Without God, there is no shalom
Day Nine began with a walk full of twists and turns through the Old City from our hotel in the Christian Quarter ending at the Temple Mount. Women were instructed to wear their modesty kit out of respect for this holy Muslim site. The theme for the day seemed to be “conflict”. We felt and experienced it at the Temple Mount.
To Jews and Christians it is known as Mount Moriah from the Bible, the foundation rock upon which Solomon built the temple according to God’s specific instruction and design. Standing there in the courts, crowded around our rabbi we could feel the tension of this place. We talked about Jesus coming there as a boy and amazing the teachers with His wisdom and knowledge of the text. We thought about Jesus’ conflict with the money changers and teachers of the Law. We marveled at the layers of thousands of years of conflict represented in the architecture.
Our journey continued down towards David’s city, stones revealing his original palace. We stood in the place he would have looked down and seen Bathsheba. The conflict in his own heart and then the conflict that ensued as consequence to his sin was sobering. David’s city also reveals part of the story of another king of Judah, Hezekiah and his reaction to the encroaching invasion of the Assyrian army known for horrific war efforts. He both prayed and acted by rerouting water supplies and building a long underground aqueduct to help his city survive the siege.
As we walked through this long, dark aqueduct/tunnel, it led to an internal conflict of facing fears in my own heart. As I stepped through the pitch black in ankle deep water, I kept thinking, “I’m sure Rod has a good reason for us doing this. I’m sure he’ll tell us why.” But then a still small voice reminded me of the verse in Ruth that says “Where you go, I go. Where you stay, I’ll stay…” As Ruth attached herself to Naomi, so is my heart loyal to follow my Rabbi…The Rabbi. He doesn’t have to tell me where, how long, or even why. I trust Him. I will just go. As I fixed my eyes on Jesus, his “grace my fears relieved”.
A 1750-foot (530m) tunnel carved during the reign of Hezekiah to bring water from one side of the city to the other, Hezekiah’s Tunnel together with the 6th c. tunnel of Euphalios in Greece are considered the greatest works of water engineering technology in the pre-Classical period. Had it followed a straight line, the length would have been 1070 ft (335m) or 40% shorter.
The next stop on our journey was actually part of the Ruth story, and yet told another layer of conflict in our Biblical story. We made the trek up to Herodian, Herod’s fortress palace situated a stone’s throw from Bethlehem and with a view of Jerusalem on a hill just a few miles away. Again, the story came to life as we considered the context into which Jesus was born. This palace built on a mountain that Herod literally constructed from level ground, shouted to the world all the glory Rome had to offer. It is the place of Herod’s burial, a man such the antithesis of Jesus. Both of them, “the King of the Jews”. Herod goes higher and lives his life saying to the world, “You exist for me!” Jesus goes lower and his life proclaims, “My life for you.” As we gazed out towards the Judah mountains, we considered the conflict in our own lives. There is so much of “Herod” that lingers in each of us. Yet with repentant hearts we cry out, “Lord, give us more of you!” He must increase. We must decrease.
Herodium is 3 miles southeast of Bethlehem and 8 miles south of Jerusalem. Its summit is 2,460 feet above sea level.
Herod built or re-built eleven fortresses. This one he constructed on the location of his victory over Antigonus in 40 BC.
Our day shifted from ancient conflict to present day as we drove out of the West Bank (Palestinian territory) back into Jewish Israeli territory. The daily fear, frustration, resentment, and confusion the inhabitants of this land face is so foreign to us. Conflict is next door to them every day.
The final stop of the day was difficult for all of us. The Yad Vashem is the National Jewish Holocaust memorial museum and research center. As we wandered the aisles of the museum, we reflected on the atrocities done by one people group to another. The horror is simply overwhelming and left us all sobered by the stories we read and heard.
The common thread of conflict today turned my mind back to the Garden. Without God, there is no shalom. There is no good. There is no peace. This is why Jesus came, to bring us back to Himself. John says, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.” Jesus is the light of the world! Until He comes again the conflict will not stop. But like Hezekiah, we can pray. And we can act. Whether facing enemies or fears within, as followers of Christ our prayer can be, “Lord, just help me love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. And help me love my neighbor as myself.” This is the path. It is the path of bringing God’s shalom to the world as we show them our King who went low and was exalted high as the Prince of Peace. One day, the conflict will end. Until then, “Come Lord Jesus! Hoshannah!”