Last week in Israel I visited the Western Wall. I always find it one of the most bittersweet places to visit. Sweet, because I always get a taste of the profound yearning and reverence the Jewish people have for the God of Israel. Bitter, because, while so close, most seem so far from grasping the wonderful miracle of Jesus as Messiah.
The Talmud provides this instruction for the Jewish people: “If someone is praying outside the Land of Israel, he should direct his heart in the direction of Israel. When praying within Israel, direct the heart toward Jerusalem. Those in Jerusalem should direct their hearts to the Temple.“
The Western Wall is at the root of the Jewish nation, and is considered sacred for several reasons. First, it is a remnant that remains following the destruction of the Holy Temple by the Romans in 70 AD. The Western Wall is part of the platform known at Temple Mount, not part the Temple itself (which was totally destroyed). The Temple was the center of the spiritual world, and today, the Western Wall is as close as the Jewish people can get to the place the Holy of Holies once stood.
A second reason it is considered sacred is that, though Jerusalem has been destroyed and rebuilt countless times, the Western Wall has remained intact. To the Jews, this is a reminder of the eternal covenant God made with Abraham, promising that the Jewish people will never be destroyed. (Genesis 17:7)
Thirdly, it is a place of pilgrimage. After King Solomon built the Temple, the entire Jewish nation gathered there three times a year for the great feasts. Today, Jewish people from around the world still “go up to Jerusalem” when they can. On my recent trip, I sat next to a Jewish man from the US making one of his 2-3 annual trips to Israel to see his family and return to the land for a time. And of course, Jews are making aliyah (return to the homeland) in record numbers. The Bible teaches that one day (during the Millennium) all nations will go up to Jerusalem to seek the favor of the Lord and to worship the King! (Zechariah 8:20-23, 14:16) That is what the Feast of Tabernacles is all about!
Finally, the Western Wall is sacred because it is the site of Jewish heroism. Here is how the Jewish website, Aish, puts it:
When the First and Second Temples were destroyed, and during the Bar Kochba revolt, Israel’s heroes fought like lions for every stone of the Temple. When the Maccabees defeated the Syrian-Greeks, the first thing they did was to purify the Temple and light the holy Menorah. This has served as the example of Jewish bravery ever since.
In the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, when the ceasefire lines were drawn, Jerusalem was divided and Jews were once again banished from the Western Wall, permitted only to gaze across the barbed wire from afar… across the endless expanse of time.
In the Six Day War, Israeli paratroopers entered the Old City through the Lion’s Gate. “Har Habayit b’Yadeinu!” – came the triumphant cry – “The Temple Mount is in our hands!” Amidst shofar blasts, grown men wept and danced at the Western Wall. After 2,000 years, Jerusalem was finally united under Jewish control, with free access for all.
Last week, I witnessed Jews exercising that freedom! What a glorious site to see the Jewish people honor that sacred place by diligently praying to the God of Israel! One day, when they see their Messiah, the “bitter” will be gone and only sweetness will remain!
Tomorrow is a special day! I’ll take you to the Garden Tomb via a short video I took on-site. I’ll show you the very place most evangelical Christians believe Jesus was raised to life again on the third day! See you tomorrow!