Bible Land Passages: Jerusalem – the City of My God

Bible Land Passages: Jerusalem – the City of My God
April 10, 2022
Speaker:
Passage: Psalm 137:5-6
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I love God, and because I love the word of God I've come to love God even more. And hopefully, this morning, as we think about God, and we think about His place in your life we also want to think about what he did over the ages to reveal to us an important message. A message that culminates in our joining Him throughout eternity in a beautiful place called Heaven.

God loved us so much that he sent his Son to die for you and to die for me. And this book, [the Bible,] declares that great message. And a part of that great message, and God's designed to communicate His love to you and His message of direction and of wisdom that He gives to you to enhance our desire, to be with him, speaks of a very important city, known as Jerusalem. 

There are approximately 900 references to Jerusalem in both the Old and New Testaments, either of Jerusalem itself or a pronoun relating to it. But, Jerusalem is indeed at the center of a message that God wants us to know about. Because of that, there are a lot of people today, that recognize the central location and importance of this place. 

If you go to Jerusalem, sitting on the top of where the Temple Mount is located, the al-Haram al-Sharif, which is known as the noble sanctuary, there is this Dome of the Rock. It's a Muslim mosque where-in Muslim tradition, they say that Mohammad came and ascended from a rock up into Heaven to meet with Allah and then came back down here, they call it the night's journey. So the Muslims, hold Jerusalem as a very important place. And a part of that is because they believe in many of the Old Testament scriptures. 

See the Sermon Slides for Bible Land Passages: Jerusalem the City of My God

See the entire Bible Land Passages Series.

Then, of course, we know that Jerusalem is important to Judaism, both to biblical Judaism and to a rabbinic Judaism that is in existence today. The most important shrine in Orthodox Judaism is the western wall sometimes called the wailing wall by foreigners. Because, two times a year, the Jews gather here, and literally, sit at the wall, at least more Orthodox Jews do, and they sing the song of Lamentations and they mourn the destruction of the temple and what once stood there and all you're seeing there today. This retaining wall held up the temple complex that was utterly destroyed, as Jesus had prophesied about in Matthew chapter 24. So Jerusalem is important to Jews. 

It's also important to Christians because it is in the city of Jerusalem that our Lord was crucified, that he was buried, and that on the third day he was resurrected again. 

The Importance of the City of Jerusalem

So this important city holds for us important archeological data, but also a geographical one that gives us a historical context for the most important event in all of his. What Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15, your faith is based upon. 

Not only then, is it important to these various religions in the world, but for us as Christians, it's important, not simply as some alleged holy site, but also because of what the Bible teaches about Jerusalem.

There are many references to Jerusalem in connection to Heaven itself. 

  • Psalm 137:5-6

In other words, don't let me be able to sing. Don't let me be able to direct the chorus in some way of the Jewish singers, who would sing a song about Jerusalem. If somehow I were to forget it. 

  • Revelation 3:12

Well, why did God in the book of Revelation use Jerusalem as this marvelous imagery for Heaven? And why then, did the Psalmist here speak about it being his chief joy? I want to spend just a few moments this morning talking about Jerusalem.

1) Jerusalem The Location (Security)

There are some facts and information that you might find rather academic, or just a little bit boring, I hope not. Because what I'm going to share with you is going to form the basis of something. I believe that's going to enhance your desire to be with God forever. The Bible uses it uses the city of Jerusalem to help you see something about what we can expect in the life hereafter.

As we think about Jerusalem this morning, I want you to think about number one its location. That God spoke about Jerusalem, and this Psalmist appreciated Jerusalem, because of where it was located in a secure location in the hill country. Israel, the land, the territory, of Israel from Dan to Beersheba can be divided up into many geographical zones. 

2) The Topography of Jerusalem (Defense)

  • The Philistine coastal area
  • The hill country where Jerusalem is located
  • The Jordan River valley
  • The Trans-Jordan Plateau
  • The Eastern desert area

But it is in the hill country, sort of off the main trade route that went along the coastal region, and on up to the area of Mesopotamia that we spoke about this morning, where Jerusalem was located. Jerusalem has these very interesting topographical features associated with it. 

The Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth, some 1400 feet below sea level. And then, you go up to Jerusalem around 2,600 feet above sea level. So in a small area, this land is quite diverse, but there was this important Jebusite city that David conquered and renamed, or called it, Jerusalem where God's people were located to give them some type of security. Not only security away from the international trade route, off the beaten path, but also on a hill itself, giving them some sort of defensive posture. 

If you know something about Jerusalem, maybe you've been there or have seen images associated with it. You would know that Jerusalem is surrounded by hills. It's on a hill itself, but also surrounded by hills. 

On a topographical map, you can see a finger-like structure, sort of jutting out away from Mount Moriah. On either side, there are a series of valleys. Jerusalem, where the city of David first began and then expanded to the north and the west, is actually, lower in elevation than some of the hills around it. 

  • When David conquered it from the Jebusites, it was about 10 to 12 acres in size
  • Eventually expanded northward
  • Bounded on the east by the Kidron Valley
  • Bounded on the west by the central valley, sometimes called the Tyropoeon Valley
  • Bounded on the west by the hidden valley. 

So literally, it was surrounded by valleys and hills even to the northwest, and to the northeast the so-called Bethesda Valley. And then, on top of Mount Moriah was the temple where God had Solomon build a permanent structure for the meeting house of God's people, where they can meet with Him and worship Him and offer sacrifices on the hills. 

  • Psalm 125:5

3) The Provision of Jerusalem (Water)

So Jerusalem is a place of security, a place of defense. But also a place of provision. If you're going to establish a community in the hill country, you might want to be on a hill for defensive purposes, but you also have to have water. And Jerusalem provided both. 

On the eastern side, near the base of the Kidron Valley, there is a well-known spring of Gihon. That spring, in this valley, is accessed today by a set of stairs that lead down to a cave. And in this cave, there is what's known as a karstic spring, or some people call it a siphon spring, where the water underground comes from the area of Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives and goes underground. And then, there's a place where it is sort of brought up in a sort of bubbling-like fashion. Beautiful, fresh, clean water that is still flowing today through Hezekiah's tunnel that we will speak about, uh, later on, tonight. This beautiful spring provided a constant source of water for the inhabitants.

It was channeled by the Canaanites down to the southern end of the city in what came to be known as the city of David, where it was pooled. Hezekiah, many years later built a tunnel under that mountain and channeled it into the central valley, forming a pool that was in the time of Jesus known as the pool of Siloam.

So security and a water source. 

You can see even before the time of David conquering the city that the Jebusites had an underground tunnel that they built to allow themselves access to this tunnel underneath. And they, as you're going to see in a minute, built a tower, built a fortification over that spring. 

So there was a water source in ancient Jerusalem.

4) The Grandeur and History of Jerusalem (Nostalgia)

But also, Jerusalem is really known as a place in the mind of Jews, ss a wonderful time in which God used that city to raise up kings, to give his people a place to gather, to worship. There's a lot of nostalgia associated with this particular city. 

  • Genesis 22:2-14

Not only was the city, the area where Abraham came to offer up his son Isaac on Mount Moriah, which the Bible clearly places just north of the City of David, in what today we call the Temple Mount area or some call Mount Zion. It was there that Abraham was called upon in faith to offer his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice to God. It would be the city, of course, then where God would offer his Son as a sacrifice for our sins, for yours and for mine.

This city has a unique history associated with it. And a very fascinating element of how David conquered it from the Jebusites. When Joshua took over the land, remember the people of Israel didn't drive out all the neighboring nations like they should have. And one of them was left in the central part, known as the Jebusites had, what the Bible calls this city known as Jebus, although many in even earlier years called it the city of Jerusalem, a city or a place of peace.

  • 2 Samuel 5:6-8

And in Jerusalem, we find that David told his men, whoever gets up the gutter, or the Hebrew word, ṣinnôr. And a lot of people debate, what is that gutter, the word, ṣinnôr, in scripture mean? And how did Joab his men and infiltrate the city? 

This Spring of Gihon had a large fortress area built over it. Just within the last 10 years, archeologists have discovered what is now underground. But, there is this ancient tower-like structure, and a pool built to the side of it, where the Canaanites had water channeled from the Spring of Gihon over into this pool. And then, they had access underground to be able to come and gather water for this pool. 

Now notice, that David and his men, somehow at least Joab, accessed this pool. Some say that maybe because of the channel that was dug here to let water out to the Valley of Kidron for the local farmers and residents there, that's how they crawled in this sort of water channel to get inside the city. Is that the way he did it? We don't know 100% for certain but imagine how that story lived in the lore and the wonderful collective memory of the Israelite people in thinking about this wonderful means by which they encountered and got inside these tunnel areas and then into their water source and into the city itself. 

The city has a grand history that began with, as I mentioned, a moment ago, only about eight to 10 acres on this finger-like peninsula jutting out into these valleys. It was a natural defensive area that began to expand northward where the temple was located and then eventually expanded upward on the western hill, which is today called Mount Zion.

By the time of Christ, [Jerusalem] took in some close to nearly 500 acres of land. So, kings reigned here, David, Solomon, Rehoboam, and the kings of the south. Wonderful and marvelous stories all were part of the history of Jerusalem during the time that the Bible was written. 

Expansion projects, large building stones, that are still standing today remind us of how important the people of the past felt about this ancient city. During the time of Christ, some of the stones that remain even now included this widening of the mountain of Mount Moriah for Herod to build this grand temple still stand. 

  • Expanding Mount Moriah for Herod's grand temple
  • Gates leading to the city
  • 16th Century, Suleiman the great, of the Ottoman Empire, built walls over the previous walls and foundations

These gates give you an idea, a little window into the past, of what the gates looked like during the time of Christ, entryways into these cities. The Damascus gate on the northwestern side of the city literally, had a road that led out as what people would go to on their way to the city of Damascus way up north. 

And you can remember, Paul went out a gate similar to this one. Again, this was not that gate, but there is a foundation underneath that takes us back to the first century AD and the period of the Romans. I just want you to think about the walls, the gates, the grander, the magnificence of this place. 

Some of the stones, in this city that were in existence during the time of Christ weigh 600 tons. Most of them weigh about 60 tons, but there is one in the lower foundations that is every bit as wide as this building or this auditorium, some calculate that it's at least 15 feet wide in depth. And, it's about four feet high, weighing around 600 tons. Those stones were quarried out of the Judean hill country in the limestone rock, which is abundant, hundreds of feet thick, deep in those mountain areas. [They are] made with a beautiful edge around them and this flat boss and a frame that was put around them by heritage artisans. It's a beautiful place. 

And even today, we just stand in awe of how grand that city is and was.

5) The Temple in Jerusalem (Fellowship)

Jerusalem is not only important because of its secure location, because of its defense, because of the water there, and because of its history, but also because of the fellowship that took place there.

I mentioned this temple that was built by Solomon, that was destroyed by the Babylonians and then rebuilt by King Herod the Great. Starting around 23 BC, a huge complex dominated the city of Jerusalem. Some 26 NFL-sized football fields could be placed upon the platform of that location.

Now this grand complex that Herod built was truly one of the great wonders of the world. And it was a place where Jews would come, uh, at various times throughout the year, but especially at their feast days like Pentecost and Passover. And then other feast days that developed like Purim, and Hanukkah or Purim, and, uh, these, this festival of lights. 

When we think about those great days, we can see a little remnant of it today, as you visit the Western Wall and Jerusalem. You go there and there are modern-day Jews gathering and they're singing and they are offering up their praise to God. And it gives you just a little bit of a, maybe, a feel of the excitement that Jews during the time of Christ and before would have had. [Imangine the feeling of excitement] as they came to this grand complex to offer their sacrifices and to be in the presence of God and to hear the singing that went on at the temple and the aroma of the sacrifices and the incense burned. When you walk in the streets of Jerusalem today, you even get a feel for that unique sort of aroma of the spices and incense that's even burned in some of the shops, and certainly of the various places of eating establishments, and the serving of their food. Oh, how the aroma must've permeated that city and the sound. And the excitement of knowing that you are getting to be there in the presence of Almighty God today.

All that remains of that Herodian complex is a retaining wall. In other words, the mountain on which Herod wanted to build his temple, was not quite big enough, so he expanded the base of it by going out into the central valley and building a retaining wall around the western side of the south and extending it on the east. It was on top of that, that the temple was built. In fact, this retaining wall that you're seeing here in the western wall plaza is only about one-third visible to us today. Two-thirds of it are underground, that during the time of Christ would have been completely exposed to the open air, but over 2000 years of history have filled in that valley. And just a little bit of that wall remains. 

So, as you think about that western wall just a small portion of what remains of a once marvelous, huge, ornately decorated in Roman-Greek-style architecture and art, in terms of the columns. If you were to have visited the temple during the time of Christ, on the southwestern corner, there was a beautiful grand staircase that the historian Josephus tells us about. 

  • Grand staircase
  • Robinson's arch
  • Royal Stoa
  • Columns 
  • Court of Women
  • Corner for Lepers
  • Corner for Nazarite vows
  • A place where oil and a huge menorah were kept
  • Court of Israel
  • Holy place
  • Holy of Holies

This was a magnificent, marvelous, beautiful place. Remember, the disciples of Jesus and His apostles. During the last week of the Lord's life, they're there and they are showing Jesus the buildings, the furnishings, of the temple. They were impressed by all this grand temple, where there was so much celebration, so much fellowship, so much joy. 

6) A Glimpse of Heaven the New Jerusalem (Eternal Joy)

But Jerusalem, I think for all of us this morning, having had that background, we need to remember it as a bit of motivation to think about the place that we're going to and the joy that we will experience with God. A place where there will be a new Jerusalem. When you think about the book of Revelation and a reference to the new Jerusalem, you need to remember the context behind the writing of that book. God's people were being persecuted. And in the book, there are references to this persecution in the form of numbers. A reminder that this persecution is but for a while. It's not a full complete persecution and the number seven, but in the number three and a half represented by days and months and years, it's coming John says. Some of you are already experiencing it. Some of you will be bound and cast into prison. 10 days you shall suffer tribulation, but whoever is faithful he shall receive the crown of life. And as John looks down the stream of time to see more and more of that destruction or that persecution coming, he is also allowed to see from Heaven's perspective, what's going to happen to people who persecute the saints of God.

And not only that, John is allowed to see what's going to happen in the end. While though, yes, Satan and his emissaries will be destroyed and this earth will be destroyed, he says, one day there's coming the new heavens and the new earth. And as John looked and saw those new heavens and the new earth, Revelation 21 says that I saw coming down out of heaven, a new Jerusalem. Jerusalem had lived in the minds of not only the Jewish people but also the early Christians who saw it as a significant site and place where God's presence was. That's where the church was begun, in Acts chapter two, as where Peter preached in Acts chapter three, the church gathered at the temple early on for many of its meeting places.

It's where Paul would go later on to finish one of his vows as an ethic, or national Jew, in his civil law of committing a promise that he had made, where he himself was arrested. Jerusalem was very important to Christians in the first century. And so for God to tell people then, and to tell all of us, that Jerusalem is going to be rebuilt, in a sense, what do you mean God, as we look forward to heaven, this new city. 

Oh, let me tell you that old Jerusalem pales in comparison, this new, wonderful city, the city of my God spoken of by Jesus Revelation 3:12 is awesome.

"And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." — Revelation 21:2-4

There's coming, a beautiful place called Heaven. I can't wait to go there. I can't wait to be a part of that celestial city. What is it like? Well, if I knew something about the old Jerusalem then I could better appreciate Heaven itself and the New Jerusalem. And so, as we think about the New Jerusalem, what does the writer go on to say about it?

Jerusalem, at the time of Jesus, we've already said was only 425 acres, about 0.7 square miles. Now Jews thought again how beautiful and how great and marvelous it was. God says I'm going to tell you about another place, an awesome place. In fact, this new Jerusalem is going to dwarf that Jerusalem. This one here, again, is about 425 acres. The New Jerusalem, 12,000 stadia are roughly equivalent to 1400 miles square. What was the, what was the old Jerusalem? 0.7 miles. God says the new Jerusalem 1400 miles, like a cube, 1400 miles. 

Well, if you could put that new Jerusalem on the map today of the world, it would completely cover Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, and up into Mesopotamia, just the city. And it would engulf if you could place it over India, completely engulf India.

God says, look, this marvelous place that you're going I want you to get excited about it. You're not just going to be floating around, as some sort of body people in the clouds. There is Heaven, that's going to be wonderful. Now the literal aspect of it and the metaphorical, people debate, and they talk about that. It doesn't matter to me, what matters is that God is described it in beautiful terms, that entice me, that says, you ain't see nothing yet. I love going to the old city of Jerusalem today, there's just something about it, the grander, the greatness. And I marvel at those stones, you know, I mentioned one of them, 600 tons, beautifully carved.

But in the New Heaven, the New Jerusalem, instead of these gates made out of limestone rock, remember what the Bible says? Gates of Pearl, the pearly gates. And instead of streets made out of the limestone rock like they had in the first century, streets of what? Gold, pure gold. Instead of the waters of the Gihon Spring, a pure river, crystal clear flowing from the throne of life, not just a small spring, but a river, pure and beautiful. You go to Jerusalem and every day, guess what? The sun sets. There's night there. But in heaven, no night, one eternal blissful day.

And folks here's the best thing of all. You got to Jerusalem today and there are ancient tombs scattered around the Kidron Valley and over in the Hinoam Valley. There is the alleged tomb of Jesus where the church of the holy sepulcher is located and where other ancient tombs have been found from that period. There are tombs all over and around the city. But guess what will not be in God's eternal? No more tombs, no more graveyards, no more crying, no more decay. 

You know, I grew up in the church hearing a lot of sermons about Heaven and hearing a lot of sermons about being ready and that, you know, we're going to die. And I went to a lot of funerals. 2020 was a really difficult time for me. And it wasn't just simply because of the pandemic. I lost both my mom and my dad, and my greatest mentor as a gospel preacher, all within the space of nine months. And in November of that same year, while sitting in a church building and a class just like you are this morning, my heart stopped. And for over an hour, people worked on me to save my life. Administering CPR broke my sternum and several ribs in my chest, and I lay in a hospital for two weeks in ICU. Most people don't survive a cardiac event, only 7% of people who have one outside of a hospital survive. You don't think death is real to me? I'm tired of it. I've been to too many funerals. And then, when I've preached the funerals and have loved ones and I've seen the hurt. I've seen what happens to older people as their body becomes so feeble, they suffer maladies and things begin to break down, and I've seen the hurt that goes on in this fallen world.

And I read about a place where there is no more death. There is no more crying. Just one eternal, blissful, wonderful, marvelous day, and a great setting. And above all, not just the setting, but to be with God. No one has ever seen the face of God and lived. But, we'll see his face, the book of Revelation tells us. And there won't be any temple in this new city because the Bible says will be tabernacled by God. There will be an indescribable, and I can't understand it all completely, but this sort of complete envelopment of love.

God is love. And I will be tabernacled by him. And all of the hatred and all of the ill-will in all the times of my feeling inadequate, and all the times of my feeling as though maybe someone didn't like me, and all of those insufficiencies will be gone. I will be loved eternally, happy, and at peace. 

I'm kind of homesick for a country that I've never been to before. (Beulah Land, song lyrics by Squire Parsons)

Are you ready? Don't miss out on heaven. It's going to be grand! And when we, by faith in Jesus Christ are immersed for the remission of our sins God puts us in his family. And as we walk in faith as Revelation 3:12 says, and we do not allow the things of this life to overcome us, then we can be a pillar in the city of God, the New Jerusalem. That's what Jesus said. 

If you haven't obeyed the gospel do it this morning. If you need to have your faith renewed, do it right now.

If we can assist you in coming to know God, His salvation and the promised home of the New Jerusalem, we invite you to contact us. 

— John Moore, Director of Bible Land Passages and Bible Passages.

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