Who Owns Jerusalem?

A Christian Perspective

Jerusalem is in the news these days way out proportion to the size or economic significance of this relatively small city in the hills of the tiny nation of Israel. King David originally captured the small village from the Jebusites, a Canaanite tribe descended from Noah's son Ham. But, ever since David's day the "city of peace" has known turmoil, war, and bloodshed much of the time. Although Jews are now celebrating "Jerusalem 3000," in honor of David, David's progenitor Abraham came to Jerusalem 1000 years earlier. Abraham found a gentile ruler there who was both king and priest of El Elyon---"God Most High." Melchizedek---whose name means "king of righteousness"---was such an important figure that Abraham offered him tithes and considered him to be the superior, (Hebrews 7). Jewish legend even says that Adam was created in Jerusalem and some rabbis say the foundation stone of the Jewish Temples is the foundation upon which creation began. Evidently Jerusalem was a city chosen by God from the very beginning of time.

Most writers of our time will acknowledge that Jerusalem's prominence in the news has something to do with God, or at least the city is famous because of its association with the world's three monotheistic religions who trace their roots to Abraham---Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

In her outstanding book Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths, (Alfred Knopf, New York, 1996) Karen Armstrong does not reveal to us the identity of the one true God, but she does relate eloquently, and with an even hand, the history and significance of Jerusalem for Christians, Moslems and Jews.

A hundred years ago there were no great world powers in the region. Oil had not been discovered in Arabia and Iran. Jerusalem was a small slumbering insignificant town and the land was considered practically worthless. Swiftly in the last half of our century Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Iran and the Emirates sprang into existence out of nowhere. Now the region is heavily populated and everyone is intent on a search for his or her ancient roots. An article in The Wall Street Journal, October 30, 1996 analyzes this amazing development:

Time Sharing In Mideast Politics, Controlling the Past. Is a Key to the Present
Clash Over Tunnel Illustrates Volatility. of Intertwining The Daily, and the Divine

Ancient Stories Are Rewritten

By Amy Dockser Marcus
Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal

JERUSALEM - For years, the main battle in the Middle East has, been over land. Now it is over the past. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu often cites Abraham's biblical connection to Hebron as one reason his government has determined to maintain a Jewish presence in the predominantly Muslim West Bank city. In response, the Palestinian Authority has begun promoting the notion that the Palestinians are the modern-day successors to the Canaanites, who lived there, long before Abraham ever showed up.

"This is no longer just a political dispute over who controls cities like Hebron or Jerusalem," says Marwan Abu-Khalaf, director of the Institute of Islamic Archaeology in Jerusalem. "Both the Israelis and Palestinians are determined to prove that their ancestors lived here first."

Whether it is Americans converging on Plymouth Rock or the British celebrating at the ruins of Stonehenge, the idea of connecting modern population to the symbols of the past is a common impulse. But in the Middle East, few of the region's modern states have existed much more than 70 years and most are the product of borders drawn up by colonial powers. The waning of pan-Arab nationalism, with its exclusive focus on the region's Arab past, has resulted in today's leaders increasingly looking for inspiration and roots in an even earlier time---to the ancient empires and peoples described in the Bible.

Volatile Mix

The frequent intertwining of the daily and. the divine is proving a volatile mix especially in a region with so many political conflicts.

Last week's gun battles between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that left more than 70 people dead reflect broad Palestinian frustration with stalled peace talks and the new Israeli government's hard-line policies. But the riots were touched off by an Israeli decision to open a new gate to a biblical underground tunnel that runs close to the Temple Mount area, a site considered holy to both Jews and Muslims.

Mr. Netanyahu said the tunnel offers contact with the rock of Jewish existence 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem. But Mr. Arafat said the move was part of a broader Israeli effort to "Judaize Jerusalem" at the expense of Muslim religious claims in the city.

Yesterday President Clinton announced he would hold a summit in Washington early this week between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. King Hussein of Jordan has agreed to attend Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been invited.

"Historical-Period Costume"

The phenomenon isn't confined to Israelis and Palestinians alone. All across the region, says U.S. archaeological historian Neil Asher Silberman we are seeing People acting out modern political agendas decked out in historical period costume.

Take Syria's President Hafez Assad. He likes to seat foreign visitors in front of an ancient mosaic he had restored and installed in a reception room in his palace. The archaeological find portrays the 1187 battle when Salah al Din---who once ruled from his Imperial seat in ancient Syria---defeated the Christian armies of the Crusaders, forcing their retreat from the Holy Land. In speeches, Mr. Assad frequently cites the example of Salah al Din as support for the hard-line approach he has taken in his dealings with the Israelis, who he views as latter-day Crusaders.

At the height of his recent military confrontation with the U.S, over the Iraqi army's push into the northern Kurdish enclave, Saddam Hussein made sure his top brass showed up at this month's Babylon Festival. The annual celebration is part of the Iraqi leader's effort to portray himself as the modern-day successor of King Nebuchadnezzar whose biblical empire stretched from Kuwait to Israel. Saddam Hussein has used bricks stamped with his name and the seal of Iraq in the restoration of Nebuchadnezzar's ancient palace in Babylon, 60 miles south or Baghdad. He cited the claim that Nebuchadnezzar's father was an ancient tribal leader in what is now Kuwait as further justification for Iraq's 1991 invasion of that country.

"It's not that the Middle East's leaders are suddenly big believers in the Bible or avid readers of history books," says Efraim Karsh, a professor at King's College at the University of London and author of a political biography of Saddam Hussein. "The obsession with the past is geared toward reinforcing the modern foundations of power."

That is why it is no surprise that one of the first acts the Palestinian Authority took after setting up its self-ruling government in Jericho was the launching of an archaeological dig at the nearby Hisham's Palace, the ruins of a winter residence built in the eighth century for a caliph of the Omayyad Dynasty. The authority also began pushing for the return of archaeological artifacts found in the West Bank during the Israeli military occupation, including the 2000 year old Dead Sea scrolls. The issue is so sensitive that Israel and the authority decided to leave it for later negotiations, along with other volatile disputes such as the future of Jerusalem, and fate of Jewish settlements.

But archaeologists and biblical scholars say they are often amazed at the historical liberties taken by political leaders, who, disregard or sometimes rewrite ancient stories to suit current needs. In August, the Palestinian Authority held a ceremony in the ancient amphitheater of Sabatsia, a village near the West Bank city of Nablus. Young people recreated the pagan legend of Ba'al, the Canaanite god, as a narrator read aloud an ancient text designed to resonate with the modern political troubles of its audience: warnings about the Hebrew tribes led by Joshua that were then starting to conquer Canaan.

The ceremony itself had some scholarly holes, from the fact that Sabatsia was never a Canaanite city to the T-shirts worn by the ceremony participants that were decorated with a Philistine, rather than Canaanite, motif. But Mr. Abu Khalaf of the Islamic archaeology institute says those, insisting on rigorous academic standards are missing the point. Though scholars say it isn't likely that the Canaanites originated in Arabia, he argues that life in traditional Palestinian, villages today isn't much different than it was when the Canaanites lived here. It also doesn't bother him when Palestinians call Jesus Christ the first Palestinian. Jesus lived in Bethlehem, Mr. Abu Khalaf says, and Bethlehem's current inhabitants are Palestinians.

"This is about nation-building," he adds. "This is a way for us to say that, contrary to what the Israelis are trying to portray we were here too, we have a history here, all this is part of Palestinian culture.

Israeli efforts to make the Bible part of the political tug-of-war here are also on shaky historical ground. Israel Finkelstein, a professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University, says there are virtually no archaeological clues as to any of Hebron's former inhabitants, let alone proof of Abraham's presence there outside of the biblical tale.

Bible scholar Jacob Milgrom argues that Israeli groups that make political claims to the West Bank based on the contention that it was once part of the biblical land of Israel should think again. The Old Testament describes three different sets of boundaries for the land of Israel the book of Prophets three more, and rabbinic authorities a seventh, he says. "The borders were always changing according to the particular historical circumstances," says Mr. Milgrom, a professor emeritus of biblical studies at the University of California in Berkeley.

The Jerusalem water tunnel provides an illustration of the dangers inherent in the current trend. Israeli novelist Meir Shalev says the religious claims about the tunnel, already exaggerated, could spin even further out of control. "I wouldn't be surprised if next we hear that Bathsheba used water from the tunnel to wash before King David or that Mohammed's horse drank water from that tunnel," he says. Mr. Shalev's novel inspired by the biblical story of Esau, the brother who gave away his birthright to his twin brother Jacob for some pottage, was a bestseller in Israel.

By trying to attach biblical significance to even the smallest archaeological find, an international political crisis is unfolding over what Mr. Shalev calls "an interesting hydrological project from the Second Temple period, the ancient equivalent of a municipal water tunnel."

Men Search for their Roots in History, but What is Truth?

The Wall Street Journal article seems to describe a situation where no one really cares who the real owner of Jerusalem might be, just as no one in our society is much interested in learning absolute and ultimate Truth. Indeed, modern man denies that there is any such thing as absolute truth.

In spite of the turmoil among world religions, political powers and ethnic group the real owner of the city---for whom it is indeed a special place, stands aloof for the moment unmoved by the machinations of men. Yahweh, the God of Israel promises, however, to step back into the picture, himself, personally.

For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her vindication goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name which the mouth of the LORD will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My delight is in her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent.

You who put the LORD in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth. The LORD has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm: "I will not again give your grain to be food for your enemies, and foreigners shall not drink your wine for which you have labored; but those who garner it shall eat it and praise the LORD, and those who gather it shall drink it in the courts of my sanctuary." Go through, go through the gates, prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway, clear it of stones, lift up an ensign over the peoples. Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, "Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him." And they shall be called The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD; and you shall be called Sought out, a city not forsaken. (Isaiah 62)

Jerusalem, a Crushing Weight

Quite a few Bible scholars (both Jewish and Christian) have lately taken note of the last two chapters of the Old Testament prophet Zechariah who wrote of God's final intervention in the affairs of Jerusalem:

An Oracle. The word of the LORD concerning Israel: Thus says the LORD, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him: "Lo, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of reeling to all the peoples round about; it will be against Judah also in the siege against Jerusalem. On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it shall grievously hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will come together against it..."

Behold, a day of the LORD is coming, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in the midst of you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women ravished; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall 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. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward. And the valley of my mountains shall be stopped up, for the valley of the mountains shall touch the side of it; and you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.

Then the LORD your God will come, and all the holy ones with him. On that day there shall be neither cold nor frost...And the LORD will become king over all the earth; on that day the LORD will be one and his name one...And this shall be the plague with which the LORD will smite all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh shall rot while they are still on their feet, their eyes shall rot in their sockets, and their tongues shall rot in their mouths...Then every one that survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of booths...And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, "Holy to the LORD." And the pots in the house of the LORD shall be as the bowls before the altar; and every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be sacred to the LORD of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the flesh of the sacrifice in them..."

Christians believe that the Returning King described by Zechariah will be Jesus Christ Himself. Devout Jews say this conqueror will be a Son of David---but someone other than Jesus. Christians and Jews are not always in agreement on many issues, especially concerning the identity of the coming Messiah. However the God of the Christian Scriptures is very clearly the God of the Tanach. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and King David. Yahweh asserts claim not only to Jerusalem and the land of Israel, but also to the entire world. Christians are aware that their Scriptures were written by Jews and that Jesus---Yeshua---is also Jewish.

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might."

"And when the LORD your God brings you [Israel] into the land which he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you, with great and goodly cities, which you did not build, and houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, and cisterns hewn out, which you did not hew, and vineyards and olive trees, which you did not plant, and when you eat and are full, then take heed lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve him, and swear by his name. You shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the peoples who are round about you; for the LORD your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth." (Deuteronomy 6:4,5 10-15)

According to the Apostle Paul, gentile followers of Jesus are but "wild olive branches grafted into the true olive tree" of the faith of Abraham (Romans 11:17). This does not make God a Racist, because Jesus died for the sins of all mankind and because He lives today (having been raised from the dead) inviting all men to come to Him as the Savior of all mankind.

...The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved. The scripture says, "No one who believes in him will be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For, "every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:8-13, with quotes from Deuteronomy 30:14, Isaiah 28:16, 49:23, and Joel 2:32.)

Refering to Yahweh as Israel's legitimate owner and Himself as Yahweh's legitimate representative, Jesus taught many parables concerning His next visit to His land. From a Christian point of view, His return is seen to be a very violent event for all who have ignored and rejected Him as earth's legal King.

And Jesus began to tell the people this parable: "A man planted a vineyard, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, that they should give him some of the fruit of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant; him also they beat and treated shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third; this one they wounded and cast out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, `What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; it may be they will respect him.' But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, `This is the heir; let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.' And they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants, and give the vineyard to others." When they heard this, they said, "God forbid!" But he looked at them and said, "What then is this that is written: `The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner'? Every one who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but when it falls on any one it will crush him." (Luke 20:9-18).

The quote Jesus used, by the way, is from Psalm 118 where the language is similar to that found in Daniel's great prophecy of the progression of world history since Babylon ruled the world (Daniel 2). The prophet saw the true Jewish Messiah as a smiting stone who would crush the empires of the world and set up His own kingdom at the close of the present age of history, called in Scripture "the times of the gentiles" (Luke 21:24).

Yahweh vs. Allah

The Arabic word "Allah" is taken by the Moslems to be the name of the one true God. If this were true then we would expect the Koran to be consistent with the Bible. The characteristics of Allah as a Person as gleaned from the Quran should match the attributes of Yahweh, the covenant-making God of Israel. In fact there are many differences between Islam and the common traditions and central beliefs of Judaism and Christianity (See A Short Summary of Islamic Beliefs and Eschatology).

In his excellent book, Judaism in Islam Prof. Abraham I. Katsh, (Sepher-Herrmon Press, NY, 1980), presents a detailed comparison of many verses in the Quran compared with similar passages in the Hebrew Bible.

For example the Islamic Shahadah is evidently the equivalent of the Hebrew Shema', "Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One." (Deut. 6:4) The Shema' comes from the hand of Moses about 1400 BC.

In the Koran, Sura II, verse 256 says, "God, there is no God but He, the living the self-subsistent..." This verse appears to be parallel to Isaiah 45:5-8, (written c700 BC): " I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I gird you, though you do not know me, that men may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe, I am the LORD, who do all these things. "

Prof. Katsh gives many other examples from the Quran to show how Muhammad sincerely believed at the time he lived that he was representing, and speaking for, the same God as depicted in the Bible.

However, Allah is a late-comer in the affairs of Jerusalem, Yahweh was there much earlier. Yahweh, the God of Israel, makes many assertions that He alone is the only true God:

"For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols; but the LORD made the heavens." (Psalm 96:3-5)

Psalm 82 is a favorite of both Christians and Jews,

"God [Elohim, as in Genesis 1] has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 'How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.' They [other gods] have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I say, 'You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, you shall die like men, and fall like any prince.' Arise, O God, judge the earth; for to thee belong all the nations!"

The God of Israel is the God of all Peoples

The Temple Mount and its ownership is not merely a Jewish issue which draws some interest and support from Christians because of the Temple Mount was important in the life of Jesus and was the site where the church came into existence on the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 2). Isaiah the prophet wrote of the end of the time period in which we are now living:

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain [government of the earth by Yahweh] of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples [the nations] shall come, and say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

He [Messiah] shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD. For thou hast [temporarily] rejected thy people, the house of Jacob, because they are full of diviners from the east and of soothsayers like the Philistines, and they strike hands with foreigners. Their land is filled with silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures; their land is filled with horses, and there is no end to their chariots. Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made. So man is humbled, and men are brought low-- forgive them not! Enter into the rock, and hide in the dust from before the terror of the LORD, and from the glory of his majesty. The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the pride of men shall be humbled; and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.

For the LORD of hosts [Yahweh Sabaoth] has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up and high; against all the cedars of Lebanon, lofty and lifted up; and against all the oaks of Bashan; against all the high mountains, and against all the lofty hills; against every high tower, and against every fortified wall; against all the ships of Tarshish, and against all the beautiful craft. And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the pride of men shall be brought low; and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day. And the idols shall utterly pass away. And men shall enter the caves of the rocks and the holes of the ground, from before the terror of the LORD, and from the glory of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth. In that day men will cast forth their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship, to the moles and to the bats, to enter the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs, from before the terror of the LORD, and from the glory of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth. Turn away from man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?

The Third Temple which is now being planned for the Temple Mount, the temple mentioned three times in the New Testament as being in existence at the time Jesus Christ returns to earth, is clearly a temple intended not just for Jews, but for all peoples,

"...for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples." (Isaiah 56:7b)

Why do the Nations Rage?

  • Choruses from Handel's Messiah on Psalm 2 in RealAudio (28.8)

    Not only are Allah and Yahweh in conflict over the ownership of Jerusalem, the pagan gods of all the nations (the "gods" of the goyim---who are no gods) are arrayed against the true and living God as well. The intensity of this conflict against Yahweh is escalating rapidly in our day. It is the kings of the earth, empowered by their own ambitions and goals, who will ultimately come to Jerusalem in war. They will openly oppose both God and the Anointed King whom Yahweh has already set upon a throne in Zion. Few will admit today that by their apathy and indifference to God, they are acting out their enmity and hatred of God. But in the days which lie ahead anarchy against the true Lord of the universe will come out of hiding and into the open. Men will dare to openly fight against God!

    Though Jerusalem has been overrun at least 18 times by foreign armies, the great invasion described by Zechariah---most likely it will be World War III---has not yet occurred. It will come at the end of the age in which we now live, probably very soon in history. Meanwhile the Second Psalm of David sums up the conflict of the ages over Jerusalem---and God's final solution:

    Psalm 2 (KJV)

    Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
    The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,
    "Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us."
    He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the LORD shall have them in derision.
    Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.
    Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
    I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
    Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance,
    and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
    Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."
    Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
    Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
    Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little.
    Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

    The King James Version is familiar to many because the text is used in a well-known chorus in Handel's Messiah. The Revised Standard Version is quite similar,

    Psalm 2 RSV

    Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain?
    The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the LORD and his anointed, saying,
    "Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us."
    He who sits in the heavens laughs; the LORD has them in derision.
    Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,
    "I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill."
    I will tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to me, "You are my son, today I have begotten you.
    Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.
    You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."
    Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, with trembling,
    kiss his feet, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way; for his
    wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

    Theologian R.C. Sproul takes special note of this Psalm as a statement of God's invisible hand behind and over all governments in the world,

    In the eighteenth century the concept of separation of church and state meant one thing; today it is understood in radically different terms. Originally the concept pointed to a clear division of labor between two institutions and guarded the borders between the two. Today a not-so-subtle shift has occurred, and now the idea of separation of church and state has come to mean the separation of state and God. The state wishes to be autonomous, not answerable or accountable to God. In a word, the government has declared its independence from God.

    This is nothing new in history. In the Middle Ages monarchs sanctioned their rule by appealing to the theory of the divine right of kings. Usually coronation was done by the church. In England the monarch was and still is given the title Defensor Fide or "Defender of the Faith." But there were few kings who voluntarily submitted to the authority of God. Even in theocratic Israel it was the kings who, more often than not, were leaders in godlessness.

    The common resistance of earthly rulers to the reign of God over them may be seen in the sentiments of Psalm 2...

    The psalm reflects a conspiracy among the kings of this world. They hold a summit meeting in which they declare their independence from God. They hold a joint council of war and aim the sum of their military might toward heaven. The response of God is holy laughter. The arsenal of human weapons is viewed as mere popguns by the Almighty.

    God's derisive laughter quickly turns to wrath as He warns against the rejection of His rule and that of His anointed. He rebukes the kings for their folly, warning them that He will break them with a rod of iron. They are called to rule, not with the arrogance of pretended autonomy, but with fear and trembling. The fear and trembling are to be motivated by an awareness that their authority is a delegated authority. It is extrinsic, not intrinsic. All authority on heaven and earth has been given by the Father to the Son. Every lesser authority is subject to Him.

    In one sense we say that America is not a theocracy. It differs in its legal structure and framework from Old Testament Israel. Our government is secular in nature. But this is only a matter of degree. All human government is theocratic in the sense that God is the ultimate ruler over all. Our political leaders may not be theocratically organized at the human level, but in terms of Providence they are all inescapably theocratic.

    The government of God is part of His work of upholding, or sustaining, His creation.... (The Invisible Hand: Do All Things Really Work for Good? by R.C. Sproul, Word Publishing, Dallas, TX 1996)

    In his commentary on the book of Revelation, the last book of the Christian Scriptures, God's Final Word, Ray C. Stedman notes that the themes of the Second Psalm are woven throughout the Book of the Revelation. The Hebrew title of this Psalm does not attribute it to King David, but Acts 4:25 does. Acts 13:33 says this Psalm is "the second Psalm". Psalm 2 is often quoted in the New Testament.

    God has already set in place His King in Jerusalem, on Mt. Zion and in the days to come He who always ruled over all the affairs of men on earth will at last reign directly over us from Jerusalem answering the ancient prayer Jesus taught His disciples, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done one earth as it is in heaven."

    A False Peace Before the Real Thing

    Before the true Messiah comes to establish lasting peace the Bible says that a false peace will come to pass in the region---known as Israel's "covenant with death" (see Isaiah 28). Through the efforts of a great political and military leader of the Western world working in cooperation with a false messiah in Israel, a division of land in Israel between Jews and Arabs will bring out a what everyone believes will be successful end to current tensions and violence, (Daniel 11:29). This peace treaty will, however, suddenly fall apart---and a terrible last war will break out in Israel. The entire world will be affected and the very survival of the human race will be in doubt (Matthew 22:24). (For details, an excellent reference is Ray Stedman's study on The Olivet Discourse of Jesus).

    The hope of the world does not lie in the efforts of men to bring about an artificial peace. Human hearts and human nature must be changed and this is the task of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Peacemakers are to be highly valued in any age and in any situation of course, (Matthew 5:9)---but real peacemakers must reconcile men to God before they can reconcile one man to another.

    The latter chapters of Isaiah are full of information on the relationship between the God of Israel and His Servant the Messiah. In Chapter 43 it is Israel who stands in the place of final authority as appointed authority over the nations. In Chapter 42 it is the person of Yahweh's Messiah:

    Behold my servant [Messiah], whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.

    Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: "I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to graven images. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them."

    Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the end of the earth! Let the sea roar and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants. Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits; let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the LORD, and declare his praise in the coastlands. The LORD goes forth like a mighty man, like a man of war he stirs up his fury; he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against his foes. For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in travail, I will gasp and pant. I will lay waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbage; I will turn the rivers into islands, and dry up the pools. And I will lead the blind in a way that they know not, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I will do, and I will not forsake them. They shall be turned back and utterly put to shame, who trust in graven images, who say to molten images, "You are our gods." Hear, you deaf; and look, you blind, that you may see!...

    The second Psalm assures us that the Coming King of Kings, appointed by the God of Israel, will rule the nations "with a rod of iron." His kingdom will come in power and real authority. He is the only legitimate of the one true God who is over all the world. An ancient plainsong expresses the longing of God's people from all nations for Messiah to come to us at last:

    O come, O come, Emmanuel
    And ransom captive Israel,

    That mourns in lonely exile here,
    Until the Son of God appear.

    Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel
    Shall come to thee, O Israel!

    O come, Thou Rod of Jesse,
    free Thine own from Satan's tyranny

    From depths of hell Thy people save
    And give them victory o'er the grave.

    O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
    Our spirits by thine advent here.

    And drive away the shades of night
    And pierce the clouds and bring us light.

    O come, Thou Key of David, come,
    And open wide our heavenly home;

    Make safe the way that leads on high,
    And close the path to misery.

    Messages of related interest by Christian Bible Expositor Dr. Ray C. Stedman:

    Additional Resources on Psalm 2:

    Psalm 2: Matthew Henry's Commentary
    Psalm 2: Charles H. Spurgeon's Commentary
    Psalm 2: A Sermon Outline by Dr. Adrian Warlock

    Return to the Temple Mount Index page.

    Who Owns Jerusalem?
    by Lambert Dolphin
    Web site: Lambert Dolphin's Resource Files (http://ldolphin.org/)
    Email: lambert@ldolphin.org

    Originated October 2, 1996. Revised October 18, 1996.