Recently I’ve been thinking about the personification of cities in the Bible. When God had a message for a city He often described the city as a woman, and spoke accordingly to her.
Famous biblical words to cities include:
- To Jerusalem: As I have given the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest as fuel for the fire, so will I treat the people living in Jerusalem. I will set my face against them. Although they have come out of the fire, the fire will yet consume them. And when I set my face against them, you will know that I am the LORD. I will make the land desolate because they have been unfaithful. (Ezekiel 15:6-8)
- Jesus to Jerusalem: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often have I longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ (Luke 13:34-35)
- Revelation on Rome: Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup. Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, ‘I sit as a queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.’ Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.” (Revelation 18:6-8)
But here’s a question I’ve been wrestling with recently… Did God ever say anything positive over a city? Did He ever have words of encouragement and approval for what a city was doing, rather than words of judgment and rebuke?
We know God is not against cities, since although the biblical story begins in a garden, it ends in a city. At the very end of the Bible, in Revelation chapter 21, we see the new Jerusalem descending down from heaven, becoming a place where God and humanity will live together in peace forever. And this is a very positive image, filled with words of comfort for us all, since it describes our ultimate destiny as citizens in a heavenly city – heaven will be like a glorious city where we will all live in peace with each other, and in relationship with God. But is this the only time that God speaks positively over a city in the Bible?
If we had a word from God for London, what do we think He would be saying to our city? Would there be words of affirmation and approval, or words of judgment and rebuke? I often wonder how much of the words directed to ancient Rome in Revelation chapter 18 might now apply to London; “Woe! Woe, O great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth!” (Rev 18:19).
What do you think God is saying to our city today?
Mark Williamson is a founding director of One Rock International, a training organisation resourcing missionary leaders across the globe. He’s also passionate about praying for London, getting into deep conversations, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna.