The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, “You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.” They thought, “David cannot get in here.” Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion, the City of David. 2 Samuel 5:6,7
I want you to learn to love that word “nevertheless.” You see, God gave us a preview when David claimed Zion. Zion belonged to another people, the Jebusites. They felt invincible, and for good reason. This particular area later became synonymous with Jerusalem, a city on a hill. A fortified city on a hill should withstand most attacks. Nevertheless, David captured that fortress and renamed it. And just in case you missed it the first time, the word is used in the account recorded in 1 Chronicles 11:
David and all the Israelites marched to Jerusalem (that is, Jebus). The Jebusites who lived there said to David, “You will not get in here.” Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion, the City of David. (v. 4,5)
Nevertheless. In other words, it shouldn’t happen..but it does anyway.
I knew that I wanted to write about Zion, but I had not been sure of how, nor why. There are some interpretations of the name Zion that assign meaning based on what it has become, such as “fortress.” We now think of Zion as Jerusalem, Mt. Zion as the temple hill. And Revelation has given us the name Zion as being the name of our eternal home, the city which will be in the new heaven and new earth. But that is how we see it in hindsight. Originally Zion did not belong to the Israelites, as these two accounts clearly indicate. Zion belonged to the Jebusites. However, the Hebrew word sayon, with the same spelling as our word Zion, means dryness. So, in order to understand what we see now, we must understand the roots.
Dryness is often associated with negative connotations. You’ve run dry of ideas, or you are spiritually dry. Moses and the Israelites spent 40 years wandering a dry desert. Elijah, by his fervent prayers to the Lord, caused the land to be dry for three and a half years so that Baal’s followers would turn and repent. We do not like to be in a place of dryness. Many of the psalms were written at times of festivals and celebrations. The most fruitful occasion for psalm-writing appears to be the fall festival, when the heavens opened up and gave rain for the harvest following months of heat and drought.
But what if we look at dryness just a little differently? What if dryness is our place of dependence? When the Israelites wandered, they had neither the food of their oppressors nor the fruit of the Promised Land. But God provided. When The Lord withheld rain, Elijah was directed to a brook where he received bread from ravens. A little farther into the drought and Elijah received food and water from an angel. That food and water sustained Elijah for forty days and nights while he traveled to Horeb, the place where he encountered God through a gentle whisper. Dryness demanded dependence.
An entire nation should not be able to live in a desert for forty years. Nevertheless.
A prophet should not depend on ravens to bring bread. Nevertheless.
Food and water should not sustain you for forty days of travel. Nevertheless.
David should not have been able to capture Zion. Nevertheless.
Now why would David want a place that is called “Very Dry”? And then why would he name it, City of David? And why would that be a place for God’s temple? Wouldn’t it have been better to claim a place, say, closer to a river or sea? Good questions, I’m glad you asked.
The answer to your questions can be found in another “nevertheless.” Allow me to explain with a story like David’s:
King Jesus marched up to a Very Dry Place to attack Satan, who lived there. Satan said to Jesus, “You will not get in here; even the blind and lame can ward you off.” Satan thought, “Jesus cannot get in here.” Nevertheless, Jesus captured the fortress of the Very Dry Place, the Home of Jesus.
Do you know where that is? It is your heart. Jesus should have no desire to live in your heart. It’s a mess for one. For two, there are strongholds and a taunting enemy already there. Nevertheless.
Remember that I said God gave us a preview when David captured Zion. He absolutely did. David was called “a man after God’s own heart.” He captured Zion, renamed it, and made it a place of worship. Fast forward. Jesus, after being baptized – declared and dedicated to God – went to a very dry place. He spent forty days and nights in the desert, eating nothing, engaged in spiritual battle with Satan. Why? Because Jesus was a man after your own heart, and when he approaches your heart a spiritual battle ensues. And then what?
Remember that I said Mt. Zion was the name of the place where God’s temple, the center of worship, was placed. Towards the end of Jesus’ time in the desert, Satan led him to the highest point of that very temple in Jerusalem, in Zion. Satan tested the dependence of Jesus. Why would the Son of God have to endure this? He endured it to be a preview and a model for us to follow. Satan likes to bring us to the highest point in our heart and ask us who we really trust:
“It’s a really dry time in your life, you know. It’s been a really long time since you have had anything good. If God is really God, shouldn’t he take care of you?”
Here’s your answer: “It is. It has. He will.”
Or, better yet, “It says: ‘Do not put The Lord your God to the test.'” (Luke 4:12) That is how Jesus answered.
We know that Jesus quoted Scripture to defeat Satan. Do you know which one he quoted here? Deuteronomy 6:16, which reads, “Do not test the Lord your God as you did at Massah.” Why is that important to know? Well, what happened at Massah? Glad you asked. Flip back to Exodus:
The Lord answered Moses, “Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:5-7)
Jesus, in a very dry place, called back to a time when the Israelites were completely dependent on God. God stood with the Israelites and made things very clear. No one should be able to strike a rock and receive water. Nevertheless. No one should be able to strike a sea and have it part, revealing dry land. Nevertheless. Jesus, hungry, thirsty, and in a place where God was being questioned, depended on God and God alone.
And Jesus came your for Very Dry Place. He came for your Zion, to make it a place of worship. When David captured the city, it did not suddenly start to rain. But the dependence changed. When Jesus stood with Satan at the top of the temple, his dependence was tested. When Satan questions you, “Is the Lord with you or not?” how do you answer?
I mentioned that I had not been sure of how to write about this. But then, this morning, my spiritual brother preached about the freedom we are meant to experience. And as I was looking at Zion references, I heard him say this, “When we really understand the freedom that we have, we start to pray some pretty outlandish prayers. We can ask for things we should have no business asking for.”
A sea should not part. Nevertheless.
Water should not come from a rock. Nevertheless.
Elijah should not be fed by ravens. Nevertheless.
David should not be able to capture Zion. Nevertheless.
Jesus should not want our filthy, messed-up, evil-dwelling heart. But he does, nevertheless. He wants to rename it. He wants to make it a place of worship. He wants to change the dependence.
You may be in a very dry place in life right now. If so, praise God because He is about to give you water from a rock. Or maybe you have everything that you think you need; your heart is like a city by the sea. Then you may need to leave that place like Elijah did, become completely dependent on God just so you can hear Him whisper.
Who rules your Zion?
And why does it matter? Well, God gave us a preview for that too:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. Revelation 21:1
When that day comes, when the old has passed away, who will be found ruling in your heart? I pray that the temple of your heart has been found to be dependent on God. There will be no more sea. Only Zion. It should not be our eternal home, but thanks to the King who came for us, it can be, nevertheless.