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Jerusalem - The City of God

Jerusalem

by Dennis Pollock

In American pop culture there are certain songs dedicated to cities. The old crooners used to love to sing about Chicago, that "toddlin town." And Frank Sinatra will ever be associated with New York, as he sings, "Start spreading the news, I'm leaving today. I want to be a part of it – New York, New York." It is interesting that the Bible actually includes references to Jerusalem in the poetry and the songs which make up the book of Psalms. In Psalm 48, written by one of the "sons of Korah," we read these words:

GREAT is the LORD, and greatly to be praised
In the city of our God,
In His holy mountain.
Beautiful in elevation,
The joy of the whole earth,
Is Mount Zion on the sides of the north,
The city of the great King. (Psalms 48:1,2)

In the 135th Psalm, the writer exults: "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her skill! If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy" (Psalm 137:5,6). It is amazing to consider that these men were not talking about their wives or sweethearts; they were speaking of a city, with its dirt and rocks, a place where men and women live, eat, sleep, work, argue, marry, and eventually die. Jerusalem, like every other city, was a patch of dirt, with houses built over it, where its inhabitants chose to spend the majority of their time. But to the psalmists it was more than their home. They considered it the city of the great King, the one place on earth where God chose to call His home.

Jerusalem does not seem like a particularly great choice for capital city, let alone the "city of God." It possessed little military value, it was not a seaport, it was not located on a major trade route, nor was it especially significant economically. Her only real significance was that which God assigned her. Jerusalem was special because God said it was special. Psalm 132 says, "For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation: 'This is My resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.' ” (Psalms 132:13,14). In other words, God says, "I'm going to make Jerusalem My city, My home – because I want to!"

Amazingly Jerusalem is called "the holy city." In Nehemiah we read: "Now the leaders of the people dwelt at Jerusalem; the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to dwell in Jerusalem, the holy city… (Nehemiah 11:1). In giving the account of how Satan tempted Christ, Matthew writes, "Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple…" (Matthew 4:5). A study of the history of Jerusalem might lead one to think otherwise. Probably no city has been fought over more than this city. During Jeremiah's day the Jews rebelled against God and were allowed to be taken captive and removed from Jerusalem. Its inhabitants have not always been sterling examples of righteousness and devotion to their God. Still the inspired Scriptures refer to it as "the holy city."

Sanctified

To understand this you must grasp the concept of sanctification. This word represents a concept every Christian should understand. To sanctify means: "To set apart, to make holy, to consecrate unto God." We see this in action in the book of Leviticus, where we read: "Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and some of the blood which was on the altar, and sprinkled it on Aaron, on his garments, on his sons, and on the garments of his sons with him; and he sanctified Aaron, his garments, his sons, and the garments of his sons with him" (Leviticus 8:30).

By this act of anointing with oil and blood Aaron and his sons were sanctified. They were transformed from ordinary men into men who belonged to God, and were set apart for God's holy service. They were no longer common; they were now priests of the most high God. This had nothing to do with their personalities, their looks, their behavior, or their intelligence. They had been consecrated and chosen to execute the office of priests by God's direct command.

Similarly Jerusalem was consecrated as God's special city. Her uniqueness had nothing to do with her beauty or geography, or the spirituality of her citizens. It had everything to do with God's sovereign choice. Here God would dwell. From here God would speak. Of all the cities and places on our large planet, this was the one place you could go if your were really serious about finding God. Moses was told by God: "And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony… (Exodus 25:22). God declared that Jerusalem was His city, the temple was His residence, and that special place known as the holy of holies, where the ark of the covenant rested, was where He could be found and His voice could be heard. The Jews took this to heart, and even when long distances away, they would turn their faces in the direction of Jerusalem when they prayed.

Base of Operations

Worship at the TempleOf course these verses are not suggesting that the Creator of the universe is small enough to fit into a small wooden box. Solomon recognized that God was bigger than any city, far bigger than the earth itself, and declared: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!" (1 Kings 8:27). The idea of God dwelling in Jerusalem was more about making the city His designated “base of operations.” Since men and women could not make their way into heaven and spend time with Him at His throne, God would create a place on earth from which He would conduct business, and make Himself known. Jerusalem would be not just Israel’s capital city, but God’s as well.

As the Jews read the Scriptures, they came to love and revere Jerusalem in a way no other people have ever loved any other city. The Russian Jew and Zionist leader, Elhanan Lewinski, wrote: “The land of Israel without Jerusalem is like a body without a soul. In the very name ‘Jerusalem’ there lies concealed something powerful, unknown and mysterious that draws the Jewish heart.” Throughout the long years of their Diaspora, when the Jews were exiled from their homeland, their minds and hearts were fixed on Jerusalem. Every observant Jew would have a small patch of wall left unpainted and unadorned as a symbol of their sadness over the loss of Jerusalem. And century after century the Jews would conclude their Passover Seder with the words “Next year in Jerusalem.” They may have had no reasonable expectation of being in Jerusalem in a year or even in their lifetime, but still they declared it and dreamed of a day when Jews could live happily and proudly in the city of the Great King.

Middle East expert Lance Lambert wrote: “It was the refusal on the part of the Jewish people to forget Jerusalem, this refusal to let go of the dream of a Zion regained, that led finally to the birth of Zionism. That deep, mysterious and painful consciousness of Zion within the Jewish soul caused it to be enshrined in the folklore, ceremony and liturgy of the exiled people. Every aspect of life, from birth to marriage, from marriage to death was lived within the shadow of Zion ...”

On May 14, 1948 the longings and prayers of the Jews were fulfilled, and the state of Israel was reborn. It took a war with five Arab nations to keep it, and then another and then another, but keep it they did. Still something was missing. After the dust of Israel's war of independence had cleared, the Jews had a nation but ancient Jerusalem was still under Jordan's control. Then in 1967, facing another attack by multiple Arab armies, the Jews decided to strike first, and in six days were able to overwhelm their enemies and temporarily triple their territory, although much of the land won was eventually returned. What would never be returned, however, was the old city of Jerusalem. God's holy mountain, the joy of the whole earth, the city of the great King was in Jewish hands once again.

Relevance

Does Jerusalem have relevance to Gentile Christians today? It very much does. Firstly a Jewish Jerusalem is a fulfillment of prophecy and the most significant "sign of the times" we have which indicates that the return of Jesus is imminent. In the gospel of Luke Jesus tells us: "And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled" (Luke 21:24). In AD 70 Rome destroyed much of Jerusalem, leveled the temple, and drove the Jews far from their beloved city. Century after century passed and the holy city was controlled by Gentiles of various nations. During the Six Day War in 1967 the Jews recaptured their beloved city, took it from the hands of the Jordanians, and for the first time in nearly 2,000 years Jerusalem was no longer "trampled by Gentiles." If this doesn't mark the beginning of the end of this age, what else would? In addition to this Jesus spoke a prophetic word for the city of Jerusalem. He condemned the city for killing the prophets and rejecting their Messiah (Himself), and then declared: "Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ ” This simple statement contains incredible prophetic insights, not the least of which is the fact that at the second coming of Christ there will be a Jewish, repentant population in Jerusalem. It was an absolute prophetic necessity for Jerusalem to become a Jewish city, and in our generation it certainly has. The repentance has not yet occurred, but it surely will, probably after the church is raptured.

Another way Jerusalem relates to Christian believers is the fact that what it was under the Old Covenant, we are today. In the old days Jerusalem was God's base of operations. It was where His glory dwelt, the one place on earth God set apart to make Himself known. Isaiah writes, "For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3). If any person from any culture, any race, or any nation was curious about his Creator, if he or she was really serious in wanting to know God, they would need to make the trek to Jerusalem. This was the center of God's work on the earth; this was His mouthpiece. Here you could cut through all the speculation and falsehoods, and find the truth about God. Jerusalem was truly "God's home town."

Strange as it may seem, today we Christians function in that role. We are the temple of God. We, the church, are the source of truth in the earth. Paul asks the Corinthian believers, "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16). Peter tells the Christians: "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). And to the Thessalonians Paul writes, "For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth" (1 Thessalonians 1:8).

We who belong to Christ are containers of God, proclaimers of His truth, ambassadors for the great Creator in a wicked, unrepentant, mostly un-reconciled world. We have this honor, not due to our own goodness or superiority, but because of "Christ in us, the hope of glory." To receive Jesus as Savior is not only to be delivered from the wrath to come, but also to receive His Spirit, His nature, His mind, His love, and His passion to turn the world back to God. It is no longer necessary to make the long trip to Jerusalem in order to learn of God. Simply find a Christian, one who loves and reads the Bible and who is filled with the Spirit of Christ. Through them God will speak, His presence will be known, and His will revealed. For God has said, "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (2 Corinthians 6:16).

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