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A Distant View of Zion

While musing upon our hopes for Zion, I’m reminded of Peter’s languishing yearnings as a stranger and pilgrim in the earth—this foreign and outcast place we hesitatingly call home, though knowingly recognize as an orphanage for our pilgrimage. The compass of our soul seeks homeward, and we press forward through the dark mists and cold winds, searching for shelter and sunlight and succor. Occasionally the storm clouds part and the blue vault above comes into view, though momentarily, and it’s enough of a glimpse of the shores of Eden to beckon us onward.

A morsel here, and a crust of bread there, sustains us from passage to passage as we navigate the eddies and undertow of life, while in search of eternal life. Along the treacherous and windswept coasts, we find harbors and pastures which offer rest and recuperation, enough to strengthen us for further voyages, with sufficient encouragement to raise our sails again in search of fine breezes blowing Zionward.

When in good sailing we rejoice over many things, and our hearts are drawn out all the day long in prayerful thanksgiving and gratitude for God’s loving-kindness, and for His ever-present concern, and everlasting erudition. We are want to seek Him in daylight and dark, knowing that on other coming days, the billowing surge will conspire against us once again and, while wave-tossed, our anxious cries will reach His ears because our erstwhile desires were turned towards Him.

Even while tossed upon tempestuous seas, or marooned upon our misgivings, we know to whom we have looked for redemption, and in whose name we seek rescuing relief. So whether we find ourselves adrift (where once sure anchors have been dislodged), or stranded in some seemingly lonely landscape (because our vistas have expanded beyond our expectations), we may know—just as Peter knew or as Abraham knew—that God will take the pilgrim in hand and lead him along a brighter path towards the land of promise, even if the assemblage of our fellow parishioners are content to live in palpable disparity, while we seek the sunlit land.

Courage brightens hope, which illuminates our faith to take that next pioneering step forward, over mountains following upon expansive valleys, even as we tremble in meekness looking beyond the horizon, where stunning views bring into sight the city on the hill—which filled our dreams and thoughts—though we dared not breathe such desires aloud. And while gazing at the gloriously lit grandeur of the city’s silhouette, we fall upon our knees and palms knowing, at last, that our faith-filled journey was not in vain, even if it seemed as though we had to walk alone.

Thereafter, we begin to notice others scattered upon the surrounding hills, each one posed awestruck at the surreal sight, and reflecting back in memories’ halls upon the choices to move forward toward Zion, even when well-intended friends or family were content to rest under the boughs of a winter’s barren sycamore. The former concerns and worries about the choices to press forward are now assuaged, swallowed up and left behind in exchange for the joyous scenery, and we arise and eagerly move towards the welcoming entrance, where our hands are clasped in sacred salutation, and fresh apparel awaits.

J.B.
12.18.10

Zion--Codename for Persons Who Repent

by Avraham Gileadi Ph.D.

Several ideas about Zion exist in the scriptures. Zion was the “citadel” David captured from the Jebusites that became the “City of David” (1 Chronicles 11:4–7). The “holy hill of Zion” was the place where Jehovah dwelt (Psalms 2:6; 9:11). Isaiah’s definition of Zion appears from several literary devices. Forty instances of the name Zion in the Book of Isaiah reveal a literary pattern associated with the name Zion. That pattern consists of Jehovah’s deliverance of his righteous people at the time he destroys the wicked from the earth. This event occurs at the presence of a Davidic king whom Isaiah identifies either directly or indirectly under one of several aliases.

By definition, Zion are those of Jehovah’s people Jacob or Israel who “repent” (Hebrew swb) of transgression (Isaiah 1:27; 59:20). It is also the place to which they “return” (swb) from among the nations in an endtime exodus (Isaiah 35:10; 52:11) at the time the wicked perish. In the Book of Isaiah, Zion, together with Jerusalem, is one of seven spiritual levels or categories of people. They consist of persons who ascend from a Jacob/Israel category to the Zion/Jerusalem category. They receive a remission of their sins when they renew their covenantal allegiance to Jehovah. In the end, the whole world divides into categories who are affiliated with either Zion or Babylon.

Covenants: God’s Parameters of Operation

We may sometimes wonder why God acts in certain ways, or why he doesn’t act. The answer is not as veiled in mystery as we may think. God always acts within a context of the covenants he makes with his people or with individuals. Even when God intervenes dramatically in a given situation, it is according to existing covenantal agreements. Understanding the workings of these covenants, therefore, gives us power with God to bring about change for the good. God’s saving influence under every kind of circumstance--from his daily spiritual guidance to a miraculous deliverance from death--can be traced to a covenant God made somewhere and with someone.

Chief among God’s earthly covenants are three models: 1. his covenant with Israel--the Sinai Covenant; 2. with King David--the Davidic Covenant; and 3. with Abraham--the Abrahamic Covenant. Almost all of God’s covenants, extending backwards and forward in time, follow these models. As no covenant God makes is temporary in nature, all endure. The first creates a unique relationship with a people, the second with a king to ensure the protection of his people, and the third with a patriarch concerning an eternal posterity. As these covenants’ terms entail increasing one’s personal commitment and sacrifice, so their blessings increase exponentially.

by Avraham Gileadi Ph.D.

God’s People--This Time Around It Is Us!

Applying Isaiah’s prophecy to ourselves for our profit and learning, we immediately confront a number of inconvenient truths. Speaking for God, Isaiah holds us accountable for misfortunes that are befalling us as a nation. While we may attribute today’s troubles to freaks of nature, a poor economy, human error, etc., to Isaiah we have set in motion an escalating series of covenant curses. Israel’s decline and apostasy anciently precipitated a world war and the loss of privileges or covenant blessings for that generation. In Isaiah’s context, that historical scenario provides an allegory of an endtime scenario. If we miss that point, then Isaiah’s prophecy is of little use to us.

Our chief sins are our injustices to each other and our idolatry before God. Injustice takes many forms: enmity, evil speaking, persecution, inequality, graft, oppression, tyranny, etc. Idolatry consists of setting our hearts on the things of this world, taking us away from loving God with all our hearts--and our minds too! The effect is spiritual blindness. We assume we are right with God while religion in reality becomes a substitute for a true covenant relationship God requires. This cannot save us in the coming “Day of the Lord.” Still, there is a redeeming side. In that day, certain (spiritual) kings and queens of the Gentiles will serve as saviors to the house of Israel.

Publications by Avraham Gileadi available on http://www.IsaiahInstitute.com: “Isaiah Decoded: Ascending the Ladder to Heaven” (Hard Cover); and “Analytical Commentary of Isaiah” (MP3), a 30-hour verse-by-verse audio narration that uses the “Manner of the Jews” for interpreting Isaiah.

- Avraham Gileadi, Ph.D.
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