The Real Meaning of Jerusalem
Yahweh is such a personal and intimate God. We who are Yeshua’s know that. We experience God’s goodness all the time. But for many generations, only Israel knew Him or His goodness. The world around them didn’t know it. Even today there are people who don’t know God is good or that He cares. I didn’t always know God loves me or that He is good. Did you? The world has all kinds of crazy ideas about God. They don’t know it’s possible to know Him by His grace or that we humans can experience a relationship with Him of the utmost tenderness, intimacy and friendship. God, the Almighty, the Creator-Sustainer of the universe, the Overseer of atoms and microbes and mitochondria and quantum conundrums we don’t really understand, the God of vastness He is interested in little you and me. Quite amazing, isn’t it? With all the complexities and enormities of the galaxies, each of us and our concerns and cares matter to Him. And whether we recognize it or not, He’s there for us, protecting us, providing for and guiding us, while still respecting our free will to make choices, good ones or bad ones. With all His power and authority, He never violates our free will. All this is true for persons individually or collectively.
Abram had free will when he chose to take God up on His offer of making his descendents as numerous as the grains of sand on the sea shore and to give them a land of their own to live in. I see myself as one of those grains of sand. Tiny in the vast scheme of things, but nonetheless meaningful to God. If you think about it, if time and space aren’t issues for Him because He exists outside of those limitations, since He has no limitations, then what’s the difference if something is tiny or large (space) or if it’s near or far (time)? But intimacy, that’s something else. I mean that’s about caring and love, about empathy, about knowing us in the most penetrating way. Well, we could say, He’s God! Sure He knows! He knows everything! But the caring, the loving, that’s somehow different. It’s about involvement. It can’t be measured or captured, or looked at, or examined. It’s not about facts or mathematics. Intelligence can be measured with an I.Q. test. But not caring. How could we quantify love? It’s entirely spiritual.
That means it has to do with motive! I believe God is speaking to His people about motives today. When we look at the motive of what’s going on or being said, if you can discern it, and you’ll see the spirit behind it, whether it is the Holy Spirit or another spirit. That applies to our own lives and as far from us as, say, our national economics or foreign policy. Here’s the litmus test, at least on a person-to-person basis: “…the whole Torah (Law) is fulfilled in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal 5:14). God’s kind of love is about choices for the well-being of another or others. Sometimes we’re not even aware of our own motive. You may want to take some time to go to Galatians 5:14-26 or 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, which will help you to discern the motives at work in and around you.
God’s motive is always love. Even judgment is about love because what God eventually judges — and He is a very patient God — is “unlovingness.” When He sees that the direction is away from love and heading toward what will be harmful or will hurt people or even whole nations, He allows for judgment to try and bring the correction back to the place of harmlessness and love. In other words, to bring things back to shalom or well-being in every aspect of life.
This does NOT mean God plans horrible things. That’s sometimes what the world thinks of God, but God is not evil. God often gets blamed for the unloving ways of men who are far from Him. What it means is that rather than restraining what could be harmful, let’s say to Israel, for instance, when they were on their way into the carnality and the destructive ways of the nations around them, He allowed them to experience what they were desiring until they finally caught on that His ways are better, and that in Him alone is full security and well-being. And so they repented and Merciful Loving God took them back again when their hearts were truly sincere in their repentance. They came back to His goodness, realizing that the ways of men are empty compared to the ways of God. “There is a way that seems right but its end is the way of death” Prov. 14:12).
While the world may often misperceive God’s commandments as harsh and demanding, God’s motive in giving us the Bible was love, through and through, beginning to end. He reveals Himself over and over to us as wanting only our good, “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3). To have “true knowledge” of Him is to know His goodness. Part of His goodness is to provide a life that is likewise good as He is good. He gave us the Bible to inform us as to how to live in peace with one another and in the fullness of joy in His presence (Psalm 16:11; 21:6; Jude 1:24). He wants us to know how to live in all that He has provided for us.
Torah is entirely designed to provide the very best quality of life possible in this Fallen world in which we live. He begins with Torah, which is the first five books of the Bible, all written by Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. (I found out recently that not everyone knows where to find the Torah. Now you know for those who didn’t.)
The Torah lays a foundation for God’s relationship with a people He called to Himself and for whom He would provide a way of life higher than any others on the earth.
- The history books in the Bible present the story of the out-workings of what happened when God’s people lived according to Torah, or didn’t.
- The poetic books are about the motives of the heart in relation to Torah.
- The prophets are the pouring out of God’s heart in warnings and predictions related to the consequences of keeping or not keeping Torah.
- The Gospels are about uncompromised obedience to and the presentation of Torah in Spirit and in truth.
- Acts tells the story of the realization of the power of Torah.
- The Epistles are about the administration of Torah.
- The Revelation is of the ultimate fulfillment of Torah. (Accordingly, most of the things that happen in Revelation can be found to have their roots in Tenach, in Old Testament Scriptures.)
It’s no wonder then that the devil has worked so hard from the beginning to discredit the Torah and to hide its value from God’s people. Torah is the Word of God that Yeshua “fleshed” out: “And the word (Torah) became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, the glory of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). There is grace and truth in Torah; Yeshua enables us to see it and access it in its fullness. However, there are reported cases of “Torah-phobia” among some Christians based on wrong teachings and there are even whole denominations that have discounted the Torah as obsolete. But that’s changing today. The fact that I’m writing and you are reading this article is an indication of that.
There’s something else the devil has managed over the centuries to keep from God’s people and that’s the significance of the place of Jerusalem in God’s plan for the world. It’s not just another piece of geography, even if you do see it as having God’s promises attached to it. There’s more to it. Read on. But first, I’d like to attach a “rider” on to that statement and that is the significance of names as in the Bible. Names in Hebrew mean something. There is often deep significance and even prophetic understanding to be obtained through knowing what certain names mean in the Bible. That’s why God often renames people or places to reflect what He says about them. One example is God changing Abram’s name to Abraham which means “father of many nations.” I’m sure you can think of several others.
This, incidentally, is why I believe Hebrew is the language of God, of heaven and of the angels. It’s the only language that expresses the fullness of the meanings of the words and names in the Bible, and while Greek does an admirable job of proclaiming the New Covenant, it is only when the Gospels are translated back into Hebrew that they can be fully understood in context. But I’ve digressed. Back to my subject.
Remember when Melchizedek met Abraham after he rescued Lot, bringing bread and wine, the symbols we now use for “remembering the Lord?” (1 Cor 11:25) His name means King (Melekh) of Righteousness (Tzedek). It can also mean “My king is righteous.” When you put the two words together in Hebrew it reads as Melkhi-Tzedek. One of God’s names is Yahweh Tzidkenu, which means God our Righteousness. Tzedek (righteousness) and tzidkenu (our righteousness the “nu” makes it “our”) are the same word conjugated differently. Do you recall the priest whose name is Zadok? His name in Hebrew basically means Righteous One. It is pronounced Tzedoke, with emphasis on the last syllable. (So maybe you’ll not call him “Zaydock” anymore.) So you see that the same word can be conjugated slightly differently to fit a wider application but it still conveys the same meaning.
Melchizedek was king of Salem, which is an early name for Jerusalem, way before David captured it. He is also identified as a priest of the Most High God. Melchizedek is rather mysterious. He has no genealogy he’s attached to, and he blesses Abraham as one “above” Abraham, because generally in the Old Testament, the higher always blesses the lower and not the other way around. Who is this man? Some believe He is a pre-incarnate Yeshua. Yeshua is identified as “a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:11), neither of them being from the priestly tribe of Levi, yet both are called priests unto God.
There are Jewish rabbinic (as in coming from a rabbi) speculations that Melchizedek is really Shem, the son of Noah who was alive in Abraham’s day. Rabbi Isaac of Babylon wrote that Melchizedek was born circumcised (How would he know that?) and that he instructed Abraham in the Torah. Rabbi Eleazar was of the apparently respected opinion that Melchizedek as a priest handed Adam’s robes over to Abraham. I suppose if you’re into relics those would certainly be the quintessential ones.
Whoever Melchizedek actually was, what we do know about him is that he was king of Salem. Now here’s where the fascinating stuff comes in. I didn’t get this by revelation, folks, I got it out of the Strong’s Concordance. You could have too. But the significance of this information just might be revelatory. Here goes: Salem, or more correctly, Shalem means: complete, especially friendly, full, just, made ready, peaceable, perfect(ed), quiet and whole. All Hebrew words either are the root or have a root meaning. The root of Shalem means: to be safe (in mind, body or estate), to be (or make) complete, to make amends, to (make an) end, furnish, full, give again, make good, (re)pay (again), to make (to be at) peace, peaceable, (that is) perfect, make prosperous, recompense, render, make restitution, restore, and surely reward.
This sounds like the fullness of God’s salvation, does it not? Every word in this definition of the name Shalem is a quality of the restoration or establishment of the Kingdom of God! You might want to go back and read those words in the paragraph above and think about them. Sounds like a Kingdom picture, yes? And need I mention, all that this name embodies that is representative of the city of Shalem, is the same piece of real estate upon which Jerusalem sits. Consider how much of what God had done and will do in fulfilling His Kingdom was done or will be accomplished in Jerusalem. Wait, it gets better.
Jerusalem in Hebrew is pronounced Y’ru-shah-lah-yim. (There is no “J” sound in Hebrew, which incidentally will let you know that Jehovah isn’t a correct name for God. It’s a mistranslation of YHVH or close enough, Yahweh.) The name Jerusalem is divided between two root words: Yara (pronounced as yahr-ah) and shalem. We already know what shalem means. Yara means: dual, as related to the two hills on which Jerusalem sits. And it also means: founded peacefully, to flow as water (i.e. rain), to shoot as an arrow, to point out (as if by aiming a finger), to teach. It also means to cast, direct, inform, instruct, show, teacher, teaching and through (as in the way to go through).
Put Yara and Shalem together as the Hebrew word for Jerusalem and we have a picture of the intent of the Bible in its entirety, of God’s instructions and “teaching” to mankind. The meaning of the name of Jerusalem reveals the very nature and character of the Kingdom of God. Put all this together and we see God’s motive or intention always for Jerusalem to be the place where He interacts with men in the ways that define its name. Starting with when God interacted way back with Abraham on this same place. Mt. Moriah (Hebrew: moe-ree-ah) where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac is the same location of where the sacrificial death of Yeshua took place just slightly north. Consider the size of the earth and the amount of time between these two events. No coincidence. It’s the place where all those words in the names listed above become God’s testimony to Himself and His interaction with Israel as instructions to them and to the world, the example before us being that God “aimed His finger” and “pointed out” the sacrificial death of His own Son through Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to satisfy God’s will.
What about all the history of Israel with God on that exact location? The Bible for the most part centers largely in Jerusalem or is related to it somehow. Because of space, I’m not taking each word in those definitions and drawing a word picture of how all that God is to mankind and will ultimately restore to mankind is in the name of Jerusalem. I’ll let you do that for yourselves. Try taking a pen and paper and list how you see God in each word in the definition. How have you come to know Him according to each word defining the names of Shalem and Jerusalem above? A little homework for those so inclined.
Because what names mean defines the character, nature and calling of the thing or person so named, we can see that what God wants to say to the world about Himself, He has to a great extent chosen to say in and through the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, then, is the primary place on earth in which and through which God has and will ultimately reveal Himself! And because, like Abraham sacrificing Isaac, the earthly city of Jerusalem points to the heavenly and eternal city of Jerusalem that will come down from heaven: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:1,2). Jerusalem is the ultimate dwelling place for God and redeemed mankind where there is no more death nor devil.
No wonder God says to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem. They will prosper that love her” (Ps 122:6). Prosperity is part of her name. And that doesn’t just mean financially. It means increase in every area of life! No wonder the Bible prophesies, “And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the (Torah) law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3; Micah 4:2). It is in and from Jerusalem that God shoots an arrow of His intention to inform, instruct, show, and teach as well as where He rendered recompense upon Yeshua on the cross for mankind’s sin, and where He made restitution, and restored us to peace with Himself. It is in the new Jerusalem that we will be fully informed, know as we are known, and be made complete and whole, to live in perfect peace. It will not happen apart from Jerusalem because God has ordained her to be the place of His revelation and habitation.
Because he loves Jerusalem, He is intimately involved in that city. He cares about her and what happens to her. Above all cities, He intends for His goodness to be manifested in that city. Is it any wonder, then, that the devil fears the restoration of the Jewish people to their Land and Jerusalem in particular. You see now why there is a demonically inspired determination to wrest Jerusalem from the Jews. There are consequences to participating in that determination: “For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem…Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; And they have divided up My land” (Joel 3:1,2). There are articles on this website that show the correlation between America being instrumental in the move to divide the Land God gave to Israel and now specifically Jerusalem, and natural disasters and stock market plummets we’ve experienced. Aside from the fact that God gave the Land to Israel forever, Jerusalem is the one place on earth through which the ways of God can be known. He has set her as a light on a hill (actually two hills) for the whole world to see…Him! Jerusalem isn’t just about the Jews; it’s about God. His restoration isn’t just about the Jewish people getting back — and keeping — their God-given Land. It is in and through Jerusalem that we see the promises and the fulfillment of all that God has declared in His Word. Jerusalem is ultimately the sign for the restoration of the entire God-created world being restored to Him.
I say again, no wonder the devil works through men to attempt to destroy God’s sovereign intentions for Israel. It was inevitable that there would be an attempt by Israel’s enemies to go after Jerusalem. It was anticipated by those with Biblical discernment that the outer territories were only a pathway to the ultimate goal set by “the god of this world who has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Messiah who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). People who are in agreement with giving away Israel’s land to those who wish to destroy her are unknowingly aligning themselves against God and His unbreakable commitment to Jerusalem and the land of Israel for the Jewish people. This whole dividing up the Land of Israel is not about politics or human rights. It’s about satan who wants to destroy Jerusalem and take it from the Jews from whom salvation still comes (John 4:22) because the Word cannot be broken and salvation is what he’s trying to keep the world from. The devil wants to usurp God’s Lordship over Jerusalem because Jerusalem is the key to ultimate Lordship over the earth and all mankind!
But Jerusalem will prevail, or rather God will. His Word cannot fail. God is true! No matter what He may allow it to look like before it’s all over, what He has said will come to pass. Now we can see why satan has worked so diligently to turn the world against Israel. Discerning the motive and the spirit behind the motive will keep us from being deceived and turning against Jerusalem or the Jewish people even if entire nations in the world do so. Seeing things God’s way always has been a narrow pathway, not a boulevard. Like not everyone knowing that God is good and wants a relationship with us, and acts always for the well-being of the whole, so not everyone, including the leaders of nations, will act in wise and godly ways. We must pray for our leaders always that they do. “Seek the welfare of the city…and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7).
There is much to be gained from standing with and for Jerusalem. In the end, it may be that the “overcoming” has a lot to do with this issue.
“Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name” (Rev 3:12).
“So shall ye know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more,” [meaning strangers to God, His truth and His ways] (Joel 3:17).
“And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2).