The importance and role of the Holy City in Jewish life and worship unfold in the pages of Jerusalem’s history. The city seems always to have been exceptional—almost an oddity. Back in Joshua’s time, when the Israelites were battling to take the land of Canaan from its previous inhabitants and conquered Jerusalem, its name was omitted from the review of Joshua’s conquests. We see later in Joshua 15:63 that the tribe of Judah was unable to rid the village of the Jebusites who controlled it.
It remained that way until roughly 400 years later. After King Saul’s death on Mount Gilboa, David ceased to be a fugitive running for his life. When he became king, something important happened: God instructed him to establish his headquarters in Hebron in the midst of his own tribe. This is where the people of Judah anointed David king. Abner ruled over the northern tribes after Saul’s death, but after his murder, the elders of Israel made a pact with David and anointed him their king. The Prophet Samuel’s words had come to pass, and the nation of Israel was reunited under David’s leadership.
Now David needed a city from which to rule a united Israel. Jerusalem was ideally located. It stood on the border between the northern tribes and Judah, and more importantly, it had never been associated with any specific tribe of Israel. It would be the capital of all the tribes and a center for the worship of Yahweh, to whom David was deeply devoted. Determining this would be the seat of government, David and his men marched to Jerusalem. The Jebusites refused to take David’s challenge seriously. They had successfully held the Israelites at bay from their high perch before, why should things be different this time?
David, however, succeeded where others had failed. He used a water channel to get inside the Jebusite fortifications surrounding Jerusalem. In short order, he took the city and began to consolidate his people from the new capital. Hiram, King of Tyre, sent men and material to assist David in building a palace. David saw it all as God’s favor and understood that his rule as king was blessed for the sake of His people Israel. David’s success would go unchallenged, until the entry of the Philistines. They viewed David as just a renegade shepherd, who had been lucky in killing the giant Goliath, and set out to punish this upstart!
David soundly defeated them in two separate battles and sent them back to their fortresses along the southern coast. Afterward, David mustered his troops to escort the Ark of the Covenant to the fledgling capital. This was of vital importance to him. It was Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who had brought David through his years of shepherding, Samuel’s anointing and prophecy, battling Goliath, Saul’s attempts to kill him, and his years of exile. Never had God forsaken him. Once David had settled in Jerusalem, it became the center for worship of the God of the Hebrews.
King David desired to build a Temple for the Lord he loved and revered, but the prophet Nathan told David that his warlike ways had made it inappropriate for him to carry out such a task. During his reign, although the Ark of the Covenant continued to dwell in a tent, it in no way hampered David’s enthusiasm in promoting the worship of Yahweh. Animals were sacrificed morning and evening, and the Sabbath was rigorously observed. Even today, David’s intimate relationship with his God and the worship that relationship evoked is preserved in the book of Psalms. Both Christians and Jews are deeply affected by the beauty and sense of awe of Almighty God that flows through its pages. Jerusalem is what it is: a center of worship and God’s city on earth. No other reason can be offered for its importance.
From my first encounter with God as a child of eleven, I began to learn that God did, indeed, speak to me, and everything He said, no matter the delivery method, was of great importance. It was up to me to stay tuned to His wavelength. It was up to me, as it is with you, to turn off the television, the radio, the iPad, or any other device and listen! The appropriate response when God speaks—however that may be manifest—is, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
To hear God, you and I must listen with our entire being: mind, soul, and body. It is difficult to hear His voice over the cacophony that constantly surrounds us—traffic noise, television blaring, electronic devices beeping. Parents sleep with one ear tuned to the nursery, waiting for a babe’s cry in the night. As Believers, we must walk with our ears totally tuned to the Father so that we can hear that still, small voice that calls to us above the frenzied crowds. What, then, do you think God might wish to say to us once He has our attention? Perhaps, as He did me, He would call you “son” or “daughter.” He might tell you that He had been waiting for you as the earthly father did for the prodigal son or searching for you as the good shepherd searched for the lost sheep. Our Lord might possibly warn you that there is danger ahead and you need to change direction.
John, the Beloved, wrote in his Gospel chapter 3, verses 16–17: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” Our loving heavenly Father desires that you and I know that we can be overcomers through Him; that if we follow in His footsteps, He will lead us in the way we are to go. Then He will whisper, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).
The great orator and preacher Charles Spurgeon said: “Having once discerned the voice of God, obey without question. If you have to stand alone and nobody will befriend you, stand alone.” God calls the humble and obedient to fulfill His mission. His power is made perfect in our weakness. Only with the realization that you can do nothing without Jehovah are you then ready to be used by Him. Only then will you be able to fulfill the Good Father’s wonderful plan for your future.
At the end of World War II with all its horrors of the Holocaust, devastated Jewish survivors in Europe longed for a return to their homeland. Their dreams were to be delayed when Great Britain remained in control of Palestine, as they had since their defeat of the Turks in World War I, by mandate of the United Nations, and with a growing dilemma: How to walk the tightrope between world opinion and the Arab nations.
After the shock and revulsion of the Holocaust, much of the world increasingly demanded that the Jews be allowed to return to their homeland in Palestine—arguably thought to be a place of safety for them. Arabs in the region were adamantly opposed to the move. Greatly frustrated by the situation, the British announced in February 1947 that control of Palestine would be ceded to the United Nations, even then a hotbed of anti-Semitism.
In November 1947, the UN offered a plan for partition that would divide the region into an Arab state and a Jewish state, calling for British troops to leave Palestine by August 1948. The Jews welcomed the proposal; the Arabs scorned it. Some British leaders felt it would be impossible for a Jewish state to flourish in the face of such hostility from the Arabs. But on May 14, as Egyptian fighter-bombers roared overhead and British troops readied for departure, Ben-Gurion and his political partners gathered at the museum in Tel Aviv. At 16:00 [4:00 PM], Ben-Gurion opened the ceremony by banging his gavel on the table, prompting a spontaneous rendition of Hatikvah, soon to be Israel’s national anthem, from the 250 guests.
For 2,000 years, Israel had been a nation in exile; overnight it had astonishingly become an autonomous state on the world stage. But, the following day, Israel was attacked by the five Arab nations that ringed her borders: Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. There was no peace in the beginning, despite the world’s efforts to bring Israel to life in a negotiated manner.
Ben-Gurion’s announcement of Israel’s rebirth was the initial step in a war that would last one year, three months, and ten days; it would test Israel’s very resolve and preparedness. At the outset of the confrontation, it was obvious that Israeli forces were greatly outnumbered. One army, alone—the Egyptians—boasted 40,000 ground troops armed with approximately 135 armored fighting vehicles, heavy artillery, and 60 planes in its arsenal—including bombers and single-seat fighter planes. Forces in Egypt and Jordan had been trained and led by British army officers. The Israelis were faced with those daunting figures, yet marched forward determined and unbowed.
To protect their land and its inhabitants cost the Israelis over $500 million and approximately one percent of its population at that time—6,373 men, women and children. How many lives might have been saved had the United States and its Western Allies sufficiently armed the Jews so that they were able to protect their land and people!
Do you realize that the Good Father takes every circumstance into account as He plans your future? As a Believer, your destiny has already been decided: “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2–3 NASB).
Too often we fret about finding the Good Father’s perfect will for our lives. To no one in Scripture did God lay out a step-by-step plan for their life. Hebrews 11:8 says of Abraham that “He went without knowing where he was going.” No five-year, ten-year, or even a lifetime plan for him! When the magi went in search of the Christ child, they did not have Google Maps or Waze to lead them. They simply followed the star not knowing where it would lead, nevertheless certain of what they would find at the end of their journey: “Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2 NKJV).
Even when David was anointed by Samuel, the shepherd boy had no indication of the path his life would take. He knew nothing of a meeting with the giant of Gath or of his headlong and even years-long rush to escape Saul’s angry determination to kill him. Following the Good Father is not akin to living a novel. There is no introduction, no intervening chapters, no ending neatly tied with a bow. It is necessary to constantly seek His wisdom, conversing with Him through prayer, giving God the time and opportunity to respond to our petitions and praise. It is developing a relationship with Him through the study of His Word.
Walking with Jehovah is not a “twelve-step” program, marching mindlessly forward with no direction. It is living in the light of His Word, loving Him completely, and listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. There are those who would have you believe that a life of devotion to the Good Father involves no sacrifice, no pain. One need only read Hebrews chapter 11 to discover the fallacy in that: “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:35b–38 NKJV).
It sometimes behooves us to remember that “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens” (James 1:17 NLT). Psalm 16:11 (NIV) reminds us, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 23 reveals that the Good Father is also a Good Shepherd. He leads us beside the still waters and into green pastures, and bids us partake of His bounty. We are not led to a specific spot on the bank to sip of the clear, cool waters or to a lush spot beneath a tree to fill our hungry bellies. No, we simply follow Him and trust that He has our best interests at heart and will not lead us to brackish water or poisonous weeds.
God Cares about You
God Himself, the Creator of heaven and earth, wants to have a personal, intimate, and meaningful relationship with you. My relationship with my father was nonexistent. As I’ve related, I was severely abused and belittled by my father until I left home at the age of 17. I truly lacked a close and meaningful connection with him. One thing I’ve learned over the years since I came to know Jesus as Lord of my life and can without reservation assure you is this: You are God’s child! He gave you life.
The Bible says in Ephesians 1:4–5:
“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”
You and I are alive today for no other reason than because God has a Good Father’s loving heart. He wanted to have a family, so He adopted you, implanted you into His family. For what purpose were you born? For fellowship with God; He wants to communicate with you, His child. I want to show you just a few of the things the Bible tells us about the Good Father that will help you begin to understand the heart of God and His shepherd’s love for you:
✧ Our Father shows unconditional love. “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:8–10).
✧ He is integrity personified. “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19).
✧ He is compassionate. “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness” (Psalm 103:8).
✧ God has tremendous wisdom. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25).
Remember the reason we exist: fellowship with the Good Father. But you will fail to find fellowship with God if you don’t understand His amazing love and care for you. God is love. First Corinthians 13:3 says: “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” In the Good Father you will find trust, love, loyalty, commitment, protection, warmth, provision, tenderness, and intimacy. That is God’s heart. God wants to heal your hurts, and He wants desperately to be your Good Father. Allow Him to reveal Himself to you. He is the only One to whom you can go to find true love and acceptance. He is the only Good Shepherd.