Series Title: Going Up with the Psalms of Ascent (episode 8)
These edited transcripts are taken from Dwight's most loved audio series, Highways in Their Hearts. Click here to see the downloadable audio version in our online store.
The next Psalm of Ascent motivates our pilgrimage with two essential principles. Let me begin with some observations about Jerusalem, the City of Gold, mentioned by name three times in six short verses, including this memorable exhortation,
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
May they be secure who love you! - Psalm 122:6
I want to talk about Jerusalem's physical features, its biblical significance, and its symbolism and relevance for you and me as followers of Jesus.
Physically speaking, Jerusalem is one of the most remarkable cities on Earth. It has been inhabited for nearly 5000 years, with the earliest historical records dating to the 19th century BCE (referred to in an Egyptian text as a Canaanite city). When Israel entered the Promised Land, this was a city of the Jebusites known as Jebu.
It is situated on the eastern slope of a hill in the Judean mountains, featuring two prominent elevations. The upper height is called Mount Moriah, where the golden-domed mosque is today. The lower elevation was the original city of David, which he took from the Jebusites. The lower hill is Mount Zion, and the upper hill is Mount Moriah.
Archaeologists found the oldest extant writing of the sacred name of God (YHWH) on a little silver amulet dating back to the time of King David on Mt. Zion. That is truly remarkable!
Jerusalem is first referenced in Genesis 14 when the mysterious Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine to bless Abram after he defeated his enemies. The city of Salem is Zion, a fact confirmed by the parallelism in Psalm 76:2: His abode has been established in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion.
The name Jerusalem comes from the Hebrew word shalom, meaning peace or completeness. That is why it is often called the city of peace. Israel's sages cited Genesis 22:14 as the source for the other word in this city's name, yeru. It was here the LORD God supplied a ram in Isaac's stead, and so Abraham called the name of that place, "The LORD provides." Provides (yireh) is the Hebrew source word for yeru. By this correlation, we begin to see the spiritual significance of Jerusalem.
Even today, the place of testing and where the Temple once stood is called Mt. Moriah. Biblically speaking, Zion (the lower hill) and Moriah (the upper hill) have all become synonymous with Jerusalem. These are interchangeable terms for the place where God dwells, and his people worship him. On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided (Gen 22:14).
You need this background to read and understand where the biblical prophets and poets are coming from when they reference Jerusalem.
Ezekiel declares, Thus says the Lord GOD: This is Jerusalem. I have set her in the center of the nations, with countries all around her (5:5). Based on texts like these, Israel's sages made the following observation. The land of Israel is located in the center of the world, Jerusalem is in the center of Israel, the Temple is in the center of Jerusalem, the Holy of Holies is in the center of the Temple, and the Ark of the Covenant is in the center of the Holy of Holies.
Jerusalem is, indeed, the center of the cosmos.
As followers of Jesus, Jerusalem is precious to us because it is precious to our Father; it is the city of the great King (Psalm 48:2, Mtt 5:35). It is the city of David, Israel's greatest king, and it is the city from which Jesus, David's son of promise and the King of kings, will govern. Simply put, it is the place where God chose to dwell and where he was worshipped, served, and honored by his people.
It may surprise you that the rabbis spoke not only of the earthly Jerusalem but also of the Jerusalem, which is above, the heavenly city—language Paul uses in Galatians 4:26. This idea stems from Isaiah's vision in chapter 6. Paul says that the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother (Gal 4:26). In a real sense, Jerusalem, both above and below, is our physical and spiritual mother.
You see, not only do we share in the heritage of the prophets and the patriarchs like Abraham and Sarah, but Jerusalem was the place where Jesus himself came to the climactic moment of his existence, preordained by God from the foundation of the world. It is the city over which Jesus wept in great love and in which his disciples wept for him following his crucifixion and burial. It was there that he rose again, and on the Jewish feast of Shavu'ot, the church was birthed.
We trace our origins and heritage back to that high and holy city: not to Athens and Greek philosophy, not to Rome and Catholicism, not to the Protestant Reformation in Europe. In a real sense, our beginnings are in Jerusalem.
On that festival of Pentecost, 120 faithful disciples—following our Lord's instruction—were gathered together in Jerusalem. As the Spirit was poured out upon them, 3000 were added to their number, with more entering the kingdom each day. Professor Safrai at the Hebrew University estimates that 30 years after the death of Jesus, there were as many as 50,000 Jewish believers in Jesus in the Holy City.
There is much confusion over Jerusalem today; it is the subject of dispute and controversy, which only underscores its importance and uniqueness.
In Jewish writings like the Talmud, the rabbis viewed Jerusalem and its Temple as being continuously built upwards until it reaches the throne of the divine majesty. The result is a conflict existing in Israel today. Is the rebuilding of the Temple something that man is going to do or is it something that God is going to do supernaturally?
You and I know the answer.
Apocalyptic (dealing with the end of the world) is a genre of Jewish literature pioneered in the Second Temple period. John, in his inspired apocalypse, pictures the consummation of all things in this way. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev 21:2). The earthly Jerusalem is a pattern of a higher reality where the city of God is not made with human hands.
The people of God must steer clear of speculation or participation in any of these controversies. What is of top priority to Jesus is the Kingdom of God. Therefore, it is our top priority to be about the business of our King. His kingship is supernaturally and powerfully at work in the world today, changing the hearts of all who will come to him. The fields are still ripe for harvest, and the Lord of the harvest is still looking for those who will work for him.
Never forget that you already know what you need to know in order to do the good works for which you were created!
Biblically speaking, the main point of apocalyptic thought is that the God of Israel triumphs despite any appearance to the contrary.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away" (Rev 21:3-4).
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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.
Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.