Weekly SNAC, 20 May 2018: A future for Jerusalem
As a creature of habit I woke up one morning this week and as usual pushed the radio button to listen to the news on ABC radio. Then, after struggling out of bed (I’m not really a morning person) and getting myself going I settled into the morning routine of reading my Bible over breakfast. Once the coffee started to rouse my brain for the day I noticed a connection between my reading and the news I had heard while still in bed. As a creature of habit I woke up one morning this week and as usual pushed the radio button to listen to the news on ABC radio. Then, after struggling out of bed (I’m not really a morning person) and getting myself going I settled into the morning routine of reading my Bible over breakfast. Once the coffee started to rouse my brain for the day I noticed a connection between my reading and the news I had heard while still in bed.
Jerusalem was in the news all week - it is 70 years since the modern re-establishment of Israel and tensions in the West Bank and the Gaza strip between Israel and Palestine are once again making headlines. The violence last Monday left at least 60 dead and the prospect of any lasting peace seems as impossible as ever.
With that sad news out of Jerusalem in the back of my mind I turned up my daily Bible reading plan which happened to be Isaiah 65 and 66 and I read:
“I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people. The sound of weeping and crying will no longer be heard in her.” (Is 65:19)
“People will build houses and live in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They will not build and others live in them; they will not plant and others eat. For My people’s lives will be like the lifetime of a tree. My chosen ones will fully enjoy the work of their hands. They will not labor without success or bear children destined for disaster, for they will be a people blessed by the LORD along with their descendants.” (Is 65:21-23)
For longer than my lifetime there has been crying and weeping in and around Jerusalem from both Israeli and Palestinian families caught up in conflict. How will peace finally come I thought? How will this conflict of nations ever resolve into peace?
The answer comes in Isaiah 66. The Lord himself will intervene, he says: I will make peace flow to her like a river (Is 66:12)
This is not a promise of peace in our time but instead a promise about the future. A day is coming when the Lord will renew and restore our broken world. Isaiah 66:22-23 speaks of the day:
“For just as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, will endure before Me”— this is the LORD’s declaration— “so your offspring and your name will endure. All mankind will come to worship Me from one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another,” says the LORD.
The part that really struck me as I read my bible this week is that the Lord’s peace is not just for one race triumphing over another. Instead the future for a restored Jerusalem (and a whole newly restored heaven and earth) is a future where ‘all mankind’ worships the Lord. That doesn’t mean every single person does but it does mean people from every single nation.
In the midst of the complexity of human conflict like Palestine and Israel - I was reminded: who can possibly bring all the nations together and put them on the same page? Only one man can do this, as Paul describes him in Ephesians:
Jesus is our peace, …[he] tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In His flesh He did this so that He might reconcile Jew and Gentile to God in one body through the cross and put the hostility to death by it. When the Messiah came, He proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. (Eph 2:14-19)
Even as I was saddened by the ongoing conflicts of humanity that never seem to end I was encouraged as I contemplated what God has done about it. Through faith in Jesus there is a new way of hope for reconciliation both with God and one another. On this path there is even hope for places like Jerusalem. I hope this is an encouragement to you as well as you look beyond this hurting world to the new heavens and the new earth that the Lord will bring with the return of his Son.