Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"Jerusalem's future and your prayers … "

Day #298:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - October 22nd

Scripture Reading:  Psalms 122 - 124 …

Have you ever prayed for the peace of Jerusalem?  Why would you do that?  In some Christian circles Jerusalem and Israel are the focus of much attention.  Believing that God continues to have a plan for the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, many within the church await the return of Jesus Christ, when those plans will unfold precisely as God has revealed in His Word - rightly so!  What does that have to do with you and me?  Put simply, if God does not keep His promises to the Jews as a people and if the events leading up to and surrounding the return of Jesus do not happen as God says they will, how can we believe anything else the Bible has to say?  But knowing that God has kept and will keep every promise He has ever made gives us hope, strength and courage as we face the many uncertainties in our lives and in the world.

In the days of David, Jerusalem was the "City of Peace."  God had blessed David and Israel with power and wealth beyond any nation on the earth.  The temple stood in Jerusalem as a testament to the one true God, the "LORD,"  the great "I AM!"  He alone is God and His power had accompanied Israel in defeating all their enemies and establishing them firmly in the land God had promised to their forefathers.  "I rejoiced with those who said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the LORD" were more than just words to David, they were the air that he breathed!  His prayers for the peace of Jerusalem were personal and heartfelt:  "May those who love you be secure.  May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels" (122:7).

Yet, since the time of David, there have been few times when Jerusalem was at peace.  Following David's death, Solomon became king and God blessed him with extraordinary wisdom and brought prosperity and peace to Jerusalem and to Israel, but it would be short-lived.  Human nature and the stubborn rebellion of a people who did not know their God led to their destruction over the next 300-400 years.  Still, there has never been a time when God has not had a remnant who were and are fulfilling this call to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem."  As we watch the events in the Middle East, the time is coming when it will appear that this prayer has been answered … but …

Before we get to that, Psalm 123 expresses thoughts in words that could have been penned yesterday or today by those who live in Jerusalem, who are Jewish believers … those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ and who know the true God:  "I lift my eyes to You, to You whose throne is in heaven. … our eyes look to the LORD our God, till He shows us mercy. … we have endured much contempt.  We have endured much ridicule from the proud, much contempt from the arrogant" (123:1-4).  It can truthfully be said that no other people, no other nation on earth, has endured what these people have endured and continue to endure.  Why?  Because they are, as a people, the chosen people of the one true God!

Those who claim today that God's plans for the Jews as a people are finished … that the church has completely replaced Israel in God's plans for the future … are WRONG!!  Peace in the Middle East will happen, but not in the way most people might hope for or imagine.  In the book of Daniel God tells Daniel that there will be a period of seven years at the end of this age when God will bring an evil impostor - the Antichrist - to make a peace treaty, a "covenant with many" (Daniel 9:27).  Contrary to what many believe today, this is NOT when the rapture of the church takes place and the great tribulation begins.  The first three-and-one-half years will be a time of deception, when peace SEEMS real, but it isn't.

People today want peace at any cost … at any cost to Israel and Jerusalem!  The only peace that is on the horizon at the moment is a counterfeit peace that will come through diplomacy and an agreement with people, rulers and nations who want the elimination of these people, and Satan himself is behind it.  When you pray for the peace of Jerusalem, this is not the peace you should be praying for.  It will end in a flood of war and destruction.  While God will protect a remnant of the Jews, Jerusalem will be attacked, as described by the prophet Zechariah in Chapter 14:1-2.  God will protect the remnant in the wilderness of Edom for 1260 days (Revelation 12:1-6) and the Antichrist (now possessed by Satan), will persecute the church (Revelation 13:1-18).

Only after this time of great tribulation (Matthew 24:21-22) will the true Church be raptured, and then God will pour out His wrath on the Antichrist, the False Prophet and all those who have worshiped the Beast (Revelation 8-9, 15-16).  What appears far-fetched to those who do not know God's Word or believe in the God who has chosen a people for Himself, will happen precisely according to God's plan.  There will be a time of distress for those who believe in Jesus Christ like none that have gone on before us … and there have been some horrible times.  Why would God do this?  As a testimony AGAINST a world that has rebelled against Him since the beginning.  Those who know Jesus are called to persevere, to endure, to stand firm in our faith.  Our road is not an easy one, but our destination is secure!

The TRUE "peace of Jerusalem" will come only when Jesus Himself is standing on Mt. Zion!  It is at His return, at the end of the seven years mentioned in Daniel, Revelation and elsewhere, that Jesus will usher in TRUE peace in Jerusalem.  It will come in no other way.  Again, God speaks through the prophet Zechariah:  "I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication.  They will look on Me, the One they have pierced, and they will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child … On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great!" (Zechariah 12:10-11).  "On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity" (Zechariah 13:1).

"Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle.  On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem …  On that day there will be no light, no cold or frost … when evening comes, there will be light.  On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem …  The LORD will be King over the whole earth.  On that day there will be one LORD, and HIs name the only name" (Zechariah 14:3-9).  God has said it and He will do it!  There WILL BE peace in Jerusalem, and it will come in its fullness only when Jesus returns.  Any other peace is a counterfeit peace that will not last.

And that brings us to Psalm 124:  "If the LORD had not been on our side - let Israel say - if the LORD had not been on our side when men attacked us, when their anger flared against us, they would have swallowed us alive; the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away" (124:1-5).  That was true in the days of David, that has been true throughout the history of this people, that is true today and it will be true in the future.  When you and I pray for the peace of Jerusalem it must be more than a man-made peace that we pray for.  We must pray that the Spirit of God would call those whom God has chosen to be His remnant among the Jews at this time (which is happening even now!), and we must pray for the return of Jesus Christ to come soon.

Jesus promised us that He would be with us "until the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).  The end of this age is approaching.  With those who believe from Israel, all who are truly followers of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the promised "Seed" of Abraham, the One descended from Judah, from the line of David … we declare, "Our help is in the Name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth" (124:8).  We have nowhere else to turn, nor do we need anywhere else to turn.  He is OUR God and we are HIS people, by grace through faith in Jesus.  We testify with those who first believed: "'The stone you builders rejected, is the capstone!'  And salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved!" (Acts 4:11-12).

Through His death and resurrection, the pouring out of His Spirit and the proclaiming of the Gospel, Jesus is calling His sheep to hear His voice and many are coming to Him each day.  While evil continues to attempt to overthrow the King, to rebel against Him and to destroy His people (those who believe … Jews and Gentiles), we rest in this fact:  "God exalted HIM to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-11).

No other name …. but Jesus!  HE is the "PEACE of Jerusalem!"  "He who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I am coming soon!'  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus!  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people.  Amen" (Revelation 22:20-21).

"Heavenly Father, I know that You alone are God and that all You reveal in Your Word will come to pass just as You have said.  I pray for the true peace of Jerusalem, for the pouring out of Your Spirit even now upon those whom You have chosen to be the remnant, the true seed of Abraham.  I pray for Your Church, those from the nations who have called upon the name of Jesus to be saved and who will be gathered together when the trumpet sounds to praise You forever and ever.  Help me to stand firm and to declare Your praises as I join Your people in enduring, in persevering and in testifying to You, our God, until He comes who will bring PEACE on earth!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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