The LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. - Psalm 87:2 HCSB

I was once told a story of two brothers who traveled through Eastern Europe several hundred years ago. They had spent days on the road, walking from town to town for the sake of their ministry, when they came upon a small town named Oushpitsin.

Not wanting to spend another night sleeping in ditches and hay stacks, they approached an innkeeper about having a place to stay. They didn’t have any money, so they couldn’t afford a room. However, the innkeeper was a kind man and allowed them to huddle in the space behind the stove and sleep in the dry warmth of its light.

Sometime during the night, they awoke simultaneously with a terrible sense of horror and foreboding upon them. They couldn’t explain their mounting panic but it was so strong that they chose to gather their belongings and head down the road even though it was still deep night. They couldn’t get far enough away from that seemingly innocuous little village fast enough!

Much later, that village became known as Oswëcim – or as we now know it – Auschwitz.

There are places so laden by sin that they become cursed. Consider the curse Joshua laid upon Jericho! It was so potent that when Hiel the Bethelite tried to rebuild its foundations, he lost his oldest son. When he tried to set up its gates, God took his youngest son![1]

Or consider Babylon, which was cursed by the Lord through the prophet Jeremiah. He said that He would cut it off so that no one will live in it – man or beast but would remain desolate forever. He prophesied that Babylon would sink to never rise again because of the oncoming disaster.[2]

However, just as there are certain places where the accumulated sin has brought about a spiritual moribundity, some geographical locations are magical places of great joy and blessing. Many years ago I was hiking through the woods of Nova Scotia when I came upon a place of great natural beauty. Instead of the usual scrub pine normally found all over that rocky island, here I found huge, majestic trees rising hundreds of feet into the air. The light filtering through the leaves took on such a subdued tint that it put all stained glass windows to shame.

I have seen many beautiful places in my life but none claim the love of God as does Zion! The Lord has chosen Zion and He desires her for His home.[3] Kadosh Yisra’el founded her and is making her a place of refuge for the afflicted.[4] Akal Esh’s[5] fire is in Zion and his furnace is in Jerusalem.[6]

Therefore, let all who hate Zion be driven back in disgrace![7] The ransomed of the LORD will return and come to Zion with singing, crowned with unending joy. Joy and gladness will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee.[8]

[1] Joshua 6:26 cp 1 Kings 16:34

[2] Jeremiah 51:60-64

[3] Psalm 132:13; Isaiah 8:18

[4] Isaiah 14:32

[5] Consuming Fire - Deuteronomy 4:24; 9:3 cp Hebrews 12:29

[6] Isaiah 31:9

[7] Psalm 129:5

[8] Isaiah 51:11