by Rev. Antony W. Ball
Immediately before what should have been our Church Meeting last Wednesday evening (aborted because inquorate), I confessed that I didn’t know how to pray for Jerusalem – and I still don’t, even after Mr. Daniel Bark’s excellent presentation during our morning service last Sunday, which put the present conflict into a fresh historical perspective. The atrocities reportedly being committed by both Israel and Gaza make it impossible, for me at least, to ‘take sides’, even to the extent that I do in the war between Russia and the Ukraine, so as another Remembrance Day approaches let’s remember those who have died in both those contemporary wars as well as those who died in the two world wars and later conflicts.
When the psalmist exhorted his readers to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” it would have been prayer for the city rather than just for the temple – necessarily, if it really is a ‘Psalm of David’ as some bibles declare, since the first temple was built by his son Solomon, after King David’s death, in around 1000BC. Since the city has rarely (if ever) been at peace, it could be said that all those countless prayers have been in vain, but Jerusalem has now become a supremely important city for three different faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) and we remember how scripture says of Jesus…
…When He came in sight of the city, He wept over it and said,
‘If only you had known, on this great day, the way that leads to peace!
But no; it is hidden from your sight.
For a time will come upon you when your enemies will set up siege-works against you;
they will encircle you and hem you in at every point; they will bring you to the ground,
you and your children within your walls, and not leave you one stone standing on another,
because you did not recognize God’s moment when it came.’1
That gives us some idea of how much Jerusalem must have meant to Jesus Himself, so if/when we find particular places, whether sacred buildings or simply in the grandeur of nature, that help us to ‘recognize God’s moment when it comes’ then we should see that as a blessing rather than as limiting our faith in any way. Praying for the peace of Jerusalem may not be praying in vain, whether there is peace in Israel or not, if it becomes a focus for our prayers. So as another Remembrance Day approaches, let us remember and pray for those suffering in Israel and Gaza, Russia and the Ukraine, and be all the more thankful that we ourselves live in a relatively peaceful land.
1 Lk xix 41-44 NEB – note especially the last line – the reason why Jesus wept over the city