Some call it coincidence. Some call it Providence. But according to tradition, both the First and Second Temples (in 586 BC and AD 70) were destroyed on the same date in history. That begins this evening.
Tisha B’Av marks the 9th day of the month of Av—the fifth Jewish month. During the exile, the Jews instituted a fast to commemorate the Temple’s destruction. After they returned to Jerusalem, they asked God a question about Tisha B’Av:
Shall I weep in the fifth month and abstain, as I have done these many years? —Zechariah 7:3
Their question made sense.
They had observed the fast in exile, but should they continue to fast on Tisha B’Av now that they were building the Second Temple? God’s answer to their question reaches beyond them to the heart of why we do what we do.
One question gets to the heart of our heart.
One morning when I was in Jerusalem, I chose to have my devotions on the Mount of Olives at sunrise. Making my way through the Old City’s dark and narrow streets, I passed beside the Temple Mount and exited the city on its east side.
(Photo: Overlooking Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Photo: צולם ע, via Wikimedia Commons)
After climbing the steep ascent of the Mount of Olives, I sat near its summit as the sun began to warm my back. Turning to Matthew’s Gospel, I read about Jesus leaving the Temple, predicting its destruction, and sitting on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24:1–5).
Looking across the Kidron Valley at the Temple Mount—now crowned with a Muslim shrine—I thought about how Jesus’ prediction proved true. Because Israel rejected Him, they ultimately lost the very objects they hoped to secure through His death—their Temple and their nation (John 11:48).
Suddenly I heard a sound that jerked my mind in another direction.
In ancient Israel, a city wasn’t a city without a wall. The wall served as the primary means of protection from an enemy. Without a wall, you were a sitting duck.
In times of war, an enemy would surround a city wall and lay siege to it. This method purposed to starve the inhabitants of food and water—forcing surrender. Often a siege took months or even years. But it was very effective. All it took was time.
The sieges of ancient Israel serve as a fitting metaphor for what God often does in our lives when we erect walls to keep Him out. But there’s a key difference.
God lays siege to your life not to destroy you, but to restore you.
Today always amazes me. At ten o’clock on this holiday each April, sirens ring loud in Israel. People stop—wherever they are, whatever they are doing—and stand at attention for 120 seconds of silence.
Imagine that for a moment. Two minutes. Silence. Everywhere.
(Photo: Janusz Korczak Memorial at Yad Vashem honors one who sheltered Jewish children during the holocaust)
Then the sirens rang again, and life resumed—full-speed. This annual pause allows the nation to remember the six million Jews who were murdered simply because they were Jews.
Today’s date marks Yom Hashoah, known as Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, the Jewish holiday that remembers those who perished in the Holocaust.
Many times I have visited Jerusalem’s Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem.
It changes you.
Between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Jesus spent every day in Jerusalem. The places of the Passion Week where He taught, died, and rose again are now traveled by Christian pilgrims.
Last week I shared some 360-degree images from 11 various sites in Israel. This week I’m including some panoramic images I took from sites in Jerusalem—specifically, those that connect with the Passion Week of Jesus.
Just click on the images and drag right or left to look around!
(If you’re reading this post in email or RSS, you may need to read the post on my blog to see the images.)
The Mount of Olives from Dominus Flevit
Jesus began the Passion Week on Palm Sunday, descending the Mount of Olives on the back of a donkey—presenting Himself to Israel as their Messiah (Dan. 9:25; Zech. 9:9, 16; Matt. 21).
The site of the Dominus Flevit Church remembers the point where Jesus paused and wept over Jerusalem, knowing the leaders would reject Him and His offer of the kingdom.
Life is full of moments that expose our doubts. In spite of all the Scripture we’ve learned and all the past victories the Lord has given us, occasionally something will happen that causes serious doubt.
Maybe it’s a financial situation that undercuts future security. It might be a miserable marriage. Perhaps it’s a pastor or a leader who has failed. Maybe it’s our own failure.
Whatever the reason, seasons of doubts and confusion can come even to the most committed followers of Jesus:
- John the Baptist struggled with doubts about his own beliefs about Jesus (Matt. 11:2-3).
- The apostle Thomas found the resurrection of Christ something he had to see before he’d believe (John 20:25).
- Some of the disciples had doubts about Jesus’ appearing to them, even at the Great Commission (Matt. 28:17).
I confess, I’ve had my doubts as well. Sometimes circumstances literally demanded I doubt God.
I will never forget one evening during my first few days in Jerusalem. A simple walk gave me an essential reminder that helped relieve my doubts.
Most of us use Google Maps to find directions or to estimate the time a trip will take. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what the site can do.
(Take a Virtual Tour of Jerusalem Using Google Maps)
The handy Web site also allows us to take virtual tour of Jerusalem. Obviously, you can sight-see anywhere in the world using this method. But Jerusalem offers unique benefits for Christians.
I suggest as a starting place searching for “Temple Mount, Jerusalem” in Google Maps. When you do, you’re screen will look something like this:
In King David’s day, the city of Jerusalem stood as a renovation and expansion of Jebus, a site the Hebrews never occupied in the territory of Benjamin.
Those who come to Jerusalem today for the first time are often surprised to learn that the original Jerusalem, “The City of David,” sat on a mere ten acres just south of the Temple Mount. Hardly impressive, it looks like some third-world neighborhood.
Steep slopes surround the City of David and gave it in a strategic advantage during any military threat. So much so, the inhabitants of Jebus felt confident “David cannot enter here” (2 Samuel 5:6). But he did, and David made the site his new capital.
The steep slopes became King David’s military strength.
But the slopes also played into his moral weakness. Here’s how.
How fitting that the first mention of the Mount Olives in the Bible represents the irony that would occur on its slopes throughout the centuries.
In King David’s day, the summit of the Mount of Olives held a place “where God was worshiped” (2 Samuel 15:32). And yet, that same context revealed the rejection of God’s chosen king, David, who crossed the Kidron Valley and ascended the slope weeping as he fled from his rebellious son.
David’s mournful exit as Jerusalem’s rejected king offers an ominous foreshadowing of the ultimate Son of David’s rejection on those same slopes a thousand years later.
But the history that occurred on Mount of Olives does more than tell the story of rejection. It speaks of redemption and—one day—of the ultimate acceptance of the King.
More than that, it tells our own story.
The annual holiday Yom Kippur begins always reminds me of a surprising conversation I had in Jerusalem at the Western Wall. A Jewish woman approached me and engaged me in a talk.
She somehow knew my affiliation with a radio ministry and told me we needed to broadcast to the nations God’s way to be saved. I told her that was, in fact, our passion.
She smiled and shook her head no.
Then she shared with me a list of things all Gentiles need to do in order for God to accept them. I recognized some of the standards as being from the Ten Commandments, and I told her so. Again, she smiled and shook her head.
“Those commandments are for the Jews,” she said.
“Do you keep them?” I asked.