The origin of Jerusalem is lost in the mists of antiquity. The earliest written evidence of the city dates from ca 1400 BC where it is called Urusalim in the Egyptian narrative discovered in the Egyptian Tell-el-Amarna tablets. Here king Abd-Khiba sent letters to his Egyptian over-lord verifying the existence of the name Jerusalem in another tongue before it became a Hebrew city. In Genesis (14. 18, 19) the mysterious Melchisedek, King of Salem(Peace), and priest of the most high God, appears briefly on the scene to meet Abram on the plain of Jerusalem when he returns from the battle of the kings. He blesses Abram and brings forth bread and wine, in his role of Godís priest. Many scholars consider Melchisedek a type of Christ, darkly seen in this ritual. Declared to be a priest after the order of Melchisedek (Ps 100. 4; Heb.5. 6), God pronounced Christís priesthood eternal and of a higher order than the Levitical priesthood with its genealogical restrictions. The communion emblems of bread and wine shared by Christ and his apostles at the Passover feast in Jerusalem was a ceremony in which he would not again participate until his return and the kingdom has come, so he said. (Lk 22. 18). |
It should be noted here that Abram prior to meeting Melchisedek had been called out by God from Ur of the Chaldees to go to the land of Canaan. So Jerusalem, located in Canaan, was situated in the very land God had promised Abraham, "to have in possession" (Acts 7. 5).
Now the Lord had said unto Abram, get thee out of thy
country and from thy kindred, and from thy fatherís house,
unto a land that I will show thee: and I will make of thee
a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great
and thou shalt be a blessing. (Gen 12. 1 - 3)
Jerusalem was, if you will, ordained by God to be a city of destiny before it became part of Hebrew history. Located on the summit of a high ridge in the Judean mountains in the southern center of the land of Canaan, the city is intersected by deep valleys which divide and subdivide the site into four quarters. Ophel, in the southeast, is believed to be the location of the city, and is further subdivided to include Mt. Moriah , where Abraham obeyed Godís command to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Standing at 2500 ft. above sea level, it was an ideal fortress city. And it has stood for centuries at the crossroads of history by virtue of its economy, geography and destiny. Although its name has been sometimes changed , it has never failed to be anything other than Jerusalem.
The first mention of Jerusalem as Zion in scripture is in 2 Samuel 5. 7. King David took this Jebusite fort described as "The stronghold of Zion, the same as the city of David." In verse 9 we read that he dwelt there and called it the city of David. And from the time that he wrested it from the Jebusites, it has stood for physical, emotional and spiritual security for the Jews. Jerusalem is the object of more Jewish devotion than any other place or thing. It is the place that Solomon brought up the ark of the covenant of God to the temple he built there.
An unprecedented period of peace accompanied the early period of Solomonís reign. But with his flagrant apostasy the kingdom ultimately became divided and the judgments prophesied by Ezekiel (Ch 16) came true; Jerusalem is subjected to a judgment unrivaled in scripture. The life story of the city now becomes one of constant war and upheaval; primarily in the misfortunes of the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities commencing ca 700 BC. By 70 AD Jerusalem is made a ruin, a city to be trodden down of the Gentiles from that time forward (Lk 21,24). Next come the Romans who change the name to Aelia Capitolina and decree that the city never be rebuilt. Then come the Arabs, the Turks, and the Crusaders taking the city in 1099 AD. After 150 years Jerusalem is lost to the Muslims , later falling under the rule of the Ottoman Empire (1517 - 1917) when Gen. Allenby arrives on the scene after WWI. Despite the unbelievable battering Jerusalem suffered through the ages, somehow it remains intact; its survival a veritable mirror image of the history of the Jewish race itself. One canít help but ask the question, Why? What lies behind this abnormal tenacity?
Historically Jerusalem has had great meaning for the Christian world. After all, the crucifixion took place just outside its gates. The savior of the world walked its streets and performed miracles here. Repentance and remission of sins were preached here. Itís interesting to note an oblique reference made by the writer to the Hebrews in the famous Ďfaithí chapter (11.10), which describes Abraham Looking for a city which has foundations, whose architect is God.
Consider the 137th Psalm , a lament for the many captivities of the Jews, exiles in a foreign land:
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down,
Yes, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
For there they that carried us away captive
Required of us a song; and they that wasted us
Required of us mirth, saying,
Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
How shall we sing the Lordís song in a strange land?
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my tongue cleave
To the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem
Above my chief joy.
Today , given the intensity of this feeling, do you think Israel will allow Jerusalem to be internationalizedĖan idea that has been floating around the Middle East for some time? Donít know. It is a subject much in the forefront of the Arab Israeli peace process which grips the world. God, by Ezekiel (16), reminded Jerusalem-- in the strongest language possible-- of her abominations and the breaking of the covenant He made with them long before (Deut 29. 12). In an almost unreadable tirade against the city and its inhabitants, it predicts a terrible judgment by God Ėit is hard to conceive what their reaction might be. Compared to a useless vine, a faithless wifeĖand worseĖit is the cause of Christís deep grief in a lament by him who had been sent by God in one final effort to save the lost House of Israel:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
Thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them
Which are sent unto thee,
How often would I have gathered thy children together,
Even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings
And ye would not.
Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
For I say unto you, ye shall not see me henceforth,
Til ye shall say,
Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. (Matt 23. 37 - 39)
What lies in the future for Jerusalem and the Jewish people? A blessing-- for God vowed not to forget His covenant with His people Israel and His promise of a new and everlasting covenant:
Behold the days come, saith the Lord,
That I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel,
And with the house of Judah:
Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers
In the day that I took them by the hand
To bring them out of the land of Egypt;
Which my covenant they brake,
Although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord.
This shall be the covenant . . .I will put my law
In their inward parts, and write it in their hearts;
And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer 31. 33)
The book of Revelation paints a glorious picture of the New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven in a precious light, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal..
And he carried me (John) away in the spirit
To a mountain great and high,
And showed me the holy city, Jerusalem,
Coming down out of heaven from God.
It shone with the glory of God
And its brilliance was like that of
A very precious jewel,
Like a jasper, clear as crystal.
It had a great high wall with 12 gates,
And with 12 angels at the gates.
On the gates were written the names of
The 12 tribes of Israel
The 12 gates were 12 pearls,
Each gate made of a single pearl.
The great street of the city was of pure gold,
Like transparent glass.
Now is the hard partĖtrying to decipher the symbolism. We know, donít we, that the streets of New Jerusalem wonít be paved with gold, nor the gates made of single pearls? Or do we? Well, if not, what does it all mean for us? When we look elsewhere in the Bible, perhaps we gain some insight:
For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth:
And the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. .
For, behold I create Jerusalem a rejoicing,
And her people a joy.
And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people:
And the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her. . .
They shall not labor in vain. ..
For they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord. .
Before they call, I will answer; while they speak I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
And the lion shall eat straw like the bullock. . .
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain
Saith the Lord. (Is 65. 17 - 25).
These words from holy scripture, familiar-- expressed in human terms, describe a more comprehensible new Jerusalem. Because there we will think, feel, and find reward in our work. As the seed of the blessed Lord, our relationship with God will continue in answered prayer. The miraculous turnaround in animal behavior would seem to symbolize the absence of death and destruction, fulfilling all mans desire. Thus New Jerusalem lives in the mind of man. The essence of New Jerusalem becomes more clear. Peace reigns.
To paraphrase a clue in the closing book of the Old Testament, Speaking to Israel God says that those that fear the Lord and think on His name, your names are written in a book of remembrance. In the day when I make up my jewels I will spare them as a man spares his own son.(Malachi 3. 17).
Can we believe the precious stones from which the New Jerusalem is built could be you and me, changed from earthly stones to jewels, in full with the fruits of the spirit? Jesus taught us to embrace these virtues and write them on the tables of our hearts; knowing the light they shed would reflect that of Godís spirit and the light of His glory. It is possible that herein lies the transformation of the old Jerusalem into this new and perfect city, built on the foundation of the faithful of the ages. And the name of that city from that day shall be
THE LORD IS THERE