As I’m posting this, I’ve been “home” in Israel for nearly a week. Right now, we are in Migdal at a lovely little prayer and retreat center overlooking the Galilee. Today is Shabbat (the Sabbath–Saturday) and we’ve had a beautiful and prayerful day. Tomorrow we will make the journey “up” to Jerusalem where we’ll stay for the balance of our trip.
There’s something that comes over me just knowing I will be returning again to Jerusalem–to his city. Although the Galilee is actually my favorite region of the country–my heart is in Jerusalem. There is no place on earth as spiritually significant. I can’t wait to experience it again tomorrow with my team. It will be the first time for several of them. I remember the first time I rode into the city, just thinking about it still gives me chills. No other place on planet earth has ever given me that same feeling–that strange and profound sense of coming home.
So, in honor of our journey tomorrow into “the city of the Great King,” I’m posting something I wrote several years ago while on an earlier trip:
O’ JerusalemLooking out over the city tonight, his tears fill my eyes. Sitting on my balcony in the newer part of Jerusalem, my physical eyes are taking in a sight that would seem commonplace in any one of thousands of cities around the globe. But this isn’t just any city—this is his city. This is Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the apple of his eye. Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her. Jerusalem, the city whose children Jesus longs to gather as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. Jerusalem, the one and only place God Almighty has chosen to establish his eternal throne. Jerusalem, the holy city of God.
I can’t make sense of it. I refuse to even try. Trying to understand the heart of God with human reasoning is about as absurd as a two-year-old trying to fully comprehend the cosmos. You don’t comprehend the heart of God, you feel the heart of God. As I sit with him tonight, I have an overwhelming sense that he doesn’t want me to dissect his emotions so that I might be able to rationalize them in some nice tidy way—he simply wants me to share them. So together we watch the city. And together we cry.
Yes, he still weeps. He still waits. He still watches. Like a forsaken Lover, like a forgiving Father—he weeps, he waits, and he watches. He continues to extend his arm in compassion and mercy. He continues to reach out with his offer of love, forgiveness, and true peace. And, for the most part, she continues to rebel against him and reject his love. His heart breaks—so he weeps, he waits, and he watches.
It’s tempting to make some analogy about how he watches and waits for us, too. It’s tempting to say that we are not so different from Jerusalem in how we often rebel against him and reject his love. It’s tempting—but it’s not entirely true. While he most certainly does watch and wait for all of his wayward children, and while many around the globe most certainly do rebel against him and reject his love—Jerusalem is different. Only Jerusalem is Jerusalem. Like it or not, understand it or not—only Jerusalem is Jerusalem. The Church is not Israel; Israel is Israel. And Israel—even more specifically Jerusalem—holds an eternal place in the heart of God reserved for no other. So he weeps. He waits. And he watches.
I don’t fully understand it. I don’t need to. Tonight I’m content to simply weep, wait, and watch with him. As I do, for just a moment, I see him smile through his tears.
For me, this says it all. It’s why I’m here. It’s why I come. It’s why I will continue to come. And it’s why I am often overwhelmed with emotion when I do. He loves this eternal city …
And so do I.