In exile in Babylon (ca 600 BC), a prayer--
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down,
Yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. . .
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem . . .
Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom,
In the day of Jerusalem, who said,
Raze it, raze it, even to the foundation thereof.
O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed;
Happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee,
As thou hast served us. Happy shall he be
That taketh and dasheth thy little ones
Against the stones. (Ps. 137. 1, 7 - 9 )
Any doubt about how Israel feels about Jordan or Iraq? Does it sound like Jerusalem is going to be an international city? Does it sound like all religions will be coming together–a prospect of the ecumenical movement? From the sayings of Mohammed in The Hadith is recorded:
O Jerusalem, the choice of Allah of all his lands!
In it are the chosen of his servants.
From it the earth was stretched forth
And from it shall it be rolled up like a scroll.
The dew which descends upon Jerusalem
Is a remedy from every sickness because
It is from the garden of paradise.
Muslim and Jew apparently hold the same view of the Holy City, so what’s all the fuss and hatred about? When we view Jerusalem from above, we see a mountain plateau, two ridges, mountains and five hills; interim valleys fitted in. Bounded on west and south by the Valley of Hinnom, and on the east by the Kidron Valley. North by the mountains are 40 degree slopes; situated 14 miles from the Dead Sea and 33 from the Mediterranean. Described in David’s and Solomon’s time, "On the sides of the north, the city of the great king", where it guarded all trade routes. Now it is a dry and rusty relic with inadequate supplies and capricious weather.
But on September 15th this year, Jews around the world will say, in unison, Next Year in Jerusalem. On this day of atonement when the day the high priest would enter the ‘holiest of holies’, they will fast and repent of their sins once a year. (Lev 16. 29, 30 - 34). What do they think at this time? They remember why they are not in Jerusalem. Though having been chosen–anointed–by God, they fell into the pagan practices of the nations round about them; they trusted in their beauty, forsaking their covenant with God and exhibiting their abominations to all the known world. And for this the Prophet Ezekiel pronounces God’s threatened judgments against them. (Ez 16. 1-59). This chapter concerns not a place, but a people who trusted in their own beauty. Unable to understand that they had been chosen of God–that their salvation would be bestowed by Him and Him alone, their lack of comprehension led to near destruction. Not totally, because in spite of their disobedience, in verses 60 - 63, God’s ultimate mercy is promised.
I asked my Jewish friend, the Rabbi, about the saying. What does Next Year In Jerusalem mean? It’s a cry for freedom I was told, to occur in a gathering from the Diaspora when the Messiah comes, to be held in Jerusalem. But why want to be there? It’s like saying so far as most people would, "Next year in Tombstone, Arizona". A nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Well, the Bible message is that someday you will want to live there. It will be the most beautiful place in the world–a virtual paradise. How will this happen? In contrast to the Jerusalem now extant, the prophet Zechariah describes the great earthquake which will take place when the Lord returns to do battle with the nations. Jesus, in the context of the message of the gospel, means nothing without Jerusalem.
But Jerusalem is not just a place, it’s a people, it is the church of God. Jesus greatest work is with spiritual Jerusalem. And may I remind? Change is everywhere. Time for you and me is moving on. Jerusalem is shaking the dust off its feet (Is. 52). The fig tree is blossoming; we await the day when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. The Mosque of Omar remains under Moslem control, standing on the site of Solomon’s temple. How long, O Lord? The days are swiftly flying. Do you think it possible we may say with the Jews in the coming year, Next Year In Jerusalem? This is an expectation devoutly to be wished.