Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. (Psalm 122:6)
In Sunday School, our pastor is leading us through a study from John Owen’s book, Rules for Walking in Fellowship.
Owen was by common consent the weightiest Puritan theologian, and many would bracket him with Jonathan Edwards as one of the greatest Reformed theologians of all time. Born in 1616, he entered Queen’s College, Oxford, at the age of twelve and secured his M.A. in 1635, when he was nineteen. In his early twenties, conviction of sin threw him into such turmoil that for three months he could scarcely utter a coherent word on anything; but slowly he learned to trust Christ, and so found peace. In 1637 he became a pastor; in the 1640s he was chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, and in 1651 he was made Dean of Christ Church, Oxford’s largest college. In 1652 he was given the additional post of Vice-Chancellor of the University, which he then reorganized with conspicuous success. After 1660 he led the Independents through the bitter years of persecution till his death in 1683. —J. I. Packer
In our pastor’s absence, I was asked to bring this Sunday’s lesson from the book. It is indeed a very good lesson entitled “Bearing One Another’s Burdens,” which is the 15th chapter in Owens’ book. At the end of the lesson, Owens gives directions on how to apply the principles in the lesson. For the first direction, Owens says, “A proper valuing, strong desire, and high esteem of the church’s prosperity, in every member of it (Ps. 122:6)” – (emphasis mine).
I do not know a lot about John Owens other than he was and is a highly regarded reformed theologian and Puritan preacher. I do not know what his views were on eschatology (the study of end times), however, in the quote above, his use of Psalm 122:6 in connection to the church is misapplied.
I do not want to disparage such a great man of God as John Owen, but the verse, when taken literally as it should be, is speaking of Jerusalem not the Church. A parallel between Jerusalem and the church can certainly be drawn here in the form of allegory, but to make a direct connection cannot be supported if one takes the words of Scripture literally. Jerusalem/Israel is not the Church, nor is the Church Jerusalem/Israel.
In Owens’ defense, he was living at a time when Israel did not exist and had not existed for over 1500 years. Many theologians of that time believed that God had rejected Israel for their rejection of their Messiah and that the Church had replaced Israel. However, not all theologians took that position. Those that did not hold to that “replacement theology” believed that God would restore Israel in the end times. They came to this conclusion from the clear, literal teaching of the Old Testament prophets. I do not know to which camp Owens belonged, so I will withhold judgement.
I will, however, attempt to point out the error in “replacement theology” as concisely as possible. When one studies the Old Testament prophets, one quickly finds God’s repeated promises to (1) scatter Israel to the four corners of the earth, (2) to draw them back into their own land, (3) to restore the nation of Israel once again, and (4) to save the remanent of Israel in the “latter days.” The following is just a small sample of God’s promises to Israel.
And the LORD shall scatter you [Israel] among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you. (Deuteronomy 4:27)
And it shall come to pass, that as the LORD rejoiced over you [Israel] to do you good, and to multiply you; so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it. And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone. And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life: In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see. (Deuteronomy 28:63-67)
And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. (Deuteronomy 30:1-6)
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:2-4)
The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God. For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness. (Isaiah 10:21-22)
Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. (Isaiah 43:5-7)
Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim. Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. (Isaiah 49:12-16)
No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD. (Isaiah 54:17)
And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves. (Isaiah 61:4-6)
Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the LORD: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God. Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her: (Isaiah 66:8-10)
At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart. In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers. (Jeremiah 3:17-18)
I will scatter them also among the heathen, whom neither they nor their fathers have known: and I will send a sword after them, till I have consumed them. (Jeremiah 9:16)
And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD … Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land. (Jeremiah 23:3-4; 7-8)
There are more. Ezekiel 36 speaks of the scattering and regathering of Israel to and from the nations. Ezekiel 37 presents Israel as a valley of dry bones that God brings together and raises up into a mighty army. In that chapter, God also promises that the “two sticks” (Judah and Israel, the divided kingdoms) will reunite as one.
All of these prophecies deal with the nation of Israel, not the Church. Why is this important? It is important because the integrity of God is at stake. If God can break His covenant with Israel, what guarantee is there that He will keep His promises to the Church? Face it, the “Church” these days these days is not a pristine virgin!
Therefore, because God is faithful, He will keep His promises to Israel and to the Church as well. Israel and the Church are two separate entities, but salvation is the same for both. When the psalmist, David, says “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” there is only One Peace that can effectively apply and that is the Prince of Peace, the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, in a way, Owens was correct in applying the psalm to the Church by way of allegory, but not in a literal sense. We are to pray for the “Peace of Jerusalem” because only He can bring true peace to the world. When we pray for the “Peace of Jerusalem,” we pray that the Lord will soon come and set up His kingdom on earth. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). As for the Church, the kingdom, in part, has already come and dwells within the heart of every believer and the Church as a whole by way of the Holy Spirit who gives us peace. Then, one day, perhaps very soon, we will enjoy His physical kingdom here on earth along with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I can hardly wait!
Dear reader, do you know the Prince of Peace? If not, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”