Day 5: Songs of Ascent

Jerusalem sits at the heart of the world’s three major religions. For Jews, it is the city of David, the place where the temples stood, the site of David’s tomb, etc. For Muslims, it is the site where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son (in the Muslim understanding, this son would have been Ishmael instead of Isaac) and the site the Mir’aj, where Muhammed ascended into heaven and returned with instructions to pray the 5 prayers. For Christians, Jerusalem shares the importance that it does in the Jewish faith, but it is also the sight of the crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Jerusalem is not only the home of these sites, it is also the cradle of the central differences and conflicts between cultures and religions. I’ll share more about this in my post about our visit to the Temple Mount. 

Jerusalem has been an active city since its founding by King David over 3,000 years ago. It is a living tel, built up over years as one society builds upon the ruins of another. 

For the same amount of time, Jerusalem has been an holy site and destination for pilgrims. 

In the Book of Psalms, there is a segment of Psalms known as “The Psalms of Ascent,” Psalms 120-134. These Psalms are songs sung by ancient Jewish pilgrims as they ascended to Jerusalem for the three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost, & the Feast of Tabernacles).  The are travel songs. Songs that take the soul on the same journey that the feet take–the journey up to the holy city of Jerusalem. 

Whether you were traveling from the north or the south, you would ascend to Jerusalem as it is built at a high elevation. 

As we rode our tour bus towards Jerusalem, we read from the Psalms of Ascent and sang hymns of joy. 

I rejoiced when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” –Psalm 122:1

It was unexpected, the way it came over me. It had been a long ride with a number of stops along the way. My mind was on the agenda for the day and what dinner would be. 

Money Mike, our wonderful bus driver, turned on another song just as we approached a tunnel. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” it sang in the darkness of the tunnel. As we emerged into the light in the other side, the city stood there with its bright white limestone. The Temple Mount coming into view. And from nowhere, tears came. 

Yes, the day has come when we worship not in this mountain or that but “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:21-24).  But this is the land  the Lord walked. The city of his Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension. 

I wept because it seems my soul has taken the same journey that my feet have taken. A journey that puts all else aside and seeks to draw close to God. 

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