I like to keep the peace. Because of that, I do my best to stay away from contentious areas of debate. There are plenty of people called to actively engage in areas of both political and theological conflict, but I’m not one of them. My call is to stay focused on the beauty of Jesus–confident that when people truly connect with Him, the rest will eventually work itself out.
But occasionally there are issues that burn within my heart to such a degree that I can’t keep silent. Israel, and even more specifically Jerusalem, is one of those issues.
I will say up front, I love Israel. I love Jerusalem. I love being there with Jesus. It feels like home to me. God has transformed my heart during my trips to Israel and revealed His own heart in ways I could never have imagined. I literally carry that nation in my heart. As a result, what I feel about Israel is not primarily theological (although there are many theological reasons to support Israel). It is also not political. More than anything, for me, it is a supernatural and mystical matter of the heart.
I didn’t seek out a love for Israel–I sought out the heart of God. His love for Israel just happens to be one of the deepest ways He has personally revealed His heart to me. That doesn’t mean I don’t have compassion and concern for Palestinians. It also doesn’t mean I blindly support the government of Israel (any more than I blindly support the government of the U.S.). What it does mean is that I absolutely do support Israel’s right to exist as a nation–with Jerusalem as its capital.The U.N. can make whatever decrees it chooses to make, but I know God’s heart dwells in that city in a way it doesn’t anywhere else on the planet–and always will. It would be absolutely futile for anyone to try to convince me otherwise, because I’ve tasted and seen for myself.
I wrote the words below on a trip to Israel back in 2006. I’ve published them before, but not for a very long time …
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, in many ways, 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.
Jerusalem (and all of Israel) always has, and always will, have a place in God’s heart reserved for no other. Because I have been privileged to glimpse that special place in His heart, as long as there is breath in me, I will still be right here praying for the peace of Jerusalem. I hope you’ll join me…
“Pray for peace in Jerusalem.
May all who love this city prosper.
O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls
and prosperity in your palaces.
For the sake of my family and friends, I will say,
‘May you have peace.’
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek what is best for you, O Jerusalem.”
-Ps. 122:6-9 NLT