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Monday: Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem — 15 Comments

  1. I have always liked this psalm and often used it when welcoming folk to church. It is only in more recent times I have had to come to terms with the reality that "The House of the Lord" or Temple as we know it, was essentially a slaughterhouse. Try as I might I cannot imagine saying to some of my friends, "Let's visit the local abattoir! I think you will enjoy the experience!"

    Part of the problem is that we live in a very sanitised society these days and the killing of animals is done well away from the public gaze. But not so long ago, during my lifetime, if you wanted a festive chook for Christmas, you first of all had to chop its head off. And I still remember farmers butchering their own beef and mutton. It is amazing how quickly cultural change takes place.

    Why mention this? Surely Psalm 122 is not tainted by the gory detail of food preparation 3000 years ago! The thing that we do need to understand though is that going up to Jerusalem was typically a festive occasion. Even the Day of Atonement, the most somber ceremony of the year, was concluded with great rejoicing and feasting. Sure, there were sacrifices but not all the sacrifices were burned. Quite a bit of the meat ended up being barbequed for the feast. The air was filled with savoury aromas as people enjoyed the Hebrew version of a potluck meal.

    They would have been memorable occasions. We should also remember the Hebrew tithing system made provision for these feasts with special reference to sharing the meals with the Levites (because they had to farms with animals on them) and the poor and less fortunate.

    And in the context of festive meals that are inclusive of the poor and needy, it is appropriate to pray for peace.

    Pray for Jerusalem’s peace!
    Prosperity to all you Jerusalem-lovers!
    Friendly insiders, get along!
    Hostile outsiders, keep your distance!
    For the sake of my family and friends,
    I say it again: live in peace!
    For the sake of the house of our God, God,
    I’ll do my very best for you. Ps 122: 6-9 MSG

    • The idea was that in Old Testament times many citizens would make a pilgrimage to take part in the three main pilgrim festivals; Passover, the feast of the tabernacles, and pentecost. The word pilgrim is being used in the religious sense, not the migratory sense.

  2. It is very critical for God's church today to pray for peace & harmonious living. I believe we should have a vibrant & active Ministry of Reconciliation in our churches.
    You realize that as we go on with the church operations, implement church programs and run here and there with God's work, there are always things that do not go and planned and as a result we find church members being at antagonistic angles with each other. Therefore, the ministry of reconciliation is very important here as it brings us all back together under God's umbrella of Love and Understanding, Forgiveness & patience for each other.
    Like it was said in the bible, where there is that peace, God's church will prosper in all that it does.

  3. Jerusalem is now in us, even if we are in the Outback, in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, in the corn and wheat fields of Kansas, or in the bitter cold of Canada. Wherever we are Jerusalem will be in us as long as we invite God into our lives.

    Jerusalem is Zion, Zion is the temple of God, the temple of God is within us also, if we invite Him in.
    John 15:13.
    2 Timothy 1:14.
    Matthew 11:29.

    What does allowing Zion to be in us do for us. My favorite is peace. Christ abiding in us
    Brings us peace.
    Isaiah 26:3.
    John 14:27.
    John 6:56.

    Also the Court was the haven of rest for the Isrealites. God dwelling in our hearts is a haven of rest for us.
    Matthew 11:29.

    • I find it interesting that currently accessible Jewish literature has a similar emphasis. For today's devout Jews, prayer takes the place of sacrifices, as a means of meeting with God.

  4. Even Jesus prayed that we be one. That oneness is vital in the church,we won't struggle in terms of evangelism in our society because the people will see the unity and love amongst ourselves.

  5. I'm afraid that imagining the ancient Hebrew sanctuary/temple as a "slaughterhouse" may spoil the appreciation of the sanctuary for many. While it may have been "essentially" that during times of apostasy, surely that was not the vision that David had when he wrote in Ps 84:10 that "one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked." Nor is it reflective of the thoughts in the psalms for this lesson.

    So let us try to reset our imagination.

    First of all, no animals were killed in the sanctuary - ever. And there is really no parallel to a modern slaughterhouse.

    However, I believe that when the Israelites thought of the "sanctuary" or "temple," they included the temple courts. And, yes, animals were killed "at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord." Lev. 1:2-5. In the actual stone temples (as opposed to the wilderness tent), the courts of the temple were large, and there was much room besides that devoted to the slaying of animals.

    The slaying of the animal was done with a quick, precise cut, with specially sharpened knives, while a priest caught the blood in a special vessel. (No struggling with the animal.) The blood was then
    disposed of down a special drain by the altar after the prescribed "sprinkling" on the sides of the altar, or wherever prescribed. I'm guessing that this "sprinkling" was done carefully, not liberally. After all, the priests and Levites were dressed in white robes they tried to keep clean.

    Animal sacrifices were not the only sacrifices brought to the temple. There were sacrifices of grain, fruits, nuts and oil as well. Most of these were offerings of gratitude, and, after the token offering on the altar, this food sustained the priests and Levites.

    I also doubt that there was a continuous stream of animals being killed - considering that the vast majority of the people did not possess a lot of animals. There were, however, the morning and evening sacrifices when the people were to worship "towards" the sanctuary. In the wilderness setting, people stood at the door of their tents, reverently and prayerfully facing the sanctuary while the sacrifices were offered. When they settled in the land, they did the same, facing towards Jerusalem at those times. We have the record of Daniel praying three times a day towards Jerusalem. (Dan. 6:10) I believe that other faithful captives, including Nehemia, did the same.

    The temple was a place where God met with His people. And thus that's where people went to come before God. The priests were dressed in white garments, and the Levites joyously sang or chanted the "Hallel" (Ps 113 - 118) as the animal was offered up.

    Even in the Jewish literature accessible to us today, what is emphasized is that the important thing was the spiritual aspect of the offering - of drawing near to God in heart. People were to remember that the animal died in their place, just as the Messiah would eventually die in their place. (Currenly accessible Jewish literature keeps the substitutionary meaning but does not emphasize the Messiah's death. Apparently that meaning has been lost.)

    A lot of washing was involved in the sacrifices. The large "sea" of water was symbolic in itself, but there were many basins and ladles that were included in the sanctuary vessels. I suspect that the priests and Levites developed rituals to ensure that their garments were kept clean in the whole process.

    The temple and its environment were suffused with an aura of reverence at the presence of God, encouraged by the chanting and singing that accompanied services throughout the day. The psalms in this week's lesson should help us absorb that atttide. Furthermore, they should direct our thoughts towards the heavenly sanctuary and the efforts of Christ to save us in spite of ourselves.

    I hope we can actually read all the psalms listed for the week. It will take a little time, but under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we may experience some of the joy that the authors of the psalms experienced.
    P.S. Solomon offering thousands of animals was an exception to the daily services, and I wonder whether the account includes hyperbole, which was not uncommon as a literary device in ancient literature. I also wonder whether Solomon, even at that time, had lost some sense of the significance of the sacrifices. We know that he offered sacrifices on the "high places," even before his inauguration as king, and that was strictly forbidden by God. How graciously God accepts our efforts to serve Him even when we get it wrong!

    • Inge - I very much appreciate your concise narrative given to explain the temple services and so improve on the image of it being a 'slaughterhouse' - Thank you!!!

  6. Thank you Inge for showing us that the sanctuary area wasn't the continual blood bath that some of us have imagined it to be, and for showing that the service with the psalm singing was a more beautiful ceremony than I had imagined.

  7. "Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem"

    Yes! Jerusalem today. Each person affected by the Israel-Hamas War in Gaza and Israel. Paul says about Christ's Body, “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Corinthians 12:26). We feel their pain. Our union with our brothers and sisters of faith goes deeper than political side-taking because we who submit to Jesus's Lordship, all over the world, in every part of the world, Palestinian and Jewish and all cultural and ethnic backgrounds, are all members of each other under Christ as the Head of our Born-again Body (Gal.3:28 NIV). God hates all unrighteous and unjust behavior... and we are grateful and hope-filled knowing that one day all wars will cease. We pray that all the people of Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and all the areas surrounding ...and their families and friends around the world...will find their inner peace through Jesus (Rom.5:1;10:1).

  8. Thank you all for today's insights.Be blessed my friends in Christ.And may the Peace of Our Lord be with you all..Amen

  9. God's house today is full of enemies. As we are praying for Jerusalem, Let's pray for the unity of the Saints in God's house. Nations are falling because people who are called by His name (Christians) are not at peace.


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