Wednesday, 31 October 2012

More on Mother Zion

We recently discovered (posted under Mother God or Mother Zion) that the church is the feminine-figured counterpart to God’s activity in generation, nurture, comfort, protection and provision, (as in Ephesians 5:32).  The old covenant people of Israel developed a strong identity around the city of Jerusalem, and the citadel at its heart, Zion.  After all, down the street Yahweh lived within His courts and the King in His palace, made secure by strong defences.  There’s more we can learn from this ante-type of Christ’s church.

1.    God’s redemption started with a particular group of people amongst whom He could display His faithful love, mercy and wisdom.  He instituted atonement for their offenses and lifelong covenant commitment.
2.    The beauties of the city of Zion city surpassed the efforts and excellences of the world.  God’s, and His king’s, throne was founded in justice and righteousness.  His sure judgements were a source of glad-ness.
3.    The Lord establishing and restoring the city’s fortunes guaranteed confidence in the face of uncertainty and opposition.  This, in turn, made the city’s destruction and desolation an unthinkable proposition.
4.    Here God’s covenant choice of Israel found special expression as His people prospered and brought Him their due worship.  Nevertheless, the blessing could also overflow to non-Jews who came to fear God.
5.    The world at large convulsed with agricultural/economic, political and military crises.  The city of Zion rested in her sovereign’s peace.  She was a sought-out haven of refuge for the humble and holy.
6.    The nation eventually tired God by their persistent disobedience and unfaithfulness, in adopting the ways of other gods.  He applied the covenant disciplines of reduction, defeat and exile.  Zion fell desolate.
7.    God, through the prophets, declared beyond this set-back a time of glorious restoration.  It was partly accomplished in their return from exile.  We can trace a fuller Messianic fulfilment in Christ and His church.

A city habitation means shared experience, and social rather than individual qualities.  Here's from Jesus Fellowship's Statement of Faith and Practice:  10 We hold that they are to demonstrate the salvation of God corporately, as a visible expression of the Lordship of Christ.  They are thus the city or Zion of God, His temple and dwelling place, displaying in true spiritual worship and in holy society the fruits of righteousness, to the glory of God.  11 We hold that the regenerate should gather together as local church-communities, to be a true brotherhood of holy love and service, functioning as the Body of Christ, the Household of God.

The citizens qualify because of God’s redeeming action; as from Egypt, so for us, from the Adamic world.

PSALM 74:2  Remember the people you purchased of old, the tribe of your inheritance, whom you redeemed -- Mount Zion, where you dwelt.  3 Turn your steps toward these everlasting ruins, 
PSALM 103:17  But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children -- 18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
The foundations are laid God’s way.  Our job is to ground our lives into His work, word and wisdom.

PSALM 89:13  Your arm is endued with power; your hand is strong, your right hand exalted.  14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.  15 Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD.  16 They rejoice in your name all day long; 
PSALM 97:8  Zion hears and rejoices and the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgments, O LORD. 

The beauties include fearing and exalting God, generational safeguarding and wise daily application.

DEUTERONOMY 4:5  See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it.  6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and under-standing people."  7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?  8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?  9  Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
ISAIAH 33:5  The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness.  6 He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.

All are included as God saves the out-of-luck and provides for the neediest, whatever their predicament.

PSALM 69:33  The LORD hears the needy and does not despise his captive people.  34 Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and all that move in them, 35 for God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah.  Then people will settle there and possess it; 36 the children of his servants will inherit it, and those who love his name will dwell there.
PSALM 102:13  You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come.  14 For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity.  15 The nations will fear the name of the LORD, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.  16 For the LORD will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory.  17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea.  18 Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the LORD:

Peace and preservation are assured as man did not build the city, and has little chance of destroying it.

ISAIAH 33:20  Look upon Zion, the city of our festivals; your eyes will see Jerusalem, a peaceful abode, a tent that will not be moved; its stakes will never be pulled up, nor any of its ropes broken.  22 For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us.
ISAIAH 52:7  How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"  8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy.  When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.  9 Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.

The covenant’s firmness means discipline will lead to the recovery of a returning remnant, not abandon.

JEREMIAH 50:4  "In those days, at that time," declares the LORD, "the people of Israel and the people of Judah to-gether will go in tears to seek the LORD their God.  5 They will ask the way to Zion and turn their faces toward it.  They will come and bind themselves to the LORD in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten.  6 "My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. 
2 KINGS 19:30  Once more a remnant of the house of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above.  31 For out of Jeru-salem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors.  The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

A Messiah is promised, whose might compensates for His peoples’ frailty, and holiness for their failure.

ZEPHANIAH 3:12  But I will leave within you the meek and humble, who trust in the name of the LORD.  13 The rem-nant of Israel will do no wrong; they will speak no lies, nor will deceit be found in their mouths.  They will eat and lie down and no one will make them afraid."  17 The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."
ZECHARIAH 9:9  Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!  Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!  See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Application  God led us to seek the reality of Zion before individualism and the world undermined Western churches.
•    What have you reacted to as the church has engaged in covenant commitment and life strongly shared together?
•    Some believers feel driven to individual spiritual self-preservation: what may they gain or lose from the insistence?
•    Isn’t settling down in God-town tame and insular? What about the world’s pressing need and its darkness to God?

All quotations from the New International VersionYou can listen to our Sunady teaching on:

1. By the holy hills surrounded,
On her firm base securely founded,
Stands the city of the Lord.
None shall rend her walls asunder,
On her men look with fear and wonder,
And mark who here keeps watch and ward.
He slumbers not, nor sleeps,
Who His loved Israel keeps.
Hallelujah! Happy the race
Who, through God’s grace,
Shall have in her their dwelling place.

2. Zion’s gates Jehovah loveth,
And with especial grace approveth,
He makes so fast her bolts and bars.
Those who dwell in her He blesses,
And comforts them in their distresses
Who cast on Him their griefs and cares.
How wonderful the grace
With which He does embrace
All His people! City of God!
How sweet the abode on which
Such blessings are bestowed.

3. Taught in you is a salvation
Unknown to every other nation;
There great and holy things are heard;
In the midst of you abiding,
Enlightening, comforting and guiding,
You have the Spirit and the Word!
There breathing peace around
Is heard the joyful sound, grace and mercy!
How sweet that is,
Which here speaks peace,
There crowns with everlasting bliss.

4. Dry your tears, your hearts nigh broken,
Of Zion it shall yet be spoken,
“How do her citizens increase!”
Men shall see with fear and wonder
How God builds Zion up, and ponder,
His love and truth who has wrought this,
Lift up your heads; at last
The night of death has passed,
From all the world;
The day does break when many awake,
And now we all their joy partake.

5. Multitudes of every nation,
Now come and seek and find salvation;
This Zion mother church shalt be;
Hark! What shouts the air are rending!
What cries to Heaven’s gates ascending!
All our fresh springs shall be in Thee.
From her the waters burst,
And quench our burning thirst.
Hallelujah! Then let us sing
Our Lord and King,
And drink and drink His Zion’s spring.

(Psalm 87)
Charles Wesley © Public Domain

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