Jerusalem: Heart of a Nation
The City of David
Jerusalem—the city of King David, the city of gold, the city of prophetic legacy, the Heavenly city, the city of God—how on earth did this humble town become the icon it is today? How did it become the focus of Jewish hope through millennia of exile, and the capital of both ancient and modern Israel?
Jerusalem had been a fortified city which had been occupied by several different people groups. Joshua initially tried to conquer the city, but to no avail.
As God would have it, Jerusalem was first to be conquered by a shepherd-boy after His own heart—David of Bethlehem.
When the time came for God’s anointed psalmist to be king over all of Israel, his first action as ruler was to set his sights on Zion. “The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, ‘You will not get in here even the blind and the lame can ward you off…’ Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David.” (2 Samuel 5:6-7)
Humanly speaking, the stronghold was invincible because of the high walls surrounding the city. But in a supernatural victory, reminiscent of Joshua’s exploits in settling the Land, David captured Zion’s fortress. In a brilliant, surprise move, he and his men entered the city through the water shaft from which the spring of Gihon flowed. Via this approach, the city was easily delivered into their hands.
David then enlarged the city of Jerusalem, making it suitable as the united nation’s capital and the seat of his government. Eventually it came to not only serve as the place of government, but it became the central place of worship for Israel as well. It was not just David’s chosen capital, it was the Lord’s city of choice as well. (1 Kings 11:32)
The Heart and Soul of the Jewish People
Jerusalem has remained the center of Jewish attention throughout the entire history of their dispersion from the Land of Israel. In fact, no matter where in the world they found themselves, the Jewish people would always pray in the direction of Jerusalem. In 2 Chronicles 6:34-39 when Solomon was dedicating the first temple he pleaded with the Lord that when his Jewish brethren pray toward Jerusalem, that God would hear their pleas and champion their cause. Daniel exemplified this practice when he was exiled in Babylon. “…He had windows in his upper chamber open towards Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God…” (Daniel 6:10)
This reverence for the holy city has been so deeply entrenched in the Jewish cultural fabric, that the traditional conclusion of the yearly Passover Seder ends with these words: “Next year in Jerusalem.” This mantra been handed down through centuries, encapsulating the Jewish hope that they would once again dwell in Zion. “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yes, we wept, when we remembered Zion.” (Psalm 137:1)
Even the national anthem of the modern state of Israel echoes this desire to dwell in Jerusalem.
It is literally titled “Ha Tikvah”, which means “The Hope.” This beautiful song encapsulates the aching of Jewish hearts to not only return to the land of Israel, but also to return to their holy city where two temples stood as the place of national gathering to worship the Lord. Jerusalem was not just a capital city in the political and military sense, it was the place where the presence of God dwelled amongst His people. And His people long to return there. The anthem concludes with these words (translated from Hebrew):
“Our hope is not yet lost,
The hope two thousand years old,
To be a free people in our land
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.”
The freedom to dwell in Jerusalem, to the Jewish people, goes hand in hand with the freedom to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David on His chosen holy hill.
The City of God
We’ve learned how Jerusalem was founded by King David as the first capital of a united Israel, and we’ve learned what she has meant to the Jewish people for thousands of years, but what does this city mean to God? Is Jerusalem “just a place”, like any other place?
The Lord chose Jerusalem, and no other place, as the place where He wanted His people to meet with Him.
“Since the day that I brought my people out of the land of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, that my name might be there, and I chose no man as prince over my people Israel; but I have chosen Jerusalem that my name may be there, and I have chosen David to be over my people Israel.” (2 Chronicles 6:5-6)
Two temples were erected in Jerusalem, and three different feasts were designated as times of pilgrimage when all of Israel was commanded to appear on Mount Zion to worship before the Lord (Deuteronomy 16:16). It was the epicenter of His Shekinah glory falling upon mankind (2 Chronicles 5:14), it will be the site of Yeshua’s triumphant return, and it will be the city from which the King of Glory will reign in the millennium.
God sovereignly chose Jerusalem as His desired dwelling and His resting place forever (Psalm 132:13-14).
It is the capital of His universe.