Peace and Righteousness

by J. Philip Scranton

PROBABLY no other city on the planet is as well known as Jerusalem. And probably no other city on earth has fallen so far short in living up to its name. The name is a compound, "occupy-peace." Some have also suggested that it means "possession of peace." But in reading the pages of history one is hard pressed to find a single city that has been the site of such repeated bloodshed and destruction as experienced by Jerusalem. Many of history's major events have focused on this place. Apart from faith, the exhortation of Psalm 122 to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem" seems little more than a wisp of despair rising over twice burned ashes.

Yet by faith and revelation we see that this city, Jerusalem, the occupation of peace, is a symbol of God's grand scheme. The Scriptures introduce us to Jerusalem first as Salem (Gen.14:18), and as the residence of a king who represented the One true King and Priest of the most high God. The name Melchizedek means "king of righteousness," and king of Salem means "king of peace" (Heb.7:1-3). Thus, even in the opening pages of Scripture, Jerusalem is intimated as being the place where God will initiate righteousness, peace and fellowship with Himself for the world.

We next see Jerusalem still unoccupied by the chosen people, and still ruled by a "lord of righteousness" (Adonizedok) in Joshua 10:1. A battle followed on a day that was like no other day (Josh.10:12-14); the lord of righteousness was killed, hanged on a tree till the going down of the sun and then sealed in a cave (Josh.10:23-27). All of these things speak to us of the One Who is both our Righteousness and our Peace.

The book of Judges opens with reference to Jerusalem. This time it is the scene of restitution and death, and Judah, the kingly tribe, possesses the outskirts of the city. But the city is not yet won. Nor will it be until one is made king whose name means "beloved" (David). Indeed, man's despairing struggle to obtain true peace, to possess and occupy it, could hardly be more vividly portrayed than that description of the impregnability of Mount Zion. "You shall not enter here, for even the blind and the lame will make you withdraw..." (2 Sam.5:6). But the Beloved knows that the secret to the city of peace lies in its perennial water supply (cf 2 Sam.5:8; Ezek.47:1-12; John 7:37-39; Rev.22:1- 5), and the city of peace soon became "the city of the beloved" (2 Sam.5:7). The Beloved knows what things belong to Jerusalem's peace (Luke 19:42), and it was imperative that He be there (Luke 13:33) to make the costly sacrifice that would stop the plague of death (2 Sam.24:24,25).

The truths presented typically in these passages are quite plain. The primary truth is that there can be no peace apart from righteousness. This is why the king of righteousness and the lord of righteousness ruled the city of peace. But mankind is a dying creature and incapable of obtaining righteousness through any effort of his own. Yet God is love, and He has sent His Beloved, "that we may be becoming God's righteousness in Him" (2 Cor.5: 21). And being justified out of His faith, "we may be having peace toward God, through our Lord, Jesus Christ" (Rom.5:1).

But the story of peace does not end on the cross; rather it begins there. Through the peace of the blood of the cross comes reconciliation for all, both those of the heavens and those on earth (Col.1:20). And heaven and earth rejoice together in it. The heavenly messengers sing of peace on earth (Luke 2:14), and men acclaim peace in heaven (Luke 19:28). And so it should be, for the celestial Jerusalem "is mother of us all" (Gal.4:26), while the terrestrial Jerusalem was the altar for the shedding of the blood which cleanses those things of the heavens (Heb.9:23-26).

We are shown a view of the earthly climax, and certainly the celestial one could be no less glorious. The new earth receives a new Jerusalem, one that descends out of heaven from God (Rev.21:12). This new city of Peace will be the source of rule for the entire earth till rule is no longer needed, and tears and death are done away.

© J.Philip Scranton
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