Let’s get this day rolling. Up and at it around 6am and headed to the Old City. No! Not Knoxville, we are in Jerusalem. Today we are privileged to go by and overlook many sites that we have heard of and preached for years. The first few pictures that you will see are the first place that we visited today. It is known as the Valley of Hinnom or in the Bible is known as the Valley of Gehenna. This valley lies just outside of the wall of Jerusalem on the west side. There was a gate in the wall known as the dung gate. From this gate they would dump human and animal excrement, garbage, and dead bodies that had no proper burial. This was a disgusting place and history says that the odor was unbearable. Amazingly this valley today is a plush, beautiful valley of tress, grass, and flowers. Hard to believe what it is today compared to what it was history. I could not help but wonder if the excrement and burning has not fertilized and been good for this ground. The valley is beautiful! The beauty of it was short lived as we came to the base of the valley. Short lived because it was at the end of the valley that something very tragic happen. A suicide as a matter of fact. After betraying Jesus for 30 pieces of silver and a kiss on the cheek, Judas, took the money there it back to priest and under immense pressure and grief he went into this valley and from a tree he hung himself. The scripture tells us that he hung himself and later says that he burst asunder and his insides came out of him. If you saw the spot (pictured below) it would make sense. Taking what the Bible says (Mathews 27 and Acts 1). The image is that Judas hung himself a atop of the rocks, in a tree, and he fell from the tree and his intestines burst out of him. According to scripture they took the money, which was blood money, and bought the very field that was known as the potter’s field. It became a burial plot for paupers. It was a very sad moment to see that rock and field and know the pain that Judas must have felt.
Valley of Gehenna
Where Judas hung himself
After leaving Gehenna we swung down by the City of David and we saw the pool of Siloam. It was a tiny little city that had only a population of around a thousand in the time in which he lived there. It lies just outside of the southern wall of the city. We unloaded the bus and began the part of the trip we all have look forward to. Going inside the walls of the old city of Jerusalem. Israeli Defense Forces heavily guarded the entrance and a check point was there that we all had to go through. Obviously, this is a hot bed and can actually be a dangerous place because of the number of nationalities that seek to occupy it. I found out the hard way that Bibles are not allowed inside the city. They confiscated mine from my back pack and kept it until we exited. Don’t ask me why, because I honestly don’t know. Our first stop was the Dome of the Rock. It lies on top of the Temple Mount where the temple would have been. Muslims were everywhere. Not what you would think though. They were courteous and friendly. Western civilization has conditioned our minds to believe a lot about this country that are simply not true. We, nor anyone for that matter, were allowed inside the dome. We were free to take pictures and roam the area as we desired. It was neat to walk what would have been the floor of the Temple in Jesus day. I actually was placing my feet on spots Jesus did! Many pavers have been replaced but they taught us how to identify the ones that were still there from the first century. I snapped some photos of them you can find below. Here is where today got real! Four of us walked down to the Eastern Gate of the wall. This is the gate that scriptures tell us that Jesus, the Messiah, will enter through in the millennial kingdom to establish His earthly throne. Same gate He was led through when He was to be tried before He was executed. One glorious day, His foot will step down on the Mount of Olives, just across the valley, and He will come to occupy Jerusalem from the throne of His Father David and with a scepter He will rule the nations with a rod of iron. Oh, what a day! And to think that I stood only feet away from the very gats He will comes through. Funny thing is that Muslims have sealed the gate closed on the outside, claiming they will never allow the Messiah to come in and rule. Trust me, coming through those gates will be no problem for the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Hallelujah! After coming back up to the Temple Mount, I had one of the most distinct opportunities of my life. To stand at the very spot where the ark of the covenant rested in the Temple. There is a shrine there now to commemorate the spot, but it was surreal to look at the spot where the blood of thousands of lambs where placed on the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant. I looked at the ground and there were flys landing, I have to admit, I wondered if they still could sense a stench of blood on that ground from all of those Passover lambs. Maybe not, but I didn’t see any flies anywhere else on that ground. You can tell two things about that spot. First the stone paver is still the original from the first century, and second the presence of God was thick. No, the ark is not there anymore, and no one knows where it is, but it left a trace of the shekinah glory of God and you could sense it. What a moment!
City of David
Entering the Wall a Jerusalem
Where Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers
Inside the Eastern Gate
Some of the Rock on Temple Mount
Old floor of the Temple
The road Jesus took after leaving Gethsemane and entering Jerusalem through the Eastern Gate
The spot where the Holy of Holies was located
From there we weaved around through a few tunnels leading out of the Temple Mount and we proceeded to the back side of the old Temple known as the Western wall or in Judaism, the Wailing Wall. Hundreds of Jewish men and women already had assembled, separated by a wall between, and were praying to God who they believe lives inside the wall. There they pray daily three things. Peace for Jerusalem, the temple to be rebuilt, and the Messiah to come. If they have pressing needs, they will write them down and stick them inside the wall. I am not Jewish, but I do believe in prayer so I took advantage of the moment. I took a piece of paper and at that wall I prayed for my wife, my kids, my family, and Clear Springs Baptist Church. I stuck it inside the wailing wall. Obviously, I know that God doesn’t dwell in a wall, but in my heart, however I do think it was neat to leave prayer of the things I love the most here in Jerusalem. While at the wall we witnessed some young 13 years old boys having the Bar Mitzvah. At the age of 13 a boy “bar” becomes accountable and responsible “mitzvah” for his actions. He is now responsible to uphold the 613 laws of the Torah in Judaism. Let me tell you it is some celebration too. See my Facebook page to see a recording I got of them coming in. It was really neat. These boys are given special gifts that include the tallit and tefillin. One good looking little kid was celebrating with his family and permitted me to have a photo with him and this very special day in his life. One trip to Israel will certainly increase your burden for the people who live in this part of the world. Such good people. Kind people. Religious people. Here you find there is a ton of religion, but very little relationship. Whether it is the Muslims or the Jews, they have their rites and their exercises, but it is heart breaking to know they are missing who Jesus was in the process. His footsteps and presence are all around and they just simply miss it. One things is for certain, this trip has increased the reality of Psalm 122. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…peace be within thy walls.” These are God’s people and we must pray for them. My heart breaks.
Praying for the things I love the most
Little boy celebrating his Bar Mitzvah
Today we closed with a trip to the holocaust museum. Words will never describe the oppression that one feels walking through that places knowing and seeing the torment that these people endured under the tyrannical dictatorship of Hitler’s Nazi regime. My eyes welled up with tears at multiple stations as a saw the pictures, watched the videos, and heard the stories. Never had I felt that kind of oppression in my life. It really broke my heart to see how inhumane this wicked movement was. Towards the end a tribute was given to the liberation of the Jews from these death camps and the oppression begin to lift, but it definitely scarred my mind to really see in detail what was happening to these innocent people. Six million people, one and half million being under 18 years old were senselessly killed. As much as it pained me to see all of this, my heart was moved to know that a memorial has been erected in their stead for the awful things they must have suffered. May God bless their memories for all of eternity.
On the way home, Nedal treated us to a snack from a street vendor. A piece of Israeli bread and falafel. It really is my favorite food of the region. The food here is nothing to write home about but the falafel and hummus is absolutely delicious. As good as they are I must admit I am dreaming of home, I’m hungry! HA! Right now, my dreams consist of a slice or six of pizza or a bologna sandwich. Right now, it’s what is on my mind, but subject to change tomorrow. Any American food sounds good at this point! Tomorrow is the climatic part of our journey. We travel to Calvary where Jesus died, and we make the journey to an empty tomb! I know He is not there, for He is risen, but I’m excited to report to you tomorrow that with my own very eyes that I have looked, and it is certain, He is gone!
Blessings, Pastor Justin