If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither!” (Ps. 137:5). This verse recalls the importance of the city of Jerusalem within the Bible. Christians focus so much on God’s universal presence that we can struggle to consider any one place as holier than another. Yet the Bible centers on Jerusalem as the origin and goal of God’s redemptive work. Jerusalem, or Zion, is special to God, God’s own city. In verse 10, rather than the prophet or individual worshiper speaking, Zion itself speaks, looking ahead to the hour of its salvation. Like a fertile garden, Zion will one day bear the fruit of righteousness. Beginning in chapter 62, God responds by announcing that the time of vindication is at hand “for Zion’s sake.”
So this is a good day to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, the modern city that regularly features in the news. Jerusalem’s violence is a scandal. A faithful Christian presence in Jerusalem deserves prayers of support, even as prayers of repentance acknowledge Christian complicity in the bloodshed. Jerusalem is a real place, and God cares for Jerusalem in a unique way.
However, the poetic name “Zion” reveals that, for Isaiah, Jerusalem is already a symbol as well as a site. The people of God are also Zion. Each believer is Zion too, not in whole but in part. Over and over, scripture witnesses to the connection between holiness and righteousness. The way to become Zion, a people capable of receiving God’s favor, is to be a community without “robbery and wrongdoing.” God loves justice! This affirmation is just as remarkable (and challenging) today as it was in ancient Israel. Where do you see injustice in the world? How are you prepared to intervene on behalf of justice?
O God, we pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Grant us the courage to live justly and promote greater understanding. We know you bless peacemakers. Amen.
The beginning of the New Year reminds us of God’s love for all peoples through the celebration of Epiphany. Isaiah uses imagery of a wedding and a garden to declare that the beauty arising from Israel will go to all nations. The psalmist praises the Lord on behalf of everything and everyone on the earth, including men and women from all peoples. Paul proclaims that Christ fulfills the expectations of Israel; he is the open door for all to become children of God. In Luke, Simeon and Anna speak prophetically over the infant Jesus in the Temple, declaring him the light to the Gentiles. God’s promises made in love are fulfilled in love.
• Read Isaiah 61:10–62:3. How are you daily becoming Zion, a person of justice?
• Read Psalm 148. How does your connection to God connect you to creation?
• Read Galatians 4:4-7. How confident are you that God listens to your prayer?
• Read Luke 2:22-40. When have you experienced sacrifice as gain rather than loss?
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