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The Hills of Jerusalem

Douglas A. Wheeler, Ph.D.

Psalms 125:1-5 is a powerful passage of Scripture that holds great promise to all believers today.

“They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever. For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity. Do good, O Lord, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts. As for such as turn aside unto the crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity: but peace shall be upon Israel.”

In the heading of this psalm it states: a Song of degrees. In English, this statement makes little sense, but in Hebrew it is the word ma’alah and it means “to ascend, to go up, and to go up into a higher region.” This is a step-by-step ascension to a higher region rather than starting at one place and arriving at another. There are scholars that will tell you that this is a “step” psalm because of the meter and rhythm in the psalm. They will also tell you that it is called a step because the sense of the song goes on progressively, thus the first or last words of a preceding sentence are often repeated. These statements are true; but Hebraically, we should realize that this psalm is to progressively take us from one level to another. This psalm tells us how to make steps toward intimacy with the Lord.
Notice the first part of the psalm: “They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever.” The word for trust in Hebrew is batach and it means “to confide in and set one’s hope in someone, to throw down upon the back and not be afraid to fall.” It also carries the meaning of ripening like a melon on the vine. Trust is a growing thing. Trust grows as you walk with the Lord. Trust comes as you have experiences with God. Trust grows as you ever-increasingly lean on him. For those that trust in the Lord, they shall be like Mount Zion which cannot be removed but adides forever. Zion means “stronghold or place of distinction.” Tziyyon was the original designation for hill fortresses captured by David. If we trust in the Lord, we will be a stronghold; we will not be removed, and we will be people of distinction.
Psalms 125 also states that “as the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people, from henceforth even for ever.” This is a very pretty verse, but what does it mean, and how can it impact our life today? What does it mean when it says that the Lord surrounds his people like the mountains surround Jerusalem? In order to understand this verse, one must have a basic understanding of the geography of the land around Jerusalem. Let’s consider the mountains that surround Jerusalem. There are seven mountains that surround Jerusalem. The first mountain that we will consider is Moriah. It was in this area that the first and the second temples were built. Rabbinical legend says that Moriah was the first land to appear during creation. It is further taught that it was from the red dirt of Moriah that Adam was created. Moriah was the top of the range known as Zion. Rabbinical legend also states that Moriah was in the center of the Garden of Eden and that this exact center of Eden was the location of the future Holy of Holies. It is also taught that Moriah was the place where Adam was buried. According to Genesis 22, Moriah is the place that Abraham took Isaac to offer him as sacrifice before the Lord. It was also the place where David bought the threshing floor because he “did not want to offer to God something that cost him nothing.” Moriah, from the root marah, was the place of God’s presence.
The second mountain that surrounds Jerusalem is Bethsaida. The root of this word is chesed, which literally means “mercy.” Bethsaida is “house of mercy.” Chesed, mercy, is eager and ardent desire of one for another. It is the motivational factor of love; it is the motivation of love. True chesed bestows peace, shalom, on its recipients. 
The third mountain is Mount Scopus. This is a modern word, and Mount Scopus has been the site of various hospitals in Israel. Even during the time of Jesus, Scopus was a place of treatment for those who were sick.
The fourth mountain is the Mount of Olives. The root of this word in Hebrew is zatim, and it means “to press, like an olive press, to have passion, to have intensity.” There is a secondary meaning here. It also means “to shine, to adorn, and to bring freshness and beauty.” 
The fifth mountain is Mount Opel. The word opel in Hebrew means “a hill, to build a wall, to keep.” It refers to the hill to the east of Zion which was surrounded and fortified by a separate wall. 
The sixth mountain is Zion. Zion refers to the whole range, but it also refers to a specific area. It means “stronghold, fortress.” It also means “to show the way, to be white and to be pure.” 
The seventh mountain is Ghareb (Calvary). There is a great deal of controversy about the exact location of Calvary. Some scholars say it is across the Kidron Valley, while others say it was at the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The location is not as important as the meaning of Ghareb. Ghareb means “sacrifice.” It is the place of atonement. It is through Ghareb that we are given access to Moriah, the presence of God.
If we trust in the Lord, we shall be as Zion. We shall be a fortress, a stronghold, and a people of distinction. The Lord has surrounded each one of us. When considering the mountains that surround Jerusalem, we can see that we are surrounded by the Lord Himself. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people from henceforth even forever. When we are growing in trust with the Lord, we see that His greatest desire is for us to walk in an intimate relationship with Him. He wants to bring us into His presence. He wants us to live at the place of exchange, the place where we who were dead in trespass and sin are brought into life eternal by the blood of a Messiah. He is our Moriah. It is here that He surrounds us with His love and mercy. He is our healer, both physically and spiritually. He is the one who brings freshness and beauty to our lives. He is our fortress, our tower, and our place of strength. He is our protector. He is the one who can show us the way; He points the way to a life of purity. What a beautiful description this truly is. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people. It is yours; and it is yours forever!