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Sometimes we ascribe to ancient people a different nature from us, as if they were wholly other than the people we are and know. But we all share the same human nature, made in God’s image, fallen though we are, and the people of ancient Jerusalem wanted the same things that we want for ourselves today.
They longed for security and protection, so the city had a massive wall around it. People had to survive and make a living out of the industries available; there were agrarian vocations such as farming, & raising animals. There were fisherman, ship builders, woodworkers, trades in metals, pottery and crafts. There was a merchant class ready to buy and sell anything near or far, and money lenders who lived off of interest payments. They married, and raised children with hopes and dreams, there was a religious life, built through the synagogues and the Temple. Most people were poor and lived in the lower city, a small minority including the King and the High Priest lived the wealthy life in the upper city
The priesthood made their living by representing God. They controlled the mainstay of religious life, the Holy Temple. Great damage can be done to the hearts of people, when those in authority hijack a Divine mandate, and steer it into a self serving direction. The Temple was mandated by God. It was the outgrowth of the original Tabernacle in the wilderness that God commanded Moses to build. (Exo. 25:9) It’s functioning provided for the mediation between Israel and God through it’s vicarious removal of sin through the animal sacrifices performed by the priests, the Levites. God gave the Law to Moses, but He provided mercy through the blood sacrifices for forgiveness, pre-figuring the final sacrifice of the Son of God. All of the national holy days such as Passover and Yom Kippur provided for the cleansing of individuals and the nation of sin. The priests, who were employed to provide that forgiveness, were to be provided for, (2 Chron. 31:4) and like today, many scribes and teachers of the law were of modest means and studied hard to bring education to the people, but there was a priestly class who figured out how to become exceedingly rich, almost beyond measure, through the imposition of Temple taxes on these sacrifices, and by other means.
The self righteous Pharisees, the so called orthodox and fundamentalists of the day, gained pride and standing by heaping more and more guilt upon the seekers of God with their powerful command of scripture. (Mat. 23: 4) Caiphas and Annas controlled the Temple, making immense wealth off of that guilt as the seekers of God came to God’s provision to remove sin, King Herod was rich off the backs of the people with his taxes, building his massive structures as monuments to himself, and keeping the Priesthood content by building them the Temple. Rome employed an army of tax collectors, and used it’s force to keep this entire political order stable. The system was air tight, until the Messiah greatly upset Jerusalem city life. He cleansed the Temple money changers twice - directly challenging the High Priests (John 2:13; Mat. 21:12) He pulled down the self righteousness of the Bible teachers (Mat. 23), He circumvented all existing corrupt authority, and went directly to the needy people themselves, healing their wounds, forgiving their sins, searching for the lost and shepherding them with mercy and the heart of God, as foretold by the Prophet Ezekiel. (Eze. 34)
For thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. "As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day.
The seekers and needers of God could be saved by the Messiah’s direct intervention, but the city and it’s system was so completely corrupt, and so misrepresented the God who originally established it as His own dwelling place, that Jesus Himself prophesied over it in a deeply moving climatic moment
"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. "Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! "For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, `BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!' "
The City today is still the center of religious, political and military controversy, as the headlines testify. Yet Scripture says that God will have His way with this City, it belongs to Him, and one day, soon and very soon, He Himself will return to take it back.
First by a special outpouring of His Holy Spirit
I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. "In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo. "The land will mourn, every family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves; all the families that remain, every family by itself and their wives by themselves.
Second by coming to the City again Himself, to the very place that He ascended from almost 2000 years ago.
Behold, a day is coming for the LORD when the spoil taken from you will be divided among you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south. You will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him! … And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one.
(Zech. 14:1-5, 9)
When one considers that the prophet Zechariah in the Old Testament wrote these words in the 6th century BC, they take on great weight. Jerusalem belongs to the Lord, and as these last days blossom and bloom, it will continue to be a sign and a wonder to the world.