G Hobbs, New Cotessey
The manifold references to Mount Zion, which would also include the Holy City since in the mind of God these two are one, show clearly that it is very precious to God. His eye has been upon it from the beginning. For long years it was held by the enemies of God; it is so still. It needed David to wrest it from the enemy and it will take ‘Great David’s Greater Son’ to do so again in a future day. In God’s purposes God’s Monarch is already set on that hill of Zion and will, before long, be set there in righteousness, to reign for a thousand years.
In the history of Israel, Mount Zion occupies a central place. Horeb and Sinai belong to the wilderness journey and bring to mind the hardship and discipline of the way from Egypt to Canaan. By contrast, Mount Zion speaks of rest, fulfilment, home and peace, government and protection. Moreover, both the poetry of the nation in prosperity and the plaintive songs of captivity show the deep and abiding place that Mount Zion has in the thoughts and longings of the Israel of God. It was Mount Zion that formed the central theme of the young men’s visions, Joel 2. 28, 32, and that coloured the landscape of the dreams of the aged. It was to Mount Zion that the manhood of Israel turned, when, at God’s command, they presented themselves there on the feast days, converging on the sacred spot with songs of ascent on their lips and the vows of God in their hearts, Exod. 34. 23; Deut. 12. 5.
Zion also has a very prominent place in prophecy. The book of Isaiah is set in the reigns of four Judean kings. The reactions of these kings to the holy temple are striking and make a significant background to the prophet’s utterances concerning Mount Zion. If Uzziah went too far, if Jotham did not go far enough and if Ahaz defiled God’s house, it is left to Hezekiah to show the true position of the king in relation to the temple. He opened the doors and bade the rightful priests go in to cleanse and restore the house of God, 2 Chron. 29. 3-5. How precious this was to God, together with the restoration of worship and service on Mount Zion.
At the same time, these events point to a yet more glorious recovery. Judgments continue to roll over the sacred hill, but God in wrath remembers mercy and the time of comfort is at hand. The Scriptures demand a literal fulfilment.
The last four verses of Isaiah 64 could well express the yearnings of those pathetic figures that even today stand in grief along the last remaining piece of Herod’s temple, known as ‘the wailing wall’. The cry in verse 9 is a reminder to God that they are His people, while verse 10 would describe something of present conditions, ‘Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation’. Although at the present day the new nation of Israel is flourishing materially, blossoming out in culture and commerce, religion and politics, the brow of Zion is still a wilderness to God, and the fair city divided. The question asked in verse 12 can still be asked, and the heart may be tempted to whisper, ‘Does God care?’. Yet the Lord Jesus said, ‘. . . shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily’, Luke 18. 7, 8.
The majority of God’s earthly people do not seem to care however, and is there not a present company that tends to sit ‘at ease in Zion’ as Amos 6 presents? This chapter unveils the spirit of materialism that is characteristic of those who by complacency deny God’s Person and claims.
Lamentations 1 and 2 present a full description of Zion, whether as city, daughter or son, passing through the punishment inflicted by Jehovah because of iniquity. It is a sad and sombre scene. The brow of Zion is covered with the cloud of God’s anger, while gates are sunk and bars destroyed. No law and no sacrifices, no vision and no song were found there. The fine gold had become dim, the kingdom polluted and the wail of distress had given place to the silence of despair. The city that had once been the perfection of beauty and the joy of the whole earth, 2. 15, now sits desolate in sack-cloth, with broken walls, disease and death reigning everywhere.
Future of Glory
Yet there is hope! The Lord is the portion of Zion and this chosen hill is yet to yield ‘a thousand sacred sweets’. Her hope is in Him who is of unfailing compassion and whose mercies are new every morning. In Isaiah 28 we read of the place that Mount Zion has in the bright future of God, since He has laid in Zion a foundation and a chief corner Stone, elect and precious, yet set at naught by the builders; see Isa. 28. 16; Ps. 118. 22; Rom. 9. 33; 1 Pet. 2. 6. This Stone, cut without hands and fashioned from eternity to fit into God’s purposes, is to come to Zion. Our Lord Jesus is this Stone who will smite the proud image of man’s religion without God to turn it into the fine dust of the balance, and who will at the same time become the Stone-Mountain filling the whole earth from the height called Zion, although at present under the cloud of divine judgment.
Chapters 4, 8 and 11 of Isaiah deal with these events. ‘In that day’, a twice repeated phrase in chapter 4, will there be a washing away of filth, a purging of sin, a work of salvation within the heart and a people prepared amongst whom the Lord can dwell. The lovely picture in verses 4 and 5 shows God at last at rest in His tabernacle. The pillar of cloud and fire, blessed symbol of the wilderness pilgrimage, will rest upon every dwelling of Mount Zion. No stranger God here! Every home in Zion will be a habitation of God, With perfect shelter, perfect refuge and perfect peace. Our Lord Jesus, who tabernacled among us, will be the central Figure, and the fulness of deity that abides in Him will radiate to every favoured house on Zion’s hill. At last, the Redeemer will have come to Zion, and sorrow and sadness will have fled away.
This advent means that there is to be a wonderful change and exchange. Salvation will come, in every sense, and the rescued and restored nation will bask in the light of the glory of Christ. As the notes of Isaiah 53 die away, the heart of the nation, now contrite and chastened, will be ready for that gracious ministry of exchange when Isaiah 61, offered by the Saviour at His first advent in the synagogue of Nazareth and so sadly refused, will then be willingly accepted. Ashes will be exchanged for beauty; for mourning, the oil of joy will crown the head and praise will cover the people as a garment. All the plaintive notes of despair, heard in the Lamentations, will be exchanged for the comfort wherewith Israel will be comforted of God. Then the prospect envisaged by the prophets will be the portion of Zion: health and healing, Jer. 30. 17; holiness, Obad. 17, Zech. 14. 20; joy and encouragement, Zeph. 3. 14-20; God’s pure jealousy satisfied, and the hill of Zion called a ‘city of truth’ and graced with the name of ‘the holy mountain’, Zech. 8. 2-3; a place where love will reign and the boys and girls find their lasting content in playing in the streets while the aged will dwell in safety, Zech. 8. 4-5.
Hence we see that the nation, now scattered, will be gathered to this focal point of national devotion. The lost ones now engulfed in the Gentile nations will emerge from their hiding places to glorify the God of their fathers unveiled in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth. Micah 4. 6 points clearly to this recovery of the people of God from the condition brought about by the judgment of God. ‘In that day’ the Lord has promised to gather to Mount Zion the outcasts and the lame and afflicted of His people. How gladly will they come then, drawn by the power of God’s Spirit to be made into a strong nation. Many nations have sought this, but God has elected Israel to be the pre-eminent race, Deut. 7. 6.
To the mount of Olives, from whence He ascended into heaven to fill all things, will Christ return to be received by Israel in the hour of their greatest need. God, rejected as King in Israel in the far away time of Samuel, will be owned again, since in the Lord Jesus - their once rejected but now accepted Messiah - is One who is truly Man yet God over all blessed for ever. How matchless are the ways of God, and His judgments past finding out! How great an honour awaits the hill of Zion!
From this height will then be fulfilled the prophecy of Micah 4. 1-7 regarding the nations. First they will be gathered for judgment in the valley of Jehoshaphat, Joel 3. 2. There God will set up His great assize and the One to whom all judgment is committed will be the Judge and Divider. Then He will gather them for blessing, and they will bring praise and worship to Zion. The wise men, that came seeking Jesus to worship Him, are a picture of this universal homage; the wisest thing that these men from the east ever did was to follow the star to the Saviour. Similarly, the wisest thing that the nations of the earth will do will be to flow to Mount Zion to worship Him, Micah 4. 1. So with the Saviour reigning at last, the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. The great enemy will be bound, the curse lifted, creation delivered from futility of frustration, and the city on Zion’s hill will resound to the praise of God and His King.
Two of the major prophets, Ezekiel and Daniel, do not mention Zion by name; yet they are both taken up with Jerusalem, and since the city stands on Mount Zion, reference is there in an oblique way. Daniel was a man who lived in one city with his heart in another; he was in Babylon but his heart was in Jerusalem. Ezekiel saw the glory depart from the holy mount; he also saw it return, Ezek. 11. 23; 43. 4. At the end of his great prophecy, he wrote, ‘the name of the city from that day shall be, The Lord is there’, 48. 35. Thus may our hearts be as Mount Zion which cannot be moved, and may we know the presence of the Saviour reigning within.