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Christmas: Zion’s Promise

Photography by Sheryl Dawson
Zion National Park, 2020
(Click on pictures to enlarge)

“For the LORD has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling… For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.”

Psalm 132:13, Psalm 133:3

The Court of the Patriarchs, Zion National Park

Morning hike along the Virgin River

One of my favorite national parks is Zion in Utah and due to the severe fires out West this year, rather than going to Yosemite as planned, we visited Zion. The Court of the Patriarchs is one of the unique formations in the park. Given the popularity of the park and limited shuttle passes due to COVID-19 restrictions, I hiked to the site about two miles from the park entrance enjoying the Virgin River along the way. I was truly inspired by the beauty of this unique park which honors great Biblical themes. Having visited Israel, I can appreciate how the early settlers revered the grandeur of this amazing valley as a representation of Biblical land. There is a peace and promise of eternity that permeates the valley from sunrise to sunset.

After so many months of restrictions on travel and social interaction, I was eager for our short but awe-inspiring visit to Zion NP. As is my passion, I embarked on several favorite and new hikes capturing the spectacular views, within the limits of photography! I hope the images of Zion National Park motivate you to reflect on the ancient Biblical stories embedded in the stone formations of the Virgin River Valley.

The Covenant

Throughout the Bible God inspired His prophets and authors to memorialize Zion as God’s chosen land from where He made Himself known to the Hebrew people. From Genesis to Revelation Zion is His Holy Mount, His place of dwelling:

“For the LORD has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling… For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” Psalm 132:13, Psalm 133:3

View from Rt. 9 East Entrance to Zion Valley

Tradition holds that Mt. Zion in Jerusalem is actually the location of the Garden of Eden and where Abraham traveled to sacrifice Isaac when asked by the Lord. God intervened substituting a ram, yet Abraham’s willingness to obey his Lord foreshadowed God’s own sacrifice hundreds of years later when He sent His Son Jesus to fulfill HIs redemptive promise.

The Covenant given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (whom God renamed Israel) is echoed throughout the Torah (the first five books of the Bible written by Moses) as an everlasting promise of God to bless the world through His Chosen people. Throughout the centuries of Old Testament history God prepared the land and the people to fulfill His purpose to save mankind from original sin:

Tayler Creek Trail to Largest known Double Arch

The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:1-3

Overlook Canyon Trail view of Zion Valley

This ancient Covenant with Israel is the continuation of God’s promised redemption announced in the Garden of Eden and then to Noah before the great flood. Indeed, from the patriarchs to Joseph’s life journey into Egypt, Moses’ call to bring God’s covenanted people out of Egypt, Joshua’s mission to enter the Promised Land, David’s anointing to rule Israel, and through many prophetic proclamations, God’s redemptive promise reverberates on Mt. Zion like a thundering echo.

The 400 Year Silence

View of Watchman Tower from the Virgin River

After Micah there was a 400-year prophetic silence. During these many generations God’s people were not always obedient to His commandments as Moses had instructed:

Keep his decrees and commands, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time.” Deuteronomy 4:39-40

As they turned away from God, the Hebrew people experienced many trials and captivity; then as they called out for mercy, God returned them to Israel and renewed their faith.

God never forgot nor abandoned His people in times of their apostasy, faithful to His everlasting covenant. Rather, through the generations, He was preparing them and the needed circumstances for His Son’s anticipated appearance on earth. Every prophecy had to be fulfilled precisely, with the right people in the right place at the right time.

This long period of silence represented a “Chronos” time of seemingly repetitive day-to-day, week-to-week, year-to-year sameness that we all experience in our lives. As did the Hebrew people we wonder when shall the Lord answer our prayers for help? How shall His promises come to pass? What must we do through our valleys? The answer is in the Psalmist’s blessing:

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka (tears),
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion
. Psalm 84:5-7

What refreshing encouragement from the Psalmist as he reassured the people to look for strength in the Lord, and through the Chronos valleys of life to know that He shall provide springs, rains and pools until Zion is attained. Certainly, we too can apply this promise in our valley times of need.

The New Covenant

The Pulpit from River Walk Trail

When all aligned according to God’s plan and the prophets’ inspired words, God shifted into Kairos time, a season of opportunity in which all would be fulfilled. Under Roman occupation in the first century BC, the people again cried out for fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies. The stage was set for God’s redemptive plan to be fulfilled.

Zacharias the priest was visited by Gabriel to announce the coming of a son, John the Baptist, destined to call the Hebrew people to repentance; John would reveal the Messiah’s arrival at the time of His baptism in the Jordan River. Prior to their marriage Mary and Joseph, descendants of the house of David, each were visited by an angel announcing their roles in the coming of baby Jesus, the Son of God and Man! The ancient redemptive covenant of Zion would be realized through David’s lineage just as prophesied:

Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

Matthew details the genealogy of Joseph and summaries his lineage with these words:

Thus, there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.” Matthew 1:17

When the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of a virgin birth was confirmed:

“…All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).” Matthew 1:22-23

After the angel Gabriel’s Annunciation and during her visit to Elizabeth the mother of John, Mary too acknowledges the faithfulness of God as she declares:

River Walk Trail along the Virgin River

“…The Mighty one… has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.” Luke 1: 54-55

What an incredible Kairos shift! Many other prophecies were fulfilled in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, down to the minutest details. In fact, after His resurrection on the road to Emmaus Jesus Himself said:
“How foolish you are, and slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” Luke 24:25

Zion’s Promised Messiah Arrives

When Caesar Augustus declared a census in which all citizens were ordered to register in their ancestral home towns, soon after their marriage Mary and Joseph made the sojourn to Bethlehem of Judea, an 8-day journey from Nazareth. Knowing scripture, Mary and Joseph realized that through their challenges God had made a way to fulfill every Messianic prophecy:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Micah 5:2

Mary was very near her time of delivery so when they arrived in Bethlehem, weary from the long trek, Joseph frantically sought a place to stay. Over crowded from many returning families, no rooms were available. An inn keeper took pity and offered Mary and Joseph shelter in their stable where Jesus was born and laid in a manger. The song Zion’s Daughter expresses Mary’s joy in this humble yet divine setting.

Zion’s Promise Fulfilled

Throughout Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection God made supernatural provision for the fulfillment of His redemptive promise. There is no doubt of the divine nature of Jesus the Christ, who by submitting to the will of God would bring salvation not only to Zion, Israel and the Jewish people, but to all mankind. Jesus himself declared, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh onto the Father but by me.” John 14:6 His death on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice foreshadowed by the Exodus Passover and memorialized for all generations in the Last Supper. Jesus, the Lamb of God, is the final sacrifice that completed God’s redemptive plan. Jesus declared on the cross, “It is finished (paid in full)!” John 19:30 Zion was the place of God’s promise, the Hebrew people the lineage of the promised Immanuel, and Jesus the promised Savior. . This moving worship song, Christ is Mine, captures the treasures that are ours in Zion’s City:

…Christ completes His work in me…
And mine are keys to Zion City
Where beside the King I walk
For there my heart has found its treasure
Come rejoice now, O my soul
For His Love is my reward
Christ is mine forevermore…

Zion Within Us

After a year of disruption, disaster, disease and death around the world, as well as disorder, destruction, and deception in the US, people yearn for a release from uncontrollable circumstances, fear, and depression. The hope of Christmas is the antidote for the entire world! The miracle of God’s redemptive promise fulfilled in the baby Jesus, the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, is the answer for all humanity. Most are eager among family and friends to share in the tradition of gift giving and to embrace the season’s joy, hope and love. Yet the ultimate celebration of Christmas is found only in personally receiving the gift of Jesus’ sacrificial grace. Spiritually reborn one becomes a new creation in Him; in fact, every child of God is His dwelling place, His temple:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 1 Peter 2:6
This Christmas accept Jesus’ gift of salvation, embrace Zion within you, and share Zion’s promise.

[ChristmasSignature xmasyr=”2020″]

2 replies
  1. Alejandra Herrera
    Alejandra Herrera says:

    Beautiful words, it gives me hope and encouragement during these difficult times.
    The photos are very stunning, can’t wait to visit Zion NP.
    Thanks for sharing your wisdom and love for Christ.
    Best,
    Alejandra

    Reply
  2. Curris
    Curris says:

    Wow! Truely inspiring and beautiful photography. This is a time for everyone to surrender their hears and desires to our Lord Jesus Christ. He alone holds the keys to our eternal life if we will ask Him into our heart. Do it now and let Him be the Lord of your life.

    Reply

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