Rev. VanBaren is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Hudsonville, Michigan.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good. “
We live in a troubled world. We live among churches that face all kinds of problems. There is great apostasy. In these circumstances it is urgent that we pray for peace – the peace of Jerusalem. This must be our prayer for Gods church, for our churches, and for Synod.
The Synod also, in making all of its decisions, must be seeking the peace of “Jerusalem.” Because of the house of the Lord they desire that peace.
The world claims to want peace. And yet we hear of war, tribalism, sectarianism in Bosnia, in Northern Ireland, Africa, and elsewhere. The cry is for peace. But there is no peace.
Today the attempt is made to have the different world religions join in prayers for peace. The psalmist, however, was not speaking of that kind of peace. Surely he would not promote a prayer service which joined the prophets of Baal and Jehovah in common prayer for peace in Israel.
Many in the churches cry for “peace at any price.” You have heard it. The church, it is said, must not be troubled by all kinds of doctrinal disputes. It must not be distracted by arguments of women in office, of creationism versus theistic evolution, of homosexualism, etc. The church must rather preach the gospel – it matters not to many what the church says concerning doctrine and walk.
But the Psalmist does not teach that we are to pray for a “peace at any price.”
There is also often the desire to have a kind of peace established between church and world. Church and world can cooperate in the realm of “art,” entertainment, and benevolence. If we can find some common ground on which we may cooperate, we will have harmony and not persecution.
The psalmist, however, was not praying for a peace by way of cooperation with the world. The psalmist speaks of peace of the city of Jerusalem which had walls and bulwarks. Jerusalem is a city with strong defenses – defenses designed to keep out the enemy. Obviously there was to be no cooperation between the enemy and Jerusalem.
Peace is important. Therefore the church prays for peace-the peace of Jerusalem. That must be clearly distinguished from the peace which the world seeks. The peace that the church desires, the peace for which we pray, is peace with God. It is a peace of fellowship and communion with the righteous God. That peace is ours through the cross. There is no other way to have peace with God.
The world strives for peace, by which it means merely a cessation of warfare. Sadly, the world wants to remove the effects of sin without taking away sin itself. Man’s sin against God is the cause of all war. The world refuses to recognize that the problem is with the sin of our first father, Adam, and his descendants. Mankind severed themselves from the face of the living God: first through Adam’s transgression and then through willful, continued rebellion. Therefore Scripture declares that there is no peace to the wicked. Romans 8:6states, “To be carnally minded is death . . . .” Only Christ provides peace, through the cross. “Peace,” He says, “I leave with you. My peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). Christ removes the cause of warfare. He must remove all that separates us from the face of the living God. And He did that when He offered Himself on the cruel cross of Calvary.
That peace He sheds abroad in our hearts (Rom. 5:5). For He regenerates. By His Spirit He calls from darkness to light. Through His Spirit and Word He guides in righteousness and truth so ‘that His people may honor Him and serve their God. It is because of that wonder of the cross that there is peace.
Now the church preaches peace “to you which are afar off and to them which are nigh” (Eph.2:7). The church is called in Ephesians 4:3 to endeavor “to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” The church has always been interested in that peace.
David, in our text, speaks of the peace of Jerusalem. This is not a peace that Jerusalem establishes with its enemies outside of its walls. Notice that the text speaks of “peace within thy walls, prosperity within thy palaces (or bulwarks).” It is inside Jerusalem that peace exists. The church has a warfare with those without: the world, the devil, and our own sinful flesh. But within Jerusalem’s walls, within the circle of the communion of saints, there exists peace with God through Jesus Christ.
This peace is our great concern. We have peace with God and therefore peace with one another within the church. David saw that. He wanted peace in Jerusalem because of the house of Jehovah where God’s people worship Him. He emphasizes, “Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good.” He was interested in coming there freely with all of the saints to offer the sacrifices and offerings. It was there that God had established His Name. There God’s people could praise and worship Him.
Synod must seek this same peace in their meetings. The decisions which are taken affect all of our churches. The task is not simply to unravel some tangles and unknot some problems. This work is to promote Scriptural peace – peace in Jerusalem. This demands of Synod decisions which glorify God’s Name, maintain His Word, and promote the cause of His church on this earth. His Name must be proclaimed still from our pulpits and in the mission fields. And this must be done in the way of upholding the truths of God’s Word and condemning all error. The concern, the deep concern of the church, and now of the Synod, must be peace based upon truth.
It is that peace that carries with it the blessings of God. The psalmist twice speaks in our text of prosperity. “They shall prosper that love thee,” and, “peace be within thy walls and prosperity within thy palaces.” That was not a selfish prayer of David. Some have made it to be such. David was king. He ruled in Jerusalem. If there was unrest in the city his throne would be threatened. And so, some claim, David was a bit selfish. He was interested in preserving his throne. So he encourages the people, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. And in that kind of peace I will remain established on the throne.”
But that is not David’s concern. He speaks God’s Word. Under the inspiration of the Spirit he says, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” It was not to preserve David’s- throne but to preserve the house of the Lord that was in Jerusalem. That is why David seeks the peace of Jerusalem. David seeks peace because of its spiritual profitability.
This prosperity is not merely physical riches. David is not speaking of a peace that contributes to material well-being. It is true that often, in the Old Testament, Israel received material gifts in the way of obedience. When they disobeyed, God punished them by taking from them those things which they possessed. Today this prosperity consists of spiritual blessings. It is the riches of grace freely given. It is a spiritual joy and peace in the Lord. He who seeks the peace of Jerusalem enjoys in that way fellowship with God and peace one with another. This the church desires and prays for. All this prosperity flows from the cross.
This comfort and peace we also seek of our God. We come to Him in prayer and supplication for peace, spiritual peace, within the churches. Then we do not “major in minors.” We do not argue for the sake of argument. We do not create problems where there is no problem. We do not backbite or slander, disturbing the peace of Zion. But the concern of the church, and the concern now of the Synod, is precisely this, that the work of God may be conducted properly and His Name worshiped.
And God answers our prayers. We pray for peace even as His Word teaches. And God hears.
Why pray for what God has already promised? Has He not promised to save His people in Christ? Why then join together and ask God’s blessing upon us?
Jesus Himself reminded us to ask, to seek, to knock- and in that way God provides. Sometimes we forget that. It seems to me that the lack of a full auditorium in our prayer service for Synod may be an indication that we are not praying as we ought for our Synod, and we are not as concerned as we ought-to be for their labors. Scripture says, “Pray! Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” Have you been praying for that in your homes and in your churches? Have you been praying that that peace might be evident in the meetings of our Synod? Have you been praying that the decisions of Synod may contribute to the peace of Zion?
It is urgent. The church must gather together and the individual must continue to pray that God who has in His Word promised peace will give it freely and abundantly. It is ours already through the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is ours according to the eternal counsel and purpose of God. And we enjoy that peace consciously in the way of earnest prayer and supplication.
God answers prayers uttered in harmony with His Word. When we pray for peace in Jerusalem, when we pray for the members of Synod who labor toward that peace, God provides according to His Word.
With respect to Synod and the decisions it makes, continue to pray; and continue to believe that God will answer. This is seeking the good of God’s church. Surely He will bless His work in our churches and in the mission fields. There will be peace in “Jerusalem.”