Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! “May they be secure who love you! Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!” For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, “Peace be within you!” For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good. – Psalm 122:6-9
This Psalm is clear: God’s people are to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. But Christians may be confused with this command today. Why? What about other Judean cities? What about Gentile cities? What about modern day cities? Shouldn’t we pray for the peace of every city? Are some cities more important than others? And modern Christians may wonder if this command still applies today under the New Covenant in Jesus our Lord.
It’s important to remember that Psalm 122 was a “song of ascent” sung by God’s faithful ones as they journeyed to Jerusalem for the annual feasts to worship God and maintain their devotion to Him. This psalm urges these pilgrims to pray for the peace of Jerusalem “for my brothers and companions’ sake” (v. 8). Ancient historian, Josephus, estimated that more than two million people would gather in Jerusalem at the high feast days in his day. Jerusalem was not built to accommodate two million souls. Since so many Jews and proselytes gathered in one place at a time, safety was a legitimate concern. Safety from invaders without and from pretenders or malcontents within was a very real prayer request.
The reason that Jerusalem was chosen for the annual feasts is because the temple stood there. This is another reason why special prayer for Jerusalem is needed: “For the sake of the house of the LORD our God” (v. 9). For hundreds of years prior to the temple’s construction, the house of God was a tent that resided in various places. But according to King David’s earnest desire, his son, Solomon, built the first temple in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem temple was now the only legitimate place for God’s people to offer sacrifices in true worship, so the city’s safe-keeping was essential for the people of God. If Jerusalem was destroyed, how would they continue their devotion to God as He had prescribed in the Mosaic Covenant?
In AD 70, the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed as Jesus predicted. It was no longer needed for God’s people to worship Him. The New Covenant in Jesus’ blood displaced the Old Covenant with its sacrificial laws. The Messiah is our great high priest, our once and for all sacrifice, and His followers comprise the temple of God. Christians no longer worship in this or that place, but true worshipers now worship in spirit and in truth. Physical safety is no longer as important as it once was when it comes to worshiping God, since worship can take place anywhere. But is it still important to pray for Jerusalem?
Christians have different views about the role of Jerusalem and the Jewish people in God’s plans for the future. But whatever one’s perspective might be with regard to such questions, the New Testament makes it clear that the gospel of Jesus Christ is for the Jew first and then the Gentile (e.g., Rom 1:16). Christians should carry a special love for ethnic Jews, just as Paul and the other apostles did. Paul wished that he could trade places with the Jews and be cut off from Christ so that they could be saved (Rom 9:3). Jerusalem may still have a special role in God’s plans. But regardless of your eschatological views, there are many Jews, as well as Gentiles, living in and around Israel’s capital today, and for their sake Christians should earnestly pray for their safety, but more so for their eternal salvation.
Father, thank You that You brought salvation to us. How great is Your mercy and grace! Please save all kinds of people in Jerusalem and all around the world, Jews first and also Gentiles. Use this time of conflict to stir them to seek You and find You in Jesus. Open their eyes to the fulfillment of Your promises to the Jewish people and to all humanity. Give them more time on this earth so that they might repent and believe in Your Son. Amen
Chuck Hetzler, PhD
Vice President of Biblical Theology, Christian Union
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