Jerusalem the City of Peace…
This city has always, and especially in these last days, been a city of conflict and anything but peace.
And yet God has highlighted this city, above all cities, where He desires to dwell.
A lesson we learn from the life and ministry of Jesus, on this Earth, is that He carried God’s Shalom-peace with Him, wherever He went, even in the midst of turmoil.
It is God’s desire that’s His Shalom-peace would permeate each one of us, from the inside out, and that His peace would be with us throughout our lives, to guide us through whatever trials, tribulations or storms we might face.
This is something each of us can only learn through experience, having experienced the cruel realities of this world, that God is truly faithful.
He never promises to keep us from the fiery trials, but as happened with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, He was with them in the fire (see Dan 3:16-28).
“How lovely is the sanctuary in the eyes of those who are truly sanctified!”
Eager joy should always fill the hearts of God’s people as they make their way into God’s house.
In the company of like-minded worshippers, their hungry souls are satisfied as they sit under the exposition of Scripture.
Their spirits are lifted as God is exalted, but never as man is entertained.
What a treasured privilege it is to be with God’s people as they gather in God’s house to hear God’s Word.
Word-inspired worship is never a drudgery but a delight; never a burden but a blessing.
It is in this spirit that believers should gather together with much anticipation, excitement, and enthusiasm for the holy things of God.
Such corporate worship serves as a preview of what awaits the redeemed in heaven, a foretaste of glory above.
It is with this joy that the saints should always assemble together in God’s house.
This is the very joy expressed by the psalmist in Psalm 122 as he arrives in Jerusalem, the holy city, to enter God’s house.
He is filled with exuberance at this long-awaited prospect of gathering together with fellow believers in the house of the Lord.
Psalm 122 is the third of the songs of ascents (Pss. 120-134), a small group of fifteen psalms that captures the progression of worshippers traveling to the city of God for one of their religious festivals.
The psalmist, designated in the superscription as David, recalled his delight in going up to Jerusalem to worship God.
Compiled later and strategically placed into the Psalter here, it became one of the worship songs sung as believers made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the nation’s spiritual center.
In Psalm 120, the singers are in a foreign land, beginning their journey toward the city of God.
In Psalm 121, they appear to have sighted the city.
Here, in Psalm 122, their feet actually stand within the city gates (v. 2), preparing to enter God’s house.
David expresses exuberance upon arriving in Jerusalem in order to enter God’s house and calls upon everyone to pray for its peace.
Going to God’s house can be a chore or a delight.
For the writer, it was a delight.
As a pilgrim attending one of the three great religious festivals, he rejoiced to worship with God’s people in God’s house.
We will likely find worship boring or undesirable when we are living with unconfessed sin or when our love for God has cooled.
But if we are close to God and desire His presence, we will be eager to worship and praise Him.
Our present relationship with God will determine our zest for worshiping Him.
The “thrones where judgment is given” are the courts of justice located by the town gate.
In Bible times, the elders in a town would sit to hear cases and administer justice at the gate (see Ruth 4:1-2).
Sometimes the king himself would sit at the gate to meet his subjects and make legal decisions (see 2 Samuel 19:8).
Speeches and prophecies were also made at the town gate (see Nehemiah 8:1; Jeremiah 17:19-20).
The psalm writer was not praying for his own peace and prosperity but for that of his family and friends in Jerusalem.
This is intercessory prayer, prayer on behalf of others.
Too often we are quick to pray for our own needs and desires but neglect interceding for others.
Theresa Briones is a tender, loving mother. She also has a stout left hook that she used to punch a lady in a coin laundry.
Why’d she do it?
Some kids were making fun of Theresa’s daughter, Alicia.
Alicia is bald. Her knees are arthritic. Her nose is pinched. Her hips are creaky. Her hearing is bad.
She has the stamina of a seventy-year-old. And she is only ten.
“Mom,” the kids taunted, “come and look at the monster!”
Alicia weighs only twenty-two pounds and is shorter than most preschoolers.
She suffers from progeria—a genetic aging disease that strikes one child in eight million.
The life expectancy of progeria victims is twenty years.
There are only fifteen known cases of this disease in the world.
“She is not an alien. She is not a monster,” Theresa defended.
“She is just like you and me.”
Mentally, Alicia is a bubbly, fun-loving third grader.
She has a long list of friends.
She watches television in a toddler-sized rocking chair.
She plays with Barbie dolls and teases her younger brother.
Theresa has grown accustomed to the glances and questions. She is patient with the constant curiosity.
Genuine inquiries she accepts.
Insensitive slanders she does not.
The mother of the finger-pointing children came to investigate.
“I see ‘it,’” she told the kids.
“My child is not an ‘it,’”
Theresa stated. Then she decked the woman.
Who could blame her?
Such is the nature of parental love.
Mothers and fathers have a God-given ability to love their children regardless of imperfections.
Not because the parents are blind. Just the opposite.
They see vividly.
Theresa sees Alicia’s inability as clearly as anyone.
But she also sees Alicia’s value.
So does God. God sees us with the eyes of a Father.
He sees our defects, errors, and blemishes. But He also sees our value…
What did Jesus know that enabled Him to do what He did?
Here’s part of the answer. He knew the value of people. He knew that each human being is a treasure.
And because He did, people were not a source of stress, but a source of joy.
(From In the Eye of the Storm by Max Lucado)
Genesis 1:26 tells us,
“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ “
God took great care when making the world and everything in it, including people.
I think this is where the rubber meets the road for all believers, why do bad things happen to good people… even to Christians?
Let me share another story with you:
“God Never Makes a Mistake!”
From an article by Vaneetha Rendall Risner
I vividly remember those words, a chapter title in Evelyn Christenson’s book What Happens When Women Pray.
Honestly, when I first read them, I was cynical.
They sounded trite and naive.
I arrogantly assumed that the author hadn’t struggled much in her life, or else she wouldn’t have made such a bold claim.
In my mind, God was good and all-powerful, but to say that he never made mistakes had sweeping implications that seemed inconsistent with the massive evil and suffering in the world.
Christenson’s statement so annoyed me I was tempted to stop reading.
As I read her book, I had just been through the fallout of a marital crisis while also pregnant with our oldest daughter.
I was grateful we had put our marriage back together, but to say that God didn’t make a mistake seemed far-fetched.
My life had been difficult on many fronts already. I had lived in and out of the hospital after contracting polio as an infant.
I had been bullied throughout grade school. I had recently suffered three miscarriages.
I had a hard time imagining that God hadn’t made a mistake somewhere in my trials.
All My Suffering?
While I struggled to believe he had never made a mistake, I did believe that God had been in at least some of my early suffering.
“God had not made a mistake in making my son, in giving him to us for a time, and in taking him back to himself.”
When I came to Christ, even at sixteen, I was already beginning to see God’s purpose in my disability.
I had happened upon John 9, where Jesus tells his disciples that the blind man’s condition was not because of any sin, but so that his life could glorify God.
When I read that, I knew that God was speaking directly to me.
He reassured me that my suffering had a purpose, which changed how I viewed my life and my struggles.
Still, even though I had seen God use my physical challenges for good, I doubted that principle applied to all my suffering.
What God Says About Sovereignty?
Despite my skepticism, since I was leading the discussion on Christenson’s book at church,
I had to keep reading it. I pored over the Bible before our meeting, asking God for wisdom and guidance, and was drawn to passages on God’s sovereignty and purpose.
I grabbed a concordance and made a list of Scriptures that stuck out to me, like these:
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs on your head are numbered.”
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)
“My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose. . . . I have spoken and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.”
I kept rereading these verses even though they made no sense to me.
Truth I Could Not Shake
As the discussion began, everyone had an opinion on the same line that had arrested me:
“God never makes a mistake.”
Some people decidedly disagreed. It angered them.
“Of course, hard things happen in the world,” they insisted, “but we shouldn’t attribute them to God.”
Others shared their painful experiences and struggles with loss.
Someone said (rather matter-of-factly),
“But we know Romans 8:28 says, ‘All things work together for good, for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose,’ which means that God is in control of everything and will use it all for our good.”
Her cool words felt more like a platitude or cliché than the truth as they hung in the air.
Her detached insistence on this doctrine, apparently without sympathy or understanding, tempted me to defend the other perspective.
Yet somehow, I couldn’t do that.
Somehow, after reading the Bible carefully, I couldn’t dismiss the idea that God never makes a mistake.
Somehow, deep inside me, I knew that the author’s words aligned with Scripture.
Somehow, I believed this was life-changing truth. And so, I proclaimed my convictions to the group, even while I did not yet fully understand them.
A few weeks later, I was asked to put my words to the test.
At a routine 20-week ultrasound, we learned that our unborn baby, Paul, had a life-threatening heart problem that would require surgery.
I told myself and others that God never makes a mistake.
I repeated those words until they became part of my vocabulary.
In an inexplicable way, God’s peace came while I declared those words, words that enveloped me throughout the pregnancy.
Paul had a successful surgery at birth and was thriving.
But almost two months later, he died unexpectedly because of a doctor’s inattention.
Though we were numb, my husband and I spoke at Paul’s funeral, reiterating that God never makes a mistake.
We’d been helping each other find hope in the Lord through those words.
At the time, I meant those words sincerely, but weeks after Paul’s funeral, those same words once again seemed hollow and trite.
Why did Paul die? Why did God permit this?
This was because of a doctor’s negligence — hadn’t God made a mistake this time?
Theology — all of it — seemed empty and wooden to me.
None of it made sense. The words would ricochet inside my mind and land nowhere.
I didn’t know what to think or how to pray. So I didn’t. And I drifted from God.
Months later, God graciously drew me back to himself.
While sobbing in my car, I encountered the radical love of God and I saw the rock-solid truth in the words I had pushed away.
They were words I could build my life on. Words that could carry me through the darkest days.
God had not made a mistake in making Paul, in giving him to us for a time, and in taking him back to himself.
All of Paul’s life was filled with divine purpose.
God’s Plan A
After Paul’s death, I read Joni Eareckson Tada’s book When God Weeps, which further helped me see the importance of believing in God’s sovereignty. Joni says,
“Either God rules, or Satan sets the world’s agenda and God is limited to reacting.
In which case, the Almighty would become Satan’s clean-up boy, sweeping up after the devil has trampled through and done his worst, finding a way to wring good out of the situation somehow.
But it wasn’t his best plan for you, wasn’t plan A, wasn’t exactly what he had in mind.
In other words, although God would manage to patch things up, your suffering itself would be meaningless.”
“My suffering had meaning. All of it. I was living God’s plan A.”
Like Christenson’s chapter title, Joni’s words hit me hard.
My suffering had meaning. All of it.
I was living God’s plan A. Embracing and understanding her words changed my perspective on life, giving me strength to press on through the darkest trials, looking for God’s hand, grateful that my pain had a divine purpose.
Even In My Nightmares
God never makes a mistake. The phrase has shaped and reshaped my life and has anchored me through many storms.
I clung to it when I was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome. And I kept repeating it after my first husband left us.
I needed the assurance that God was with me in my trials.
The assurance that even when my nightmares came true, God had not made a mistake.
He would use even my most dreaded outcomes for my good and his glory. Christenson says,
This is the place you reach when after years and years of trials and difficulties, you see that all has been working out for your good, and that God’s will is perfect.
You see that he has made no mistakes.
He knew all of the “what if’s” in your life.
When you finally recognize this, even during the trials, it’s possible to have joy, deep down joy.
I didn’t have a category for that kind of faith or perspective when I first read those words years ago.
But now, over twenty years later, I am grateful for them.
Grateful that the same God who walked with Evelyn Christenson through the various trials in her life, and taught her how to pray, has walked with me and taught me as well.
Most of all, I’m grateful to know that Jesus, who died that we might live, who loves us with an everlasting love, and who cares about every minute detail of our lives, will never make a mistake.
Most of you know the story of Corrie Ten Boom and the movie about her life called The Hiding Place.
There’s another woman you may not know and her name was Darlene Rose.
After listening to both of these women’s testimonies, I remember one thing that they both said, and that is they wouldn’t want to go through their experience again, but at the same time they said that they wouldn’t have traded their experience for anything in this world.
What they were saying is that, though they went through hell through these heart-wrenching trials and tribulations in their life, the consequence of those experiences caused them to come to know the love and faithfulness of God in a way very few people do.
Do you know someone who stirs up trouble?
Do you see people who ridicule others?
What can you do to step in?
How can you show the value God places on all people?
God didn’t make any disposable people!
So the question is, will you intercede for someone in need today?
When we look at all the many verses in the Bible where God promises His Covenant children His Shalom-peace, the peace that He is talking about in these verses means much more than the mere absence of conflict.
The truth of the matter is bad things do happen to good people, even to God’s people; and the reason is this world is in a state of War between Darkness and Light.
God’s Shalom speaks of completeness, health, justice, prosperity, and protection, the world cannot provide this peace.
Real peace comes from faith in God, because He alone embodies all the characteristics of peace.
To find peace of mind and peace with others, even in the midst of earth-shattering trials and tribulations, you must find peace with God — Surrender Your Life to Him and trust that He will make a way.
Wednesday, May 11
Today in the Word
I Lift Up My Eyes
(A study in Psalms book 5)
CITY OF PEACE
A song [of David] for those journeying to worship.
[This is a Davidic psalm celebrating the grandeur and significance of Jerusalem and its temple. It is ironic that Jerusalem means “city of peace” since more battles have been fought over it than over any other city.]
1 I was so happy when my fellow pilgrims said,
“Let’s go to the house of the Eternal!”
2 We have made the journey, and now we are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
3 Jerusalem! What a magnificent city!
Buildings so close together, so compact.
4 God’s people belong here. Every tribe of the Eternal
makes its way to Jerusalem—
Just as God decreed for Israel
to come together and give thanks to the Eternal.
5 In Jerusalem, justice is the order of the day because there sit the judges
and kings, the descendants of David.
6 Ask heaven to grant peace to Jerusalem:
“May those who love you prosper.
7 O Jerusalem, may His peace fill this entire city!
May this citadel be quiet and at ease!”
8 It’s because of people—my family, friends, and acquaintances—
that I say, “May peace permeate you.”
9 And because the house of Eternal One, our God, is here, know this:
I will always seek your good!
For thousands of years Jews and Christians have made pilgrimages to Jerusalem.
It is easy to understand why. Jerusalem plays a central role in both the Old and New Testaments.
It is the place where Abraham was called to sacrifice Isaac, where David brought the ark of the covenant, where the Temple was built, where Jesus was crucified, and where Pentecost took place.
In the Old Testament it was the place where God chose to dwell (Deut. 12:4–5; Ps. 135:21).
Three times a year, Israelites were to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple.
These times were a high point in their lives,
“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.” (v. 1).
To become close to the presence of the Lord was a privilege and a joy.
Part of the reason for Israel’s joy was the unity brought by worshiping together.
David describes Jerusalem as a city “closely compacted together” (v. 3).
That might sound like urban congestion to us, but it was a positive image for him.
God’s people were united in Jerusalem to “praise the name of the LORD” in obedience to His Word (v. 4).
The psalm ends with a prayer for peace.
This is a play on the name “Jerusalem,” which means “city of peace.”
Peace in Hebrew means more than just the absence of conflict. It is a rich concept that means things are the way they should be.
Our relationship with God, one another, and the world is as it was designed to be.
It is a prayer for wholeness, abundance, and integrity.
Are you longing for a fresh infusion of hope?
This psalm looks forward to a time when all things will be made new.
We will be in the very presence of God in the New Jerusalem and there will be “no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Rev. 21:4). Amen, come Lord Jesus.
PRAY WITH US
Today we pray for Your blessing on the modern city of Jerusalem; may Your will be done in the Holy Land.
We rejoice in the promise of the New Jerusalem, from which we draw hope!
Come join the Adventure!