Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people
both now and forevermore. (Psalm 125:1-2)
Jerusalem, the Psalmist reports, “is built as a city that is bound firmly together (122:3).” This is physically and topographically true. Sharp valleys separate the hills on which the city is built from the higher ridges surrounding the ancient city to the West, East and South. This meant that when in armies came to attack Jerusalem they always came from the North. You can get an amazing view of the city standing on Mount Scopus (‘watcher’) the Northeast peak of the ridge that includes the Mount of Olives. Invaders like the Babylonians and Romans stood on this hill and looked down to plan their assault on Jerusalem.
Today, Hebrew University sits on the site and one can hope those who look down upon the beautiful mess of Jerusalem from the campus desire the peace of the city rather than its destruction. To me, it is the finest view of an incredible city. If you were to turn your gaze eastward (to the left) from the Temple Mount across the valley and up the slope and over to the backside of the ridge of the Mount of Olives, there is another view worth considering. I am sure there is some seasonal variance, but the last time I stood on Mount Scopus looking east, it was impossible not to notice how swiftly the green of olive trees gave way to sparse foliage and then to dry flint rock of the Judean Wilderness. It is sudden and not subtle as the land changes from green and growing too dry and empty over just a few yards (meters in Israel).
We have been walking a wilderness road this year. It was sudden and not subtle when so much that seemed soft, green and growing in our lives turned hard and barren. It has been longer and harder than we imagined when we set out. Perhaps, we do yet embody the joy sung in Psalm 122, “Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem (v.2),” but maybe we have made it to the base of the other side of the Mount of Olives. Our feet may still land upon rocky and dry soil but I sense that our vision may land upon growing and green hope on the horizon.
I do not know how many more steps it will take to leave the wilderness but I am honored by the sacred privilege of sharing this journey with the people of University. God is with us.
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced. (Psalm 126:1-3)