you have seen the word Zion when you read the bible and not fully grasped its significance...read on. It is not just a nice-sounding catchphrase, or something with an obscure reference to the church, which it is of course, but it is something that is very dear to the heart of God. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the rebirth of the nation of Israel. No other nation in human history has been reborn like that. In 1948, a nation was born again and Jews from all around the world started returning to their homeland, just as God had said they would. Jews are still coming home. Something of enormous significance is happening and it is happening right under our noses. I will not get into too much end time bible prophecy at this point, other than to say that...if we r e a l l y want to see the Lord’s return as He promised, we need to look up...for our redemption draweth nigh. Jesus spoke about such things in Luke 21:28— And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
Notice the word begin in the text. This simply means that it is but the beginning, not the be all and end all. Here and in Matthew 24 in particular, the Lord spoke of several different things, some of which include end time events. They are not all the same and they do not refer to everyone or to the same periods of time. We need always be mindful that God deals with three differing groups of peoples, namely the Jew, the Church and the Goyim or heathen. What He says about Israel is not always what He is saying about the Church or vice-versa. God has more than two covenants with man. We tend to think in terms of the “old covenant’ and “the new covenant” only, but God has many more. There is the Edenic covenant; the Noahic covenant (If you see a rainbow there is the proof), the Davidic covenant, the covenant He made with Abraham, the everlasting covenant and more. There is of course the new covenant that is our focal point as Christians. They are all still valid, and when we understand this, our whole relationship with God can take on a totally different perspective. When God has said something, it behooves us to find out what He is actually saying, to whom He is saying it and under what circumstances and conditions. If God said something about Zion, we would do well to investigate it. In the next few pages, I shall show you some things that you might not have seen before that could change your life.
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Many Christians consider the Church to be “Spiritual Zion”. I am not going to debate that, but a problem emerges when it is thought that the church has “replaced” Israel. It has not. We should never forget the Jewish heritage on which it is built and that Jesus was a Jew. After all, He came to His own people (first) and as I have often said, the “Jews” did not crucify Him—the Romans did that. The religious leaders orchestrated it because He threatened them and their control over the ordinary people. When we think of Zion, there is much to consider—something of deep significance. Some Jewish traditions think of Zion as the spiritual point from which the entire earth was created, located in the Holy of Holies of the Temple. I’m not sure if that is true, but I like it. It sounds nice, even if it is not true. The Holy of Holies is something that is extremely important. Before Jesus came, it represented the inner sanctum...the place of intimacy where one walked into the very presence of God. Unfortunately that was not possible for everyone. It is hidden from everyone, other than the high priest who could only come there once a year, with fear and trepidation, taking the blood of the sacrifice to atone for the sins of the people. It was temporary and had to be done repetively, but Jesus changed that forever, once and for all time. In Hebrews 9, we seeThat first covenant between God and Israel had regulations for worship and a place of worship here on earth. There were two rooms in that Tabernacle. In the first room were a lampstand, a table, and sacred loaves of bread on the table. This room was called the Holy Place. Then there was a curtain, and behind the curtain was the second room called the Most Holy Place. In that room were a gold incense altar and a wooden chest called the Ark of the Covenant, which was covered with gold on all sides. Inside the Ark were a gold jar containing manna, Aaron’s staff that sprouted leaves, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the Ark were the cherubim of divine glory, whose wings stretched out over the Ark’s cover, the place of atonement. But we cannot explain these things in detail now. When these things were all in place, the priests regularly entered the first room as they performed their religious duties. But only the high priest ever entered the Most Holy Place, and only once a year. And he always offered blood for his own sins and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. By these regulations the Holy Spirit revealed that the entrance to the Most Holy Place was not freely open as long as the Tabernacle and the system it represented were still in use. This is an illustration pointing to the present time. For the gifts and sacrifices that the priests offer are not able to cleanse the consciences of the people who bring them. For that old system deals only with food and drink and various cleansing ceremonies—physical regulations that were in effect only until a better system could be established. So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever. Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant. Hebrews 9:1-15
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Because of what Jesus did, you and I can now come boldly into God’s presence when we have personally applied that blood by faith the moment we are reborn, without the need for any other intermediary. The symbolic priesthood is indeed replaced, by way of description, by the great High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ. In that sence, therefore, the priesthood has been abolished. You my friend, are now the temple of the Holy Spirit and a priest unto God. Christ now dwells in you and in me, by faith—our faith that we use when we receive Him as Lord and Savior. What then of Zion? Well, Zion is mentioned often in scripture as we shall see. Doubtless, you have heard of the conflicts that exist in Israel, particularly in Jerusalem when certain Arabs contend over the land, often violently. It is not their land and never was. To be blunt, Palestine never really existed as a nation. The covenant promises that God made were to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants. The land was promised to them and the Dome of the Rock was not really a sacred site at all. In fact, if you look deeply into the whole affair, Muslims do not really pray there as they purport. They pray towards Mecca! This is all a spiritual issue whereby the enemy is attempting to undermine God’s authrority and negate His promises that are not only towards Jews but to you and to me. David saidI was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together: Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD. For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good. Psalm 122:1-9
Somewhere down the line, we fit into this. I have to ask myself, “Am I one of his brethren? Am I one of his companions?” If you and I link up in some way with David and with Jesus, surely we have to associate somehow with this. I felt challenged when I saw this. We tend to think of ourselves often but here the Psalmist referred to “my brethren and companions’ sakes” and “because of the house of the Lord”. We think of “my ministry” or “our church, but should be Kindgom minded. If you and I are not praying accordingly, are we being disobedient somehow? It was a sobering thought. Please notice also the reference to Set thrones of judgment and the house of David. Zion is located on the eastern-most of the ridges on which Jerusalem is built. The Canaanites thought that the assembly of the gods met there in the far northern part, so it was a religious center then, just as it is now to the whole world. Ezekiel said that Zion was the navel of the earth (Ezekiel 38:12), but the “holiness” of the place does not depend on any of those things, but in the fact that God eventually chose to dwell there. The numerous religious shrines are merely man-made objects that sadly have become venerated to the extreme almost to the point of idolatry, regardless of their supposed significance—places where churches and monuments are erected as memorials where something happened and we are not really sure if they are the actual places anyhow. Such places have no intrinsic holiness at all, but if I visited Israel (which I would like to do) I would also visit them. Other than a reference to Mount Moriah where Abraham offered Isaac (see Genesis 22:2, 14; 2 Chronicles 3:1). Zion does not appear until David’s time when he captured it in 2 Samuel 5:7. It then became known as the city of David, but it was still just a “place”... a piece of real estate. The place where God really revealed Himself was in the Tabernacle and especially in the ark of the covenant. The Philistines captured the ark and could only do so because of Saul’s sinful leadership, but David brought it back, taking it to Zion as we see in 2 Samuel chapter six. This is where the presence of God was to be found.
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I urge you to read chapter seven carefully, where David expressed his desire to build a permanent home for God, proclaiming the goodness and greatness of God. God responded by declaring that there would be an heir of David and that this heir would establish a kingdom and rule forever. We now know that such statements here and elsewhere referrred to Jesus. Zion is thus linked forever with Jerusalem and with the Church. Interstingly, it might never have “started” that way because Zion was probably a nickname for Jerusalem as seen in Isaiah 33:20. In Jeremiah 3:14-18, God says Return, O backsliding sons, says the Lord. For I am married to you. And I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. It shall come to pass when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days, says the Lord, they will say no more, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” And it will not come to mind, nor will they remember it, nor will they call for it, nor will it be made any more. At that time they will call Jerusalem, the Throne of the Lord, and all the nations will be gathered to it, to Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord; nor will they walk any more after the stubbornness of their evil hearts. In those days the house of Judah will walk with the house of Israel, and they will come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given to your fathers for an inheritance.
If we regard Zion as a type of the Church, we can say that we are like that and God can say that He is married to us. But in the context of the words of Jeremiah, the relationship is far from perfect. Some of God’s language is strong saying that some of us have committed spiritual adultery. How can this be? Well, how powerful is our love relationship? Have we allowed something else to take more priority in our lives, relegating Him to second place? Is our worship pure and from the heart or cold and formalized? Have we lost our first love—that joy and freshness and excitement we had when we were first saved? Is reading the word of God a chore and praying an annoyance or something done mechanically? We are called to be disciples of Jesus and there is something “magical” (for want of a better word) about having such a degree of personal intimacy that we are the apple of His eye. In Deuteronomy 31:10; Psalm 17:8 and Proverbs 7:1-2, God spoke of Israel as being the Apple of His eye. We too are the apple of His eye. “What does this mean?” you ask. There are two meanings to consider. The first is ʾîshôn that means the little man of the eye, the ball or the pupil. The second is bābâ that describes a hollow or something that has hollowed out like a gate. A gate can permit or prevent entry. Another meaning of this word is the pupil of the eye. The significance is that when someone gets close enough to another to be able to look into his or her eye, the seeker should be able to see his own reflection! God wants to have a love affair with us in which He and He alone is the focal point in our lives and that He can get so close to us—if we permit it—that He can see Himself in us. We are the ones who control that gate. We can open it or close it as we choose and if we decide to open it, we become His pupil! Becoming a pupil is another way of describing discipleship and it will take some effort on our part. It is a matter of choice and I hope that you can see what is required of us, without getting “religious”! The core of the matter is deciding to cultivate an intimate relationship. MY SON, keep my words; lay up within you my commandments [for use when needed] and treasure them. Keep my commandments and live, and keep my law and teaching as the apple (the pupil) of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to skillful and godly Wisdom, You are my sister, and regard understanding or insight as your intimate friend— Proverbs 7:1-4
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This intimacy I mentioned is often seen in scripture, especially when God likened Himself to a husband to Israel as we have seen. The scriptural description of marriage is that a man leaves his parents’ home, cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh. The unique closeness we can enjoy with the Lord is supposed to be in closeness like that. There is something Jesus said that I would like you to consider. In John chapters 14 to 17, He said that He was in the Father and the Father was in Him and that the Father dwelt in Him. Jesus also said that If we keep His commandments that are not grevious, He would manifest Himself to us and that the Holy spirit would come to teach us, guide us, reveal Jesus to us and dwell in us. He called us His friends (not servants) and that He is the vine and that we are united as one of the branches. In John 17, Jesus prayed for us...and This...is the Lord’s Prayer, not the “our Father” that is religiously quoted repetitively as if it were a poem without effect. what He said is something extroardinaryAnd this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. John 17:3
That word “know” is ginōskō and it describes the deepest form of intimacy possible between two individuals. The bible uses such terms to describe intimacy as in marriage when “Adam knew his wife and she conceived”. Religion as such can never create this intimacy because it puts God in a different position as if He is far distant from us, that we can never experience such closeness, that we have to serve Him, adhere to certain practices, beliefs and rituals and the like. God wants to walk with us and relate with us in such personal intimacy we can call Him “Daddy” as seen in Romans 8:15-17. Having said that, we must not become too “familiar” and forget that He is still...God! In John 17, Jesus spoke in terms like I am in You and You are in Me and that We can be in Them (you and me). We can be in Him... all intertwined and if we are all one. If you think I am being a little over the top here, think of what Paul said about Christ being In us...the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). These kinds of things Paul spoke about in Colossians and elsewhere are mysteries or treasures that are hid in Christ, but God wants them to be revealed. The day Jesus died, the veil was rent asunder and that middle wall of partition that once separated us from God is gone forever. If you are not Jewish by natural birth, you are by spiritual rebirth. Paul saidGod saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us. Ephesians 2:8-18
I hope that you can see this. It is far more important than we often realize especially if we link it with Zion.
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God’s plan was for all mankind to come into relationship with Himself and it has taken on several aspects. It is a progressive and unfolding revelation that started with the Jews, but was not meant to be restricted only to them. If you and I are part of it, we need to find out where we fit into it, asking such questions as, “What is our inheritance? What do we need to do? When is all this going to come together?” If we do not do it, we could and will fall short of the mark or fall short of the glory of God, considering that we have all done so as seen in Romans 3:23 and elsewhere. The only way we can come into the fulness of the experiences and relationship God wants for us is by revelation and revelation knowledge is there for everyone...if we want it. I am not saying it will be easy or that you need to have a great education, or resources, because the Spirit of God, the revelator, does the providing. What I am saying is that all you need to do is ask, to be open and receptive and prepared to change if necessary... Let me bring this to a close now by looking again at Israel, Jerusalem and Zion. The word Zion in the Hebrew is ןויצand as we often see, has several root words associated with it. One of them is “letzayen” which means to mark or to emphasize. You and I are marked men and women. We are “branded’ so to speak and claimed by God for Himself as His prized possession. We are His and He is ours. I am married to Marjorie and she is my wife, no one else’s. Likewise I am her husband and belong to no other. The relationship we share marks us...to each other. I wear a wedding ring that tells anyone I am married to her and she wears a ring for similar reasons. In like manner our relationship with God is so precious and unique that we are graved on his hands and we are like a signet ring on His hand. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. Isaiah 49:15-16
He desires a personal relationship, not a distant one. We see references to Moses...My servant and Abraham...My friend. Jesus could say, Robert...My brother! How does He regard you? In everyday life then we can rest assured that this relationship, regardless of conditions, situations and circumstances, this relationship is never broken, but God wants all men to know this. How can they know if we do not tell them? How can they know if they do not see it in us? Even when things are not going well, we can have Jesus’ peace and others around us can see it. What does someone else see and hear when they encounter us? What are our words and actions like? Some people will never own a bible but they can read us! Some folk will never enter a church, little realizing that we are the church. You know what I mean here and I speak to myself also. Isaiah saidWake up, wake up, O Zion! Clothe yourself with strength. Put on your beautiful clothes, O holy city of Jerusalem, for unclean and godless people will enter your gates no longer. Rise from the dust, O Jerusalem. Sit in a place of honor. Remove the chains of slavery from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion. For this is what the LORD says: “When I sold you into exile, I received no payment. Now I can redeem you without having to pay for you.” This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “Long ago my people chose to live in Egypt. Now they are oppressed by Assyria. What is this?” asks the LORD. “Why are my people enslaved again? Those who rule them shout in exultation. My name is blasphemed all day long. But I will reveal my name to my people, and they will come to know its power. Then at last they will recognize that I am the one who speaks to them.” How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns! The watchmen shout and sing with joy, for before their very eyes they see the LORD returning to Jerusalem. Let the ruins of Jerusalem break into joyful song, for the LORD has comforted his people. He has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD has demonstrated his holy power before the eyes of all the nations. All the ends of the earth will see the victory of our God.
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Get out! Get out and leave your captivity, where everything you touch is unclean. Get out of there and purify yourselves, you who carry home the sacred objects of the LORD. You will not leave in a hurry, running for your lives. For the LORD will go ahead of you; yes, the God of Israel will protect you from behind. Isaiah 52:1-12
I could share much more along such lines, but I think I have painted the picture. I started this as a simple and short message simply about Israel’s “birthday”, but the Lord started speaking to me as often happens and showed me many things I had not seen before. They have been inspirational and challenging and it has put a fire in my bones like I may not have had before, or if I ever did have it, has rekindled it. Some of those things have been passed on to you with the hope that you too will catch a glimpse of them and perhaps get you to think also. God wants everyone to know Him and to now the truth that, as Jesus said, shall be a liberating force within, but someone has to tell the story. For out of Zion shall go forth instruction and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Isaiah 2:3.
The good news...the news about what Jesus did and who He is must be declared. This declaration...the word of the Lord emanates from people like you and me... spiritual Jerusalem or Zion. If we don’t say it, who will? I hope this has been a blessing and especially hope that it has stirred your heart... One day, we shall be literally in a New and Heavenly Jerusalem! See you there. Robert
Bashan Ministries | PO Box 1552 Victor Harbor South Australia 5211 | firstname.lastname@example.org www.bashanministries.org
Up to Zion is a story about Israel's 70th birthday, but it also a story about people like you and me...the Church