Throughout the Bible, we read of believers who were forced to move due to sin, famine, war, or slavery. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David each experienced difficult journeys. The entire nation of Israel was exiled, scattered, and restored. When the ancient Israelites made their regular festival journeys to Jerusalem, it reminded them of a history filled with moves. Yet one of the Psalms of Ascents, Psalm 125, reminded pilgrims of a more permanent hope: “Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, So the LORD surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore” (Ps. 125:1–2).
It is interesting that pilgrims would sing this as they were ascending to Jerusalem. While they were on the move, believers were given the hope that they would not be moved. What did it mean that God’s people would “abide forever”? How could this be when so many of them lived fleeting lives? To grasp this promise, we have to think about what Jerusalem represented to the Israelites. In ancient times, a capital city was a safe place to flee to in times of war. Jerusalem was a strategic site: a fortified city, surrounded by hills, with water sources within its walls. It was also where the king resided. Ancient people needed a king they could trust—one who could defend them. Kings and their subjects would have formal arrangements that guaranteed protection and allegiance. Almost like a marriage, these would be covenant relationships of trust, commitment, and even love.
Old Testament saints understood, however, that Jerusalem was a symbol of more profound and permanent hope. Trust in the Lord made them “like” Mount Zion. A comparison was being made, one that used the goal of their pilgrimages as a metaphor. Though it was a blessing to have this capital city, they confessed that they were “strangers and exiles on the earth” (Heb. 11:13). They knew that their enduring hope was found in the eternal city that God is preparing (v. 16). To trust the Lord was to look to Him as their salvation, safety, and security. It was to trust that He keeps His covenant promises forever. Believer, He will ensure that you are preserved. The enemy cannot have ultimate victory over you.
This enduring hope still stands for those who trust in the Lord. As with those before us, the circumstances of our lives could change so radically that we have to flee, or become pilgrims, or even become slaves. In many regions, Christians are beginning to feel more and more like strangers. There will be trials, tests, pilgrimages to make on this earth. However, for those who flee to the King of kings, there will be ultimate and eternal preservation. He is our rock and our fortress. “Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever” (Ps. 125:1).