Friday, May 6, 2011

The Tragedy of the Valley of Jehoshaphat

Jesus spent forty days with His disciples and others, after His resurrection. The last day He was with them, the disciples asked Him when He would restore the Kingdom of Israel. He reminded them that only the Father knows the time of the Lord's return. But He also comforted them by assuring them that the Helper, the Holy Spirit, would come upon them and they would be His witnesses to the uttermost parts of the Earth (Acts 1:4-8).

"And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. Andwhile they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven'" (Acts 1:9-11).

The words of the angels served to validate what the prophet Zechariah wrote:
Behold, a day is coming for the LORD, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.
The Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives. He will likewise return, at an appointed time known only to God the Father. And the site of His return will be the Mount of Olives.

This is a look at the Mount of Olives from the westside of the Kidron Valley, just below the East Gate of the Old City.

You are looking at the site of Jesus' future return!

The prophet Joel further explains what will happen on that great and terrible day (Joel 3:1-16).
For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land, and have cast lots for my people, and have traded a boy for a prostitute, and have sold a girl for wine and have drunk it.

What are you to me, O Tyre and Sidon, and all the regions of Philistia? Are you paying me back for something? If you are paying me back, I will return your payment on your own head swiftly and speedily. For you have taken my silver and my gold, and have carried my rich treasures into your temples. You have sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks in order to remove them far from their own border. Behold, I will stir them up from the place to which you have sold them, and I will return your payment on your own head. I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the people of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, to a nation far away, for the LORD has spoken."

Proclaim this among the nations: Consecrate for war; stir up the mighty men.

Let all the men of war draw near; let them come up. Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, "I am a warrior."

Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations, and gather yourselves there. Bring down your warriors, O LORD. Let the nations stir themselves up and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.

Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Go in, tread, for the winepress is full. The vats overflow, for their evil is great.

Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining.

The LORD roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth quake. But the LORD is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel.
The prophets make it clear that Jesus will restore Israel to its proper place and He will judge all those who stood against Israel--every tribe, every nation, every tongue. Every.

The Valley of Jehoshaphat runs between the Mount of Olives and the Old City. In the times of Jesus and to this day, the valley is known as the Kidron Valley.

Here is a shot from the top of the Mount of Olives, looking down the western slope, into the Kidron Valley. You can see the eastern wall of the Old City in the distance.

Notice the rows and rows of concrete boxes on the western slope of the Mount of Olives?

These are the headstones of a Jewish cemetery. Some of the headstones date back to the times of Jesus. Many Jews have sought to be buried here because, in their mind, the location will serve as a front row seat to the Messiah's judgment of the nations that have victimized, opressed, and otherwise subjegated Israel over the centuries.

And herein lies the great tragedy. Not every Jewish person belongs to the true Israel. The apostle Paul wrote (Romans 9:1-8):
I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.
The Jews who are buried on the western slope of the Mount of Olives are waiting for the judgment of the enemies of nation of Israel. At the same time, they are unwittingly waiting for their own judgment as enemies--not only the enemies of true Israel, but as enemies of Almighty God. For only those who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (both Jew and Gentile) will, in the end, be counted among the citizens of the true and restored nation of Israel.

The Jewish people buried in the cemetery on the Mount of Olives went to to their graves anticipating the coming of their Messiah--sadly, the Messiah they rejected in their earthly life.  How very sad.

It is the tragedy of the Valley of Jehoshaphat.

Oh Lord, save the people of Israel!  Bring them to repentance and faith in You, the Lord Jesus Christ!  May no more Jews be buried on the Mount of Olives who do not know You as their Messiah!