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Thursday
July 18th, 2019

gary damronMY PERSPECTIVE, Gary Damron

 

We returned home to southwest Kansas last week, after a trip halfway round the world. As we try to get back in a routine, so many thoughts and images from Finland, Palestine, Israel and Jordan continue to filter through our minds. Quite a few of the locations we visited had to do with places of worship, sometimes called temples. 

One Sunday morning as we stood on the Mount of Olives overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem, we heard our guide give a concise, clear account of history around the time of Jesus. One thing he mentioned was that our Lord may not have cared much for the city. As a boy, he’d sat with the religious leaders while his parents hunted for him (Luke 2:49). Growing up and joining other young Jewish men, he would have visited Jerusalem three times a year, then he was put to death there. But most of his earthly ministry occurred far away from Jerusalem and the temple built by Herod. 

A temple is a specific site, usually a building, set aside for spiritual worship. Most religions have temples. Many have rules of what to do or not do in their temples – it’s complicated. Some even make replicas available, so devout people can have a reminder with them at all times. 

Concerning the lands we visited, there are accounts in the Old Testament of an opulent temple planned by King David and built by his son Solomon. Before that, the Jewish people had carried a tabernacle with them, guided by a cloud overhead during daylight and a pillar of fire by night (Nehemiah 9:19). Solomon’s temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, and a second one built that was in existence during Jesus’ lifetime. The location of both may be the same, in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem. 

But that morning as we looked over the panorama, the prominent feature that our tour group saw was the Dome of the Rock. It’s a Muslim shrine with a gold top and beautiful mosaic tiles, constructed in 691-692 AD. Muslims and Jews alike trace lineage back to Abraham, and have accounts of faith so great that he was willing to sacrifice a son if God had asked (Genesis 22:1-18). The Dome of the Rock is not a Muslim temple or mosque – there is one nearby – but it commemorates a spot that is sacred to both Muslims and Jews, and is older than the Great Mosque in Mecca. 

The property is maintained and guarded by the government of Jordan, interesting because it lies within the Old City of Jerusalem, with Israelis and Palestinians surrounding it, and with the Western Wall almost within sight. We were allowed access to its grounds, but not inside the walls of the shrine or the mosque. That afternoon, though, we did enter tunnels that lie beneath the entire site, where we saw massive stones hewed by workmen of Herod the Great for the Second Temple. 

As mentioned before, we had earlier traveled to ancient Shechem, between two mountains in the north of the country, where there are also ruins of temples. About the time Nehemiah was rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem in the south, people in the northern kingdom of Israel built a temple on Mt. Gerizim. When Jesus met the woman at Jacob’s well, she mentioned two fundamental differences in her people and his. “‘Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem’” (John 4:20). A few centuries later, the Samaritan site was destroyed and the Church of the Virgin Mary was constructed. It is also now gone, but we were able to see ruins of both temples on the mountaintop. 

Many people visiting the Holy Land talk about walking where Jesus walked. While that was a great privilege of our trip, it is more important to remember what Jesus told the Samaritan woman. “‘God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth’” (John 4:24). 

Looking back at times Jesus visited Jerusalem, one other was when he drove the money-changers from the temple. He further angered them when he stated, “‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up’” (read the account in John 2:15-22). Right before Stephen was stoned to death, he declared, “‘…it was Solomon who built a house for him. However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands’” (Acts 7:47-48). 

We met many who still look to their temples, both in the Holy Land and in America. Our prayer is that each will find that God is Spirit who desires to make us His temple or dwelling place. 

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