Zion - Holy Mount

by Ray Hawkins

From the underground networks of the P.L.O. to the penthouses of the United Nations ambassadors, debate and discussions have always raged over Jerusalem. It is apparent on an ever-increasing scale that Jerusalem raises the blood pressure of people and nations without any difficulty. Why is it that this former stronghold of a long-forgotten Jebusite nation can make twentieth century politicians boil?

It certainly isn't because of its location. No coveted river flows past its 'door'. There is no strategic harbour to possess. The city does not straddle a vital road link, which if held by an enemy would strangle the life of another country. So why is it that the international 'stomach' gets ulcers every time there is a little rumble in Jerusalem?

Can the answer be grasped if we look beyond the earthly realm and gaze into the heavenlies? To do this we will need, not a giant telescope, but the open pages of a book which claims to tell of these things. That book is the Bible.

Within its covers we learn of one who covets that which belong to the Lord. This adversary, Satan, knows the Almighty's intentions concerning this land and its city, and the relations they have to the Messiah, and he seeks to foil God's Word.

The site in particular Satan longs for most is the site that once belonged to a Jebusite man named Araunah, or Ornan, possibly himself a Jebusite prince. It was to his, Araunah's, wheat-threshing floor that the Lord directed King David and told him that an offering was to be made that would end the plague that was afflicting the land. "Go up,erect an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. So David ... went up as the LORD commanded" (II Samuel 24:18,19).

David could merely have appropriated the land for his purpose, and in fact the owner did offer it as a gift, but David said: "'No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing.' So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver" (II Samuel 24:24). It was now part of the royal heritage.

This rocky outcrop was decreed to be the place where the Ark of the Covenant would be kept. Here the testimony of God's Divine Presence would hold the pre-eminent place. It would be a constant reminder that the Lord would be watching over the affairs of the city, and that He was mindful of its people's needs. It would be here that Solomon would fulfil the desire of his father David by building a glorious Temple to the honour of the Lord.

Controversy Over Jerusalem

Many have been the battles that have raged for and over the walls of Jerusalem. One in particular was used by the Lord to impress upon His people a warfare with greater significance. Sennacherib the Assyrian king had come to crush the forces caged behind Jerusalem's walls. With boasts and curses, promises and threats, he railed against Hezekiah the king and the Lord of heaven and earth (II Kings 18 and 19). But Sennacherib failed, not because of Hezekiah's or the people's prowess, but because of Dviine intervention.

Many have been the battles fought over Jerusalem since that time, yet the Psalmist portrays the Holy City as beautiful and serene, and gives us a insight into what will be God's final and complete victory over the forces of evil. "Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in his holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the great King" (Psalm 48).

Isaiah also throws very interesting light on this holy mount: "For you (Satan) have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north ... I will be like the Most High'" (14:13,14).

The enemy of God sought to appropriate for himself all that belonged to the Almighty Creator and all that He had promised to the Messiah, for to sit enthroned in Zion is the unchanging gift of God to His Messiah, His Son. "Yet I have set my King on my holy hill of Zion" (Psalm 2:6).

The mere fact that God tolerates the existence of any enemy demonstrates the interaction between the sovereign will of God and His permissive will. In God's sovereign grace He is able to make Satan's actions a backdrop for His own mercy. We can imagine the hatred and fear that Satan would have experienced when he witnessed the event spoken of by Zechariah being fulfilled:

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; he is just and having salvation, lowly, and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey" (9:9).

Before his gaze it seemed that the Messiah was going to make Zion the sacred mount His. So in a desperate gamble he stirred up the enmity, jealously, the fear and pride of Gentile and Jewish leaders, who, feeling threatened by the one who rode the colt, sought to crush Him. And they staked Yeshua haMashiach to an open shame outside the Holy City.

A Tragedy? A Waste?

This was no tragedy, for by His sovereign grace the Lord reversed the deeds of darkness and the depravity of Man. At that time the Messiah did not claim Zion for His own, but He achieved something that made the future more promising for us. In His death He drained sin, Satan and death of their power and authority over us. The resurrection is the sign of conquest. It is God's call to liberty, eternal and free.

He had not failed to claim the sacred mount; it was not the chosen time, for when He finally does take His place in "the city of the great king" , even Jerusalem, He will not only sit enthroned, but He will rule over the whole earth and its peoples. The delay in His coming is best understood in the light of His loving patience. God's appointed time has not yet come.

And there is yet to be a final revolt by Satan, a final onslaught against the power of Almighty God to thwart His plans and purposes for His people Israel and His city Zion. "The LORD also will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; the heavens and earth will shake; but the LORD will be a shelter for his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. So you shall know that I am the LORD your God, dwelling in Zion my holy mountain ..." (Joel 3:16,17).

What a day of glory that will be! The dreams of the prophets will be realized, the cries of the people answered. The city of Jerusalem will no longer be a place which makes the world tremble -- "a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces ..." (Zechariah 12:3); it will be "the joy of the whole earth."

It will be pavilioned in splendour, not shrouded in shame, for it will be on that day that the Lord, the Messiah, will be enthroned on the sacred hill Zion.