to establish the Millennial Kingdom – but without Christ. The Bible teaches that the Lord himself will recall His nation to the land which He has promised them. He will be as much a part of that future return as He was in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. Today’s nation of Israel, is not the fulfilment of God’s promises to David or Abraham. And YET, Israel is filled with Israelites, therefore we have some responsibilities toward those people. And there are many of those people living in our own communities.

We are debtors to them. We owe them gratitude for the Word of God – and in some ways for the God of the Word. But the first thing we owe to them is the gospel. They need Christ. Like Paul, we must say, “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.” And we must include Israel as well.

And so I go back to that purpose statement of the “Christians United for Israel.” “The purpose of our organization is to bring Christians and Jews together in an atmosphere of mutual respect and brotherly love, in order to emphasize that what we have in common is far greater than the differences we have allowed to separate us over the centuries.” There are huge differences between Christians and Jews which cannot be denied or swept under the rug. Those people need Christ; they need a Saviour, just as we did in the days of our darkness and ignorance. Yes, Christians must endeavor to be a blessing to the people of Israel in every way we can. But we must begin with their spiritual needs.