... the joy of the whole earth ... Mount Zion, the city of the Great King.
~ Psalms 48:1-2
Jerusalem was, and is again, the capital of Israel, the land that God promised to the Jewish people as an everlasting possession. Jerusalem is obviously significant to Jews. Jerusalem is mentioned frequently in the Christian Bible, so it is not insignificant to believers in Jesus Christ. However, the Bible says that there will be a New Jerusalem. Christians might ask whether the New Jerusalem that is to come is more important than the Jerusalem that is the capital of modern-day Israel.
The word Jerusalem, in Hebrew, embraces the idea of peace. Jerusalem does not have peace today, but it will. God says that it is at Jerusalem, after great conflict, that His peace will finally come to the earth [Isaiah 2:2-4].
In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
It is not human reasoning that has placed Jerusalem at centre stage in world affairs. Jerusalem is not on a trade route, by land, river or sea. Jerusalem is hidden away in a dusty mountainous area, in an obscure land that has little to commend it except a powerful spiritual pull.
Jerusalem, and its other biblical name, Zion, is mentioned close to one thousand times in the Bible.
God has placed Jerusalem in the centre of the world.
This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “This is Jerusalem, which I have set in the centre of the nations, with countries all around her.”
~ Ezekiel 5:5
Some medieval maps placed Jerusalem at the centre of the world.
Jerusalem was, and is again, the national capital of God’s ancient covenant people – the Jews – now returning to the Promised Land. Jewish presence in Israel and Jerusalem is an offence to many Moslems.
But God chose Jerusalem.
God sent Abraham to Jerusalem – to Mount Moriah – to sacrifice Isaac [Genesis 22:2].
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
When God gave the Law to Moses, He said that a place would be chosen for His temple and for the altar [Deuteronomy 12:5-6].
“But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put His Name there for His dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks.”
Hundreds of years later King David bought the hilltop of Moriah and declared it to be the place of sacrifice for Israel [1 Chronicles 22:1].
1 Chronicles 22:1
Then David said, “The house of the Lord God is to be here, and also the altar of burnt offering for Israel.”
David’s son, Solomon, built the Temple on that spot [2 Chronicles 3:1].
2 Chronicles 3:1
Then Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David.
It was in Jerusalem that Jesus gave His life as a sacrifice for sin.
That is the significance of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the place of sacrifice. Jerusalem is where Israel’s Temple stood. Jerusalem is where blood had to be shed, to atone for sin. Jerusalem is where the priests and the High Priest ministered. And Jerusalem is where the shekinah glory of God settled in Israel.
The Jews disobeyed God. The shekinah glory departed. And the Jews were thrust out of the land of Israel.
In exile, the observant among them prayed three times a day toward Jerusalem. Nearly two thousand years passed and then God began to bring the Jews back to the Promised Land of Israel and to Jerusalem.