“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…”
Jerusalem, ancient Salem governed by Melchizedek (cf. Gen. 14:17-24), eventually wrested away from the Jebusites by David to become capitol of the Kingdom of Israel (cf. 1 Chron. 11:4-9). Later David’s son, Solomon, would build the Temple in Jerusalem on Mount Zion. Today this site is occupied by the second-most-holy place in Islam; Qubbat al Sakhra, or The Dome of the Rock (pictured above with the Al-Aqsa mosque in background). In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus grieved for this city prior to His “triumphal entry,”
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ (Matt.23:37-39)
Val and I will be traveling to Jerusalem and Israel over the New Year. I have the great privilege of being the Bible Instructor for a study tour originating with a member of the Hebrew faculty at Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, MN (where I took my Master of Theology degree). We will be gone from December 26 through January 11.
The last time Val and I were in Jerusalem was in 1977, thirty-seven years ago—how time flies—and Jerusalem was as embroiled in conflict then as it is today. At that time we were young students on a 12-week study tour of Europe and the Middle-East (backpacks-tents-atrocious food), and spent a month in Israel. For all the hardships we faced, that trip was an iconic, life-changing, awe-inspiring adventure.
Truth is, I never thought we’d be able to return to Israel ever again, and I was shocked when the opportunity was recently presented to us. Several nights ago, Val asked me what I was most looking forward to on this trip. The question caught me off guard and, rather than what I look forward to, my mind went immediately to what I fear most; not Palestinian mortars or rockets, but being under-whelmed by just being there. The older I get, the less I find myself being awe-struck by that which would have made a big splash earlier in my life—and our first trip to Israel was definitely a big splash!
There are many things I find fun and enjoyable for the moment—but underwhelming in the big picture: stuff, travel, events, and so on just don’t go the distance. So, what do I find overwhelming? My wife’s love for me is overwhelming, my friends’ and associates’ patience with all my shortcomings is overwhelming, and the privilege I have to serve the family at Summit is overwhelming to me. Most of all, that almighty God, in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, would give that life to me that I so do not deserve—now, that is overwhelming. When all is said and done, it is the people in my life who are overwhelming. So, and this is the cool part, I’m surrounded by these overwhelming relationships, and I’m wondering if the new people/students I meet on this trip won’t be the big splash.
And yet, there is Jerusalem. Once again I will have the privilege of looking upon Mount Zion; to see the place where the Shekinah Glory of the living God dwelt in Solomon’s Temple; to see again the place where Messiah’s throne will yet be in the Kingdom—Yes, I think I will be overwhelmed.
In addition, I will have the privilege of teaching God’s Word in this holy place. Our Israeli tour guide and our Israeli driver will be in the audience. King David wrote, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May they be secure who love you!” (Psalm 122:6), and it is my prayer that these two Jews [at least] might find their peace in Jesus, Messiah to Gentiles and Jews alike (cf. Rom. 5:1). Would you pray with me to that end?
God bless you all,
Dr. Timothy Orton
Summit Classical Christian School