The City of Jerusalem – Holiest Place in Israel
“If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its 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).
Jerusalem the eternal capital of Israel is set on the Judean Mountains of central Israel and is surrounded on three sides by steep valleys: the Gehinnom valley to the south and to the west with the Kidron valley to the east. Jerusalem’s history lies in layers from Israel’s Kings to those that would conquer it only to be recaptured by Israel the rightful heir time and time again. The city of Jerusalem is built primarily using “Jerusalem stone” that is quarried in Jerusalem and used worldwide as a symbol of the Jewish identity.
Joshua led the children of Israel across the Jordan River as they came out of the wilderness into their “promised land” and here we find the first mention in the Old Testament of the city of Jerusalem as recorded in Joshua. Jerusalem was inhabited by Jebusites, from the tribe of Canaanites historically from the descendants of Canaan a son of Ham. (Genesis 10:6,16). Ham was a son of Noah. Ham’s son Canaan was cursed by Noah to be a servant of servants to his brethren (Genesis 9:25). Joshua and the children of Judah fought and conquered Jerusalem and the Jebusites were inhabitants and could not be driven out (Joshua 15:63, Judges 1:8). The city of Jebus, Jerusalem, was given to the children of Benjamin as an inheritance and they did not drive out the Jebusites, therefore today they both dwell in Jerusalem. (Joshua 18:28, Judges 1:21).
Saul reigned in Jerusalem as the first King and he was from the tribe of Benjamin. Jerusalem is where David brought the head of Goliath to present to King Saul (1 Samuel 17:54). After Saul’s death (reportedly 1007 BC) all the tribes of Israel came and made covenant with David in Hebron and anointed him King over all Israel: he was thirty years old. David reigned in Hebron for 7 years and six months and but once again took the stronghold of Zion (the city of David). David dwelt and reigned in Jerusalem thirty-three years over all Israel and Judah and the Lord God of hosts was with him. (2 Samuel 5:1-10, 1 Kings 2:11). David a man after God’s own heart: “After that He gave them judges for about four hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. And afterward they asked for a king; so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will. From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior—Jesus” (Acts 13:21-23).
David called Jerusalem the City of David and penned worship as written in the book of Psalm. He wrote of the importance of Jerusalem in the heart God and His people. Ascribed to be the place for all Jews to come together in unity and worship the One true God in his holy dwelling place. “Because of Your temple at Jerusalem, Kings will bring presents to You.” (Psalm 68:29). “To declare the name of the LORD in Zion, And His praise in Jerusalem,” (Psalm 102:21). “In the courts of the LORD’s house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 116:10). God protects His people and His Holy city. “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and forever.” (Psalm 125:2). King Solomon starts and completes the building of his house, builds the Temple the house of the Lord, brings the ark of the covenant to a permanent dwelling place in Jerusalem and builds the wall around Jerusalem (1 Kings 3:1, I Kings 6:1, 1 Kings 6:19, 1 Kings 6:37-38, 1 Kings 8:1-13). King Solomon reigned in Jerusalem for forty years (1 Kings 11:42). King Saul, King David and King Solomon were the last Kings to rule over a united Israel; for all kings that followed either reined over Israel or over Judah after the division of the kingdom.
The Babylonian exile after King Nebuchadnezzar’s conquered Jerusalem put an end to the reign of Jehoaichin in the spring of 597 BC. Until King Cyrus, chosen and used by God, ordered that worship be restored in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 36:21-23). King Cyrus returns what articles of the house of the Lord still available to those captives returning with the charge to build up the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. (Ezra 1:2-3, Ezra 1:7, Ezra 3:1). Opposition arose from those that feared that Jerusalem would grow strong as it was before (Ezra 4:20) which brought an end to the rebuilding. (Ezra 4:23-24). God’s prophets stood and encouraged the Jews and the restoration of the Temple resumed again with a renewed hope. (Ezra 5:1-2). As Ezra returned to Jerusalem and was supported by orders from King Darius and all those in authority in the region no longer opposed the Jews. (Ezra 8:31-36).
God stirs Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem in secret under King Artaxerxes’ authority. As he walked the city inspecting it the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and his heart was stirred to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 2:17). “Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem” (Psalm 51:18). The Jews helping Nehemiah rebuild the walls united to protect Jerusalem as the walls and the gates were rebuilt. “The LORD builds up Jerusalem; He gathers together the outcasts of Israel.” (Psalm 147:2). Captives who were taken into exile continued to return and the leaders of the people dwelt in Jerusalem and the others dwelt in other cities.” (Nehemiah 7:3-4, Nehemiah 11:1). The wall dedication was filled with great thanksgiving and songs of worship were sung” (Nehemiah 12:27). “Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem! Jerusalem is built as a city that is compact together,” (Psalm 122:2-3).
The prophets speak of Jerusalem throughout history and still God’s promise stands to the people and to the land. Zechariah encourages Jerusalem by speaking of its coming deliverance and Glory and prophecies what the city of Jerusalem is to God: “a city of Truth where God dwells” (Zechariah 8:3); “where God returns His people” (Zechariah 8:8); “where peoples-nations come to pray” (Zechariah 8:22); “protected by God” (Zechariah 12:3); “peaceful and safe” (Zechariah 14:11). In the last book of the Old Testament Malachi prophecies regarding the long awaited Messiah that will deliver the Jewish people and will reign from Jerusalem. “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the Lord of hosts.”(Malachi 3:1).
It is clear that people came from Jerusalem to follow Jesus. (Mark 1:5, Mark 15:41). Jesus was presented at the Temple for circumcision in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:22). Jesus as a child came to Jerusalem during the Jewish Feasts as all Jews come. At an early age he was far beyond his years as he declares to Mary and Joseph his insightful purpose. “And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. (Luke 2:49-50). During Jesus’ ministry he continually was traveling throughout Israel and visiting Jerusalem often. “And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.” (Luke 13:22).
Jesus prophecied his own death when responding to Herod’s threat to kill him, “On that very day some Pharisees came, saying to Him, Get out and depart from here, for Herod wants to kill You. And He said to them, Go, tell that fox, Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless I must journey today, tomorrow, and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem.” (Luke 13: 31-33).
Jesus’ love and compassion for Jerusalem was prophetically connected since before time began as God’s plan manifested. “But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out. Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, if you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:40-42).
The Holy Spirit promised by Jesus fell in the city of Jerusalem “Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me;” (Acts 1:4,12). The disciples continue to carry on the charge of the ministry of Jesus in Jerusalem, “Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.” (Acts 5:16).
Believers and Jews both look toward Jerusalem in hopes of when seeing the “new Jerusalem” when the Lord returns for his Bride, Jerusalem. “Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (Revelation 21:2,9-10). “For God’s Glory will fill the temple and no longer will there be need of light. But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” (Revelation 21:22).
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you.” (Psalm 122:6). “Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion!” (Psalm 147:12).