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FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: Why I love the old ship of Zion

Welcome this week to the “front porch.”

The beautiful name of “Zion” is splashed throughout the deep writings of the Old Testament prophets. Solomon’s magnificent temple once rested on Zion’s western slope of the highest hill in Jerusalem. From her fixed position high above the hills, Zion served as a fortress of protection and a beacon of light to the land of Judah.

Those Old Testament writers honored this place called Zion and often wrote of her as they looked ahead by faith to a better Zion, the church of our Lord. You see, Zion of old pictures the church that our Lord would come years later to build (Matt. 16:18). In one place, the apostle contrasts the limitations of the old regime with the blessings in the Lord’s church by reminding the Hebrew

“But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels” (Hebrews 12:22).

We, today, have come to that place. We have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem and city of the living God. Sometimes I think we tend to take for granted the grandeur of the church of our Lord that we become a part of when we obey the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:1-6, 17). But the faithful prophets of old did not take Zion for granted. They loved her even as we are to love the Lord’s church today.

Many song poets through the years have taken this grand imagery of Zion as a fitting representation of the Lord’s church and used her in their music, one such song referring to her as an old ship. In 1977 Conrad Cook penned the beautiful words to “Is that the Old Ship of Zion,” a song that tells the story of a man standing on a river bank, looking out and seeing the old ship of Zion sailing in the distance. As he strains his eyes to make out this ship, he realizes that “its hull was bent and battered.”

He describes the scene further: “Waves were rough,” he writes, “but that old ship was sailing. Is that the old Ship of Zion I see?”

What a true and poignant image of the Lord’s church! Surely, through the ages, the church has been “bent and battered.” She has had to endure many storms and a multitude of attacks and will do so until “the Lamb shall overcome them” (Revelation 17:14).

Long before John’s vision, however, Daniel of old reminded us that Zion “shall never be destroyed.” She, he says, “shall stand for ever (Daniel 2:44).

Today I am so glad to be part of that everlasting ship of Zion, to be able to sail life’s sea in this old ship. I want to tell you that I love this church, and I hope that this look back at her beauty will excite you to a greater love for her, too. There are so many reasons I love old Zion, but there is one timely one here that we want to pause to remember: We love the old ship of Zion, today, because of her vast history.

True, all of those who have followed the command of Peter in Acts 2:38 to “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” have begun their own history in the church of our Lord. But the church of Christ goes further back than our lifetimes and the lives of our parents and grandparents (2 Timothy 1:5). The church’s history is rich and deep, going back, prophetically, thousands of years to the Old Testament.

Remember Isaiah’s great sermon, in the second chapter of Isaiah: “And it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (verses 2-3).

What a timely prophecy of the future coming of the Lord’s church – What rich and powerful history! Aren't you glad to know today that we have come to the “mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob!”

We have come to the church of our Lord, and this Zion shall forever stand!

P.S. We look forward to taking a closer look at the beauty of Zion in our next front-porch visit. God bless!

Coach Steven Bowen, a long-time Red Oak teacher and coach, now enjoys his time as a full-time writer and preacher of the gospel. In addition to his evangelistic travels, he works and writes for the Church of Christ of Red Oak at Uhl Road and Ovilla. Their worship times are 10 a.m. Sundays and 7:30 pm. Wednesdays. Email or call or text 972-824-5197.

Ellis County Press

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