Up to the Temple...Mount that is...
Shalom. Today is my first full day in Jerusalem (or Yerushalayim) and it's been powerful in a quiet sort of way. Last night I joined some new friends at their house of prayer and met a fellow who is an Orthodox Jew and believes in Jesus. He came into the house to change his clothes from traditional Orthodox garb (black hat, white shirt) to what we would call regular clothes. I found out that he has to keep his belief in Jesus a secret from his family. Turns out that it is common here for families to disown members because of having faith in Jesus. They will literally hold funerals for those members and consider them dead. It's a sad reality and it's my prayer that those who do give their lives to Jesus, that they be encouraged to keep on with Him. Something I'm learning here is not to take everything at surface level. If the person mentioned above has to keep his faith a secret, who else does this? It's been a bit of a culture shock here and this leads to what we got to do this morning.
At what felt like the crack of dawn, I went with my new friend Victor went up to the Temple Mount. We wanted to pray in a covert sort of way. It's unlawful for anyone but Muslims to pray up there. I found myself praying while taking pictures. It was really interesting to be up there in just thinking that this was the place of the Temple on earth. To think that the Ark of the Covenant and the presence of God dwelt in this area, blew my mind. I know the curtain separating us from God has been torn down with Jesus, but I still felt a sense of fear in thinking that this place has much significance in both the past and in the future. I tried to walk with some reverence. It's not known exactly where the Holy of Holies stood, and so I didn't want to just walk all over it. Most likely it's underneath the Dome of the Rock, but there's also a couple markers outside that are supposed locations as well. A comforting thought was the fact that the dividing (and protecting) curtain has been torn down and that we can also worship God in both Spirit and truth (John 4).
A real treat was getting to walk over to the Golden Gate. It's said the Lord will come through (read Ezekiel 44) it when He returns. A great sense of expectancy came over me and I found myself saying with great confidence (those who know me no I don't often speak with confidence) "Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!" I knew some areas on the Temple Mount were off limits and I didn't want to cause any sort of ruckus, but I still went exploring. The Gate has a staircase on each side of and they weren't chained off, so I headed up one. I was expecting to hear someone yell at me, but no yell ever came. I could walk on the Eastern wall if I had wanted to, but there was no railing and the ledge was slightly slanted. Being aware of my clutzy ways, I didn't walk along it.
After the Gate I headed back near the Dome of the Rock and saw many Mulsims walking past. One kid gave me a dirty look and it made me feel a little sad for him. In the distance I could see people trying to enter the Dome of the Rock and I thought I would give it a try. It would be cool to see the rock Abraham offered Isaac on. It's also said that on the same rock is where the Ark of the Covenant rested, as the shape of the rock surface is more like a large flat table. Well, my interest in going inside was denied rather sharply by the doorkeeper. He asked me quickly why I want to go inside and I said "to see it". He asked if I was Muslim and I said no, to which he responded "then don't come in!" I suppose it should have been expected, but it surprised me a bit. I just shrugged my shoulders and kept going.
While waiting to meet with my friend back at the entrance, I sat in the shade near the front of the Al Aqsa Mosque near some Muslim women. I began to pray for them in silence and for the Mosque itself. There are stories of Jesus appearing to Muslims and saving them by speaking to them, and so I prayed the same for the people inside. Soon afterwards, they began to tell all non Mulsims to leave (the Temple Mount closes at 10am).
Today Jesus began to remind me about who we greet. If we greet only those who love us, what good is that? Even the unbelievers do as much. I began on the Temple Mount to greet Muslims with the only Arabic word I know, and its "Salaam!", which is the Arabic word for "Shalom." They responded in kind. It's been a prayer of mine to be able to connect with others and share Jesus.