In my work with MJTI (mjti.com), I have been working on a number of projects leading me to write about Jerusalem. That’s why I recently bought Carta’s Illustrated History of Jerusalem by Meir ben Dov.
MJTI opened a center in Jerusalem one year ago. In late February I am having some MJTI rabbis join me in Atlanta for some “Remember Jerusalem” banquets bringing together Messianic Jews and Christians with a great love for the city and its people. I am writing scripts and other documents related to Jerusalem for MJTI, for some projects about which I will say more in the near future.
In coming months, I will be reading more about the archaeological work that has been done in Jerusalem, the history of this city over the past four millennia, and the Biblical theology of Jerusalem.
One of the more unusual pieces of Biblical celebration of Jerusalem is Psalm 87.
“On the holy mount stands the city he founded; the Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob,” says the Psalmist. We could do well to ask why this is so. It would seem to be because God has chosen to dwell here, bringing his shekhina here during the glories of the first Temple and “the Most High himself will establish her,” meaning in future descents of his glory to the city. Once chosen, Jerusalem is the city of God’s name forever.
The Psalm then develops an idea that sounds strange to modern ears:
“This one was born there,” they say. And of Zion it shall be said, “This one and that one were born in her”; for the Most High himself will establish her. The Lord records as he registers the peoples, “This one was born there.”
The perspective here may be the Age to Come, when Jerusalem is the center of the world, recognized by all, even Rahab and Babylon (see verse 4). At that time, it will be accounted a great blessing for a child to be born in this city. The importance of Jerusalem is lifted here from the realm of mere theory and becomes tangible. It is literally a city of blessing.
To me this idea is not some religious platitude. Having walked through Jerusalem eight times in my life, and in spite of the many veils over God’s glory that exist in the present and even the darkness that presides there now, I have felt it. I see the Muslim minarets and my concentration on God is at times broken by the harsh calls to prayer, but even there I think of God’s promises to the entire Middle East, such as in Isaiah 19. These who despise God’s people now cannot ruin this city with their loathing, since they will be redeemed in God’s good time and Egypt, Assyria, and Iran will be counted as chosen people of God along with Israel.
Jerusalem is the center of redemption, the epicenter of healing for the world. It is now a symbol and the glory is covered. Yet even in its present humility the glory shines through. I am far from the only person who has watched the sunrise and the sunset in Jerusalem and enjoyed the golden stones. Jerusalem of gold shines through even the darkest veil.
Carta’s Illustrated History of Jerusalem describes the origins of this city, unusual not only for theological reasons, but geographical ones as well. Jerusalem is not an obvious geographical choice for the center of the world. This hill in a harsh semi-arid country of steep mountains and deep valleys is in fact an unexpected idyllic capital. The Carta history begins:
Jerusalem’s history was ordained nearly five thousand years ago when a small number of families decided to settle on the lowest of the Jerusalem hills. They chose this hill because of the abundant water flowing beneath it — the Gihon spring — and the nearby fertile valleys and beautiful ridges for planting vineyards, which ensured sustenance. In time, the hill would become the City of David.
From that history to Jerusalem’s ultimate glory is a long journey and we are seemingly far from what Jerusalem will become. Yet even now we can see it if we try. This is the place, says Jeremiah 3:17, that will be know as the throne of God.