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.
Few choices last a lifetime. Most require daily, deliberate reminders. Joshua knew this well. Immediately after he and the young nation of Israel entered the Promised Land, they made a beeline to a particular valley between two mountains.
God had commanded half the people to stand before one mountain and the other half to position itself before the other. Each group was to shout either the blessings or the curses that Israel would experience as a result of their response to God’s Law (Deuteronomy 11:29).
As they shouted, their voices echoed in the city of Shechem, which lay in the valley between these hills. Before God’s people would conquer and settle the land, they affirmed their obedience to God in the very place where God had promised the land to Abraham (Genesis 12:7).
The significance of the place served to strengthen their commitment to God.
If we’ll listen, it can strengthen ours as well.
Do you have a buffer zone between you and what can harm you? I’m talking about putting a safeguard between you and evil influences that can cause compromise in your walk with Jesus Christ.
Interestingly, this concept of defense didn’t originate in the New Testament. We see an illustration of it throughout Old Testament history in an unusual place.
Between the Philistine plain and the Hill Country where God’s people dwelt lay 10 miles of low rolling hills. This buffer zone was known as the “Shephelah.”
The hills of the Shephelah were a geographical buffer that represented a spiritual barrier. You have a Shephelah in your life as well.
Here’s a lesson on how you can guard it.
I have seen the Old City of Jerusalem from every direction. From the north on Mount Scopus. From the east on the Mount of Olives. From the south at the Haas Promenade. From the west atop the Citadel. I’ve even flown above it in a helicopter.
But the most unique way I’ve seen the city is from atop its walls.
(Photo: Atop the wall of Jerusalem ramparts. Photo by James Foo)
A visitor can walk atop most of the Old City wall of Jerusalem, accessed at the Jaffa Gate and Damascus Gate. The walk has railings on the inside and high stone walls on the outside, so safety is assured. Explanatory signs along the way give understanding to the history that occurred nearby.
More than once, I’ve walked on the ramparts, a matchless and wonderful way to see both inside and outside the Old City.
This quick tour travels atop the wall of Jerusalem from the Jaffa Gate to the Dung Gate.
Not many people can say they grew up on a hill that overlooked the battlefields of history. But Jesus could.
Jesus’ hometown sat off the beaten path and high on a ridge that overlooked the International Highway and the prominent Jezreel Valley.
The gospels tell us Nazareth rested on a hill with a formidable precipice (Luke 4:29). From here Jesus cold see the battles of Israel’s history.
The city’s name likely comes from the Hebrew term netzer, meaning “branch” or “shoot.” Some scholars believe this represents the faith of those Jews who returned from exile. Their hope focused on the coming Messiah, the “righteous Branch” of David, promised by the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15).
But when He did finally show up, they tried to throw Him over the cliff.
Question: What major site in Jerusalem can a visitor see after the sun goes down that still requires men to wear a hat? (Okay, so you could wear a yarmulke instead of a hat. Most men remove the hat anyway.)
Answer: The Western Wall Tunnel.
When you say the words “The Western Wall,” most folks think of the Western Wall plaza:
- It’s the place where bar- and bat-mitzvahs regularly occur and where soldiers are inducted.
- It’s the spot where ultra- and orthodox Jews come to pray—as well as many tourists—and the place of national prayer gatherings.
- It’s Judaism’s most sacred site.
But like the tip of an iceberg, the Western Wall plaza represents only a small part of the whole. There’s much more of the wall to see.
Most of the Western Wall lies buried beneath the rubble of time and hasn’t seen the light of day for centuries.
But a tunnel lets you see the entire length of the wall today.
August in Texas always makes me think of hell. That’s probably because each summer when I was a boy my stepdad would squint at the sky, wipe the sweat from his brow, and offer his summer benediction:
Spring has sprung, fall has fell, summer is here, and it’s hotter than . . . usual.
Funny, but we always try to leave that last part out, don’t we?
Hell brightens a conversation about as much as a root canal. Nobody wants to talk about it. But the dentist does you no favors by keeping the truth from you. You need to know the facts about the malady and the options for dealing with it.
You know who spoke about hell more than anyone else in the Bible?
For most Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land, Jerusalem is the climax of their journey. After all, the redemption of the universe occurred there. History knows no more significant city.
In my previous post, I shared 5 Christian sites in Jerusalem you should know about—including the Mount of Olives, the Pools of Bethesda, and the Pool of Siloam.
(Photo: Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher)
With very few exceptions, we can’t stand on a square foot of ground and claim, “Jesus walked here.” But we can point to areas where biblical history aligns with the geography of Jesus.
Let’s add 5 more Christian sites to the previous list. These are sites in Jerusalem associated with Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Jerusalem is famous for the standard sites tourists visit. The Western Wall, the Temple Mount, the Holocaust Museum, and the Israel Museum top the list of many visitors to Jerusalem.
Pilgrims, sightseers, and worshippers from three major religions journey to the Holy City every year. Because Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all see Jerusalem as a Holy City, it’s tough to designate many of the Christian sites in Jerusalem as distinctly Christian.
After all, Christianity has its roots in the faith of the ancient Hebrews. Jesus was a Jew, and so, many Jewish sites are therefore also connected to Christianity.
Even still, I have selected ten Christian sites in Jerusalem that have a direct, historical connection to the ministry of Jesus.
In this post, I’ll share with you the first five of these Christian sites in Jerusalem.
Unmistakable. Majestic. Distinctive. Graceful. Descriptions all appropriate for an isolated hill wedged in the northeast corner of the Jezreel Valley.
Rising from the valley floor 1,843 feet, Mount Tabor’s smooth contours honor it with a distinguishing outline recognizable from any vantage point.
- From the Plain of Bethsaida north of the Sea of Galilee, I have seen the top of Tabor peeking over the hills of Mount Arbel.
- From the other side of the Jezreel Valley on Mount Carmel, I have studied Mount Tabor’s exceptional form in its geographical context.
- Many times as I traveled in the Galilee, Mount Tabor would surprise me with its presence. “I had no idea you could see Tabor from here,” I would find myself saying.
From any direction, the mountain stands alone in both beauty and topography. The Prophet Jeremiah recorded,
As I live [declares the Lord] surely one shall come who looms up like Tabor among the mountains. —Jeremiah 46:18
No wonder Mount Tabor played a noteworthy role in history. It offered a geographical landmark for travelers, a military advantage as the high ground, and it provided an illusory spiritual benefit as a high place.
It even served as a metaphor of praise to God.