Psalm 122; Ezekiel 47:13–48:22; 1 John 2:18–29

Psalm 122: This song was doubtless sung by pilgrims coming to the temple –“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”– as they came from the countryside and arrived at the gates of Jerusalem: “Our feet were standing/ in your gates, Jerusalem.” (2) The arriving pilgrims are almost awestruck by Jerusalem and its walls: “Jerusalem is built like a town/ that is joined fast together,/ where the tribes go up.” (3,4a)

As we know form the Gospels, virtually every Jew came to Jerusalem for important events and festivals, especially Passover: An ordinance it is for Israel/ to acclaim the name of the Lord.” (4b) Jerusalem is not only the center of spiritual worship, it is also the center of the judiciary and of political power: “For there the thrones of judgement stand,/ the thrones of the house of David.” (5)

Then we encounter two verses that have terrible resonance with events happening right now in Jerusalem:
Pray for Jerusalem’s weal.
May your lovers rest tranquil!
May there be well-being within your ramparts,
tranquility in your palaces. (6,7)

As has historically been true from the time this psalm was written around 600 BCE to the present day, Jerusalem is the very epicenter of  anything but lovers resting tranquilly of of “well-being within your ramparts.” But that is not to say we shouldn’t sing these verses with the psalmist. IN fact, this psalm effectively commands us to pray for peace in Jerusalem: “For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,/ let me seek your good.” (9) Let us pray that men and women of good will from both sides of the divide eventually prevail over hatred and blood eye-for-eye revenge.

Ezekiel 47:13–48:22: These final chapters of this extraordinary book deal with, of all things, dividing the land of restored Israel among the 12 tribes. It is in effect God’s recreation in minute detail of the Promised Land. And should that time ever have come to pass, the blueprints for Restored Israel are right here in Ezekiel.

Alas, these plans were never became reality. But that is not to diminish their value. For example, we encounter what I think are profound instructions: “You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who reside among you and have begotten children among you. They shall be to you as citizens of Israel; with you they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe aliens reside, there you shall assign them their inheritance, says the Lord God.” In other words, those who are not of Jewish blood become citizens. 

These verses work at least at two levels. First, it is instruction to modern Israel that non-Jews will live in equality with Jews. But that implicitly requires the aliens to acknowledge that the land belongs to Israel. That of course has not come to pass.

Second, I think it’s a hint of the church to come. That we Gentiles will be allotted an inheritance right along side God’s chosen people. Which is is exactly what Jesus Christ did for all of us. Certainly the vision of the very early church–Peter and Paul–was that the church would include both Jew and Gentile on equal terms. But again, human will intervened and that glorious vision did not come to pass–as the final chapters of Acts describe so vividly.

So, the end of Ezekiel describes what could have been. But never was. And we humans have only ourselves to blame.

1 John 2:18–29: I suspect this section is a little visited part of John’s letter. It speaks of the Antichrists which apparently have overrun the church, which to John is a clear indication that Jesus’ second coming is imminent: “so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour.” (18) The real tragedy is that these apostates began in the church: “They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us.” (19)

John clearly defines the theology of the Antichrist: “This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.” (22b) which I take to mean that the Antichrist cannot accept that Jesus was truly the Word, the Son of God. John also implicitly refers to the presence of the Holy Spirit as he expresses confidence in his listeners that they will remain faithful because “the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in him.” (27) In other words, apostasy arises when the Holy Spirit is not present and it becomes a human-only project.

John’s directions are clear for his listeners and for us: “abide in him [Christ], so that when he is revealed we may have confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming.” (28). Only then will our faith and confidence flourish. Jesus is our sustenance.


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