There is nothing like a trip to Israel to bring clarity to what God is doing in the land and the people! Having just returned from Israel, I remember how you must travel when Jerusalem is your destination--UP. One can see the change in elevation as you drive from the Tel Aviv airport on the coast to Jerusalem. The landscape quickly changes from mild hills to rocky mountains. Settlements have been constructed on the sides of the mountains and steep hillsides have been made usable through the building of rock retaining walls. The resulting terraces are used for growing olive trees or grape vines. The upward theme is continued in Jerusalem. A walking tour of the Old City requires much stamina as you are constantly climbing to higher elevations. We experienced this on a walk to the Western Wall and Temple Mount. I was particularly interested in the south side of the Temple Mount where there are 15 steps. It is thought that they would have been used by worshipers who were going up to the Temple. Interestingly, there are 15 Psalms of Ascent. It makes one wonder if those Psalms would have been sung as one climbed up to the Temple.
Jerusalem is the City that is extremely important to God; so important that Scripture tells us to pray for its peace. (Psalm 122) A song was written by the prophet Isaiah about Jerusalem: "In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: we have a strong city; God makes salvation its walls and ramparts. Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps the faith." (Verses 1 and 2) The physical location of Jerusalem is meant to be a spiritual picture of how we are to live our lives--looking up! The Lord wants us to be constantly looking to Him, the one who offers salvation and righteousness and love.
Many Scripture verses can be found that instruct God's people to "go up." When the Israelites were leaving Egypt, they had to go up to the Promised Land. "So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan." (Genesis 45:25)
"The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up... (Exodus 19:20)
"They left and went up into the hill country, and came to the Valley of Eshkol and explored it.” (Deut.1:24)
"Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite." (2 Samuel 24:18)
"He went up (King Josiah) to the temple of the Lord with the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem...He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the Lord." (2 Chronicles 34:30)
"After He (Jesus) had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray..." (Matthew 14:23)
"When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem." (John 2:13)
"Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, 'Come up here,' and they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on." (Revelation 11:12)
As Believers in Jesus Christ, our life-long journey is one of ascent so that we may draw closer to Him. "See, my servant will act wisely; He will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted." (Isaiah 52:13) Isaiah had a vision of the Lord and saw Him "seated on a throne, high and exalted..." (Isaiah 6:1) We must look up to the one who is seated at the right hand of God in heavenly realms. (Ephesians 1:20)
The Psalmist asks a question: "Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior...Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in." (Psalm 24:3-7) Look up, dear ones. We are meant to ascend the hill of the Lord and to join Him in high and heavenly places.
Joan E. Mathias