“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under he wings, and you would not!”
Every city is known for something. Kansas City is known for great bar-b-q. New Orleans is known for great music. New York City is known for its diversity. And San Diego is known for great weather. Jerusalem is known as the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it. Not exactly the slogan you want on your web site if you’re the president of the chamber of commerce.
With that kind of reputation, what prophet would ever want to go there? Woe to the one whom God calls to be His prophet and to whom He says, “By the way, I am sending you to Jerusalem.”
Strange isn’t it that a city like Jerusalem would respond to the Word of the Lord like that? You might expect that kind of hostility to a prophet of the Lord in a city like Babylon or Baghdad, or Tehran or Cairo or Beijing. But Jerusalem?
The word “Jerusalem” literally means “place of peace” or “place where people live in peace.” How ironic. It’s called ‘THE HOLY CITY.’ How strange.
Jerusalem is first mentioned in the bible in the book of Joshua. As Joshua leads Israel across the Jordan River into the Promised Land, the city of Jerusalem is occupied by the Jebusites. The Israelites conquered the city and drove out some of the Jebusites but not all of them like there were supposed to.
Eventually, David established Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Solomon built the Temple there. And Jerusalem became synonymous with the place where the God of Israel was located over the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies and where the people of Israel met with their God who did amazing things for them.
Faithful Israelites would come to Jerusalem for the annual festivals such as Pentecost and Passover and the gospels report that Joseph and Mary brought their son Jesus with them, at least until He was 12.
Jerusalem is where the priests, who conducted the worship at the Temple lived. It’s where the ruling council of the Jews called the Sanhedrin, headed by the chief priest, with all their political power was located.
Throughout its history, Jerusalem enjoyed some great times. Under kings like David and Solomon and Hezekiah, prophets were welcomed and everyone listened to the Word of the Lord and confessed their sins and repented and tried to amend their sinful ways where they had departed from the way of the Lord. And it was during those times that all Israel prospered and Jerusalem was held in high esteem by all the other nations of the world.
But there were other times, plenty of them, when prophets who dared preach the Word of the Lord that exposed the sin of the people and the leadership of Israel and were not welcome. Our Old Testament reading from Jeremiah was just such a time. “And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, ‘You shall die. Why have you prophesied in the name of the saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, ‘without inhabitant?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.” (Jer.26:8-9)
Prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah and many others preached that the impending destruction of Jerusalem was directly related to the unfaithfulness of the people. They had elevated their religion and worship of God over the God that they worshipped. The Temple was a lucrative enterprise with the sale of animals for the sacrifices and several taxes. Rabbis were well respected and had lots of authority and enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle. The Sanhedrin protected their power and acted in whatever way was the most politically expedient, not really concerned if it was the way of the Lord or not.
The status quo was to be protected at all costs. Prophets who threatened to ‘rock the boat’ were dismissed. And if they refused to be silent or change their tune, but dared to speak the word that the Lord put into their mouth, the priests and the false prophets would rally the people saying, ‘this man deserves the sentence of death, because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.”
And so, if His people refused to listen to His prophets who spoke His Word faithfully and repent and turn from their sinful ways, God would move them to repentance in a far more drastic and painful ways.
But the one thing that God would not do was to turn His back and pretend that everything was just fine. There is no love in that and God is love and as stubborn and rebellious as His people were, He would never stop loving them, because to do so, He would have to be unfaithful to Himself, and that He cannot do.
The prophets made it abundantly clear that the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC by the Babylonians was under the direction of the God of Israel as the consequence of His people’s refusal to listen to His prophets and repent and turn from their sin.
It could have been so much different. It should have been so much better for them. BUT THEY WOULD NOT.
You would think that to witness the error of their ways and to experience the futility of living contrary to God’s Word and after 70 years in captivity, God’s people would learn to listen to the word of the prophet who speaks what the Lord has put into his mouth. BUT THEY WOULD NOT.
As Jesus makes His way to Jerusalem, He knows the fate that awaits Him there. He is the EPITOME of the PROPHET OF THE LORD because He IS THE WORD OF THE LORD. Every word that comes from His mouth is GOD’S WORD because He is God.
If the prophets of old who only spoke, ‘in the name of the Lord,’ were killed for their preaching, how much more Him who says, “Truly, truly, I SAY TO YOU.”
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under he wings, AND YOU WOULD NOT!”
All He ever wanted was to be ‘YOUR GOD’ and for you to be ‘MY PEOPLE,’ that He might take care of you and provide for all your needs and protect you from all evil. “And you would not” because you have lots of other gods that you will not let go of because you trust them more than you trust God.
He gave you His name because all he wanted was for you to “call upon me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you.” “And you would not” because you thought you could handle it on your own OR you never believed He actually could.
All He wanted was for you to have “real rest for your soul.’ And so He gave you a Sabbath day when He might absolve you of all of your sin and feed you with His body and blood and relieve you of the heavy yoke that you carry and that wearies your soul. “And you would not” because you were too tired or too busy.
“You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40)
It could have been so much different. It should have been so much better. BUT YOU WOULD NOT.
It is hard to hear these words of Jesus Christ except as they are accompanied by the sound of the broken heart of God, with tears enough to flood the world as in the days of Noah.
For all He wants is what is good for you and what is good for you is Him, because HE IS GOOD.
All He wants is for you to trust Him, even though His ways are not your ways. Only trusting that He is THE WAY AND THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE. “And you would not.”
We heard Paul speak about those who “walk as enemies of the cross of Christ,” and how “their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame with minds set on earthly things…” But he does so, “EVEN WITH TEARS” of disappointment and regret for them. (Phil.3:18-19). It could have been so much different. It should have been so much better. BUT THEY WOULD NOT.
And so, because YOU WOULD NOT, and because He will not stop loving you, for to do so, He would have to be unfaithful to Himself, and that He cannot do, HE WILL.
He will bear your judgment Himself.
He will allow Himself to be handed over so that the chief priest and those in authority may say to the people, ‘this man deserves the sentence of death, because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.”
And Jerusalem will treat Him worse than she has ever treated any other prophet of the Lord. After flogging Him to the bone, they will crucify Him on a cross and mock and ridicule Him all along the way.
And even when, three days later, they are told that His tomb is empty, they will try to cover it up with lies.
But they not allow Him to disturb their status quo or rock the boat.
BUT MANY WILL. Beginning in Jerusalem and then to the ends of the earth, multitudes upon multitudes will repent and turn from their sin and confess with their lips the trust of their heart – “YOU ARE MY GOD AND I AM YOUR CHILD.” “AND I WANT IT TO BE SO MUCH DIFFERENT. AND I WANT IT TO BE SO MUCH BETTER.”
And with that, “you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Heb.12:22).
“And I saw the holy city, NEW JERUSALEM, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling placed of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people and God himself will be with them as their God.” (Rev. 21:2-3)