Thursday, March 01, 2012

Psalms of Ascent & the Israeli/ Palestinian Conflict

Just a little something I wrote for my First Testament course at LTSP:
The specificity of the Jerusalem psalms puts the contemporary conflict between Israel and Palestine into conflicting perspectives.  On one level, these psalms indicate why it is so hard for some Israelis to accept nothing less than complete control over the Holy City and an opportunity to rebuild the temple.  Jerusalem is meant to be a unified city, “built as a city that is bound firmly together” (Psalm 122:2), and thus split control proves difficult.  Jerusalem generally and the temple specifically is not only the place on goes to worship, but is in fact the place where God has chosen to take residence up on Earth: “This is my resting place forever; here I reside, for I have desired it” (Psalm 131:14).  One can easily imagine a pilgrim singing Psalm 123:1’s “To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!” while looking up at the Temple Mount and literally thinking she or he was singing praise to the face of God.

On the other hand, the songs of ascent also pray for peace in the Holy City: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you.  Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers” (Psalm 122: 6-7).  Perhaps God is doing new things in our contemporary context, creating peace for the Holy City.  If we prayerfully discern this is so, then continually working to rebuild the temple and thereby perpetuating violence is in vain: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain” (Psalm 127: 1-2).

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