My time in Israel is finished and I am back in the US trying to get over jet lag. It was truly an amazing trip, and I am only beginning to filter through all that I learned and experienced while there.
We spent 3 ½ days just in Jerusalem and each day brought a clearer understanding of what the city may have been like when Jesus walked the narrow streets and taught on the Temple steps.
It isn’t the same city as it was in the first century AD for the most part, as the original “Old Jerusalem” has been covered over by the rebuilding of each new empire that has ruled the city. But it is a beautiful place that is a smorgasbord for the senses.
The Temple Mount is currently controlled by the Muslim faith, and their Dome of the Rock is the centerpiece and one of their religion’s holiest sites. They believe that the “rock” that lies beneath the monument is the rock where Abraham almost sacrificed Ishmael (they believe it was Ishmael, not Isaac in the story). They also believe that Mohammed ascended to heaven from the same place.
Judaism has long held that the first two sacred temples stood on the Temple Mount before their destruction, and that it is the location where Abraham planned to sacrific Isaac. Because of Muslim supervision of the site, Jews and Christians are permitted to visit the area but are not allowed to pray on the site, neither are Christians allowed to bring bibles.
We spent time at the Western Wall, sometimes called the “Wailing Wall”. The wall is thought to be the only remaining portion of the wall that surrounded the second temple, which was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans. This is a special place for Jews as they routinely spend time praying at the wall and placing prayer requests on small notes which they squeeze into the cracks of the wall.
I was struck by the devotion of the Jewish people, many dressed in traditional clothing, adhering to their ancient customs and laws. It was disheartening, though, to know that these religious zealots are still living under the Old Testament covenant. They still believe that they must follow commandments and rituals of Judaism to be pleasing in God’s sight. They are still waiting for a messiah.
But we know the Messiah has already come! Jesus Christ came to make a new covenant with all who believe in Him. All who believe Jesus’ death and resurrection atoned for our sins and made us spotless through His blood.
That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant. Hebrews 9:15 NLT
I came away from my experiences in Jerusalem with renewed thankfulness to God for His amazing grace! Because nothing that I have ever done or ever will do could make me righteous in His sight.
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. Ephesians 2:8-9
I am so grateful for the Holy Spirit which dwells in me, the blood that covers me, and the life of freedom that His sacrifice bought for me.
Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. Hebrews 9:14
So I will commit to pray for those who are still living under the old covenant, that God will open their eyes to see that Messiah has come for all of us!
But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand. But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:14-18
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. Psalm 73:23