Pray for peace in Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper. O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your palaces. For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “May you have peace.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek what is best for you, O Jerusalem (122:6-9 NLT).
We have observed that David wrote this song to rebuild old covenant worship. Through the act of singing this psalm, the old covenant people would learn various aspects of how to worship the Great I Am. In this stanza of the psalm, David encouraged prayer for the city that the people coming to the festival had arrived at. Joy is important in worship. So is admiration and wonder at the works of God, and also God’s provision for justice. But specific prayer was also essential, and it continues to be a basic ingredient of all Biblically formed worship.
This song artistically presents how to pray for a great manner. In this psalm King David urges the assembled worshipers to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (122:6 NLT 1996). (“For the peace” is the most usual rendering of the Hebrew into modern English.) We have already written about the importance of Jerusalem in old covenant worship. So then, it ought to be a chief matter of prayer. I have often heard this verse taken out of context, turning it into a matter that new covenant people should pray for. But as we have already seen, the current Jerusalem we are to concern ourselves about is the heavenly Jerusalem. The earthly Jerusalem was declared empty and desolate by Jesus (Matthew 23:38 NLT). Its only hope is in a deep repentance that confesses that Jesus is Lord (Matthew 28:39). However, during the old covenant age, David urges his people to pray for its peace, which means fullness of blessing. Some five hundred years later, when God had sent his people into captivity, he instructed them to pray for the prosperity of the city of Babylon to which he exiled them (Jeremiah 29:7). When their location changed during the exile, they had to pray for the city of their exile. When God used Cyrus to send his people back to Jerusalem, they could again seek its welfare. Nehemiah is a good example of this proper concern for the earthly Jerusalem, for he rebuilt its walls. Haggai also had an important ministry, because he urged that the temple of the Lord would be rebuilt.
David adds a prayer for his people. May all who love this city prosper. He rightly sensed that peace and prosperity of the city that God had chosen and the people that God had chosen were linked. When the proper old covenant worship of the Lord was guarded and maintained in Jerusalem, when the people went there for the required festivals, when the joy of the Lord was the strength of his people, great prosperity filled the people and the promised land. When they were not, all went into great decline. They needed to love the city that God had given them!
In this new covenant age, our hopes are set on the heavenly Jerusalem, the lasting city that God will send from heaven to the new earth. Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4 NIV). The people of God will be there with God forever. Dear friends, we need to think about the new Jerusalem more often. We need to love that city, the fulfillment of God’s promises to live with his people. People like to think of the place they intend to go on a vacation trip. How much more should we think on the place where we will enjoy God and his glory forever!
In the words of Isaac Watts:
“Then let our songs abound,
And every tear be dry;
We’re marching through Immanuel’s ground
To fairer worlds on high.”
Grace and peace,