Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem?

Psalm 122:6 tells us to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” – or does it?!  An Israeli ministry to widows and orphans shares that the more accurate translation is, “Ask how Jerusalem is doing.”  In this teaching article, we are challenged to inquire about how the people of Israel are doing, not just the political state.  “For their sake” – the house of the LORD in Israel – I will pray for your peace, Jerusalem.

This is a guest column by Orna Greenman of A Sign & A Wonder Ministry to orphans and widows in Israel. 

Throughout the ages, many Christians have been praying for peace in Jerusalem and for security within Israel’s borders, based mainly on Psalm 122:6. And yet, peace and security seem to be so far away.  Are we praying amiss?

A more accurate translation from the Hebrew is, "Ask how is Jerusalem doing."

Jeremiah uses the same phrase when he describes the fatal situation in Jerusalem, and then stops and cries out, "Who will have pity on you, O Jerusalem? Who will mourn for you? Who will stop to ask how you are doing?" (Jer. 15:5).

This last phrase - "Who will ask how you are doing?" - is the same as the one in Ps. 122:6. But for some reason, in Psalms it is wrongly translated as a command to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, rather than inquire about her situation.

The text does not command us to pray automatically for peace, it does tell us to get involved, to develop a relationship with the land and the people, so we know how they are really doing and why is there no peace.

Is it possible that those of us who have been praying for peace within Jerusalem may be working against God's will? I know this is a radical statement, but you see, peaceful borders are not the core issue with God. It has never been the core issue throughout the Bible. Wars and swords and exile - all those horrors that He inflicted upon us - have been His way to attract our attention, to turn us back to Him. Our borders were never in the hands of men, no matter how powerful the leader was. Borders are always in the Hands of God alone. He is the only one who determines and establishes them.

Whenever God warned us of war and lack of peace, it was not because we gave away land. It was for two main reasons: 1) idolatry - looking elsewhere for help other than to Him; 2) Injustice and oppression of those who live in the margins: the needy, the aliens, the orphans and the widows.

So you see that our prayer focus has been in the wrong place. We have been praying about the results and forgetting the cause. We are asking God to fix the judgment instead of praying that the reason for the judgment would be rectified.

From day one the Israelites failed to inherit the entire Land and to drive out the local inhabitants (Jud. 1:27-33). God did not punish them for that, but for the influence these inhabitants had on the nation, for the idol worship that was brought in (Jud. 2:2-3). Israel should focus on returning to her Husband and on her moral condition, if she wants to enjoy secure borders.

As I traveled the States during the summer, I was surprised to find out that the very people who dedicate time to pray for Israel, do not really know how she is doing. Most people were only interested to hear about foreign affairs and the upcoming UN resolution concerning the statehood of the Palestinian authority. They did not have a clue that multitudes of Israelis, hundreds of thousands, were spending the entire impossibly humid summer months in tents all across the country, pleading for social justice, being fed up from the impossible living cost in the land.

Most of the Christians I met also did not know that the former president of Israel, the number one citizen, Mr. Moshe Katsav, was about to go to jail for raping his secretaries. They never heard of other Knesset members who are already in jail for corruption or for sexual harassment. Almost all prayer warriors I had met were clueless about all these matters. And those who knew about it, considered it as marginal. They did not pay much attention nor invested prayer into it. They knew a lot about border issues, about the Iranian nuclear system and about military issues concerning the Middle East, but very little, if anything, about the two main reasons for which God judges His nation with restless borders.

If Israel will settle these two issues, peace will be the automatic result. When we pray that there will be peace, and ignore the reasons for lack of peace, we are somewhat resisting God's method of pulling Israel back to Him.

How than shall we pray for Israel, so that she will eventually be able to enjoy peace?
Our prayers must focus on the root issue, on the pain of the widow and the needy in society, who is weeping for someone to manage them, someone to lean on. We need to pray that the leadership of Israel will develop jealousy for righteousness, to a loathing of all forms of corruption, and for the ability to trust God to fulfill His promises concerning the borders.

The word “widow” in the Old Testament does not refer only to a woman without a husband. It means a woman, a city or a nation who is in ruin, who has no provider and no one to manage her life.  The OT refers to Israel as a widow (e.g. Lam. 1:1; Isa. 54:4) not because her Husband died, but because she does not consider Him as her provider.
How typical of God's system.  Just like His blood can cleanse (where any other blood only defiles), and His death can give us life, so also do the weakest and seemingly most unnecessary members of the Body are the ones we need the most (I Cor. 12: 22). We consider them as shameful members, but God sees them as vessels of great glory (v. 23).

The last verses of Ps. 122 speak about our brothers and companions, about the house of the Lord. "For their sake", the psalmist says, "I will pray for your peace". This brings up another important point to focus on in prayer, a focus that many Christians neglect.

Do you know how your Israeli brothers and sisters in the Lord are doing? Or how are the 150+ houses of the Lord across the land are managing? Are you aware of the persecution that goes on here, or our daily struggle to establish righteousness and to survive? Do your prayers focus on the wellbeing and needs of your family in the Lord in the land, or on mainly on our borders?

The former Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meier, once said that Israel is easy to love from afar, that is to say, uninvolved. To truly love Israel, like loving anyone, even a country, one must be familiar with her goings on and the issues she must deal with.

My prayer is that this update will encourage you to love truly, to become familiar with our real issues. I hope it will refocus your prayers for us, so that we will truly be able to enjoy peace and prosperity within our walls.

Teaching widows to establish the borders of the Land

In a couple of weeks our team will join hands with another ministry in the south of Israel, in an attempt to see how this fresh understanding of Scripture can be best applied.  We invited a group of widows and broken women to join us, and we plan to teach them how quickly God hears their cry and about the amazing effect their prayers can have, if they will learn to bless those in authority, versus constantly complaining about them.

We covet your prayers for that weekend (March 23-24). If you feel led to pray for us as we prepare and run this weekend, please email me back. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

what a beautiful piece! I have been meditating on Psalm 122:6 and was taught it, as you say, tells us to ask about the peace of Jerusalem. In these current times, it becomes more necessary to ask God this question, show him we are involved with the city where he has built His house, the city that is at the centre of His dealings with the world. And indeed, as a result, humble ourselves to serve the Lord as we get involved with His people to show them the way of righteousness and true worship. Thank you!