The Peace of Jerusalem

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

“May they prosper who love you.

“Peace be within your walls, prosperity within your palaces.”

— Psalm 122:6-7

This passage gets stuck in my head every so often. The senior pastor at Gospel Mission, the late Bob Brown, would include that in his prayer before every service, and as a bit of a biblical noob at the time (I still am, and truthfully, who isn’t?), I wondered what “peace of Jerusalem” meant.

After all, Jerusalem has been anything but peaceful ever since it was founded, and especially when David would have been writing that Psalm.

Three different religions lay claim to Jerusalem as their spiritual home, and the idea of recognizing Jerusalem, rather than Tel Aviv, as Israel’s capital is geopolitical dynamite. So it’s understandable that David would call us to pray for its peace.

But what is the peace of Jerusalem? Is it an absence of war? That lovely situation would be a sign of peace, but is that what “peace” is all about?

Let’s get the obvious answer out of the way: Jesus Christ is the “peace of Jerusalem”. He is the Great Unifier, the Holy Equalizer, sent to bring all peoples — Jews, Muslims, professing Christians and everyone else — together in one family of God.

But what, for that matter, is Jerusalem? Are we only talking about the physical city, or something else?

Let’s try this. Jerusalem is a state of being. It’s that ideal situation where we are in true communion with God, walking with Him, talking to and hearing from Him, and living the life He wants us to live.

(We can say the same thing about our society, but let’s apply this to our individual lives for now.)

Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Revelation 21:2)

John describes New Jerusalem as something astoundingly beautiful and glorious: isn’t that exactly what we want in our own lives? And that happens to us when we draw closer to God. Something else happens, too: sin and the other things that have separated us from God in our previous lives don’t have a chance.

But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

— Revelation 21:27

And we know how to be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life: through Jesus Christ.

The enemy will try to steal us away from our “Jerusalem”, just as Nebuchadnezzar hauled God’s people off to Babylon. We get tempted, sometimes fall, and can be left thinking we’re stuck in Satan’s quagmire forever. But just as Ezra and Nehemiah did, our Jerusalem can be rebuilt. There will still be those trying to prevent that from happening, but when we have Jesus, the peace of Jerusalem, we have the joy of the Lord to keep us strong.

So when we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, I believe we’re not praying for a physical city, which has been a bone of contention for millennia; but for the manifestation of New Jerusalem in our own lives and in our world.