The center of the world is also the center of our faith
Jerusalem is the crossroads of the world. This unique city is unlike anywhere else on the planet. It’s difficult to describe how distinct and singular its atmosphere is. Although most urban centers are a confluence of varying ethnicities and cultural expressions, the thing that sets Jerusalem apart is the sense that its very location is the reason for the convergence of diversities that populate it. Its composition is not arbitrary or incidental.
Its inhabitants did not happen upon this landmass due to natural migration patterns or random chance. Rather, it seems that each and every person who resides in this land does so by deliberate, intentional choice. No one is there by accident. If you’re living in Israel, it is because you believe something so strongly you’re willing to stake your life on it. Many end up doing just that.
Often thought of as the crossroads of the three monotheistic faiths, the charged religious nature of Jerusalem also positions it at the hub of world politics. Jerusalem is not an easy place to live. There are no comfort zones in Jerusalem—nowhere to hide. The irreconcilable philosophies hurled down through the ages at avalanche-speeds meet in this tiny city, where they butt heads, brush shoulders, pass each other in vigilant silence.
More than any other place on earth, Jerusalem is an idea. But, paradoxically, the idea of this city is that it is possible for idea to meet action, for heaven to touch earth. In Jerusalem, there is no distance between precept and practice, between the belief and the prayer. Jerusalem is the place where concept meets concrete; where dogma meets dirt.
Time itself does not seem to exist, in that all of the city’s ancient underpinnings, modern realities and future speculations exist simultaneously, so that you are not quite sure if you are living in the past, present or future. When you walk through the streets of Jerusalem, you feel as though you are skirting the edge of something—performing a balancing act atop the very seam that holds together time and space.
A Global Microcosm
The land of Israel seems to be at once otherworldly, and at the same time, to contain the essence and entirety of the world we know. It is the microcosm in which all political realities, spiritual philosophies and human machinations exist. All roads lead to Jerusalem. Should it surprise us that it is predicted to be the site of the biggest ideological train wreck of all time?
However, despite being a highly symbolic place, (and despite what you may have been taught in Sunday school), Jerusalem is not a metaphor. It is not a figure of speech. Jerusalem is very real. It has school systems; it has shopping centers; it has traffic. People living in Jerusalem and throughout the land of Israel have bad days. They lock themselves out; they miss the bus. Jerusalem is the holy city in the land God calls His own. It has eternal significance and temporal importance in the redemptive story God is unfolding throughout the ages through the Jewish people—and those grafted into the tree of this faith (see Rom. 11:17-18). Do we honestly think God wouldn’t have a plan that encompasses every last pebble and stone of this remarkable, set-apart place?
What about this pledge made by our spiritual forebears in millennia past? “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth—if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy” (Ps. 137:5-6).
Or these words from our Savior, who wept over His people? “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem ... How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” (Matt. 23:37).
See, we have made Christianity into something abstract. Ethereal. Theoretical. Much of the church has fallen into the error of replacement theology—the belief that the church completely replaces Israel. The idea that God (who created the world and went to the trouble of coming up with a plan of redemption to save it) would not uphold His connection with the land and people of Israel is preposterous. You may be called to China. You may have a burden to reach those in the Westernized business world. But I have a newsflash for you: “Your Jerusalem” is Jerusalem!
What if your destiny, my destiny, the fate of the whole world is tied up with the outcome to be determined over this one city; this one tiny strip of desert land the size of New Jersey? Would you go there? Would you pray for this place? Would you care to make sure that, whatever your politics and persuasions are, they do not contradict what God says about Israel? Your heart should be irrevocably tied to its streets, hills, valleys and citizens. Does your heart break for Jerusalem? God’s does.
Anti-Semitism is Anti-Godism
The God we serve is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God who gave the law through Moses and revealed Himself to a specific nation (Israel) for the purpose of blessing the whole world. The source of the freedom-loving society we live in today is a direct result of God’s dealings with Israel. Quite literally, our Judeo-Christian worldview does not make sense unless it aligns itself with the Jewish people and the God of Israel.
So what does this mean for us today?
If we believe that God is faithful to His promises, then as a necessary consequence, we must believe that He is faithful to the promises He has made to Israel. After centuries of persecution and dispersion throughout the world, in 1948, God made good on His promise to Abraham and the Hebrew prophets to bring His people once again into the land that was to be forever theirs. Israel was reborn, and the world has never been the same.
The testimony that God is alive, well and present in the lives of people and nations is an undeniable reality today due to His covenantal faithfulness to Israel. The flip side to this is the fact that those who are most opposed to God are also the ones most opposed to the Jewish people and State of Israel. The reasoning behind this is that, if God’s children can be done away with, then there would no longer be any proof of God’s existence. As we know, all such efforts are, in the end, doomed to fail.
The more recent, ever-deepening level of relationship between the modern-day state of Israel and evangelical Christians (who are, by and large, U.S. citizens) is one that has been heavily scrutinized from all angles of the religious and political gamut. But the simple fact is, our worldview by definition supports and upholds a strong Israel, both because of the spiritual roots of our faith and also because of our commitment to live as a society that values freedom and democracy. The many evangelical groups that bring together pro-Israel believers to stand with the land and people of Israel show just how deep this conviction runs.
As we take this deep and penetrating look at the post-Christian world, we see how we have changed for the worse, shifting away from God’s absolute, eternal promises. He, in the midst of mankind’s meanderings, has stood unwavering. Nowhere do we see this demonstrated more clearly than in His dealings with Israel, and with those who have been grafted into the covenants of faith.
Could it really be a coincidence that the Jewish people, dispersed for centuries to the four corners of the earth, should, out of the ashes of the Holocaust, be reunited with their ancient, ancestral homeland? Could it be merely chance? Good fortune? Dumb luck? How blind does one have to be to not be able to recognize that the re-birth of the nation of Israel (God’s prophetic timepiece) is the No. 1 indicator of the times we are living in? Could it be that Jerusalem is the dividing line that God will ultimately use to measure the nations of the earth?
Have you asked yourself why there is this relentless agenda to dominate Jerusalem’s airwaves, to possess its soil, to name its streets? If you haven’t, you need to. We ought to be those with eyes to see and ears to hear the spiritual realities that surround us.
If we expect to bear fruit in the kingdom of God, our faith needs to be rooted in the place it came from. God is jealous for Zion (see Zech. 8:2). If we claim to have the Father’s heart, we need to care about her just as much. If hearing this from me inspires you to do nothing else but pray for the peace of Jerusalem (according to our biblical mandate in Psalm 122:6), I will consider my mission accomplished. If you have gained nothing else from me, hear this:
Jesus is returning to a people. He is returning to a place. He is returning to Jerusalem.
Robert Stearns is the founder and executive director of Eagles’ Wings. This article is adapted from his latest book, No, We Can’t: Radical Islam, Militant Secularism and the Myth of Coexistence (Chosen Books).