“Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem”
Psalm 122 (1) I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the LORD.” (2) Our feet have been standing Within your gates, O Jerusalem! (3) Jerusalem is built As a city that is compact together, (4) Where the tribes go up, The tribes of the LORD, To the Testimony of Israel, To give thanks to the name of the LORD. (5) For thrones are set there for judgment, The thrones of the house of David. (6) Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. (7) Peace be within your walls, Prosperity within your palaces.” (8) For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, “Peace be within you.” (9) Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek your good. (NKJVTM)
Dear Christian Friends,
Recently our nation suffered a tragic shooting incident. Nineteen people were shot, six of them losing their lives. The target of the attack was a congresswoman. She was simply having an open meeting with her constituents. It all happened at what would normally be considered an uneventful, peaceful location – a supermarket parking lot in Tucson, Arizona. We have been a nation that has long‐enjoyed a tranquil environment. Unlike other areas of the world, we don’t experience such violent conflict. We don’t worry about being shot at on a daily basis. We don’t keep a watch out for suicide missions in which trucks loaded with bombs are driven into buildings. Other than a few major events in the course of our nation’s young history, we have enjoyed, at least for the most part, peace.
Psalm 122 encourages us to pray for peace. In particular, we are to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. For the Old Testament people, Jerusalem was the heart of the nation. The capital city was there, the center of activity for their king who ruled. The temple was built there, the center of activity for the worship of God. These symbolized God’s presence among His people. For God’s people to continue to enjoy these without conflict, they were to pray for peace.
But it’s a peace that is different than what the world often understands. During the Christmas season we are often reminded of this when we hear the angels’ message to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men.” It was through the birth of Jesus Christ that peace was ushered into the world. But in order to successfully bring about this peace, Jesus would need to combat those forces which were at war with God.
We are speaking about a fierce war. Satan and his ugly allies were all about leading souls to spiritual death and eternal damnation. Don’t underestimate just how brutal, how deliberate, how aggressive, and how internally motivated he was in carrying out this battle. He wasn’t about to surrender. In fact, it was his very insistence that Jesus be defeated that left him to his own demise. He certainly believed he had the upper hand as Jesus was led to the cross of Calvary to be crucified. Imminent victory appeared to be on the horizon as the Son of God cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” But in spite of the grueling agony and bitter suffering, our Savior remained steadfast and faithful to fulfill His mission of peace. As He cried out to the world, “It is finished!,” that old, evil foe was left powerless. He was conquered by the One who now reigns forever as the Prince of Peace, the One who was promised by God the Father, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”
This is the situation which we now currently enjoy! Jesus is our King! He reigns and rules over all things for the well‐being of His people. Satan’s efforts are choked by the hold that Jesus has on him. Surely the devil still “walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he devours.” He has swayed the world to where he now appears to have the advantage. He tempts God’s people daily to attempt to steer them off‐course from God’s path. But as God’s people are led to cling to Christ, his efforts are fruitless. For Jesus has brought a spiritual peace that transcends his warring nature. Through Christ, we have been reconciled to God. He has brought peace between us and God by being the sacrificial “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
Psalm 122 is one of those Psalms entitled, “A Psalm of Ascents.” During Old Testament times the people of God traveled to Jerusalem to worship Him. They would often caravan together in groups, singing and reciting these Psalms together along the way. There were three specific festivals held when they were to make such a journey. Such a lengthy and difficult trip was taken because it was the thing to do. But to those who treasured “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding,” such a challenging voyage was considered hardly an inconvenience. So David writes, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD.’” To the sinner who has been led by the Holy Spirit to experience God’s peace, it is a true delight to enter God’s house to worship Him and thank Him for such a treasure. As we confess in the Catechism with the explanation to the Second Article, “For all of this it is my duty to thank, praise, serve, and obey Him.”
At Grace Lutheran Church, we have weekly (sometimes bi‐weekly) opportunities to go to the house of the LORD. We get together with our fellow Christians, just as the Old Testament people did as they journeyed to Jerusalem. Is it any kind of inconvenience to wake up, drive to church, and do this? Certainly there can be things in this world that challenge us to do so. The devil will work as hard as he can to distract us from what Jesus called “the one thing needful,” that is the Word of God, the Word from which we hear the message of God’s peace. The devil will try to stir up conflict in our own hearts, desires and passions for things that war against that spiritual nature worked in us by the Holy Spirit. He will try to lead us to treasure the things and activities of this world more than the peace of God. But that’s why we need to hear the Word regularly in the first place. As we hear of that peace which Christ has established for us, our only natural response is to join David in saying, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the LORD.’”
We are so richly blessed to be able to freely come here to the LORD’s house and worship Him. As with so many other great blessings in life that the LORD gives us, we can take this, too, for granted. Our nation’s constitution has upheld the principle of freedom of religion. We can come here to Grace without being stopped by police, without being arrested, and without fear of some judge denying us the right to do so. There are no barricades or barb‐wire fences to prohibit us from coming here! It is very much like the days of those traveling to Jerusalem to the house of the LORD without fear of intimidation or conflict. As the Psalmist writes in verse 5: “For thrones are set there for judgment, The thrones of the house of David.” A form of government was established in Israel which promoted such peace to worship freely.
Other nations at other times have not always enjoyed such peace. The peace which we enjoy to freely worship the LORD could potentially be lost. This is why we are encouraged to pray for the peace of Jerusalem in an external sense, that we might continue to enjoy the freedom to worship the LORD in the manner that we do. The Apostle Paul also wrote of this in First Timothy 2:1‐2: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” We are to pray for our government so that we might continue to live peaceably – preaching, teaching, and living the Word of God without fear of arrest. How greatly we need to do this in our day when the Word is not held in high esteem or with great reverence! Let us pray fervently that our executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government may wisely continue to preserve the freedom of religion we enjoy. The Lord teaches us to pray for such peace for a very good reason: for our spiritual benefit and blessing, but also for others as we peaceably share the Word.
But God’s people were to pray for another kind of peace as well. David writes in the Psalm, verses 2‐4: “Our feet have been standing Within your gates, O Jerusalem! Jerusalem is built As a city that is compact together, Where the tribes go up, The tribes of the LORD, To the Testimony of Israel, To give thanks to the name of the LORD.” Jerusalem was uniquely situated on Mount Zion, a mountain in which valleys stretched away and then hills arose around it. This enabled Jerusalem, for the most part, to experience peace from its enemies. It was a well‐fortified city. Whenever armies would approach, they could easily be seen. But because of its construction being on a hill, the homes were built closely together, without gaps, one house next to the other. It was a solid and tight community!
In order for this community of God’s people to function well together, it needed peace, not only externally, but internally! God’s people needed to live in peace with each other! So David writes in verses 6‐8: ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, Prosperity within your palaces.” For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, “Peace be within you.”’
Many of us know what it’s like when a community doesn’t experience such peace, when there is conflict among the residents. The community could be the city in which you live, the school district, the workplace, even the family home. When there is strife, there is tension. There is unhappiness. The welfare of those in that community is soured by the awful taste of bitterness. More often than not, this is a result of a lack of love and forgiveness among those within that community.
David prays for the peace of Jerusalem so that it as a community of God’s people could prosper well. Knowing and understanding the peace of Christ leads to such peace among those who believe in Him. As Christians experience the love and forgiveness of Christ, they are to express that love and forgiveness toward those in their Christian community. So we pray for such peace at Grace Lutheran Church! David writes: “For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, “Peace be within you.” Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek your good.” The spiritual welfare and happiness for us as a family of believers is bound to the peace we have in Christ. We are bonded together as a Christian family. Bitterness is to be foreign to us. The love and joy of Christ is to flourish among us.
There will be conflict in the world. The shooting in Arizona proves that. The devil will try as hard as he might to bring conflict among us as God’s people. But for the sake of the house of the LORD, for the sake of hearing the LORD’s message of peace through Christ, let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Let us pray for peace here among us.
Preserve Thy little flock in peace,
Nor let Thy boundless mercy cease;
To all the world let it appear
That Thy true Church indeed is here. (TLH 265)
Submitted by Pastor John Hein
Pastor, Grace Lutheran Church