King David who reigned in Israel for 40 years probably never saw this day coming, but he did encourage those reading his words to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6a). As people of God, both those of Jewish descent and those who follow Jesus ought to pray for the peace of this great city. It seems that the whole of history revolves around this one city. There are three major groups that inhabit this great city: Jews, Christians and Muslims. If there is currently any peace in Jerusalem it is tenuous at best.
The one sentence phrase in Psalm 122 is in the context of a “Song of Ascent.” Psalms of Ascent were 15 Psalms that were probably sung when either the Jews were ascending to Jerusalem for the prescribed feasts or the 15 steps that were ascended into the temple. Whatever the reason the truth remains truth as we read in this Psalm. Going up to the “house of the LORD!” is the immediate context of David’s Psalm; maybe this is what David meant by a song of ascent?
Read the whole of this wonderful Psalm by the Psalter of Israel. “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’ Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem! Jerusalem – built as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD. There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May they be secure who love you! Peace be within in your walls and security within your towers! For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, ‘Peace be within you!’ For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.”
Why should we pray for the peace of Jerusalem? First is the promise to Abraham long ago before Abraham was even named Abraham. Genesis 12:1-3 begins to unfold the greatest story ever told as God unveils through this chosen man redemption history. “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
For the next few chapters as God unfolds His promises to Abram, soon to be Abraham. Finally in chapter 17:8 we read; “And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojourning, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” (Emphasis mine) The Abrahamic Covenant is complete as it is promised to this “friend of God” but yet not fulfilled in history. However, it will be, but it is in God’s time and in His perfect will.
The Psalmist in 105 puts this covenant in very clear terms and it is a truth that both Jews and Christians ought to rest and rejoice in. Verses 7-11 read this way: “He is the LORD our God; His judgments are in all the earth. He remembers His covenant forever, the word that He commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant that He made with Abraham, His sworn promise to Isaac, which He confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, ‘To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for and inheritance.’” (Emphasis mine) God has not forgotten His promises to Abraham and to the great nation Israel.
This promise continues in the New Testament with Paul the apostle in his letter to the Romans. “I ask, then, has God rejected His people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendent of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew” (Romans 11:1-2a). Later in verse 29 Paul tells the church and the world that “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” God’s eternal promise still stands and the reason is that the Abrahamic Covenant was for all nations and that includes people of Gentile nations. And so until the number of Gentiles that God has appointed in His sovereign grace the world continues to stupefy the world audience.
Much more could be written about the everlasting covenant promised to Abraham/Israel from God, but it would become a book and not simply recorded in a blog. So everything that is occurring in the Middle East and especially in Israel it is not out of God’s control and eternal plan. God’s sovereignty is so far above our understanding that those of Jewish and Christian backgrounds must trust that God knows what He is doing.
To my brothers who are Jewish my prayer is that you will receive your Savior who has already come to fulfill all of the Jewish Scriptures. Followers of Jesus ought never to look down upon those who gave us the Scriptures and the Messiah but pray for them and befriend them. They have much to teach us and I pray it is reciprocal.
Thanks to our Guest Contributor:
Pastor Ray Peters
Harvest Alliance Church
AND I HAVE OTHER SHEEP…A SHORT STUDY OF JOHN 10:16
In one of the most wonderful chapters in the Bible, from the Gospel of John, Jesus explains to those in the crowd that He is the Good Shepherd. We could spend a great amount of time studying this marvelous chapter but let us look at one aspect of it from verse 16. What did Jesus mean when He said, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
When one studies the Scriptures, a person has at least two choices: first is exegesis, which means what does the verse, passage, chapter, book, etc, teach. Or what is the content of the Bible portion you are studying. The person studying seeks to find out what the portion is teaching without reading into it.
On the other end of the spectrum is what is called eisegesis. This is more subjective and the person reading or studying the Scripture goes by what they think it teaches. You might hear something like this: “This is what I think/feel it says/teaches.” A wise man has told me multiple times this searching question: What does that Book teach? Of course he is referring to what the Bible teaches.
So what is Jesus teaching in this verse or passage? In an earlier article we looked at context being king when one studies the Bible. What is going on in this passage and how does it affect what is being singled out for study? The one question that begs to be asked here is “Who are the ‘other sheep’ Jesus is referring to?”
The story begins earlier in the Gospel of John in chapter nine. Chapter ten is the continuation of the story and as Jesus speaks to a different group of people. In chapter nine Jesus heals a man “blind from birth.” As Jesus and His disciples were passing by the man they asked Him a question: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus’ answer is classic; “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him…” After Jesus had finished what needed to say, He spit on the ground, made a paste, applied it to the eyes of the blind man, and sent him to the pool of Siloam to wash his eyes and he saw. It was truly a miracle, but the story was just getting started.
When he returned from washing off the muddy paste the people of that area saw him and could not believe their eyes. How was this man seeing? Is that he who was born blind and if so, how does he now see? He had really caused a stir. After the crowd was convinced that it was indeed he who was born blind the Pharisee’s got wind of it and began to question him over and over again about his newly found sight.
Sometime following the grilling from the religious elite, Jesus found him again and let the man know who healed him and who he should believe in. In the same area eavesdropping on this conversation, was the Pharisees. They heard Jesus say about Himself that He was the Son of Man and they jumped all over the statements made by Jesus about judgment and blindness.
And so chapter nine ends and ten begins with Jesus teaching the Pharisees (and us) who He really is. Jesus tells the Pharisees, and those listening then and now, that He is the Good Shepherd. Verse seven is the key verse as Jesus clarifies what He is saying; “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”
Again, as one studies that context one can come to the clear conclusion that Jesus is saying that He is the only way to the Father. Look at verse nine: “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” According to this Jesus is saying He is the only way for salvation and eternal life. And as Jesus continues to teach them He states that He will accomplish this through His death and that directive He received from the Father and that He has the desire and authority to do as His Father directs.
Then we come to verse 16 and Jesus speaking about more sheep. What does Jesus mean here? Again, context, and when we remember who He is speaking with, the Jews, He is looking at the fulfillment of Genesis 12:1-3 and the Abrahamic Covenant. This simply states that God through Abraham will fulfill His ultimate purposes through this man and that all nations would be blessed through him. All nations refer to both Israel and all other nations or Jews and Gentiles.
Jesus is speaking of the Gentiles in this passage to the Pharisees. Not only do the Jews have the privilege of eternal life with God the Father, but so do the Gentiles who would believe in Him through Jesus. This had been God’s plan all along and it is reiterated throughout the prophets also.
Paul the apostle brings this also to light in Ephesians 2:11-22 where he refers to Jesus breaking down the dividing wall of hostility that existed between them. Jesus did this by His death on the cross that now they can become one people; the people of God and that they can be lead by One Shepherd, namely Jesus Christ.
What a wonderful plan God had from eternity past to begin the Jewish nation through the person Abraham and then fulfill His promise through this man when Jesus came, died and rose again. No longer in Christ are there the “us” and “them” but only “us” because of the precious blood of Christ.