By Lance Lambert
Courtesy of Kingsway Publications
Some cities have an outward beauty, plastic and cosmetic. It is real but superficial and consists of those tangible things, which make an immediate impact upon our senses.
Jerusalem’s beauty is not of that order. It is true that she has her own physical beauty. That kind of beauty can be seen, for instance, in her setting; located amongst mountains, she presents a breathtaking view. It can be seen at sunset when the color of her stone glows with ethereal light, or when the first rays of the rising sun transform her stones into the proverbial ‘Golden City’. It can also be seen in her ancient buildings, lanes and souks, which breathe the atmosphere of an historic past.
Yet Jerusalem’s essential beauty does not consist of these things. There are other cities, which far exceed Jerusalem in that kind of beauty, cities, which are more elegant and sophisticated, more commercially attractive and wealth inducing, more grand in their planning concepts and design. Paris with its elegance and sophistication, Rome with its history and ingrained atmosphere of religion, New York, with its incredible air of excitement and business, cannot be compared with Jerusalem. London may be a world center of finance and power, with a sense of enduring solidity, but it cannot be compared with Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is unique among the cities of the world, for her beauty is the beauty of the spiritual ideal, a thought out of the mind of God, crystallized in stone and history.
Jerusalem today is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, built on four thousand years of history.
At some places within her walls the bedrock lies ninety feet below the present surface, and today’s buildings and lanes rest on the destruction of the past. Layer upon layer of history lie beneath her, reaching back into the mists of antiquity. On every level one finds the evidence of her long story – Jebusite, Jewish, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader, Turkish. Even above the surface it is there for those who have eyes to see – great Herodian blocks of stone, Byzantine Arches, Hellenic pillars, Arab motifs, Crusader vaults, Jebusite stones, Turkish walls.
Jerusalem is first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 14:18, where she is called ‘Salem’, which means ‘peace’:
Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was priest of God Most High. (RV)
This would have been about the 19th century BC. She is also mentioned in Egyptian execration texts of the 19th-18th centuries BC. From the way she is mentioned in certain Scriptures, such as Joshua 15:63 or Judges 1:21, we know that in the 14th century BC she was a Jebusite city. We find confirmation for this in the Tel el Armana letters of that period.
She was still a Jebusite city when King David captured her in the 10th century BC (2 Samuel 5:6-9). David made her the capital of a united Israel, and from that day she became the spiritual center of the children of Israel and of the Jewish people.
It was David who became the inspiration under God for the building of the Temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, though it was Solomon, his son, who translated that vision into practical reality and built it there. From that time Jerusalem was not only the political capital but the focal point of a spiritual and eternal reality.
Jerusalem has known more devastation than most other cities, both from wars and from earthquakes. In the 2,565 years between 587 BC and AD 1978 she was conquered more than twenty times. Yet today Jerusalem still stands more or less where she has ever stood. Her center has moved a little northwards, but her present boundaries include the entire area of the ancient city at every phase of her history.
The city of Jerusalem is unique because of the way she was selected to be the capital of the nation.
Most capital cities of the world have become capitals because of their situation. They are on important trade routes or major crossroads, possess large natural harbors, or are beside navigable rivers. They have been chosen because they are commercially viable and attractive centers, naturally drawing trade to themselves and providing a good venue for business.
Jerusalem never had any of these natural advantages. She was not situated on any major crossroads, or indeed on any important trade routes. The major highways and trade routes of antiquity ran either to her east or to her west. To her east, the King’s Highway linked Arabia with Damascus; to her west, the Way of the Sea connected Egypt with Damascus, Mesopotamia ad Asia Minor.
Jerusalem has no natural harbor; she was situated neither on the coast, nor on any river, navigable or otherwise. Indeed Jerusalem had no major water supply other than the Gihon Spring, and that was originally outside the city walls.
It was King Hezekiah who recognized the serious threat which this represented to Jerusalem’s security and survival, and took action which has amazed engineers ever since. He had a tunnel 1,777 feet long hewn out of the solid rock which brought the waters of Gihon within the city, to the Pool of Siloam (2 Kings 20:20).
This matter of its water supply must surely make Jerusalem unique. One may well ask whether there has ever been another capital with so precarious a water supply as Jerusalem had!
Jerusalem became the capital of the nation because God chose her. In Deuteronomy 12:5, 13-14, God had said:
But unto the place where the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put His name there, even unto His habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come ? Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest: but in the place which the Lord shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee.
This place, which the Lord chose, was Jerusalem. As the Psalmist says:
The Lord hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His habitation. This is my resting place forever; here will I dwell; for I have desired it. (Psalm 132:13-14)
Jerusalem is therefore unique among the cities of the world. She was not chosen for natural advantages, for she has none; she was chosen for spiritual reasons alone.
The divine choice of Jerusalem not only makes her a unique city, but has also made her the focal point of enduring and violent conflict. For she was not chosen by God merely to be the physical capital of an earthly nation, but to embody and represent a spiritual ideal.
She has not, therefore, been merely the bone of contention between nations, the clashing of national and religious interests. Behind all the fighting, devastation and sorrow lie spiritual forces bent on destroying even the earthly symbol of God’s eternal purpose and calling.
The history of Jerusalem has been the history of battles. Her story is the story of triumph and achievement, of suffering and sorrow. . It is a chronicle of great saintliness and of deep sinfulness; of enduring loyalty and of dark treachery; of triumphant faith and devastating defeat. Her history is aptly summed up in an ancient Jewish saying” ‘Ten measures of suffering were sent by God upon the world, and nine of them fell upon Jerusalem.’ The story of Jerusalem is the evidence that the narrow way of God is fraught with suffering and tribulation. ?
The list of the nations and peoples who have fought for Jerusalem is almost endless. Assyrians, Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Persians, Arabs, Crusaders, Tartars. Mamelukes, Turks, Britons, Jordanians.
Nor is the story finished. The word of God predicts that there will be many more battles over Jerusalem. In Zechariah 12: 2-3 the Lord says:
Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of reeling unto all the peoples around about, and upon Judah also shall it be in the siege against Jerusalem. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all the peoples; all that burden themselves with it shall be sore wounded; and all the nations of the earth shall be gathered together against it. (RV)
And in verse nine he says:
It shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem; (RV)
And again, in Zechariah 14:2 –
I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle. (RV)
Zechariah’s words are relevant to this generation: ‘A cup of reeling unto all the peoples round about’, that is, a drugged cup impairing normal faculties; and ‘a burdensome stone for all the peoples’, that is, a heavy stone rupturing those who lift it. It is precisely what she has become and is becoming. Everyone who meddles and interferes with Jerusalem’s destiny will be ‘sore wounded’.
It does not matter whether it is the great superpowers, the United Nations, or any particular nation, all will come to grief if they ‘burden themselves’ with Jerusalem.
Zechariah 12:6 is also remarkable. In the prediction of further battles over Jerusalem, the Lord says:
?and Jerusalem shall yet again dwell in her own place, even in Jerusalem. (RV)
In Monsignor Knox’s translation, it reads:
Jerusalem shall stand, when all is over where Jerusalem stood.
It is a fact that, in spite of all the conflict and its many destructions, Jerusalem stands today where Jerusalem has ever stood through the years. Nineveh and Ur and Babylon have come and gone, Thebes and Raamses have come and gone, but Jerusalem remains. One day Washington will fall, as will Moscow, Peking and London. All the great cities of the world will pass away, except Jerusalem.
This Jerusalem is age abiding, if not eternal. Even in the last great battle, we are told that when the city is taken, and half her population taken into captivity,
Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east.
If nothing else makes Jerusalem unique, this does. She will be the first city of the world to receive the Messiah, for God has stated that His blessed and pierced feet will stand again within her walls.
The Lord Jesus loved Jerusalem deeply. It was not only the material city, but what she presented or embodied of His Father’s purpose and design.
He referred to her as ‘Jerusalem?the city of the great King’ (Matthew 5:35). She was His city, the earthly city as well as the heavenly Jerusalem. A week before His death, as He came over the brow of the Mount of Olives from Bethany and saw the whole city lying before Him, He wept over her:
If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for your peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank before you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation. (Luke 19:42-44, NASB)
We hear the heartbreak in His voice when, a few days later, after one of the most solemn denunciations He had ever uttered, he said:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. (Matthew 23:37, NASB)
This was the city in which Jesus was crucified and buried; the city in which He rose from the dead and from which He ascended to His Father, there to reign forever. And it is to this city that He will return with glory and great power. Then the prophecy of Isaiah will be fulfilled:
And it shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; ad all nations shall flow unto it. And many peoples shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge between the nations, and shall reprove many peoples: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:2-4 RV.)
Then, and only then, will the long travail of Jerusalem be over, and God’s purpose concerning her be fulfilled.
There is no other city in the world to be compared with Jerusalem. She began as the choice of God; she has been preserved through His grace; and she will end in His glory.
Jerusalem is unique.
© Kingsway Publications