Today we walked in Jerusalem
Today we walked in Jerusalem. Before we left for this trip I wondered how I would respond to being in Israel. I am not an emotionally based woman. I don't cry easily or often. I just don't respond like most women I know. I am most trusting of truth. Reality. Facts. Substance. My prayer was that I would be open to what God wanted to teach me. I wanted to absorb all He wanted me to see, to touch, to smell ...and I asked Him to help me feel.
As we drove up to visit the Western Wall, Ronan announced that the Temple Mount - Mt Moriah was on our right, The Mount of Olives was on our left and the Kidron Valley immediately below. It was all so close. Like running down the side of a hill, a short walk and right back up a hillside. They are so close together! I never realized this. I was immediately in tears. Descriptions in the Bible were making SO much more sense. Then I remembered, THIS is the side of Jerusalem that Jesus will enter when He returns! He will split the Mt of Olives in two! I WAS HERE! More tears.
The Western Wall is the most holy place accessible to the Jewish people because of Muslim control of the Temple Mount. Known in recent centuries as the “Wailing Wall,” this was built by Herod the Great as the retaining wall of the Temple Mount complex. The plaza was created as an area for prayer when Israel captured the Old City in 1967. At times tens of thousands of people gather here for prayer.
We continued to the tunnels under the Western Wall and were shown models of Mt Moriah where Abraham offered Isaac and God intervened. Then the history of how it first was a place of remembrance, then became a holy site, to David bringing the ark of the covenant here, Solomon building a temple, Babylonians destroying it, Cyrus allowing the rebuilding, then Herod making the biggest plaza around it possible. Did you know that the walls that remain today are retaining walls for the plaza (or courts) around the temple? They are made with huge stones. HUGE! Ranging between 2 and 10 tons each.We continued up and out to the outside Western Wall area. Men and women's sides are separated. Women nodding their heads toward the wall, some placing their heads against the wall, most holding Hebrew books in their hands, some sitting in plastic chairs facing the wall, some with tears running down their faces. One young mother was their with her infant child standing at the wall to pray. Paper with written prayers stuffed between the cracks of the stones. It was strange to take it all in. I felt sad that they felt the need to get as close as possible to where the Holy of Holies HAD been. Where God's presence had been. They are praying to a retaining wall! The stones were dead stones. God's temple has moved! I Peter 1:5 "you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." God's Spirit resides in us! I leaned my head against the wall and cried and prayed.
The tour of the western wall tunnels is one of the most popular tourist sites in Jerusalem. These underground tunnels connect the western wall prayer area to the north-west side of the temple mount, passing along the side of the temple mount and under the present day houses in the Old City. Along its path are remains from the second temple period, as well as structures from later periods.
We continued around to the southern steps of the temple and Sam Meier taught us there... Where Jesus probably taught his disciples. Where Peter on the day of Pentecost preached to the crowds and 3,000 became believers and were immediately baptized in the "mikvas" below used for ceremonial cleansing for the temple. And I am here! And I feel overwhelmed.
An enormous flight of steps leads to the Southern Wall from the south. They were excavated after 1967 by archaeologist Benjamin Mazar and are the northernmost extension of the Jerusalem pilgrim road leading from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount via the Double Gate and the Triple Gate, collectively called the Huldah Gates. These are the steps that Jesus of Nazareth and other Jews of his era walked up to approach the Temple, especially on the great pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.  The stairs that lead to the double gate are intact and "well-preserved." The steps that lead to the triple gate were mostly destroyed. / The risers are low, a mere 7 to 10 inches high, and each step is 12 to 35 inches deep, forcing the ascending pilgrims to walk with a stately, deliberate tread. The pilgrims entered the temple precincts through the double and triple gates still visible in the Southern Wall. Together, the double and triple gates are known as the Hulda Gates, after the prophetess Huldah.
Around the corner we walked on the street that Jesus walked, we looked stones that had been toppled to the ground, we looked at the cornerstones of the wall. The cornerstones that set the course for the walls, that make it plumb, that gives it stability. And I am reminded again of being a living stone, being built into a spiritual house and that Jesus is the cornerstone who sets the course for our spiritual house.
These are just some of the thoughts I pondered today. God has been faithful to answer my prayer on this trip to Israel. He is teaching me. I am seeing and smelling and touching the Bible that I love. I am understanding my God and the truth of His Word in a fresh way. And I am feeling. Joy, overwhelming unworthiness, gratitude, love, awe and wonder.
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