by: Brian Schrauger, News Bureau Chief
Originally settled as long as six thousand years ago, Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world. Does its history matter?
It matters to Israel. Because of that history, Prime Minister Netanyahu calls Jerusalem, “our eternal capital.” Is he right?
Jerusalem’s history matters to Israel’s enemies. According to Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, Israeli historical claims to the Temple Mount are untrue. Standing on the massive platform built by King Herod when he refurbished the Second Temple, Abbas recently said that Israeli claims to the place “are empty and a falsification of history.” His party’s paper calls it, “the myth and tale of the alleged Temple.”
Clearly, the history of Jerusalem matters. But how can Israel make an exclusive claim?
It has been something like 3,900 years since Jacob was renamed Israel. Since then, his offspring, the Jews, have had sovereignty in the city for perhaps seven hundred of those years. Most of the time Jerusalem has either been desolate or under the control of others. In fact, for the past 1,300 years, the Temple Mount has been under the control of Islam.
The basis for Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its eternal capital is a mystery. It is a mystery we can solve. But every part of its solution comes at a price. The more we learn about Jerusalem’s history and the attending nature of Israel’s claim, far greater infinite mysteries are unveiled. Once discovered, these infinite mysteries can be only known, but never solved.
The Bible’s first mention of the city is an important clue. About four thousand years ago, Abraham moved to the land that later became Israel. At the time, its mostly unpopulated real estate was under the control of various warring tribes of a people called the Canaanites, who were well-known for their tribalism, viciousness and hedonistic idolatry. Abraham had a startling encounter with the Canaanite king of a city called Salem. His name, Melchizedek, means “Righteous King.” According to Genesis 14, he was also a priest of El Elyon, “God Most High.”
In short, Salem, the City of Peace, was ruled by the King of Righteousness who was also Priest of the Most High God. This person, this stunning historical anomaly, is ratified by the Author of Genesis. Melchizedek, the writer says, blessed Abraham. Abraham not only accepted that blessing, he responded by giving Melchizedek a huge financial gift; given, in fact, as unto the same God who summoned Abraham to uproot his family and move to that land.
This is a necessary key to unlock Jerusalem’s historical mystery. Here, in the earliest pages of the Bible, we see Abraham encountering the priest of God’s presence and king of God’s city in the heart of God’s Land—the Land of His promise deeded to Abraham and his offspring forever.
According to Scripture, there is something very important about this location, this city. Somehow it is uniquely close to the ruling, sovereign presence of God. And what is the focus of that presence? The Temple Mount.
Jewish tradition sees the Temple Mount as the same place where God created Adam and Eve. Tradition also identifies it as the place where Abraham took his son, Isaac, to offer him as a blood sacrifice to God. If so, it is intriguing to consider that this drama played out in the heart of Melchizedek’s city-state, perhaps with Melchizedek himself bearing witness from a nearby hill and interceding in prayer throughout. And when, at the last second, God provided a ram to take Isaac’s place, did that ram’s horn become the first shofar, blown for the first time on the Temple Mount? We can only speculate.
But according to the biblical record, there is no need to speculate why God Himself calls the Temple Mount His holy mountain located in Jerusalem, His holy city.
According to Torah [Gen.–Deut.], just as Israel was coming of age as a nation, it was given unique intercourse with God in a dramatic, localized expression of His Presence. Moses was the first known person to meet God in this intimate, unsettling way, an Expression of Presence that set ablaze the burning bush of Exodus 3. It is this same expression, this almost physical manifestation of God’s Person, that led the people out of Egypt, through the Red Sea and onward to Sinai. At Sinai, this Expression of Presence mushroomed from a Pillar of Cloud and Fire to envelope the mountaintop, shaking the ground, igniting the summit, deafening ears, disclosing God’s Word in words.
This same Presence, this Shekinah Glory, continued with Israel in the Tabernacle, specifically atop the Ark of Covenant, a chest representing God’s promises to Jews, including their irrevocable deed to the Land where He was taking them, the land of Israel and its holy mountain.
That “holy mountain” is the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It is the precise location where, according to the Bible, God’s unique Presence lives. His Shekinah Glory Presence remained with the Jews until He sent them into exile. Although that Expression of His Presence is not there today, He is. It remains His physical address on earth. It remains His holy mountain. It remains the space and time coordinates where His unique, localized Expression of Presence will return to inhabit “a house of prayer for all nations.”
From the dawn of pre-history, from the time of Melchizedek, Jerusalem has been the capital city of God’s Presence, the place where His King of Righteousness is enthroned. Specifically, according to the Bible, that literal throne is physically inhabited in the dynasty of the Jewish King David, whose kingdom, according to 2 Samuel 7, is established forever.
Designed as the home of God’s throne, is someone sitting on that throne today? The glistening gold dome atop the Temple Mount resting above what probably was the Holy of Holies indicates there is a king, a god, sitting there today. He is a god who calls himself ineffable and almighty. But his golden glory is death not life, slavery not freedom, darkness not light. Rejecting biblical history, his explicit goal is the annihilation of God’s people, the Jews. The “king” sitting today on his ill-fitting throne atop the Temple Mount is a usurper. He makes claim to Jerusalem, but it is not his. He makes the Temple Mount his home, but it isn’t. He has wreaked havoc and will wreak more. But his time is limited, his days are short.
The True King is coming and He will not be thwarted.
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