Summary: A short talk challenging us to start to love Zion, to love Jerusalem with the love that the Messiah has for her; and also to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
In Luke’s Gospel after Jesus was baptised (3:21) he was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert where he was tempted by the devil for forty days (4:1-2). After resisting the devil Jesus returned to his home town of Nazareth in Galilee. He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he was handed the scroll of Isaiah to read (Luke 4:16-17). He began to read from Isaiah chapter 61: ‘The Spirit of the sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ (Isaiah 61: 1-2a). Afterwards, when he sat down, he added, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). In other words, Jesus intimated this: “These scriptures speak of me. I fulfil scripture. I am the anointed one. I will preach good news to the poor. I’m the one you’ve been waiting for. I am the one! I am Messiah.”
Try to imagine that moment in your mind’s eye. Waiting for the Messiah your whole life …
…and here he is. Jesus - Messiah.
Many who witnessed and heard Jesus reading from Isaiah would have known what comes next. We know it as Isaiah chapter 62 – this morning’s Bible reading.
Messiah is not only the one who will preach good news, bind up the broken hearted and freedom for captives. Messiah will speak out for the sake of Zion (Isaiah 62:1) – the Holy City of God – Jerusalem.
God’s Messiah cares deeply about the most troubled city on Earth - the city where the Messiah was crucified, where David and Solomon constructed the Temple, and where those early believers in the resurrection of Jesus lived. For Jerusalem’s sake the Messiah will not remain quiet (Isaiah 62:1).
The Messiah also cares deeply about the troubled hearts of people and desires to bring healing and wholeness to each one. However, we must not and cannot spiritualise Isaiah’s prophecies concerning Jerusalem. We don’t somehow spiritualise what Isaiah says about the suffering servant. We realise that the suffering servant ultimately points to Jesus. We should take care to not read words and concepts like ‘Zion’, ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘Israel’ in the Bible and think that they mean the Church. Unwittingly, anti-Semitism in the church throughout the centuries has done this. We must be careful not to do so.
The Church has been grafted in to God’s people Israel. We have not replaced God’s people Israel. Likewise, God will not construct or build some kind of spiritual Zion or Jerusalem in our hearts or in our country. Therefore, as much as I love the tune and have pondered the poetry, the Hymn Jerusalem is not in accordance with scripture. The Holy Lamb of God the Messiah did not walk upon England’s soil.
Neither will Jerusalem be built in the UK – and even though I say that slightly tongue-in-cheek I am also entirely serious. The Messiah still has a future plan for earthly Jerusalem until such time as God comes to dwell with his people. Then and only then will tears be dried up, death will be no more, and the new Jerusalem will come down from heaven and God will dwell with us – Emmanuel God with us.
Until then The Messiah’s love for the Holy City remains as deep as ever – and what the Messiah loves we must also love. He loves the poor, the broken hearted, captives and prisoners. He loves those who mourn (Isaiah 61: 1-6). But the Church has too often stopped there!
He loves his people (61:7), loves their Land (61:7), has made an everlasting covenant with them (61:8); will not remain silent for Zion’s sake (62:1), rejoices over Jerusalem (62:5); and promises to change how she is described: No longer deserted and desolate but Hephzibah – my delight is in her!
And Beulah – beautiful!
Be honest with yourself and with God. Do we, do you love his people, their land, and the Holy City in the way that the Messiah calls us to love?
The Messiah also says, “You who call on the name of the Lord give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth” (62:7).
Will these words, these prophecies, these concerns of the Messiah become our concerns? Will we pray for Jerusalem with fresh eyes?
Will we follow the command of King David in Psalm 122 verse 6: ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem’? To pray like this is to pray with Jesus.