12 Sep 2017 (All day)
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you.” Psalm 122:6
Israel’s liberation of eastern Jerusalem in June 1967 was a pivotal moment in the nation’s modern history, forever captured in the iconic image of IDF troops gazing in awe at the Western Wall.
The Enduring Struggle
When Jerusalem was reunited fifty years ago, the heaviest fighting occurred not inside the Old City but several blocks north, at Ammunition Hill. It was one of the most intense clashes of the Six Day War, with Israeli and Jordanian soldiers engaged in hand-to-hand combat for control of a key arms depot and artillery position guarded by a dense network of trenches and bunkers. Once they gained control of this strategic fortress, the troops of the 55th Paratroopers Brigade circled around to the top of the Mount of Olives, which had such a commanding view of the Old City that its fall was inevitable.
The new CBN docudrama, In Our Hands, tells this story with gripping detail by using archival footage, first-hand testimonies, and captivating re-enactments. The film allows soldiers who fought in the battle for Jerusalem to speak with candour about what they were fighting for. Some felt it was not just a victory over the Jordanians, but also over the Romans who had destroyed Jerusalem and exiled the Jews almost 2,000 years ago. Other IDF troops said the focus of the victory celebrations should not have been around the Western Wall but on the Temple Mount, which was not fully possessed by Israel largely due to fears it would rile the entire Islamic world.
We see the consequences until this very day, as the Temple Mount remains a point of heated contention between Israel and the Palestinians, who constantly exploit the site to stir Muslims to hatred and violence against the Jewish state. Jesus prophesied that Jerusalem would be trampled down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles is fulfilled (Luke 21:24). The Six Day War certainly liberated Jerusalem from direct Gentile rule, but as long as the most important part of the city is still trodden under foot by Muslim Gentiles, the city is not entirely free and in Jewish hands.
The Spiritual Battleground
No doubt, the battle for Jerusalem is not over. It has been the most contested city in world history, and the struggle over its future will continue. The real battle over Jerusalem is not in the physical realm, however. Rather, it is a spiritual battle waged against principalities and powers who do not want the promised Messiah, Jesus, to take up the throne of David in Jerusalem. Ultimately, this battle will draw all nations up against the city, where God will humble them and bring them all under subjection to the righteous reign of His Messiah (Psalm 2, Isaiah 2:1-4, Joel 3, Zechariah 12 & 14, etc.).
The prophet Isaiah assures us that one day Jerusalem’s warfare will be over (Isaiah 40:1-2). Until then, we can expect more birth pangs of the Messianic kingdom centred around God’s prophetic purposes for this city. Jerusalem has a unique destiny as the throne of the Lord and a “House of Prayer” for all peoples (Isaiah 56:7).
Jerusalem also stands out as the only city in the entire world that the Bible explicitly directs us to pray for. The city’s role and calling in God’s redemptive plan is simply too central and important to leave to chance. So we are to pray for her peace, and for her righteousness to go forth as brightness (Psalm 122:6, Isaiah 62:1).
Right now our prayers are needed more than ever, as the spiritual battle over Jerusalem is intensifying. The battle is always there, but those of us here in the city can sense we are at a critical juncture concerning its future. Yet, we also have a great expectancy that a momentous victory is coming in this Jubilee year for a reunited Jerusalem. Thus, we are believing for the city to be released even more into its prophetic destiny in God this very year.
For more than fifty years now, the international community has been intimidated into denying the Jewish people their rightful place in Jerusalem. To this day, no nation has their embassy in Jerusalem, or recognizes Israeli sovereignty over eastern Jerusalem. Although other excuses are often put forward, the main reason for these diplomatic snubs is simply fear of a violent Islamic response.
Heroes of Old
There were other times in Israel’s history when the enemy tried to make the Jewish people afraid to fully possess their inheritance in Jerusalem. For instance, when King David and his forces drew near, the Jebusites taunted him from the walls of their fortified city. But he did not cave in to the fears and instead challenged his loyal troops to forge ahead, and they easily conquered the city (2 Samuel 5:6-9).
In a similar fashion, Ezra and Nehemiah encountered much opposition and intimidation from local tribal leaders when they were rebuilding the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem, but they pressed on with their work nonetheless. When Sanballat and Tobias sought to trick Nehemiah into stopping construction on Jerusalem, he realized “they all were trying to make us afraid.” He then prayed: “Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.” (Nehemiah 6:9)
Today, we need to pray that Israel will not be cowered by Islamic threats into ceasing to possess and build Jerusalem, and that the nations also will not cave in to the fears which Israel’s adversaries are trying to cast over the holy city. We also need to pray for world leaders to become like Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes – each of whom saw through the lies and tricks of the enemy and were used by God to empower the Jews to build again the city of Jerusalem. Finally, we need to pray for the peace, or shalom, of Jerusalem, which in Hebrew also means “wholeness” or “completeness.” That is, we must pray for the continued unity of Jerusalem in Jewish hands.