The Psalmist says of Jerusalem "May they prosper who love you" (Psalm 122:6). Many Americans Christians will wave their Israeli flags and yell "Amen! Amen!" But does Jesus really want His people to be Israeli nationalists?
Why does the Psalmist pray for the peace of Jerusalem? It certainly was not "so that Jesus can come back" because Jesus had not yet come the first time when this Psalm was written. Was it so that Jesus could come the first time? That is, did the psalmist believe that the Messiah would come when Jerusalem had peace? Maybe. Or maybe it was more that the Psalmist believed that the Messiah would actually bring the peace? So, in essence, this prayer would be a prayer for the coming of the Messiah.Or perhaps it was simply because the Psalmist loved his people, nation, and God that he urged prayer for the peace of the capital city? I think that this is probably the strongest reason. The Psalmist says "for the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good."
The house of the Lord in Jerusalem was at the very heart of the covenant that God made with His people Israel. It was what set Israel apart from other nations and declared to the world: "these are My people and I am their God". Therefore, the Psalmist would want peace in Jerusalem. The Psalmist would want nothing to upset the God of Israel so that He might abandon His temple and people. The Psalmist would want God and His people to be at peace and in harmony with one another. When that happened, the world itself had peace and blessings flowed out from Jerusalem into the whole world. At least, that was the theory. But Jerusalem never did have peace for very long. King David's reign was the pinnacle of the power of the nation of Israel and it didn't last long. "Jerusalem" means "city of peace" but it has not been a city of peace for much time at all in it's long history and it certainly is not a city of peace today. What does it mean for us today to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem?" Does it mean fighting the Palestinian people? Does it mean simply for a truce between the two nations? Does it mean rebuilding the temple? Does it mean that Israel becomes a little USA in the middle east? The city of Jerusalem today is a contended peace of land with a long history of much hurt and injustice committed by the warring parties against one another. The US certainly has it's own dirty hands in the struggle. It is a place that certainly needs our prayers and practical assistance for peace. The hurts are so deep and the history so complex, prayer is mandatory in order for this city to ever have peace. We should pray for it and work for it. But the heart of the psalmists prayer for Jerusalem today ought not to be focused on the geographical land of Jerusalem, but on the Church. For as God sent Jesus into the world, so Jesus is sending us (John 20:21). The heart of the covenant is still centered around the temple, but the temple today is the one Jesus rebuilt and restored at His resurrection. The temple, the heart of the covenant that declares "this is my people and I am their God", is the body of Jesus made up of the living stones of His Church, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. We are the Temple of the living God. We are the place where heaven and earth meet. We are the incarnational mechanism that God uses to accomplish His work in the world. That is why the need to pray for the health, holiness, and unity of the Church cannot be overstated. When the Church is healthy, the blessings of life, healing, reconciliation, restoration, and resurrection flow out into the world even as we long for His appearing to bring this healing work to it's completion. Come Lord Jesus, Come. And may those prosper who love You!