“Jerusalem,” “the city of David,” “Zion” — these are a few of the names of that ancient place that has been called “The City of Ten Thousand Memories.” When David moved Israel’s capitol to this location, Jerusalem became the heart of Hebrew history.
It was in Jerusalem that Solomon fashioned the Temple, for which David, his father, had prepared the materials. The grandeur of the Temple, and the wisdom of Solomon, were known far and wide. Following Solomon, the descendents of David would walk the streets of Jerusalem in regal array for more than three hundred years.
The prophets of old watched from her walls as hostile armies besieged the holy city. There, Isaiah stood by King Hezekiah’s side as Zion was encompassed by the armies of Sennacherib, king of Assyria. When Hezekiah looked to God for help, the angel of the Lord smote 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night.
In spite of all her kings, priests, and prophets, Jerusalem had yet to see her most glorious day. All the events of Old Testament fame found meaning in what was yet to be. Jerusalem’s great past reminded many of her coming fame. From this city, salvation would be preached in its fullness for the first time. “Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord, beginning in Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:3).
What began as the heart of Hebrew history was really the story of hope for every man and woman. The Son of God walked the streets of Jerusalem. There he healed the sick, blind, deaf, and dumb. He showed love and compassion to the poor and oppressed.
The Lord said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, for such is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 19:14). From the Mount of Olives, he wept over the city’s impending doom as its inhabitants were on the verge of crucifying their king (Lk. 19:41ff).
Since then, many feet have walked down the Via Dolorosa, retracing the Lord’s torturous trek to Golgotha. While the skyline has changed, and much of Jerusalem looks very different today, I am told that one’s first glimpse of that “City of Ten Thousand Memories” is a very stirring experience, even today, for the faithful child of God.
More than one hundred years ago, J.W. McGarvey visited Palestine and surrounding countries. That journey found a permanent home in the pages of his book, Lands of the Bible. As McGarvey, on horse back, left Joppa and headed into the hill country toward Jerusalem, he thought on what it would be like to see Zion for the first time. His own words relive the moment:
“I knew very well when we were nearing the spot where the Holy City would first come into view, and I had read so much about the deep emotion with which the sight is first beheld that I resolved to preserve my equanimity and approach it calmly. But, in spite of my effort, I began to be nervous. I remember the longings of almost a lifetime to be here. I thought of Jesus and the cross, and I covered my face with my umbrella to hide the tears which I could not keep down. And now, as I write, the same emotion and the same tears return again” (p. 461).
To remember all that happened in that city, reminds us of all that awaits the Christian. We, like Abraham, wait for a city whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10). The new Zion is not the old Jerusalem. Christ is not coming back to Jerusalem to reestablish the Davidic throne. He reigns now, over his kingdom — one that is not of this world (Jn. 18:36). And, when the Lord returns with his holy angels in flaming fire, this world will be destroyed, and the saved will be ushered into the eternal kingdom, the dwelling place of God.
We may never stand where Jesus stood, or walk the paths he walked.
We may never stand on the Mount of Olives and think of Gethsemane.
We may never travel to Jerusalem, but we can never forget what happened there. There, the story of every man took place —the story of human redemption.