It was a small company. Only four men, making their way through the mountains. An old man the leader, but vital, still clearly in charge. And with him his son, a lad in the full energy of approaching manhood: the other two his servants, tried and faithful. Surely no-one in all that region, seeing Abraham and Isaac making their way resolutely to “the land of Moriah” and “one of the mountains which I will tell thee of ”, would have any inkling of what was to be foreshadowed in the amazing scenes to be shortly enacted there. Or later, that awesome test of faith having been so wonderfully met, as that little band turned their backs and went their way, leaving behind that place now bearing a new designation, “the mount of Yahweh”, whoever would have imagined that the destiny of the world would be settled there.

Moses declared to Israel in Deuteronomy 12:5 that they would come in the land of their inheritance to “the place which Yahweh your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put His name there”, an expression repeated over and over through the Deuteronomy record like the tolling of a bell… It was David who established Jerusalem as his capital, brought the Ark there, set in place all the structure for worship, leaving to Solomon the task of building the temple, so that the words of Moses could have their fulfilment – or rather a foreshadowing of their fulfilment.

What a history Jerusalem has had since those days of glory under David – a history written in fire and blood. The city torn from apostate Judah by Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonians to become the forlorn memory of a captive people: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem…”. Return and restoration and rebuilding were followed yet again by the hideous siege of AD 70 when the heartless cries of a corrupt people came back to haunt them. “Crucify him, crucify him”, they had said. “We have no king but Caesar”, they had said. “His blood be on us andon our children”, they had said. And so “the king… sent forth his armies”. Daniel called them “The people of the prince”; we know them as Titus and the legions of Rome; and Jerusalem and its people were crushed, to be “trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled”.

Now here we are in the last days of the twentieth century, and still Jerusalem is at the centre of world attention. “In that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces” (Zechariah 12:3).

The latest controversy to embroil troubled Jerusalem is the proposal by the United States Congress to relocate the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. President Clinton, declared a recent Time Magazine article, “has been conspicuously pro Israel and came into office calling for an eventual embassy move to Jerusalem”. In office he has hedged that commitment, wanting the US to appear even-handed in its Middle East diplomacy. Now the Republicans in the Congress are seeking to force the issue with Senate Majority leader and Republican Presidential hopeful, Senator Bob Dole, stating that Jerusalem was Israel’s “eternal and undivided” capital. Dole was even more forceful on the issue than official Israeli policy. When Bob Dole had Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin in his office recently he sought his support for the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem (the site is already there, covered in weeds). Rabin’s non committal reply was: “We welcome all embassies that move to Jerusalem”.

In a similar vein, the Jerusalem Post reported recently that Israel is planning to celebrate “Jerusalem 3000” from September this year. The festivities are to mark “3000 years since Jerusalem became King David’s capital”. The Post’s report highlighted that “the Vatican and Britain are refusing to participate… responding to calls by some European leaders to boycott the celebration”. Clearly, national selfinterest for the Europeans dictates that Arab sensitivities must take precedence.

Incredibly, a recently submitted report by city planners on the emerging demographics of Jerusalem estimated that the Arab population in greater Jerusalem will far outnumber the Jewish population in just over a decade. Today there are about 500,000 Jews and 470,000 Arabs in metropolitan Jerusalem. By the year 2010, the Arab population is expected to reach 820,000, compared with 740,000 Jews, according to the study.

No human solutions will ever be equal to the problems posed by this “burdensome stone”. God has declared its destiny, and the Lord Jesus Christ, with the saints, will implement it. Jerusalem is the city of the great king. It shall be called “the throne of Yahweh”, whither “all the nations shall be gathered” .

 We observe the strife and conflict in Israel and Jerusalem, with sadness at human suffering, but with anticipation too, seeing in these events the inexorable outworking of prophecy, the unseen hands of the immortal “watchers” and “holy ones” preparing the way.

“For Zion’s sake I will not rest, Saith God, nor hold my peace, Until Jerusalem be blest, And Judah’s sorrows cease.”