Friday of 2 Lent

Drawing Near:  a Vision of the New Jerusalem – Psalm 125

“As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people, from this time forth and forevermore.”

Psalm 125:2

Take a moment and read Psalm 125.

During the pilgrimage that Miranda and I made to Israel in 2010, we took a bus from Galilee to Jerusalem.  As we headed south, we followed the Jordan river down from Galilee, which is about 700 feet below sea level, toward the Dead Sea, which is about 1400 feet below sea level.  Then we turned west past where Jericho once stood, and wound our way up the mountain.  After a climb of about 4000 feet we topped the mountains to the east of Jerusalem and had our first sight of the Holy City.  This is what the returning exiles would have experienced as they crossed this last geographical obstacle on the journey back to their homeland (though not from a bus).  The view is spectacular.  Jerusalem, like Asheville, is surrounded by mountains.  The Holy City is nestled in the Kidron Valley.  Zion, and the temple mount, are built on a rise above the valley, bordered on the east by the Mount of Olives, and on the west by Mount Herzl.  As the pilgrims gazed at the ruins of the city waiting to be rebuilt, they sang their praises and made their promises.  This is the “land allotted to the righteous” they sang, and “the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on it.”

There are both physical and spiritual mountains in our lives.  Some of these, like health issues and monetary problems, must be overcome like the physical mountains over which the pilgrims had to hike.  Some are spiritual mountains, like the disappointments and failures we all endure from time to time.  There are also the hard feelings we may have toward people who hurt us, loved ones who betray us, and lost opportunities which bring doubt and from time to time crises of faith.  But there are also those positive spiritual mountains, like our faith and worship of the Lord, which provide protection for us, like the mountains surrounding Jerusalem shelter the holy city.  But the physical and spiritual must work together.  Jerusalem was overrun and taken captive in the sixth century BC.  Why?  Because they had forsaken the spiritual shelter of their commitment to the Lord, trusting instead in the protection of the mountains and the help of men.  The Lord allowed them, then, to be overrun by Nebuchadnezzar so that they would recognize their need for the Lord.  The Psalmist is calling the faithful to return to both the physical and spiritual mountains of Zion.  “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people…”  It is a call, as the pilgrims begin again to settle in the Promised Land, to immerse themselves in the Lord.  He is calling them to remain loyal to God “both now and forevermore!”  When we practice fidelity toward our Lord then we will be like Mount Zion “which cannot be shaken but endures forever.”  And we can trust that spiritual mountain to provide protection from all forces that would come against us.

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