By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down and wept, When we remembered Zion. — Psalms 137:1 NASB
The word “Zion” was first used for the ancient stronghold built on one of Jerusalem’s hills, but came to mean the city itself. To remember Zion, then, is to remember Jerusalem and all the promises God made concerning her.
That attachment in memory, even by Jews who would never in their lives see the city, became a crucial part of maintaining a Jewish identity in all the foreign lands to which they would be dispersed through the centuries. Jerusalem and her memory became for the Jews a symbol of God’s literal promises to the literal bloodline of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The prophet Daniel would the model for Israeli prosperity and devotion during the diaspora. Daniel remembered Jerusalem at each time of prayer. He made sure that his home in Babylon had windows facing Jerusalem. He would open those windows, and pray in that direction three times a day.
Now he certainly didn’t do that because he thought God could hear him better if he prayed toward Jerusalem. He did it as a reminder that his people would return there someday. God made that promise, and would keep His word. Trusting God’s faithfulness, Daniel remained faithful even under threat of death.
In verses 5 and 6 of Psalm 137, we read the pledge that became central to the thinking of Jews around the globe for 2500 years. “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, May my right hand forget her skill. May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, If I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem Above my chief joy.”
One of the great miracles of history is that God kept His people distinct from the societies they entered. They became productive members of those societies, but were not assimilated. A big part of that miracle comes from their attitude toward Jerusalem and the promises of God it represents.
For hundreds of years, Jews have ended their Passover Seder with the phrase, “Next year in Jerusalem.” Even Jews living in Jerusalem end the Seder with these words. For them, Jerusalem is not only a real place on the earth, but it also means “The City of Peace.” So, they’re saying, “Next year in the literal city,” but it also carries the thoughts, “Next year in peace and in the fulfilled promises of God.”
Jesus came to Jerusalem at the climax of His life and ministry. He showed both His frustration and love for the city and its people when He said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.” (Matthew 23:37 NASB)
They rejected Jesus just as Daniel and the other prophets predicted. God used that very rejection for our salvation. Romans 11:11 says, “By their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles.”
But that did not negate God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and others. Those promises began to be fulfilled in the 19th century when Jews started returning to the land in large numbers. They were returning to the place deeded to them by God Himself — the Promised Land. That led to the rebirth of Israel as a nation in 1948. They would regain control of Jerusalem in 1967.
According to scripture, their return to the land portends another return — the return of Jesus. Peace is coming to Jerusalem — peace to “The City of Peace.”
God keeps His promises. JERUSALEM gives proof through the ages. Even Israelites who have little faith have a supernatural love for the City of Jerusalem that they don’t fully understand. I was not born as a Jew, but as soon as I received Jesus Christ as Lord and savior - I too received that supernatural love for Jerusalem. It is going to be the eternal dwelling place God will dwell in with us in the center of the universe. How could anything be greater?