By Bonnie Saul Wilks, MJBI Senior Writer
Israel is the home of three major religions, and each is fighting for position and power. There are thousands of tourists who walk through her streets daily, and numerous thriving businesses. One of the key spots in the ancient city of Jerusalem is Mt. Zion, located within the Old City walls. With the sounds of city life, the religious, tourists, and businesses — each endeavoring to stake a claim or take something special home from the Holy Land — it can be a very noisy place.
Sometimes the sounds of the city, Mt. Zion, and the Hinnom Valley below compete. It is possible to hear a Jewish bar mitzvah and an Arabic wedding echo simultaneously across the city. The Dormition Abbey Church bells from the mountaintop ring out several times a day. The cheerful sound of children playing on the street is always present and welcome. Islamic prayer-chanting is blasted on loud speakers, and sirens wail just before the sun goes down on the Sabbath. On a mid-summer night, the music of the valley is often just for pleasure in the form of a concert, a wonderful way to escape the pressures of life in Israel.
Psalm 134:3: “The Lord who made heaven and earth bless you from Zion.” Throughout scripture and history, “Zion” is a metaphor for many things -— the holy mountain of God, the place of His presence, the Promised Land, the dwelling of God. This sacred peak is very special to God and man.
It is exhilarating to think of a blessing coming from Mt. Zion. All of those metaphors are beautiful and encouraging. Sadly, “blessing” has become a tired word in English. It needs revitalization. “Favor” may be better, but it is broader than that. It is taken from the Hebrew root barak meaning “knee.” And I believe that is important because the definition demonstrates the perfect attitude in which to receive any kind of blessing: with humility, on bended knee. In that stance, one is truly ready to be blessed.
Gary Smalley and John Trent wrote an amazing book a few years ago, The Blessing. They explored the power of our words to bless others, especially our children. It revolutionized family and community life and underscored the parents’ obligation to speak edifying words to their offspring regularly. But this concept is as old as time. Blessings have been spoken in Jewish families from the time of the patriarchs.
One of the reasons I love the Erev Shabbat liturgy before the Sabbath meal is that it contains so many important blessings essential to life. God is blessed for the light of the evening, the bread, and the wine. He is worthy of blessing because He gives us life, food, and rest. The husband also blesses his wife and then his children. These edifying statements are spoken weekly.
Billy Yount heads up an outreach to prison inmates, “Behind the Wall.” He understands the importance of blessing and often asks the men in prison if they had received a kind or encouraging remark from their parents as they grew up. Over and over the answer remains no.
Yount encourages those men to change the course of their own children’s lives by speaking good words over them, emphasizing potential and character qualities. He says, “I have been in prison ministry for twenty-three years throughout the state of Maryland. I never met one Jewish boy or man in prison in all those years!” The percentage of Jewish men in prison is only about one percent nationwide.
Scripture tells us the heart is desperately sick and wicked. Every person has the potential to end up in prison for law breaking, but it has been proven that the spoken blessing of parents does create a healthy environment for good citizenship and well-adjusted personal lifestyle and practice. Children thrive where there are positive expressions of love and affirmation.
Our words bless and so do our prayers. Through these vehicles, we have the power to set in motion life and not death to those around us. I choose words of favor, encouragement, and joy to be a blessing. I am changed in that the Lord God who made heaven and earth deigns to bless me from Mt. Zion, to bless you from Mt. Zion.
There is a blessing promised to those who love and are good to Israel. I encourage you to come visit her sites and meet her people. The miracle of ancient and modern Israel has the power to bring you to your knees in awe of a great God who keeps His promises to the Seed of Abraham. It is the place you should be to receive a blessing from Zion!
Don’t miss the 2015 MJBI “In His Steps” Israel Tour led by Dr. Wayne and Bonnie Wilks. Go to www.MJBI.org/Events for more information.