Today: [Isaiah 62] Interceding for the Zion of God. When was the last time you spent a time of intercession and crying out to God for your local church? Criticizing the church and its leadership is and has been a favorite pastime for the body of Christ. Tabloid criticism of leadership and those in ministry is a lively sport of mental athleticism among many believers. Do you criticize the church more than you pray for the church? Have you disengaged with the brick and mortar church with no intention of return? What is the mandate of scripture regarding what our attitudes should be toward what Isa. 62 identifies as “the Zion” of God?
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[Isa 62:1-12 KJV] 1 For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp [that] burneth. 2 And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name. 3 Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. 4 Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. 5 For [as] a young man marrieth a virgin, [so] shall thy sons marry thee: and [as] the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, [so] shall thy God rejoice over thee. 6 I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, [which] shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence, 7 And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth. 8 The LORD hath sworn by his right hand, and by the arm of his strength, Surely I will no more give thy corn [to be] meat for thine enemies; and the sons of the stranger shall not drink thy wine, for the which thou hast laboured: 9 But they that have gathered it shall eat it, and praise the LORD; and they that have brought it together shall drink it in the courts of my holiness. 10 Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people. 11 Behold, the LORD hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward [is] with him, and his work before him. 12 And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken.
In the Old Testament, this chapter and Nehemiah chapter 1 are great examples of effective and faith filled intercessory prayer. The reference to Jerusalem and Zion here is a dual reference. It not only applies to natural Israel and the geographical city of David but also to church. In Colossians 2, Paul affirms that the natural things of the Old Testament histories are but shadows of the spiritual realities of the New Testament.
[Col 2:17 KJV] 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body [is] of Christ.
The writer of Hebrews, written to unconverted Judaism of the first century, goes on to affirm to us that the things of the law and the Old Covenant are but the shadow of good things to come in Christ:
[Heb 10:1 KJV] 1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, [and] not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.
Therefore in Isaiah 62 when we read of Zion, and Jerusalem, and intercede for Zion and Jerusalem we can look at the shadow of the Old but what is the spiritual reality regarding who or what Zion and Jerusalem really is? This is important to note because in the book of Revelation 11:8 the actual city of Jerusalem is called by the angel that spoke to John “Sodom and Egypt”. This doesn’t imply that God has no plan for natural Israel but that we must look through the eye of the Spirit at the deeper implications, discerning the substance from the shadow so we know exactly what we are interceding for when we accept the prayer assignment of Isaiah 62:
[Heb 12:22-23 KJV] 22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
In reading this passage in Hebrews 12 we can only conclude that the substance of which natural Jerusalem is the shadow can be none other than the church. The church is the Jerusalem of God. The church is the city of the living God the mount Sion to which we come as believers in Christ. Paul affirms this as well in the book of Galatians:
[Gal 4:25-26 KJV] 25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. 26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
Why do the Arab nations covet the natural city of Jerusalem? Here is the deeper perspective: Paul compares natural Judaism, Israel and the city of Jerusalem itself with Ishmael, Hagar and Arabia which he contends “is in bondage with all her children”. We know also from study in Genesis that Hagar and Ishmael are the “sand seed” of Abraham and speak to us of dead religion contrasted with living faith in Christ. You cannot build spiritual security or experience spiritual life by religious precept. Jesus declared Himself in the gospels:
[Mat 7:26 KJV] 26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
Does this mean that God is not involved in religion? Does it mean that He has rejected Judaism altogether? No. God is involved with anything that man is involved in. Let’s say that again. God is involved with anything that man is involved in. As a evangelical, full gospel pastor in south Louisiana I was invited many times to events and meetings in the Catholic church and as a young minister I struggled at the prospect of engaging with a system that prayed to saints, believed in the superstition of transubstantiansion and the idolatry of a celibate priesthood. Yet in this religious culture I encountered many sincere, pious and humble believers in all out pursuit of God. Did this mean that God accepted all of these things that are so contrary to His word and His character? No. But it does mean that the drawing power of the Holy Spirit does not refrain at the boundaries of those things that are of men that hold sincere seekers after Christ in their boundaries.
This is, or it should be a moment of pause for what has become known as the “out of church demographic”. There is in the current day a culturally measurable segment of the population who eschew organizes religion and the brick and mortar church, while at the same time maintaining they have a perfectly viable and substantial relationship with Christ and have no intention of ever again engaging with the wider body of Christ or Christian culture. We must be careful not to pillory these authentic believers, or their convictions but those who stand in these ranks must also tremble at the words of David:
[Psa 137:5-6 KJV] 5 If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget [her cunning]. 6 If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.
One of the things that is lost in the “spiritual-but-not-religious” group is a valid and necessary connectivity to the corporate body of Christ and the corporate purposes of God in the kingdom of which being a part of something beyond yourself is an absolute prerequisite. In the first century, the prevailing religious system the early believers found itself in was the hierarchy that actually colluded in the crucifixion of Jesus. Yet the early believers maintained a challenging connection to that which was passing away, often at the cost of their own lives as in the case of Stephen. In the first century, there were the “come-outers” in the form of the Essenes, of which John the Baptist was most likely influenced, who suffered total destruction in the early centuries of the church while the mission minded early community weathered the storms of persecution to see in the third century the might of Rome come to bow at the foot of cross.
What is to be our posture toward Christian culture then? What is to be our level of engagement toward that which claims to bear His name but is more of a corrupt, politicized, religious monstrosity than the living, vital body of Christ? We are to pray for those in this system as Isaiah prayed over the city that in just a few years of his writing would rejoice as he will be bound to a tree and sawn asunder. It is time for loving, provocative challenge and confrontation but intercessors who have cried out to God that what we see in anemic, shallow and immature religion would once again become a praise in the earth and a glory to the God who founded her in the shed blood of the Only Begotten Son.
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