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Webster’s Dictionary defines holy as connected to a god or a religion. Thus Jerusalem is a holy city, consecrated to God. However, the meaning of this depends on who you talk with since Jerusalem is associated with two deities and revered as holy by three broad religions that developed from worship of them. Judaism, Christianity and Islam each compete to shape Jerusalem as a holy city according to their own religious ideals.
Adherents of all three religions agree that there is only one God, Who, as the source of truth, is consistent and never contradictory. Furthermore, each claims to have received the exact word of God meant for mankind. Therefore, there should be harmony between the Jewish Bible (Tanakh), New Testament and Koran regardless of language, culture or time. However, a comparison between them reveals inconsistency rather than unanimity.
The Tanakh proclaims the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of a New Covenant that will take the place of the Mosaic Covenant. The New Testament (Covenant) is the record of those events and closes with the statement that the complete revelation of God to mankind is now finished and it must not be changed or added to. Yet the words of Allah’s prophet, received hundreds of years after the close of the New Testament, are said to correct and complete the word of God previously given through the Prophets of Israel and Jesus. In doing so it contradicts prior revelation.
Furthermore, while some may have issue with the New Testament revelation of the Triune God; it is consistent with the character and nature of God as revealed in the Tanakh. Furthermore, the New Testament is in perfect harmony with the personalities, events and timeline of the Tanakh, accepting it in totality as Scripture. This cannot be said of the Koran where the nature of the Muslim god is quite different than that of the God of Israel as presented in both the Tanakh and New Testament (Judeo/Christian Scriptures). In addition, while the Koran references personalities and events in the Judeo/Christian Scriptures, they do not correspond with accounts of those persons and events as told in those Scriptures. Either the Judeo/Christian Scripture is wrong and the Koran is correct or it is the opposite, but they cannot all be valid. Since God does not contradict His word and there is no contradiction between the Tanakh and New Testament, the visions of Mohamed, inconsistent as they are with previous holy writ, cannot be from God. Neither can the god of Islam be the Judeo/Christian God since the character and attributes of the one worshiped within Islam are incompatible with those unveiled by previous revelation.
The Place of Holy Struggle
Jerusalem is the city of God, the God who formed and preserves the people of Israel, the God who has provided eternal salvation to the born-again Jewish and Gentile person. Jerusalem, the most unique city on earth, is desired by those whose god is not God in order to claim the place of God for their own and replace the name of God with their own god. This is at the root of the on-going struggle between Israel and the Muslims over Jerusalem.
While the Muslim world is quick to acknowledge it, non-Muslim world leaders, although calling Jerusalem a holy city, typically deny that those competing for control over Jerusalem are engaged in a holy struggle. Rejecting the authority of the word of God, they attempt to reduce the conflict to cultural and social issues between people groups contending for the same territory. In a vain effort to foster an atmosphere of compromise by which Jewish, Christian and Muslim adherents can all claim Jerusalem as their holy city, words such as tradition are substituted for commitment to one’s deity. This attempt to equally validate all three religious systems is popular among secular humanists who view Jerusalem as a product of human invention, a city whose maker is man. For others, among them traditional Christians and Jews together with some born of the Spirit who are content to have their ears tickled at the expense of sound Bible teaching, it is a city whose foundation was formed by God but today sits in sinful disgrace. A city in limbo, abandoned by God that awaits a glorious future but today lacks His presence or blessing.
The Muslim world, committed to promoting the supremacy of their god, will never voluntarily or permanently agree to a pragmatic solution that divides Jerusalem or provides for mutual recognition of and shared access to holy places of those who worship the God of Israel.
The Place of God’s Preference:
While Islam has claimed Jerusalem as their holy city, the Koran does not state that Allah established Jerusalem as a holy city. Years after Mohamed, Islamic clerics proclaimed Jerusalem the third holiest city of Islam. However, according to the Judeo/Christian Scriptures, Jerusalem is the holy city of God. This is the preference of God and the only place on planet earth that He has chosen for Himself.
Abraham was led by the Lord to Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22:2), where God tested him. The most consistent contextual usage of Moriah means the myrrh of GOD. Myrrh was the Balm of Gilead and used in the ancient world for healing. Mixed with oil, it produces a sweet scent and was later used in anointing the king of Israel and as part of the incense offered to God.
Abraham renamed the placed Yehovah Yireh (Genesis 22:14); the spot where God will see the faithfulness of His servant in testing and provide the acceptable sacrifice. Moriah is the place chosen and set aside by God where He will provide the sacrifice that brings healing, sweetness, and is the place where His king will be anointed.
Much later in time, King David liberated the Jebusite city that sat just below Mt. Moriah and returned it to Israelite control, making it the Israelite capital city of Jerusalem. David was instructed by God to build an altar on the top of Mt. Moriah and offer a sacrifice there. In order to carry out the will of God, David purchased the top of the mountain from its owner (1 Chronicles 21:18-26). He incorporated the purchase into his capital city and dedicated it for the building of a holy Temple to God thus making Jerusalem itself the holy city of God.
Still later in time, speaking of Jerusalem, the Apostle Paul refers to it as the mountain of our freedom (Galatians 4:26), the place where the servant of God, the Messiah of Israel was tested in a similar way as Abraham was. Both men proved their faithfulness by their love for the Father outweighing the love for their own flesh. As God provided an acceptable substitute for Abraham to offer, so Messiah Jesus provided Himself as the acceptable sacrifice, a sweet scent to God that brings spiritual healing and to the life of those who have trusted in that sacrifice for themselves.
The Place of God’s Presence:
According to the Tanakh, God chose King David’s son Solomon (1 Kings 5:5) to build a holy Temple on the height of Jerusalem, Mt. Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1). It is the place that God forever set apart for Himself (2 Chronicles 7:16) as the city where He would make Himself visible. It is where He dwelled until the sin of the people caused a break in the fellowship and God could no longer stay among them (Ezekiel 11:23), yet promised to return (Zechariah 14:4). The New Testament declares that the presence of God did return to Jerusalem in the form of Messiah Jesus, the image of the invisible God (Hebrews 1:3) in order to bridge the gap of sin that prohibited God from continuously dwelling among His people. A woman named Mary anointed the head and feet of the Messiah with pure nard oil (Mark 14:3-9). Nard being one of the ingredients mixed with myrrh to produce the incense of offering and also the oil used to anoint the King. She was preparing His body to have a sweet scent for burial, the body that would shortly be an acceptable and sweet sacrifice for sin.
Having been that sweet savor to satisfy the anger of God towards sinners and having through the resurrection proven His sacrifice was the appropriate provision to cover sin, Jesus returned to sit at the right hand of the Father waiting for the proper time to return (Zechariah 14:4; Acts 1:11; Revelation 19:11-16) to Jerusalem and claim His kingdom.
Today Jerusalem may look abandoned by God, but it is not. As God is eternal and holy unto Himself, so the place where He has been and will be is eternally holy!
Place of God’s Perfection:
Consistent in the Tanakh and New Testament is the irrevocable word of God to fulfill all of His promises to Israel including the establishment of a kingdom for them with Jerusalem as its capital. From it, the Messiah will reign and it will be the holy city for all peoples (Zechariah 14:9, 14). Beyond that, the Tanakh anticipates and the New Testament awaits the coming of the New Jerusalem, a holy city where God Himself will reign. The coming of the New Jerusalem completes the prophetic word of Abraham that in this place God will provide! The writer of Hebrews (11:10) tells us that Abraham looked for the coming of the eternal city of Jerusalem, not a re-built earthly one. Judaism refers to this as the Jerusalem of Gold, the expectation of which was once represented in a crown worn as an adornment by brides (c.f. Revelation 21:2).
After the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., Rabbi Akiva, who lived at that time, equated this Jerusalem of Gold with the Torah. He taught that the perfected Jerusalem will physically come, but for now it is alive within those whose hearts and minds are fixed on God and living according to the law. We, who live through the New Covenant, are like the temple of the living God, 1 Corinthians 6:19, and are perfected from day to day. We are, in a sense, the representation of the holy city to come!