by Doris Murdoch
This is my fourth post on my Holy Land tour. I’m trying to allow God to lead me to the content of each post. At this point, I’m not sure why I feel led to this post. The use of traditional guardians in the Holy City of Jerusalem has left my heart warmed and troubled.
I’m going to begin with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The church houses the tomb of Jesus Christ; it is the traditional location of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ which would be of great religious importance to Christian pilgrims as it is the most revered shrine in Christendom. By long term tradition, the Muslim family of Nuseibeh is the official doorkeeper of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The holding of the key to the church has been in the Nuseibeh family for more than 1,300 years. (The Judeh family, also Muslim, manage the key for overnight security.) The Nuseibeh family holds this tradition close to their hearts and is very punctual and respectful in unlocking and serving God through this daily responsibility of caring for the church. Five competing Christian denominations, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, and Syrian Orthodox (also a small Ethiopian Orthodox group) enviouslymanage the church. The Nuseibeh family has helped in keeping peace among these Christian denominations when conflict arises. The Nuseibeh family describes themselves as “preserving peace in the holy place.” This all seems to be a cooperative effort by all, but in contrast, it seems like a strange setup for a church that is internally Christian. The Omar Mosque sits right next door; the Nuseibeh family worships and prays in the mosque. Who do you think should be the key holder and the door opener?
In 1995, Israel turned Bethlehem control over to the Palestinian National Authority in accordance with the Oslo Peace Accords. The Oslo Accords did not create a Palestinian state, but it was an effort to bring peace among the Israeli government and the Palestinians. The Oslo process started in Oslo as a secretive meeting; it resulted in the recognition by the PLO of the State of Israel and the recognition by Israel of the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people and as a partner in negotiations. When pilgrims enter Bethlehem, there are security checks by the Palestinian authority. Does this process seem like an effort to encourage peace and equality of power among the Palestinians and the government of Israel?
Who should have control of David’s tomb and the upper room identified as the place of Pentecost and the Last Supper? Should it be the Jews, world Christians, the government of Israel, the Roman Catholic Church or someone else? Over the years, ownership has been by the early Jewish Christians, the Crusaders, and the Muslims; at present, it is under Israeli control. It is said that the Vatican now desires control of this area. Why does any specific religious group have to have control over the religious sites, especially those that have religious beliefs and patriarchs that overlap in religious history, basically the Abrahamic faiths of Islam, Judaism and Christianity?
Scripture tells us that the Lord gave the “land” of Israel to Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 13:14-15; Genesis 26:3; Exodus 6:8) with Numbers 24 defining the borders. In Revelation 21, we read that the first heaven and earth will pass away and a New Jerusalem will come down out of heaven and God will dwell among us. There will be no temple building for the “Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” will be the temple and it will be illuminated by the “glory of God and its lamp is the Lamb”. The residents will be those who have their names in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Leviticus 25:23 says, “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me.” The lands of the world belong to God; it is all on loan from God in this transient period. When the Jews rejected Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Gentiles were adopted in to God’s family as adopted sons of Abraham. The Gentiles were formally grafted into the olive tree of Jesus Christ even though adoption in the lineage of Jesus Christ had already taken place in the Old Testament through the relationships of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. Confirmed in John 14:6, the New Jerusalem will be available to all believers in Jesus Christ for “no one comes to the Father but through Me (Jesus Christ).”
Romans 11 speaks of the hardening of the Jews until the day of the fullness of the Gentiles, specifically Romans 11:25-27, that “a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. 27 This is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.’ ” With belief, the Bible tells us that the Jews can be re-grafted into the olive tree of Jesus Christ (Romans 11:17-24). Belief in Jesus Christ through world evangelism needs to be the focus.
Luke 21:34-36 states, “Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation (diversion, mental distraction) and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; 35 for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. 36 But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Is it possible that ownership or guardianship of the various religious sites in Israel has become a mental distraction for the Abrahamic religions of the world?
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