I don’t know if the people who put together my reading plan did it on purpose, but to have both 2 Kings 24-25 and Psalm 122 on the same day, to read them back to back, is to say the least, ironic, and, to say the most, so tragic.
The 2 Kings passage details the taking of Judah into Babylonian exile. In addition to assassinating certain leaders and hauling off the rest of the people (except the very poor . . . hmm, didn’t Jesus say, “Blessed are the poor?” . . . that’d be worth noodling on), at the center of the exile is the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem.
They carried off the treasures of the house of the LORD. The holy furniture of gold in the temple they cut up and exported. They burned to the ground the house of the LORD. They broke down the walls of Jerusalem.
Desecrated. Decimated. Destroyed. Welcome to Jerusalem, home of the throne of David and the temple of God — the place where the glory once dwelt.
Okay, finish reading that and then go to Psalm 122.
Jerusalem — built as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD. There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
(Psalm 122:3-6a ESV)
Somebody wasn’t praying!
The city “bound firmly together” had come apart at the seams. The place to which the tribes would go up had been torn down. The thrones of judgment were jettisoned to a foreign land. Security had disappeared, smoldering rubble lay in its place. And peace? Not so much. All that was left to pray for was pieces. So what happened?
I hear from time to time that today we Christians should be praying for the peace of Jerusalem. I think I get what’s intended by that. But what hits me is that the peace of Jerusalem is really dependent upon the hearts of God’s people. Less about trying to protect an earthly location and more about the need for revival of a heavenly pursuit. Less about preserving a place on the map, more about rekindling a passion for the presence of the glory of God from on high. The key, I’m thinking, that unlocks the peace of Jerusalem is found in the opening verses of the song.
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!” Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!
(Psalm 122:1-2 ESV)
I was glad, declares the psalmist. I rejoiced at the thought. I exulted in the anticipation. My eyes brightened, my heart started to race, I couldn’t wait to go to the house of the LORD. Though I’d been to Jerusalem a million times before, the anticipation of my feet standing within the gates of Jerusalem, on the doorsill of the place where the glory of God dwelt, evoked a certain euphoria deep with my soul. I was glad when they said, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
That’s what I think we’re to pray for when we pray for the peace of Jerusalem. For God’s people to be overjoyed with the prospect of being in God’s presence. Glad to go as they anticipate the wonder of worship, the awe of being able to participate in praise, and the opportunity of being with God’s people to offer afresh to God, in person, the sacrifices with which He is pleased. That’s what I’m thinking might be behind the psalmist’s prayer for the peace of Jerusalem.
There would be peace in Jerusalem as long as people loved to go to Jerusalem (v. 6b). Hearts set on Jerusalem because that’s where the glory resided. And where hearts seek Him, where people rejoice to be near Him, God will steel the walls of the city, such that even the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Pray for the peace of your church.
By His grace. For His glory.