Jerusalem - Desirable And Dangerous

by Ray Hawkins

Jerusalem is mentioned in Genesis 14:18 under the name of Salem meaning peace, as we read also in Psalm 76: "In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel. In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling-place in Zion."

From this city Salem came Melchizedek the priest king who brought out bread and wine to minister to Abram after Abram's successful rescue of Lot from the foreign enemy force. He also blessed Abram in the name of El Elyon meaning God Most High, thus revealing that he was in league with the Eternal God, Creator of heaven and earth.

What is the Appeal of Jerusalem?

From ancient times this city Jerusalem has had an appeal, yet to the natural eye there is nothing that should draw forth such longing, such a lust to dominate, such love as to honour it. There is no beautiful river flowing beside it. There is no great and glorious highway that leads to and from it into all the quarters of the world. Why then even in our day does this city arouse such passion?

Some will say that it is because of the three dominant religions the vie to control it: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. That is true in part and especially today. However, before Christianity and Islam came on the scene Jerusalem was desired. Judaism is centred there, but even that does not explain why nations such as Babylon, Niveveh, Rome and the ferocious Antiochus Epiphanes sought to crush the city and prostitute the faith of Israel.

The clue seems to be wrapped up in God's Word" "Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in his holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole land, is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. God is in her palaces; he is known as her refuge" (Psalm 48:1-3).

This is Yahweh's special place; it is His chosen piece of real estate within a special part of the earth He has designated His land. "The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me" (Leviticus 25:23).

It is a land for which He cares: "For the land which you go to possess is ... a land for which the LORD your God cares; the eyes of the LORD your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year " (Deuteronomy 11:10,12).

It was in this special land that God chose a special spot: " ... in the house of which the LORD had said to David and to Solomon his son, 'In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name for ever'" (I Kings 20:7).

Mount Moriah, one of the high points of Jerusalem, is very significant, for it was to this place that Abraham came with his son Isaac, his "only son" , the son of promise, for here the sacrifice of his "only son" was to take place. It was here that God stayed the dagger but provided the substitute ram to be offered as the sacrifice.

We see in this the fingerprints of God's Messiah; it is a shadow of what Isaiah saw and recorded in his 53rd chapter, and what David recorded in Psalm 22 which describes the horrors of crucifixion.

Then too Mount Zion, another of Jerusalem's high points, is very significant, as in Psalm 2 the bold assertion of Yahweh is made known: "Yet I have set my King on my holy hill of Zion." Isaiah looked forward to the day when "out of Zion shall go forth the law, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem" (2:3). He also wrote that the Lord Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem (24:33), and he recorded that "the Redeemer will come to Zion" (59:20).

So it is easily seen that this city has a special significance to God, and His purposes for the peoples of the earth. However, there is an anti-God spirit that wants to make God a liar by denying Him His land and His city, thereby foiling His purposes. It was an evil spirit, called in Isaiah Lucifer, that desired to dethrone God and rob Him of what was His alone.

"You (Lucifer) have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation ... I will be like the Most High ...'" (14:13,14).

Here is understood the real force of anti-Semitism – Lucifer, the Devil, the animating power and spirit behind the attempt to make God and His word a lie by denying Him the city, by defiling it with his future abominations (see Daniel's visions) and ultimately trying to destroy both the place and its people, as we read in Zechariah chapters 12 and 14.

Satan would gladly send Jews and Gentiles, including Arabs, to their death to invalidate God's promises. The appeal of Jerusalem is therefore primarily God Himself: to prove Him false or true.

What is the Testimony of Jerusalem?

As we look into the history of Jerusalem we see a picture of the battle between Righteousness and Wickedness. It is the ongoing war between Truth and Lies, Light and Darkness. We see how corrupting influences permeate and destroy the city dedicated to God. We become aware of Lucifer's efforts to turn the Holy City into 'Sodom', the Virgin espoused to Yahweh into a harlot.

Even at the best of times God's people can be weak, fickle, prone to failure, yet He does not abandon them. Discipline them? Definitely! But He never deserts them. The prophets stress this unfailing love of God through all the turmoil of Jerusalem's history.

Isaiah lists those features that have disfigured the Holy City in the past: "How the faithful city has become a prostitute! It was full of justice; righteousness lodged in it, but now murderers" (2:21), and he then follows with a list of indictments associated with the threatening word 'woe!'

"Woe to their soul! They declare their sin as Sodom; they do not hide it" (3:9).

"Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, till there is no place where they may dwell alone in the midst of the land!" (5:8)

"Woe to those who rise up early in the morning, that they may follow intoxicating drink; who continue until night, till wine inflames them" (5:11).

"Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as if with a cart rope" (5:18).

"Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!" (5:21)

"Woe to men mighty at drinking wine, woe to men valiant for mixing intoxicating drink, who justify the wicked for a bribe, and take away justice from the righteous man!" (5:22)

Although the prophet has visions of hope in the first thirty-nine chapters of his prophecy, yet overall it is rather a depressing reading of judgements which fall on Judah and Jerusalem and the surrounding nations. Then from chapter 40 there are unveiled the most wonderful pictures of God's redeeming of Jerusalem and the nation of Israel, and reclothing them in the marital garments of His choosing and delight.

Is it any wonder this section opens with: "'Comfort, yes, comfort my people!' says your God. 'Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins'" (40:1,2)?

Flowing out of this wonderful invitation come insights into the promised Messiah (42:1-4), His identification with the Passover lamb (53:1-12), and the conquering warrior (63:1-6). God paints a majestic picture of the festal celebration as God transforms the spiritual and moral harlot back into the pure betrothed one (chapter 62).

"For Zion's sake I will not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns ... you shall also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married."

Lucifer's seductive and corrupting power is no match for the transforming grace and cleansing power of God's love for His chosen people, land and city.

What is the Hope of Jerusalem?

In the light of what we read and see in the media and hear over the air waves, what is taking place in Israel, and especially Jerusalem, is not over national rights. It is about spiritual and eternal issues. There are so many insights in the Scriptures about this that it is only unbelief and ignorance that make the issues dark.

This city faces a major crisis of spiritual reality as Lucifer tries to make it his throne room for world domination. Daniel called him "the prince who is to come" , the one who "on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate" (9:27). The Messiah referred to him in Matthew 24:15: "Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place ..." , and Paul called him "the man of sin" and "the son of perdition" (II Thessalonians 2:3).

God's righteous anger will erupt into judgement, as we read in the book of Revelation, as He vindicates His Name and delivers His people and makes His holy city the praise of all the earth. The Messiah taught us to pray: "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:9), which looks forward to this time. It is a request to God to fulfil His promise to reign from Jerusalem.

This is the intent behind Isaiah's words: "Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established on the top of the mountains ... and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, 'Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; he will teach us his ways, and we shall walk in his paths.'

"For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (2:2-4).

It is this hope that should possess us as we see the savagery of the anti-God forces seeking to crush or corrupt the land and city God loves. We need to look beyond the surface events and not despair at the apparent defeat of God's purposes. Rather we need to call to mind what Zechariah wrote: "Proclaim, saying, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts: "I am zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with great zeal" ... again proclaim, saying, "I am returning to Jerusalem with mercy; my house shall be built in it: ... The LORD will again comfort Zion, and will again choose Jerusalem'" (1:14-17).

The final pages of Scripture declare the literal and spiritual and eternal overthrow of the anti-God forces. Then Jerusalem will be as a Bride adorned for her Husband. In a literal sense it will be a city in which the Lord dwells. In the spiritual sense it depicts God's people with whom He dwells. Both declare the fulfilment of His eternal purposes in spite of all the force, fury and fickleness of this world.

The Psalmist put the words together that express the hope to which we look and for which we long: "For he looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven the LORD viewed the earth … to declare the name of the LORD in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem, when the peoples are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD" (Psalm 102:19-22).