The Book of Psalms

Wednesday: Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem


Theme: Dispensing of Justice
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
Yesterday, we examined the first thing that impressed the psalmist as he stood joyfully inside the city’s gates and walls, which was its compact unity. Today, we look at the second item, which was its importance as a center for dispensing justice. 
2. Its justice (v. 5). The reference to God’s “statute” or law in verse 4 also leads the writer to think of how Jerusalem was the center for dispensing legal justice to the people: “There the thrones for judgment stand, the thrones of the house of David” (v. 5). 
Thrones may be a reference to the king’s courts, located in the palace of the monarch or in other government buildings. But they may be something more, something the pilgrim actually saw as he passed through the gates of the capital city. We remember that when Absalom was trying to win the allegiance of the people, to turn them from obeying and serving his father David, the way he did this was by standing in the gates of the city to offer judgment to those who came to it with their legal suits. Judgment was often rendered at a city’s gates (see Ruth 4:1-12; Job 29:7), and “thrones for judgment” may be something pilgrims actually noticed when they entered the city. 
Derek Kidner says that dispensing justice is “a ruler’s first duty and best gift” (referring to Psalm 72:1-4, Isaiah 2:4 and 42:3),1 and that is right. Dispensing justice is one of the two God-given functions of right government. The other is defending its citizens against violence either from within or from without (see Rom. 13:1-7). When the kings of Israel took this responsibility seriously and gave just judgments the city and nation were blessed by God and prospered. When they neglected this duty the nation was troubled, and the result was often civil war, as in the days of David and his rebellious son, Absalom. 
It may be a sober realization of how difficult it is to provide genuine justice in this world that leads the psalmist to compose the prayer and write the vow of the psalm’s last stanza. There can be no true or lasting peace without justice. Justice is hard to achieve. Therefore, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” he intones. Then, lest we should suppose that he is urging on others what he is unwilling or too lax to do himself, he leads the prayers: 
“May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.” For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you” (vv. 6-8). 
This is not a one-time prayer only or only words with no intention of trying to match such words by deeds. The psalmist wants to work for the peace and prosperity of Jerusalem, too. Hence, he ends his composition with a vow: “For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your prosperity” (v. 9). It is a firm resolve the poet wants to take away from Jerusalem when he leaves it to return to his own hometown. 
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!” And well we might. For no city has ever been the center of such fierce military battles, destruction and loss of life as Jerusalem has. Its very name incorporates the rich Hebrew word for “peace” (shalom). Jerusalem means “habitation of peace.” But no habitation has ever been less peaceful. It has been attacked and destroyed many times, as I was reminded when I stood at the eastern wall and laid my hands on the stones that had been restored by Nehemiah. It is in turmoil today. 
1Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150: A Commentary on Books III-V of the Psalms (Leicester, England, and Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1975), p. 434. 
Study Questions: 

Why is there a reference to God’s statute? 
What were the consequences to Jerusalem when justice was not properly dispensed under David? Do you see parallels in modern world history? 
Explain the relationship between justice and peace. 
For what does the psalmist pray? 
What is the psalmist’s vow? 

Prayer: Begin to regularly ask God for peace in our troubled times.

Study Questions
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