by: Lonnie Lane with Orna Greenman
Why hasn’t God answered this very specific prayer when He told us to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6a)? He even promises a reward for doing so: “May they prosper who love you” (:6b). Many are praying, why isn’t He answering? Throughout the ages and increasingly in our modern era since Israel is back in her own land, many Christians, have been praying for peace in Jerusalem and for security within Israel’s borders. And yet, peace and security seem to be so far from reality. Why is that? Could we be missing something when we pray for peace and security for the nation of Israel and for Jerusalem? It’s surely not lack of love for her from those who pray for her, so what can it be? Why does there continue to be no peace?
We pray for the land and for the ultimate peace, the salvation of the people of Israel. We pray for God to protect and enlarge the borders and that He would not allow the world to pressure Israel into giving up her land. But based on that one verse in Psalm 122, if you read it in Hebrew, even the Christians who have a heart for Israel are praying are praying amiss! The problem lies exactly here. You see, reading the verse in Hebrew in which, of course, it was originally written, we see that the verse does not require us to pray that there will be peace in Jerusalem at all. Actually, when one reads the Biblical end time prophecies carefully, it becomes quite clear that peace in Jerusalem is entirely out of the picture at this time.
If we’re not to pray for her peace, what does verse :6 tell us to do? A more accurate translation of this commandment is, "Ask how is Jerusalem doing." The same phrase appears when Jeremiah describes the fatal situation in Jerusalem, and then stops and cries out, "Who will have pity on you, Jerusalem? Who will mourn for you? Who will stop to ask how you are?" (Jer. 15:5)? This phrase, "Who will ask how you are?" is the same as the one in Ps. 122:6 which is wrongly translated as a command to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. This phrase does not ask us to pray automatically for peace, but to get involved, to express interest, to develop a relationship with the land and the people, so we can know how they are really doing. Then we will begin to see why there is no peace within her walls.
Peace within Jerusalem would mean peace for all of Israel ultimately. Though the world has not recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, we believe that if there were peace in Jerusalem, there would be peace in the Middle East, at least where Israel is concerned. But alas, no peace seems forthcoming. In fact, things are deteriorating even as we write. Then is it possible that those of us who have been praying for peace within Jerusalem may be working against God's will? We know this is a radical statement, but you see, peaceful borders are not the core issue with God. It has never been the core issue throughout the whole of the Bible’s unfolding story. Wars and swords and exile — all those horrors that He allowed to be inflicted upon His people have been His way to attract their attention, to turn them back to Him. Their borders were never in the hands of men, no matter how powerful the leader. Borders are always in the Hands of God alone. He is the one who determines and established them.
Whenever God warned His people of war or lack of peace, it was not because they gave away land. It was only because of two main reasons: 1) idolatry or looking elsewhere for help other than to Him; 2) Injustice and oppression of those who live in the margins of society, such as the needy, the aliens, the orphans and the widows. One of the first things Yehovah spoke to Israel about when they finally crossed over the Jordan into the Promised Land was about maintaining justice, to have no favorites, to take care of your poor including widows and orphans. Torah commanded that there be no special treatment for anyone, no recognition of the rich or setting the poor aside. Disputes were to be judged righteously with no bribes or favoritism. Injustice is contrary to the very nature of God, just as idolatry is as rebellion against the very character and nature of God. He is the Sovereign Creator and Lord of all there is and He rains on the just and unjust all equally. So you can see why idolatry or replacing trust in God with trust in anything else, or injustice, are God’s calls for discipline.
"This is what the Lord Almighty said: “‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry. ‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land they left behind them was so desolate that no one traveled through it. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate” (Zechariah. 7:8-14).
We have been praying about the results and forgetting the cause.
Israel is negotiating here with her enemies in order to have some peace within her walls, but God will not allow it. Israel should focus on returning to Him and on her moral condition if she wants to enjoy peace and secure borders. So you see that our prayer focus has been in the wrong place. We have been praying about the results and forgetting the cause. We’re asking God to fix the judgment instead of praying that the reason for the judgment would be rectified.
Is Israel under judgment today? Israel is both blessed and protected to some extent, but she is also under severe judgment. If she were not, her enemies would not be able to harass her. As long as the children of Israel were walking with God in righteousness and justice, God gave them peace with their enemies. During the period of the Judges, for instance, Israel repeatedly strayed from God into the idolatry of her neighbors, and immediately suffered terrible consequences. Once out from under God’s protection by her own choice, Israel was subjected to the plans of the enemy to destroy her.
From Abraham onward, Israel has always been God’s revelation to the world of Himself. Then there is the fact that “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). So if or when Israel stepped out from under the covering of God’s umbrella, so to speak, they were on their own and victims of satan’s plans for their demise. From day one the Israelites failed to inherit the entire Land and to drive out the local inhabitants (Judges 1:27-33). God did not punish them for that, but for the influence these inhabitants had on the nation, for the idol worship that was brought in (Judges 2:2-3).
When they found themselves in that kind of trouble, they once again remembered God and His promises to them and cried out to Him in repentance. He always responds to genuine repentance and so, great gracious God that He is, He took her back and restored her to Himself and forty years of peace was enjoyed. But then the next generation seems to have forgotten God again. Off they go on another round until they cry out to God in the crises they find themselves in with their enemies, and return to God for yet another forty years of peace.
Today God has restored Israel to the land He gave to Abraham. Despite the dispersion of Jews the world over, one statistic is that Jews are coming “back home” to live in Israel from 86 different nations with 112 different languages. And this is not even a current statistic; it is likely higher today. Actually, 2011 was the first time since 70 A.D. that the number of Jews in Israel is larger than the numbers of those who live in Diaspora. Indeed, God is restoring His people to their land.
As I (Orna), as an Israeli, traveled the States recently, I was surprised to find out that the very people who care about Israel, and who dedicate time to pray for her, do not really know how she is doing. Most people were only interested to hear about foreign affairs and the upcoming UN resolution concerning the statehood of the Palestinian authority. They did not have a clue that multitudes of Israelis, hundreds of thousands, were spending the entire impossibly humid summer months in tents all across the country, pleading for social justice. Most of the Christians I met did not know that the former president of Israel, the number one citizen, Mr. Moshe Katsav, was about to go to jail for raping his secretaries. They never heard of other Knesset members who are already in jail for corruption or for sexual harassment. Almost all prayer warriors I had met were clueless about all these matters. They knew a lot about border issues, about the Iranian nuclear system and about military issues concerning the Middle East, but very little, if anything, about the two main reasons for which God judges His nation with restless borders, the level of justice and righteousness in the land, and the level of idolatry.
If Israel will settle these two issues, peace will be the automatic result. When we pray that there will be peace, and ignore the reasons for lack of peace, we are somewhat resisting God's method of pulling Israel back to Him. If He will breathe peace upon the borders of Israel in spite of the present idolatry and injustice, fewer and fewer Israelis will even bother to seek His face.
So… how is Jerusalem doing? How should you pray for her?
The word “widow” in the Hebrew of the Old Testament does not only mean a woman without a husband. Its Biblical meaning is much broader than the one we ascribe to it today. It means a woman, a city or a nation who is in ruin, who has no provider and no one to help her manage her life. The OT refers to Israel as a widow (Lam. 1:1 for example, or Isa. 54:4) not because her Husband died, but because she does not consider Him as her provider. And although Israel flourishes in many ways, she is in total ruin spiritually and on a downhill road toward a complete moral desolation.
The Bible makes it very clear that the Lord hears the cry of the widow and the fatherless, and acts upon it. “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless" (Ex. 22:22-24). When we turn a deaf ear to the misery and needs of those who live in the margins of society, they automatically cry out to God. Unlike us, He does not turn a deaf ear. He does not cross the street and leave the job for someone else. He acts upon it. And when it comes to Israel, He judges the entire nation by bringing a sword (war) and enemies to her borders.
So in an odd way, against all logic, it is the widow and what she symbolizes as the neediest of the needy who establishes the borders of Israel, and not any army or leader. Although those who cry to God suffer the punishment as well, when the entire nation is under judgment, it is the widow who has the power, with her very own mouth, to pray differently to her Husband who is the Lord. Has Vehalila
While part of this article was written by Orna, she has a legitimate perspective on widows and orphans. She has a ministry in Israel to impart these teaching to such broken hearted widows and orphans to turn their eyes to God and to let Him restore their ruins, to allow Him to become the One who manages them and provides for them. Once the fatherless and the widows do that, their story of misery and brokenness becomes a story of a sign and an example to God's Lordship, the very reason her ministry is called Ot U’Mofet, in Hebrew “a sign and a wonder.” Typical of God's system: just like His blood can cleanse (where any other blood only defiles), and His death can give us life, so also do the weakest and seemingly most unnecessary members of the body be the ones we need the most (see I Cor. 12: 22). We consider them as shameful members, but God sees them as members that deserve greater honor (v. 23).
While with us in the states, Orna shared about the level of injustice and oppression that goes on in Israel, about the level of atheism (for the most part, Israel does not know her Messiah, her Maker and her Husband) and idolatry that sweeps the Land. The number of abortions in Israel is outrageous because Israel needs her soldiers, male and female, and so the army pays for the abortions. The holocaust survivors in Israel, the few who are still alive, are walking around in poverty, not having enough money to buy food or proper medication. And this is not because of lack of funds. Compensation funds are being poured into the country from Germany. It is because of mismanagement of interior affairs. It is hard to fight the war that Israel continually deals with and still maintain the inner structure when so much of its budget goes to the war effort. As a result these people don't have a voice. It is because the leadership is mostly busy with border issues and fails to identify the real cause for ongoing threat at the borders.
Most of the capital in Israel, the wealth and the media, are in the hands of about 15 families. They control almost everything in Israel - from the price of cheese to the outrageous rate of rent. Money is the name of the game, not righteousness, and in that game those who have nothing are doomed to poverty. Those who have little will soon join the ranks of those who have nothing, and those who have much will become richer.
This may work in other western nations, but not in Israel. Israel desperately needs her middle class to survive. These are the people who serve in the army and pay taxes - not the poor, nor the rich. And these are the people who are protesting now, for the first time ever, to the impossibility of living in the land.
And Israel's Husband, who loves her in spite of her harlotry, keeps luring her back to Him just a Hosea did with Gomer. He creates endless opportunities for her to return to Him, to rely on His mighty Arm and not on any other arms, to seek His face and to restore righteousness. Should we stand in His way or co-operate with His plan?
How than shall we pray for Israel, so that she will eventually be able to enjoy peace? Our prayers must focus on the root issue, on the pain of the widow who is weeping for someone to manage her, someone to lean on. We need to pray for the leadership of Israel to do what they must do, but in the trust in the Lord and to leave the results to God — including trusting Him with the borders. And not the other way around.
Golda Meier once
The last verses of Ps. 122 speak about our brothers and companions, about the house of the Lord. "For their sake", the psalmist says, "I will pray for your peace." Which brings up the important prayer that many Christians neglect. When you pray for Israel, are you bothering to find out how your brothers and sisters in the Lord are doing in Israel? Are you aware of the persecution that goes on there? Do your prayers focus on their wellbeing and their needs? And for God to restore righteousness to the Israeli people, that they would once again cry out to God in repentance, recognizing their need for Him as well as He great grace toward them in keeping them as He has done through much opposition. The part of the verse that says, “They shall prosper that love her” means that those who are praying must love her beyond having a fond feeling, but no involvement. Golda Meier once said that Israel is easy to love from afar, that is to say, uninvolved. To truly love Israel, like loving anyone, even a country, one must be familiar with her goings on, the issues she must deal with and care enough to find out what to pray, at the least.
You have an opportunity to partner with the Lord in His quest to have Israel restored to righteousness and to the Lord in faith. Perhaps it is the caring of the believing community that will finally break the resistance to the Gospel and bring Israeli’s to know their own Messiah. When they do, the grace and favor of God will flow into the land and trigger the return of Yeshua who said to His Jewish disciples, “You will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the name of the Lord” (Matthew 21:9; 33:39). If we will pray properly and on target, with caring and a heart toward the real issues with regard to Israel — righteousness and justice — God will take are of the rest. Your prayers matter!!
P.S. The same issues can apply to praying for America or any country. God’s issues are always the same.
Reprint of this article is permitted as long as you use the following; Use by permission by Messianic Vision, www.sidroth.org, 2012.
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.