Good morning from the Herodium, Herod’s favorite palace, fortress and mausoleum! Since Herod wanted his fortress to be the highest mountain in Judea, he had his workers carry buckets of rock and gravel to the top and extend the height of the mountain. An aqueduct brought water from approximately 18 kilometers away, so there was plenty of water, even for an olympic-size swimming pool surrounded by a colonnaded porch. Nearby was the small town of Bethlehem, where our Lord was born, right under the nose of this evil king. Imagine this impressive fortress, and the humble sheep pen huddled in its shadow on that eventful night when Jesus came so quietly into the world. Where was Herod when the angels sang to announce the birth of the new king? Where is Herod today? Whose kingdom is still flourishing?
On the bottom left corner of this photo one can see the remains of the swimming pool from the top of Herodium. The Mount of Olives can be seen on the far ridge.
After a fast walk to the top of the Mount of Olives, we arrived at the Jerusalem House of Prayer. We had an amazing time in the prayer tower, singing with the harpists who were on watch. Twenty four hours a day, someone is praying for all the nations of the world from this house of prayer. Out front, they have a lovely rose garden that was riotous with blooms.We were at the lookout on the Mount of Olives for a short time, but the wind was so strong we left to find a more sheltered spot. We walked down the road that Jesus walked on Palm Sunday morning, or lamb selection day. Was it coincidence that Jesus came on the very day that everyone was choosing their Passover lamb?
In a quiet garden overlooking Jerusalem, Joe taught to us the amazing story of God’s plan of redemption. Way back when God walked through the blood path in Abraham’s place, He condemned Himself to die, because Abraham could not walk before God and be perfect. The only way to pay was through blood. Jesus came willingly to this earth and lived an unselfish life. That night in the garden, He asked His disciples to watch with Him, but while they slept, he wrestled with what He was suddenly, shockingly aware of. God wanted His own Son to drink the cup of wrath reserved for the nations. He wrestled and wrestled and wrestled again. And then He drank it. For all of us. There is not one drop left for us unless we reject His free salvation.
When we sin, there is a huge weight on our shoulders. Imagine Jesus with the weight of every sin ever committed on His shoulders. No wonder He sweated blood that night.
Christ Church just inside the Jaffa Gate hosted our concert this evening. Quite a crowd came to hear us sing, some drawn by the music drifting out through the open doors. After such a wonderful time of singing and sharing, I think we’d be willing to extend our stay another week. God is so rich toward us. He has been showering blessing after blessing upon us, and miracles of open doors. We are indeed sheltered in his arms just like one of our songs begs for.