After breakfast, the first place we gathered on our first whole day in Jerusalem, was the Mount of Olives. The temple mount (where Solomon’s temple used to sit and the Dome of the Rock sits now) sits atop Mount Moriah in the south of Israel, above the Negev dessert immediately west of the northernmost tip of the Dead Sea. The Mount of Olives is west of the temple mount, across the Kidron Valley.
The Mount of Olives was one of Jesus’ favorite places. He retreated there often to pray, taught their occasionally, and ascended to heaven from there. It’s believed that just as His feet last touched the earth there, it will be the first place they touch the earth again when He returns. Also, the Garden of Gethsemane – where Jesus was marked by Judas and captured by the Jewish leadership, to ultimately be crucified – is located on the Mount of Olives.
We started our day in one of several mini stone amphitheaters created as teaching / viewing spots on the Mount of Olives overlooking the city. With the exception of some terribly fleeting glimpses of it the evening before entering into the city, this was our first real view of the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock. Gary Frazier, the Director of Discovery Ministries, our tour company, spoke to us about the history of Israel past, present, and future. I won’t go into huge details on Jerusalem from his talk. Maybe I’ll devote an entry to a brief Jerusalem lesson, but there are so many other places far more qualified to give that kind of supporting / contextual / historic information than my blog.
There are a couple highlights from our time together on the Mount of Olives – before we descended down to the Garden of Gethsemane – that I’d like to share though.
First, just behind us (over the Mount of Olives to the west) is the town of Lazeria. In Biblical times, this was Bethany. This is where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and it was from roughly where we were sitting during Gary’s talk that Jesus looked out over Jerusalem and wept (Matthew 23, Luke 19) because the people had rejected God provoking God’s judgment on Jerusalem and the Israelites. Jesus knew that someday the city would lie in ruins, and of course He was right.
Secondly, Lindsay McCaul led worship, which I always love. I was particularly interested in a new song I haven’t heard before called “Beautiful”. Will have to get that one from iTunes when I get home.
Lastly, a word on the Temple Mount. It is built where it is on Mount Moriah because that’s where David built an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite in 2 Samuel 24. David displayed a sinful independence and a lack of faith in God by conducting a census of his fighting men. As a result, God punished him and Israel with a plaque, But David built an altar to pray to God and beg forgiveness. As a result, God averted the plaque. It was in this process that David – in response to Araunah’s offer to give him the threshing floor for the altar – made his famous statement in verse 24, “I will buy [the threshing floor] from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.”
This all took place on Mount Moriah. So later, when Solomon set out to build a temple for God after David’s death, he chose this sacred place to do so. This is where the Dome of the Rock sits today.