There are some pieces of literature that stand out in the course of Christianity. I fear that we are losing some of our history by not emphasizing these classical reflections on the work of God in the history of the church. Our public schools require our children to read secular classics, but no one is asking them to read the Christian classics. No one is asking them to read John Bunyan or Martin Luther or Jonathan Edwards. No one is asking them to read the great missionary biographies of Hudson Taylor or Adoniram Judson. They are certainly not reading the works of the early church, from the pens of men like John Chrysostom or the most prolific writer of the early church, Saint Augustine of Hippo. This loss of our Christian heritage is a real tragedy.
One of Augustine’s most important works, De Civitate Dei, known in English as The City of God, is rarely read outside the walls of seminary classrooms. Augustine (354-430 AD) lived during a time of cultural upheaval as Rome had been conquered by the Visigoths. Adherents of the Roman pagan religions blamed Christians for Rome’s downfall, greatly shaking the faith of Roman Christians. The City of God sets out to remind Christians that we are not citizens of the “City of Man” but of the “City of God.” Our focus is not on what is temporal, but on the new, heavenly Jerusalem of the Scriptures. In the introduction of the book Augustine wrote:
I have undertaken its [the city of God’s] defense against those who prefer their own gods to the Founder of this city, -a city surpassingly glorious, whether we view it as it still lives by faith in this fleeting course of time, and sojourns as a stranger in the midst of the ungodly, or as it shall dwell in the fixed stability of its eternal seat, which it now with patience waits for, expecting until “righteousness shall return unto judgment” and it obtain, by virtue of its excellence, final victory and perfect peace.
In 2 Samuel 5, we encounter this same theme as it is first introduced in the Scriptures. In this text, David conquers Jerusalem and establishes it as the place that God would establish and build His kingdom. The introduction of Jerusalem in 2 Samuel reveals to us what would become the geographic center of everything that we hold dear as God’s people. Jerusalem became the home of the Temple of YHWH. Jerusalem became the desire of the nations as evidenced by the repeated conquest of that city throughout history. Jerusalem became the place that our Lord Jesus Christ would suffer his cruel death and his glorious resurrection. And in a time to come, our Lord, with all the Saints will rule from a new Jerusalem.
When the Scriptures introduce these great themes of our faith, it is vital that we realize it. A casual reading of 2 Samuel 5 shows us that David conquered Jerusalem, but it is easy to miss the significance of this event if we do not seat it in the course of the historical outworking of our faith. A big idea like this is too important to overlook.
And the amazing thing about this City – praised by Augustine, founded by David, established in eternity by the Lord Jesus Christ – is that we are already citizens of this wonderful place. We are not citizens of the City of Man, though we are tempted to do business there frequently. We have left our home in the earthly City. Our citizenship is in a greater City – a City that is also a Kingdom. Do we live our lives as patriots of this great City? Do we live as residents of the glorious City of God?