Did you know that May 16th is Yom Yerushalayim, in English Jerusalem Day? Should you care? How is it significant to believers in Jesus?
This day commemorates the capture of the Old City of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War in 1967. It is a national holiday in Israel, a symbol of the historical connection between the Jewish people and the ancient city. In one sense it is the government's declaration to her citizens and to the world, Never Forget, Jerusalem is ours!"
There is tremendous irony here. That is not to say I don't support Israel's claim to the city. The irony is that it is a secular approach to a biblical expression of faithfulness expressed by the Psalmist: "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill!" (Psalm 137:5) Behind this passionate loyalty, and indeed behind the entire history of the city, is God's call for all of us to seek to worship Him in truth . . . and Never Forget.
Psalm 137 is clearly written from exile. The opening words of this plaintive song set the scene: "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion." (Psalm137:1) Jewish tradition identifies Jeremiah as the psalmist. This is a song of lament and not celebration, a cry of loss and pain, not joy and victory. The closing sentiment of the Psalm is perhaps the most horrific found in all of Scripture, an oath of vengeance too terrible to imagine: "O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed, happy the one who repays you as you have served us! Happy the one who takes and dashes your little ones against the rock!"
It is difficult to attribute anything noble or holy to that imprecation. But through this gruesome imagery, God makes it impossible for us to minimize the brutal inhumanity caused by sin. The carnage over Jerusalem cries out to us, that we never forget the ugliness and tragedy sin unleashes in this broken world.
There is also tremendous irony in the very name of this place, Jerusalem. Though scholars are not unanimous, most concur that the name comes from two Hebrew words, "yireh" and "shalom," "yireh" meaning "to see" and "shalom" meaning "peace." To see peace? Jerusalem? Hardly. In its tortured 4,000-year history, the city has been completely destroyed at least twice, not to mention captured and recaptured 44 times. It has been the field of combat for at least 118 battles. . .more than any other city in history.
Despite its name, Jerusalem has been, and continues to be, a symbol of political and religious conflict. Today the city is sharply divided between Muslim, Jewish and Christian quarters, all three laying claim to her blood-soaked soil. While secular and religious leaders clamor for the world to remember their right to Jerusalem, God patiently bids us never to forget our utter inability to bring about peace through merely human efforts, be they backed by military, political, social or religious forces. But as surely as we cannot bring that peace, He can and will.
The city of peace was founded on blood shed, not in battle, but as a testament of God's grace and His promise. Before the city was built, God told our father Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac on Mount Moriah-which would one day be the Temple Mount. Had that sacrifice actually occurred, it would have been just the first of tens of thousands of tragedies to occur there. Instead, God provided a substitute, a ram to die in Isaac's place. Abraham called the place Yahweh Yireh, which can mean either God sees, or God provides. "Yireh" became part of the city's name, a permanent tribute to something God wants us remember. In order for Jerusalem to see peace, it needs to receive God's provision.
God Himself did what Abraham did not have to do, by sending His only son, Y'shua, to die, in Jerusalem, as a sacrifice for sin. Only the shed blood of Jesus can solve the problem of bloodshed and violence in Jerusalem and around the world. His sacrifice is God's provision for peace.
Yet here we are, 2,000 years later, with no peace in Jerusalem or anywhere else. The world is spinning, seemingly out of control, filled with violence and death. Once again, there is irony because the turmoil over Jerusalem only verifies that God's Word foretold the promises of God concerning the future of Jerusalem: "Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding people . . . I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it." (Zech 12:2-3) God said this would be the case and so it is.
One hundred years ago, who paid attention to this backwater part of the world? Yet today the eyes of all the nations are riveted on Jerusalem, as it remains the source of conflict in the Middle East. Nowadays we can't forget Jerusalem because it is front and center in a conflict that threatens to tear the world apart. Jesus himself predicted, "And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." (Luke 21:24)
So what is the significance of Jerusalem Day? In 1967, as a result of the Six-Day War, Jerusalem came under Jewish sovereignty for the first time since Jesus uttered His prediction. All that conflict over Jerusalem is frightening on the one hand, but on the other, it should encourage us to remember how God said it would be, and to have hope in the brighter promises of His Word. I cannot fully explain what Jesus meant by the "times of the Gentiles" being fulfilled. I do believe His words clearly indicate that God has a plan for Jerusalem, and we would do well never to forget her.
Our Jews for Jesus music team, The Liberated Wailing Wall, captured the importance of God's promises concerning Jerusalem in the title song of their new album, "Never Forget." The album is still in process and will be available to the general public soon. Meanwhile, you can preview an unfinished part of the album's title song by clicking here. (If you're a Macintosh user, please use an Internet browser other than AOL. Copy this URL to another browser: http://www.jewsforjesus.org/publications/realtime/47/01/NeverForget.mp3 )
A renowned musical composer named King David wrote, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: 'May they prosper who love you. . . ' (Psalm 122:6) Your prayers for peace in Jerusalem are the best way to remember God's people and never forget His loyal love and desire for them to be saved. When we pray for peace we are praying, not for the success of human endeavors, but for the fulfillment of God's promise and for people to receive His provision with joy.
Therein lies one more great irony. Jerusalem stands as a symbol for believers that God's promises will prevail. Despite appearances, He calls us to believe and trust in His word. The darker the hour, the brighter is our hope. The greater the conflict, the more confident we must be in our conviction that the only hope for peace was born in the Middle East. Y'shua died and rose again in Jerusalem. One day soon He will return to establish everlasting peace under His benevolent rule. That will be the ultimate Jerusalem Day.