Enjoying Zion Now

A stronghold overtaken - Seventh and final in a series

Throughout history we see man's desire to conceive of Jerusalem and Zion in a romantic light. The beautiful hymn, Jerusalem epitomizes that tendency:
Bring me my bow of burning gold! Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold! Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight, Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem In England’s green and pleasant land.

The lyrics, by the poet William Blake, well express the heart's desire to realize God's kingdom on earth. This is right, yet the superhuman opposition we confront casts us upon the mercies of God. He alone gives us strength to capture and build Zion, surrounding us with chariots of fire in our deepest distress. (2Ki 6:17)

Though at first David had some romantic notions about bringing the ark to Zion, he learned it could only be so if he fully obeyed the Word.

Once the ark was at rest in Zion, David sought to build a house for God, but this desire was not granted. The reason was given:
Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight. Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days. (1Ch 22:8-9)

God accomplishes his work over many generations. First the man, Abraham, then the family, then the nation, then the Exodus, then establishing proper worship, then taking the land, then building Zion and bringing in the ark, then building the temple, then its reconstruction, then the birth of Christ, and always the ups and downs, the trials and failures on the way to the heavenly Jerusalem.

In this final post of the Zion series, I would like to mention the importance of church attendance. Today in America, though 73% identify as Christians, only 55% have attended a church service in the last six months, and only 31% attend once a month or more. (BARNA)

Christians have good reasons to attend church:

  • Obedience to Scripture. (Heb 10:25)
  • Corporate worship in heaven is described in the Revelation; we learn and prepare here to take our place there. (Rev 5:8-14)
  • Angels are appointed to watch over the churches; this proves the local churches are a network critical to God’s plan and work. (Rev 1:20)
  • God’s message for us as Christians may be heard in church. (Mat 18:20)
  • Society needs our witness. (Mat 5:14-15)
  • The church is a place for marriage and for funeral services, confirming God’s ownership of our lives.
  • Weekly worship helps us to keep the commandment to rest on Sunday and to maintain a focus on the Lord. (Ex 20:8; Isa 58:13-14)

And there are many other good reasons.

I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’ Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem! …For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, ‘Peace be within you!’ For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good. (Ps 122:1-9)

As we worship with fellow Christians on Sundays, we are taking our place in Zion until the heavenly kingdom comes.

Below is a video that relates the character of the local church in its singers. We will find friends at church, learn to love difficult ones, and find help in time of need.

Looking back, and looking forward to Zion!

A stronghold overtaken - Sixth in a series

By choice and by destiny, Jerusalem was the first victory for King David and became his home. He began to build and repair Zion, surrounded and helped by his "Mighty Men." (see 1 Ch, chapters 11-12)

Yet, some Jebusites remained in Jerusalem, as we know from the account in 1 Chronicles 21, when David had sinned against the Lord by taking a census. A threshing floor owned by a Jebusite was purchased by David as a place to sacrifice to the Lord. When the Jebusite saw the Lord's angel, he gladly sold the property to David, and it became the site for the temple.

Jebus, a former name for Jerusalem, means threshing. The city was at one time also called Salem or peace and was reputed to be the residence of Melchizedek, the king-priest to whom Abraham tithed.*

In the topography and history of Zion and Jerusalem, the two are not the same in specific aspects, yet they are together in our common usage. In the Old Testament there is often a blurring of the two, for example, Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem… (Ps 51:18) In the New, there is a blurring of the earthly and heavenly cities, But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering… (Heb 12:22)

Thus it is: to Christians, Zion is a heavenly home and to the Jews today, it is Jerusalem about which they lament as they did when exiles in Babylon, If I forget thee, O Jerusalem! let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy. (Psalms 137:5) Somehow, these two must be brought together.

During a six-day war in 1967, the Jews fought in hand-to-hand combat and took Jerusalem's Old City, the walled area under Arab rule, and later proclaimed Jerusalem the capital of its modern state. The following year the government proclaimed a new holiday—Jerusalem Day— and in 2017 its jubilee was celebrated.

Many people consider such Zionists to be unreasonable, and view Jerusalem as an international city. These forces are joined and aligned against the nation of Israel today.

Recently (Spring 2017) Israel determined to withhold $1 million in payments to the United Nations after a UNESCO resolution declared the country's claim to Jerusalem "null and void." President Trump had planned to move the U.S. embassy there, but later delayed the transition.

The Jews will persist in their view of Jerusalem as their capital; Scripture states that in the last days, this city will be the world’s bellwether for God’s final judgments. Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it. (Zec 12:3)

Some facts (and if these are of interest, read more here.)

  • Years that Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish People: (3,000).
  • Number of times Jerusalem is mentioned in the Hebrew bible: (657).
  • City to which all Jews are required to make pilgrimage: (Jerusalem).
  • Years that Jerusalem has been the capital of any Muslim or Arab people: (0).
  • Number of times Jerusalem is mentioned in the Koran: (0).
  • City to which all Muslims are enjoined to make pilgrimage: (Mecca).
  • Family considered the Guardian of Muslim Holy Places: the Al-Saudis, Rulers of Saudi Arabia. Number of times leading members of this family prayed at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem when Jordan controlled the city: (0).
  • Number of synagogues in the Jewish Quarter at the time of Jordanian conquest in 1948: (58).
  • Number of synagogues in the Jewish Quarter destroyed or desecrated by the Jordanians: (58).

It was always Jerusalem

As noted above, the place where Abraham in obedience sought to sacrifice his only son was the area where the Temple was built. Also, Jerusalem was the site of Pentecost where the Holy Spirit came like a mighty, rushing wind, and lit upon the believers like tongues of fire (Acts 2:3); and it was where repentance and remission of sins were first preached in Christ’s name among all nations. (Luke 24:45-49) In these facts we see the continuity of God’s vision for Zion.

Though Jerusalem has its ups and downs, is won and lost, beautified and desecrated, ultimately the Zion of God will be established. A timeline shows she was destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times, she yet stands. She will come under attack in a final war (Zec 14:1-4) but will she not be rescued? (Rev 20:4-9)

Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. (Ps. 48:2) Of Jerusalem it is written, This is my rest for ever; here will I dwell; for I have desired it... (Psalms 132:14). Or, was that not written of our heavenly home? (Rev 21:2)

For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. (Gal 4:22-26)

*Jewish commentators affirm that Salem is Jerusalem, on the ground that Jerusalem is so called in Psalm 76:2.  - Smith's Bible Dictionary

Where are your fountains?

A stronghold overtaken - Fifth in a series

Were you born in Zion? Were you born to Christian parents and taught from infancy that God loves you and Jesus Christ is Lord? If so, you have received an immense advantage. You were born in Zion!

I was baptized as an infant and later taught that one should only be baptized once. Many Christians believe one should only be baptized after a conscious decision to follow Christ. Each side has good points, but remarking here on denominational differences is not the point.

Some are born in Zion in later life. We could say the thief on the cross who hung alongside Jesus was born there that day. (Luke 23:43) I would like to see some friends born there. I wish more people in our ravaged culture and nation would be.

There is a physical birth and also a spiritual birth, for whosoever believes, (John 3:16) and we receive the Holy Spirit without whom we cannot grow up in Christ. But does anyone ever receive Him fully? That is our greatest need.

Psalm 87 celebrates being born in Zion: And of Zion it shall be said, "This one and that one were born in her"; for the Most High himself will establish her. The LORD records as he registers the peoples, "This one was born there." (Ps 87:5)

This Psalm speaks of outsiders being born in Zion, even people from Babylon and even Philistines, the heritage of Delilah. (Ps 87:4) How or when this will occur only God knows, but assuredly, we from every nation, tribe, people and language, will be united in a new life. (Rev 5:9; 7:9)

God knows the ones who belong to him (2Tim 2:19) and their names are written in his book (Luke 10:20), a registration that supercedes any baptism or denominational confirmation.

For the Zionist — in the Christian sense of the word, there is no place like home. "All my fountains are in thee." (Ps 87:7)

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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