Saturday, 16 December 2017

America's Love of Hagar

The Madness of Jerusalem

Much euphoria has been displayed in certain quarters with the announcement that the United States would move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  Some much-mistaken Christians in that country foolishly believe that somehow earthly Jerusalem is significant in the coming Kingdom of the Messiah. 

It is not significant at all--except in the same way that ancient Jericho or Sinai remains significant.  All three represent a place and time when God wrought marvellous deeds, whether of mercy or judgement.  But the Jerusalem below is now little more than a bitter reminder of human folly and rebellion against God and the Messiah. 

If there were one passage in Scripture which puts this reality most forcefully, it is Galatians 4: 21--5:1.  Jerusalem, says the Spirit, is of Mount Sinai.  It bears children for slavery.  She is Hagar.  But Jerusalem--the only Jerusalem that matters--is from above.  She is our mother.  Therefore we are commanded to "cast out the slave and her children".  Ever since God's judgement fell upon Jerusalem in AD 66-70, as Christ forewarned in Matthew 23 & 24, we are not to look for the fake Jerusalem upon this earth; we are to look for, love, and be part of the real Jerusalem that is above.

The reality of Jerusalem and what it represents in God's Kingdom is better described by historian, Simon Montefiori.  He speaks as one whose words coincide with the implications of Galatians 4--whether he is aware of it or not.  He says of Jerusalem:
Death is our constant companion: pilgrims have long come to Jerusalem to die and be buried around the Temple Mount to be ready to rise again in the Apocalypse, and they continue to come. The city is surrounded by and founded upon cemeteries; the wizened body-parts of ancient saints are revered--the dessicated blackened right hand of Mary Magdalene is still displayed in the Greek Orthodox Superior's Room in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Many shrines, even many private houses, are built around tombs.

The darkness of this city of the dead stems not just from a sort of necrophilia, but also from necromancy: the dead here are almost alive, even as they await the resurrection. The unending struggle for Jerusalem--massacres, mayhem, wars, terrorism, sieges and catastrophes--have made this place into a battlefield, in Aldous Huxley's words the 'slaughterhouse of the religions', in Faubert's a 'charnel house'. Melville called the city a 'skull' besieged by 'armies of the dead'; while Edward Said remembered that his father had hated Jerusalem because it 'reminded him of death'.  [Simon Sebag Montefiore, Jerusalem: the Biography (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2011) p. xix]
By these lights (both of Scripture and the reality that is Jerusalem today)  we must testify to our generation that the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem is of no spiritual or eschatological significance whatsoever.  Whatever vain hopes or portents some believe are contained in this silly move, the reality will disappoint.  God will not honour Hagar nor Mount Sinai.  Rather He will honour His Son and the seat of Messiah's power and authority, which is in the Jerusalem which is above.  Those who fall prey to the Jerusalem Syndrome will, in the end, weep dessicated tears.
Jerusalem has a way of disappointing and tormenting both conquerors and visitors. The contrast between the real and heavenly cities is so excruciating that a hundred patients a year are committed to the city's asylum, suffering from the Jerusalem Syndrome, a madness of anticipation, disappointment and delusion. But Jerusalem Syndrome is political too: Jerusalem defies sense, practical politics and strategy, existing in the realm of ravenous passions and invincible emotions, impermeable to reason."  [Ibid., p. xxi]
Note this well: the Jerusalem below defies sense, practical politics and strategy, existing in the realm of ravenous passions and invincible emotions, impermeable to reason.   It drives its slaves to madness.

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