Mount Zion is the most prominent mountain in Scripture, and as such it is found to be the most prolific for spiritual study. Two papers will develop its historical import; in a third paper its prophetical implications will be examined. Jerusalem was built upon four hills, but it was Zion, known also as ‘the city of David’, 2 Sam. 5. 7, that attained the highest elevation within the city limits, being somewhat over 2,500 feet above the level of the Mediterranean Sea.
The Anticipation of Zion
The tabernacle was intended to be a temporary structure, suitable for the habitation of God amongst His people during their journey through the wilderness, Exod. 25. 8. The purpose of God in this journey was that the people should be enabled to appreciate His omnipotent hand in their own experience, without, however, any undue delay in their entering into the land. After all, the journey from Horeb to Kadesh-barnea should be one of eleven days only, Deut. 1. 2, from whence there was a direct pathway into the land of Canaan, Num. 13. 2, 3, 26. The period of time that elapses between the date of a believer’s conversion and his more abundant practical entrance into the sphere of heavenly blessing in Christ is oftentimes prolonged, but this delay is not of God’s making. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, for example, shows that the young believers there had made rapid spiritual progress during the short time he had been amongst them. The experience of the 39 years wilderness wanderings was one of judgment but not of divine design. These things moreover are ‘written for our admonition’, 1 Cor. 10. 11, in order that they may not be our experience. Indeed the 39 years are almost passed over in Numbers and Deuteronomy, taking place somewhere between Numbers 15. 1 and 20. 1, Numbers 33. 18 and 33. 36, and Deuteronomy 1. 46 and 2. 1, with Kadesh as a sort of central location. Verses such as Deuteronomy 8. 2-4 hint at their experience of God’s grace even during these years of judgment.
Thus the purposes of God for the people in the land are only referred to again when the experience of judgment is over; the book of Deuteronomy looks forward to the time when the people, established in the land, would be able to embrace God’s mind for the introduction of the city of God. Hence there are at least 20 references in the book of Deuteronomy to ‘the place which the Lord shall choose to place his name there’, 12. 5 being the first reference and 31. 11 the last. The location of ‘the place’ and what it would be were not revealed in the book, for ‘the secret things belong unto the Lord our God’, Deut. 29. 29, but the hearts of the spiritually minded should have been concerned with what had been revealed. God’s heart was set upon mount Zion, not as a mere place, but because it would speak directly and typically of the glory of Christ. It was declared to be a place of offering, for the bringing in and partaking of the tithes (chapters 12 and 14), a place for the celebration of the feasts of the Lord (chapter 16), a place for priestly discernment in controversy (chapter 17) and a place for the reading of the law, 31. 11, all these having very definite New Testament spiritual counter-arts. But the full knowledge of Zion could only be gained by actually entering in.
Our present interpretation centres around Zion as the heavenly position to which the Church has come (see Eph. 2. 6 and Heb. 12. 22). This was indeed God’s eternal purpose for the glory of Christ, but throughout Old Testament times it was not the direct subject of revelation; it was manifested in type and in principle. Only when the reality was attained through His cross and ascension could the truth be revealed through the writings of the New Testament apostles and prophets. The Delay in the Manifestation of Zion
Just what would have been God’s own programme for events leading up to His manifestation of Zion as the place of His choice cannot surely be determined. Certainly the delay from the end of Deuteronomy to the eighth year of David’s reign (somewhat over 400 years) was not a delay of God’s making; it was caused entirely by the faithlessness of God’s people. When physically in the land, they did not enter into the purpose of God concerning His choice. Even under the law, spirituality was needed in order to discern the mind of the Lord. Today, a believer may well be in the church sphere of blessing, but at the same time fail in not having God’s thoughts concerning Christ and His Church. The character of one’s service is determined by one’s spirituality and by one’s apprehension of truth, and this must include the truth of the Church.
When Moses was old, Joshua was charged to follow in his steps, having been prepared in the sanctuary in the days of his youth, Exod. 33. 11, but when Joshua was ‘old and stricken in years’, Josh. 13. 1, there was found no man like-minded to follow on. There remained ‘very much land to be possessed’, but the right man was not yet on the scene. God waits for men of exercise to accomplish His design; a delay may seem weary to man (see, for example, 1 Sam. 7. 2), but a thousand years is as one day with the Lord, 2 Pet. 3. 8. As far as the distribution of the land amongst the tribes was concerned, the Jebusites inhabited Jerusalem (Zion), since the children of Judah could not drive them out, Josh. 15. 63 (compare the statement made in Judges 1. 21 concerning Benjamin). It is grievous when the weakness of the flesh prevents saints from entering into the full blessings of the Lord’s purpose, and when these are only partially enjoyed side-by-side with the interests of the world.
But although the weakness of the people perpetuated the delay from man’s side, behind the scenes God was moving and preparing His choice. The book of Ruth shows remnant days, ‘the days when the judges ruled’ and when ‘every man did that which was right in his own eyes’. There, we read of the character of Boaz, typical of the Lord Jesus, concerning whom one has written Faithful amidst unfaithfulness, Midst darkness only light, Thou didst Thy Father’s name confess And in His will delight.
For Boaz recognized the will of God for his bride – one drawn out from the nations – one who partook of the barley and the wheat harvests, Ruth 1. 22; 2. 23, thereby characterizing her with the import of the passover and the feast of unleavened bread, Lev. 23. 10, and the feast of weeks or Pentecost, Lev. 23. 17. In these is suggested typically an appreciation of the death of Christ, of His resurrection and the formation of the church through the sending of the Holy Spirit. Through their union, God’s purpose is furthered. The genealogy at the end of the book of Ruth terminates in David. The choice of David and the choice of Zion went together, as Asaph witnessed in Psalm 78, He ‘chose the tribe of Judah, the mount Zion which he loved … He chose David also his servant’, vv. 68, 70. Only the man after God’s own heart, Acts 13. 22, was exercised regarding Zion, 1 Chron. 13. 2.
But it would seem that the delay was further aggravated by the treatment accorded by man to the ark of the covenant, symbolizing the throne of the presence of God amongst His people. Zion, David and the ark could not be separated; they must go together. One line of thought governing the interpretation of these events is very helpful. The capture of the ark by the Philistines in 1 Samuel 4. 11 appears there to be the result of the folly of man; they had tampered with the proper position of the ark in the holiest, vv. 3, 4. But Psalm 78. 60-61 presents another side to the picture; it was God Himself who delivered ‘his glory into the enemy’s hand’. This dual explanation of the ark’s absence from its proper habitat is singularly reminiscent of the reasons given for the crucifixion and death of the Lord. God and man may be seen in that act as Acts 2. 23 witnesses ‘him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain’ (compare also Jonah 1. 15 and 2. 3).
But the scripture continues ‘Whom God hath raised up’. The movements of the Lord through death and resurrection answer very closely to the historical movements of the ark. God arranged that the ark was returned to Kirjath-jearim, 1 Sam. 7. 1, to be known only by the few in that place; it was no longer the centre of the Jewish religion in the tabernacle at Shiloh. In the Lord’s case, having risen, He too returned, ‘not to all the people’ but to the select few, to ‘witnesses chosen before of God’, Acts 10. 41.
With the ark in the house of Abinadab on the hill (the ‘Gibeah’ of 2 Samuel 6. 3), the delay continued throughout the forty years of Saul’s reign until God’s man David and mount Zion are brought together before us. This house could not be the final resting place for the ark according to the choice of God. So, too, with the resurrection of the Lord, it should be observed that the Lord maintained His testimony amongst His own for forty days, Acts. 1. 3, unknown to the nation around which continued in its own ways uninfluenced by the triumph of His resurrection. But resurrection ground was not the ultimate goal; a greater object was before Him, namely the development of faith as distinct from sight which would lead the disciples to a spiritual and heavenly appreciation of the Church. This was to be introduced on higher ground, that is to say, on ascension ground. This is mount Zion, associated with the ascension of the Lord as we hope to show from Scripture in the following paper in this series.
The Capture of Zion
David was a man of activity directed by spiritual exercise, and evidently one prepared to learn in his more youthful days. His approximate age when he was anointed by Samuel was fifteen, and he was thirty when he attained the throne, 2 Sam. 5. 4. During that time he had been prepared of God both in relation to the sanctuary and in the experience of life. How sweet it is to observe similar ages in the life of the Lord; at the age of twelve we have the first record of His being about His Father’s business, Luke 2. 49, and at the age of thirty He entered upon His public ministry, Luke 3. 23 r.v. Levitical service started at thirty. Num. 4. 3. Today, too, years of growth in grace are usually necessary before taking up effective service for the Lord, but this is a hard lesson and frustrating to the flesh. After seven and a half years on the throne at Hebron, David perceived the will of God for Zion. It’s capture is recorded in 2 Samuel 5. 6-10. David suffered ridicule at the hand of the Jebusites, v. 6, as he suffered later at the hands of Michal, 2 Sam. 6. 20. The pathway of the spiritual in attaining the practical blessings of the heavenlies in Christ is not understood either by the world or, alas, by many believers. With the capture of Zion completed, nothing hindered the manifestation of the place of God’s choice, for ‘the Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it’, Ps. 132. 13-14.