Theme: The Church
In this week’s lessons we learn what the earthly Jerusalem means in Scripture, and of our own need to pray for the unity of the church.
Scripture: Psalm 122:1-9
Jerusalem means “habitation of peace.” But no habitation has ever been less peaceful, and it remains in turmoil today. Which makes us think of the church. The church of Jesus Christ is for us what Jerusalem was for ancient Israel, and it is a tremendous step beyond it, as the author of Hebrews points out to the Jewish believers of his day. The ancient city with its temple and temple worship was a wonderful gift of God to be highly valued and loved. But something much better has come by the work of Jesus Christ. Jesus has established a new, spiritual temple by the sacrifice of himself on the cross, and he has brought us not to Mount Sinai or to the old Mount Zion but to a new Mount Zion and a new Jerusalem:
You have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel… Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:22-24, 28, 29).
This Jerusalem, the church, has important parallels to the Jerusalem that was the destiny of the pilgrims and the subject matter of the psalm. It, too, is a compacted, unifying place where people from various human tribes can come together and be one people. Here we are neither “Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for [we] are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Our Jerusalem is also a place where justice has been provided and should be worked for still. God has justified us through the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior. And we are to be concerned for justice, too—in the church above all, but also, where possible, in society, too.
And should we not pray for the peace of our Jerusalem? Of course we should, for wars erupt in the church, just as they do in other places. We think of the troubles that disturbed the church at Philippi, of Paul’s plea to Euodia and Syntyche “to agree with each other in the Lord” (Phil. 4:2), and of his advice to that congregation: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (vv. 6, 7).
Jesus told his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
Paul prayed: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him” (Rom. 15:13); “The God of love and peace be with you” (2 Cor. 13:11); “Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16); “Peace to the brothers” (Eph. 6:23); “May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way” (2 Thess. 3:16). The benediction at the end of Hebrews reads: “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Heb. 13:20, 21).
Murdoch Campbell says of our discipleship, “One great evidence of our being in the way to that glorious city is that there is nothing in this world that commands our concern or interest more than the prosperity of God’s Zion and of all those who seek its good in every part of the world.”1
1Murdoch Campbell, From Grace to Glory: Meditations on the Book of Psalms (Edinburgh, Scotland, and Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1970), p. 177.
What is our Jerusalem? How has Christ changed the place held by Jerusalem?
What parallels does the New Testament church have with Jerusalem?
Application: What efforts will you make in the coming week to help any newer people at your church feel a sense of welcome and belonging?
Key Point: Jesus has established a new, spiritual temple by the sacrifice of himself on the cross.