Beautiful Beulah

“He led me to the gate, the gate looking east, and behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east.”–Ezekiel 43:1-2 TLV

My favorite place in Jerusalem (so far) is the eastern gate, known as the Golden Gate or The Gate of Mercy–seen above from the Garden of Gethsemane, framed by the branches of ancient olive trees on the opposite hillside. It is the most noticeable feature of the eastern wall, which towers above terraced olive groves, facing the dawn. From the streets in the valley below, the iconic domes of the mosques on Temple Mount are barely visible. Though not impressive in appearance, it is the only gate with direct access to the site where Solomon’s Porch used to be. Jews believe the Messiah (Savior) will come to the temple from the east, and so (as you can see if you look closely) the double arches of this gate were sealed long ago by Muslim conquerers in order to keep the Messiah out.

Muhammad’s followers were a thousand years too late however, and by trying to prevent a prophecy from being fulfilled they accidentally fulfilled a prophecy:

He brought me back to the outer gate of the Sanctuary looking east. It was shut. ADONAI said to me: “This gate is to be shut. It must not be opened. No one may enter through it, for ADONAI God of Israel has entered through it.”–Ezekiel 44:1-2 TLV

To the best of my understanding, Yeshua (Jesus) probably entered the city through the gate that used to be here, much to the people’s excitement, to celebrate Passover with his disciples, shortly before He was executed by the Romans and not long before the Roman’s destroyed Jerusalem. He entered it with passion and sovereignty, calling King Herod a fox, cursing a fig tree for not producing fruit out of season for Him, driving merchants out of the temple with a whip and verbally chastising the religious leaders for their self-righteousness and hypocrisy. Yeshua would have been able to see the eastern gate whenever He preached and prayed on the Mount of Olives (where this picture was taken from). He would have been able to see it when He wept over the beloved city: “If only you had recognized this day the things that lead to shalom!” (Luke 19:42) and when He was sweating blood on the night of His betrayal. 

Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, you everlasting doors: that the King of Glory may come in.–Psalm 24:7 TLV

The Biblical temple is gone now, but this gate is there, silent and unpretentious. When you look at it, you are looking at a piece of unfinished history. You are looking back to the future. This gate is torture to look at—not for its own sake but for what it represents. It is a bittersweet reminder that The City of The Great King is missing her King.

Every morning her arms reach out for Someone who isn’t there. 

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Her spiritual name, Beulah (meaning “married”), conjures up a heavenly image that is almost ridiculous in light of her current reality; for she’s old and lonely and tired. She’s a city of ruins built upon ruins, filled with territorial enclaves and little wars within wars–a stewing microcosm of world history. She’s an impossible burden to everyone who meddles with her. Her stones have been polished by the feet of a billion festival-goers, muted and disquieted by centuries of babble. A parking lot has become a bone of contention between Anglicans and Armenians; and even the revered Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a battle zone, scrupulously divided among no less than six competing Christian denominations.

Make His people rejoice, O nations, for He will avenge the blood of His servants. He will return vengeance on His foes, and atone for the land of His people.–Deuteronomy 32:43 TLV

The Holocaust is still fresh here, vivid as yesterday, and there’s an uncomfortable sense that anything could happen at any time. Rachel is still weeping for her children here, Adam is still hiding his nakedness with fig leaves, and Ishmael is still mocking Isaac. Ephraim is still chasing the wind. Hosea is still pursuing Gomer down dark and dirty alleyways. Eli’s daughter-in-law is still wailing for the glory that has departed… Judah goes about his business in black, as if he is mourning that there is no alter on the holy mountain and no offerings for sin. On Friday he buys warm challah at the kosher bakery, smoking a cigarette to soothe his raw nerves…

Oh, she’s a bloody mess, this Jerusalem. Bloody for eons. Every inch bloody.

But the blood of Yeshua is still crying out, “speaking better things than the blood of Abel”; and He must look down from heaven at the graffiti and the surveillance cameras and see something in this troubled city that no one else is able to see. Somehow, as Casting Crowns has said so well in their song “Wedding Day,” though she bears the shame of history, “this worn and weary maiden is not the bride that He sees.” 

Blow the shofar! This is a love story like no other and a wedding that will put King Solomon to shame!

Everyone wants to plant their flag here. But Jerusalem is Yeshua’s private property. And that is what makes her so achingly beautiful, that is her timeless intrigue, that is her promise and her problem

On that day, it will be said to Jerusalem, ‘Have no fear, O Zion, do not let your hands fall limp. ADONAI your God is in your midst–a mighty Savior! He will delight over you with joy. He will quiet you with His love. He will dance for joy over you with singing.’–Zephaniah 3:16-17 TLV

Then they will call them The Holy People, The Redeemed of ADONAI, and you will be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.–Isaiah 62:12 TLV

‘Then I will betroth you to Me forever–yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness, justice, covenant loyalty and compassion. I will betroth you to Me with faithfulness, and you will know ADONAI.’–Hosea 2:21-22 TLV

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