It may sound a bit odd, but I wondered as I approached Jerusalem again if I would have the same emotional response that I have experienced in the past. Nothing I suppose compares to the first time I came to the City of David… I was without words as I looked upon the Holy site of Temple Mount as it occurred to me that I was actually looking at the focal point of the world with my very eyes! There were tears, there was joy and there was a sense of awe as I beheld the Holy City. I have to tell you, regardless of how many times you approach the Old City, I have to believe there is a sacredness that is appreciated and understood. This is where it happened! Now I know not everyone feels as I do, nor are those of other religious persuasions as moved as I have described. But the fact remains, the world will never be the same because of what happened in this place. As I approached the Temple Mount it was almost the beginning of Shabbat and there was a large gathering of Orthodox Jews already assembled at the wall, families of all ages were there as well as many Israeli soldiers who we not there to guard but to pray.
Something that has captured my attention in the past and I observed afresh this time were the way Jews rock back and forth as they pray. This is called Shuckling which is the swaying back and forth during prayer and Torah study, a legitimate custom of the Jews. My good friend Lyndon said that the first time he saw this here he felt it a bit disrespectful until the Lord spoke to his heart and said, Lyndon, they are looking for me! The fact is that during the worship in the Temple in Jesus day, the absolute closest place to the outer wall of the temple complex was on the Western wall! The Temple faced Eastward toward the Mount of Olives and sat near the Western wall. This is the very closest they can get to where the Temple once stood which was where the presence of God dwelt on the face of the earth!
The question arises in my mind, am I seeking to be as close as I possibly can to Jesus? Jesus words from the Sermon on the Mount have long been a favorite verse of mine “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God’ and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” When we desire to be as close to our Lord as possible in every area of our lives we are stable, but when we allow a distance to develop between us and the Savior, then we run the risk of getting hurt ourselves and even hurting others. Listen to the effect James describes to us… “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” As I gazed upon the Western wall I thought of an area I had just walked past, just to the right, which would be the southwest corner of temple mount. There lay the stones the Roman army toppled in 70AD under the direction of General Titus in total disarray. It’s normal to be taken back by the majesty and grand scale of the setting, but that pile of stones is truly profound. For almost two thousand years they’ve lain there as a silent testimony to the earth shaping events that occurred on that very site. So immense and heavy are they that they hold the same pattern and pose displayed when the final Roman soldier looked over his shoulder and glanced at before heading north toward Rome. Incredible to conceive isn’t it? An action so lasting, in our estimation of time anyway, that left unchanged will endure for ages to come. Fallen stones aren’t the only things that leave impressions, so do we!
Sir Francis Drake wrote, “Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, when we arrive safely because we have sailed too close to the shore. Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity; and in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim. Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes; and to push into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love.” May we allow nothing to come between us and Jesus. May we always desire a closeness which produces more than just a visit to a Holy place, but a relationship that draws us near to a Holy God! Are you as close as possible to Jesus?
Tim Throckmorton is the former Executive Pastor of the Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace Ohio and the Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio. He is currently the Senior Pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.ReachReach