Jerusalem, City of the Great King
April 30th, 1961 @ 7:30 PM
JERUSALEM, CITY OF THE GREAT KING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Samuel 5:6-12
4-30-61 7:30 p.m.
The sermon tonight is on the city of Jerusalem. And for our reading, we shall not follow the text that I shall read in a moment; going through, following the life of David. But we are going to read two psalms—psalms about Jerusalem. In your Bible therefore, turn to Psalm 122. We shall read Psalm 122 and Psalm 125; they are entitled: “Songs of Degrees.” That is, they are psalms; they are songs that the people sang as they went up in the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. And you can see it, the sense, the feeling of the psalms as the pilgrims sang it going up to the great festival days of the Lord. Now, first we read together Psalm 122, all of us:
I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together: Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the Lord. For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and posterity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good.
Don’t you see how they sang the song as they went up to the house of the Lord; as they ascended up into the city of Jerusalem? The pilgrims on the way, singing what the Scriptures call a song of degrees: “Our feet shall stand within thy gate, O Jerusalem” [Psalm 122:2]. Now 125: they sing about the topography of the land. Now all of us together, 125:
They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth forever. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people from henceforth even for ever. For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity. Do good, O Lord, unto those that be good, and to them that are upright in their hearts. As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity: but peace shall be upon Israel (singing as they went up to the pilgrimage feast in the city of God.)
Last Sunday night in this hour, we closed at the [third] verse of the fifth chapter of 2 Samuel. For the third time, David is anointed king [2 Samuel 5:3]: one time by Samuel, when the anointing oil was poured over his head [1 Samuel 16:12-13]; the second time when he was anointed in Hebron king over Judah [2 Samuel 2:4]; and now this time, the third time, anointed over all the tribes of Israel [2 Samuel 5:3]. “And David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and, in Jerusalem, he reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah” [2 Samuel 5:4-5]—there it mentions Jerusalem.
Now, the chronicler, the historian is going to tell you how it was that the capital city was placed in Jerusalem. The first thing that David had to do was to find a suitable and approachable and defensible capital for the new kingdom. Hebron was too far south—down there in the heart of Judah. All the north country was too far away from those who lived in the south. And in the providence of God and under the direction of the Holy Spirit of heaven, he was directed to the great city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was at the border of Benjamin. The boundary of Judah ran just to the south of the wall of the ancient capital of the Jebusites. That was an ideal location. It was located in Benjamin; it was right next to Judah; and Benjamin was the link, the little tribe was the link between the great tribe of Judah and all the tribes to the north. And this is the way that it came to pass that they conquered Jerusalem, beginning at the sixth verse:
And the king and his men went to Jerusalem unto the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land: which spake unto to David, saying—in sarcasm—Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shall not come in hither: thinking, David cannot come in hither. Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion: the same is the City of David. And David said on that day, Whosoever getteth up to the gutter, and smiteth the Jebusites, and the lame and the blind . . . [he] shall be chief and captain… So David dwelt—
Now you see the story is not followed there. I’ll pick it up out of I Chronicles in a moment—
So David dwelt in the fort, and called it the City of David. And David built round about from Millo and inward. And David went on, and grew great, and the Lord God of hosts was with him.
And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, and carpenters, and masons: and they built David’s house. And David perceived that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that He exalted His kingdom for His people Israel’s sake.
[2 Samuel 5:6-12]
And then you have the following of the expansion of the great kingdom of David; this is the establishment of the capital city in Jerusalem.
Now for just as long as you’ll listen to me tonight, we’re going to talk about that city of God—the city of the great king, Jerusalem. On the map, Palestine runs north and south; and so the mountains and the valleys that surround and make up Jerusalem, they run north and south. There is a great, final, all-inclusive strategic reason why Jerusalem was selected. Out of all of the places in that hill country and in that mountain country, there is one distinguishing topographical feature that points out Jerusalem separate and apart from all other places. Palestine is dry; it is rocky; it is barren, and in that mountain, of all of the wonderful things you could ever see, in that mountain is a stream that flows running water. And to have—in the top of the mountain where it could be descended—to have a stream of water that flows and gushes is a topographical blessing beyond any way for us to realize. And that is the great distinguishing feature that sets apart and marks out Jerusalem above all other places in the mountains of Palestine; and that is the thing that made it practically impregnable!
Now Jerusalem in its topography is like this: on one side of it is the Kidron Valley separating Moriah and Zion from Olivet: the Kidron Valley on one side. On the other side is another deep valley called the Valley of Hinnom, and they converge down here in a point; the Kidron Valley running here and the Hinnom Valley running here.
In that land in between, between the Hinnom Valley on the west, and the Kidron Valley on the east, in that neck of land running down, there is another valley called the Tyropoeon, “the cheese maker’s valley,” the Tyropoeon. It is a much smaller valley; and the Tyropoeon Valley divides Jerusalem right down the middle. On this side is the upper city, and on this side is the lower city.
Now, we are concerned with the east side of the Tyropoeon Ravine. It came down, the Kidron on this side and the Tyropoeon on this side, and made a point. Right down here at the base of that point is that Gihon—that spring. The Europeans call it “The Virgin Fount.” And the citadel of the Jebusite was built upon that point with a great deep declivity on this side and a somewhat but lesser deep declivity on that side and a wall that cut off that point on the north side—and that was the city of the Jebusites—that was later, when it was captured—called the City of David and all of it, Jerusalem.
Now the thing that made that castle, that made that walled city practically invulnerable to attack was this: they dug a steep incline out of the soft limestone rock. They dug a steep incline from the heart of the city of Jebusites—Jerusalem—they dug it down into the earth and then stepped down to that spring; and they enclosed the spring within the walls of the city. So, they could stand a siege forever. There was water abundant pouring out of that spring, and there was food that could be raised by using that water for irrigation.
So, when David came to the city of Jebusites, to Jerusalem, they mocked at him and said, “We’re going to put around the wall here our crippled and our blind, and that’s all that it will take to defend this city. Just the crippled and the blind can overcome the thrust of the army of the great David” [2 Samuel 5:6]. And they mocked at David from the walls. David made a proposition to his men. He said, “If any man will seize that stronghold of the Jebusites that we might conquer it and make it my capital city, I will make that man chief ruler, commander over all the hosts of the armies of Israel” [2 Samuel 5:8; 1 Chronicles 11:5-6].
And Joab, who was David’s nephew—the mother of Joab, Zeruiah, and David, were sister and brother—he was David’s nephew. And Joab heard that announcement to the army, and he was already David’s greatest warrior. So Joab did this: he took a band of men with him—and some Britishers have demonstrated this thing by doing it themselves—Joab took a band of men with him, and he made his way into that stream from the lower part of Gihon. And then he ascended secretly up those steps and through that tunnel and appeared with his men in the heart of the city and opened the gates to the armies of David, and David conquered the citadel of the Jebusites [2 Samuel 5:7]—the only time it was ever taken. And he made the city the city of the great king—Jerusalem [2 Samuel 5:9, 13-14].
Now, as far back in antiquity as an anthropologist can discover, men lived on the site there at Jerusalem because of that running spring. The Paleolithic man dwelt in the caves all around, and he drank at the fountain that flowed so copiously. The first time we meet it in the Bible is in the fourteenth chapter of Genesis and the eighteenth verse, when Melchizedek, who is king of Salem—Jerusalem—when Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High God, met Abraham coming back from the slaughter of the kings and there laid before him bread and wine—a picture of our Savior and this table of communion [Genesis 14:18-20].
Thereafter, we see Jerusalem in the hands of the Jebusites. In [Judges 1:8, 21] the first chapter, the sword of [Benjamin] and of Judah smite the Jebusites; but they were not able to take that great citadel. And in the nineteenth chapter of the Judges, the Jebusites still control it [Judges 19:10-11]. And here in 2 Samuel, and the fifth chapter, the Jebusites still possess it [2 Samuel 5:6]. However Israel possessed the rest of the land, they were never able to overcome that great bastion of Jerusalem. And it was by the route that Joab used, by which he became commander of the hosts of Israel, that the fortress was taken [1 Chronicles 11:6]. And David made his throne and his palace there in the city of Jerusalem [1 Chronicles 11:7-8].
The ark was brought into Jerusalem from the house of Obed-edom by David and placed in a tent there [2 Samuel 6:12]. And then you remember in the last chapter of the Second Book of Samuel, when there was a plague sent over Israel because of the sin of David [2 Samuel 24:10-15], David saw above the city of Jerusalem—he saw above Araunah’s threshing floor, Mount Moriah—which is just up that little neck of land from Zion, from Akra, from the City of David, just the same piece. There the angel stood above Araunah—the Jebusite’s threshing floor—with his sword unsheathed to destroy the city [2 Samuel 24:16]. And David pled with God for the inhabitants. “The poor sheep,” he said, “who did not sin, may the reward of it, and the iniquity of it, and the judgment of it fall upon David himself and on David’s house” [2 Samuel 24:17]. And there, the Lord told David to go up by Araunah’s threshing floor and rear an altar also unto God, and the sin would be expiated [2 Samuel 24:18, 21]. So David does that, and that is the site of the temple, in that little tongue of land; with the Kidron on this side, and the Tyropoeon Valley on this side, coming down to a point. At the point, you have the spring, and you have the City of David, and then just beyond and to the north, is that elevation of Mount Moriah upon which Solomon’s temple was built [1 Chronicles 3:1]. So, when Solomon comes into the kingdom, the beautiful celestial home for the Lord is erected on Moriah, and the bastion and the stronghold is down here. Then, as the city grows, it grows to the north across the Tyropoeon Valley and the great outlying suburbs of the city upon those hills, round about.
Then you have the story of the kings of Israel; and in the days of Hezekiah one of those awful sieges [2 Kings 18:9]—jeru: “the foundation,” salem: “of peace”: Jerusalem, the city of peace, the foundation of peace, but it has hardly known peace in its history. One of the ironies of faith is that rivers of blood have been shed over that city called “the home and foundation of peace.” In the reign of King Hezekiah, the Assyrians had come down from the north. They had destroyed Samaria in 722 BC [2 Kings 17:1-6]. They had taken the ten tribes away [2 Kings 18:9-11]; and the Assyrian hosts of the Sennacherib surrounded Jerusalem; and he held it in his iron hand [2 Kings 18:13-37]. And Hezekiah took the matter to the Lord [2 Kings 19:14-19]. And Isaiah, the courtly preacher of the king’s city, Isaiah, was instructed by God to go to Hezekiah and tell him, “Don’t you be afraid. Don’t you be afraid [Isaiah 37:5-6]. In returning and in rest, in confidence and quietness be your strength [Isaiah 30:15]. Not by might, not by power,” said Isaiah, “but by My Spirit saith the Lord” [Isaiah 37:6-7; Zechariah 4:6].
Ooh, those things are dramatic! And that night, and that night the Lord killed one hundred eighty-five thousand of the troops of Sennacherib—the Assyrians that surrounded Jerusalem—and he turned back in frustration and consternation and in defeat [2 Kings 19:35-34].
Then the story continues on; and in about the latter part of the [600’s] Jeremiah is preaching, and he preaches to the people of Jerusalem, “Repent, repent, get right with God!” [Jeremiah 7:2-3]. And Nebuchadnezzar and those bitter Babylonians, Chaldeans came and they overran the city and took Daniel captive, and Daniel’s friends captive, into the capital city of Babylonia [Daniel 1:1-6]. And Jeremiah preached in the city of Jerusalem, and he said, “Repent, turn, get right!” [Jeremiah 7:2-3]. And they laughed at Jeremiah, and scoffed, and Nebuchadnezzar came back the second time in 598 BC, and took Ezekiel and others of them captive [Ezekiel 1:1]. And Jeremiah lifted up his voice crying, “Repent ye, get right with God!” And the evil city—turning aside from the call of the prophets—didn’t turn, didn’t repent. And Nebuchadnezzar came back the third time in 587 BC [2 Kings 25:8-21]. And he didn’t need to come back anymore: he destroyed the walls; he destroyed the city; he plowed up Jerusalem into heaps, and the people went into captivity in 587 BC [Jeremiah 26:18, Micah 3:12].
In 535 BC, Cyrus gave a decree that the Jews could return back to Jerusalem [Ezra 1:1-3]. And under Zerubbabel, about forty thousand of them came back [Ezra 2:64-65]. And in 458 BC, Ezra came with another large band [Ezra 7-8]. And in 445 BC, Nehemiah came back and they rebuilt the wall [Nehemiah 2-6]; and they rebuilt the temple [Ezra 6:13-18]; and they re-instituted the sacrifices [Ezra 6:19-22]; and the Jewish life of the nation continues again in its capital city of Jerusalem.
Then in 330 BC, Alexander the Great came by. He had just won the battle of Issus—up there where the Mediterranean turns from this way, down this way, and going from east to turning down to the south. He had just won his great battle over Darius, the Persian. And in going down into Egypt, he passed by Jerusalem—and I haven’t time, I wish I did.
I haven’t time to describe to you one of the most interesting and unusual passages in Josephus that you’ll ever read in all history, as he describes the priests and the people of Jerusalem, coming out to welcome Alexander the Great. And Alexander the Great was greatly impressed by the many, spared the city and gave them monuments and stipends and rewards and gifts to it.
Then when Alexander died in 323 BC, the kingdom of Alexander was divided into four parts; and Seleucus took Syria to the north; and Ptolemy took Egypt to the south; and thereafter for the following hundreds of years, it’s a football, Jerusalem is a football between the empire of the Antiocheans and the Assyrians and the Selucids on the north, and the Egyptians and the Ptolemies on the south. One of those Selucids, one of those Antiocheans was named Antiochus Epiphanes. He overran the country; he poured swine juice on the altar of the temple; he dedicated it to Jupiter, the Greek god.
And then arose the Maccabeans who warred against the Syrians. And in 165 BC, Judas Maccabeus, with the Jews, won liberty; the last time they ever had it. They won liberty for the Jewish nation. And in 165 BC, in December they instituted the Feast of Dedication [John 10:22], when they rededicated the temple and the altar back unto God.
The Maccabeans themselves fell into disunity and into warring factions. And in 63 BC, Pompey came with his Roman legions, and he easily overran Judea and entered into Jerusalem. And Pompey is the first and only pagan Gentile who ever walked into the sanctuary—pulled aside the veil between the outer sanctuary and the inner sanctuary and walked in. When he came back he said in astonishment, “Why, it is that empty? It’s vacant! There is nothing inside.” Yet that is the place where Isaiah said, “I saw the Lord . . . high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple” [Isaiah 6:1].
Then in 63 BC, it became a Roman providence. Then Herod was made king over it, and after Herod was king, then those procurators of which Pontius Pilate was one. In 66 AD, the great revolt of the Jewish people of Judea against Rome began, and the country turned into a flaming fire.
Josephus was a general up there in the northern part leading the armies of Galilee, and when the Romans overran Galilee, Josephus attached himself to Vespasian, the Roman general. After two and half years of that war, Vespasian was called back to be emperor of the Roman Empire, to be Roman Caesar. And he gave the conquest of Palestine to his son Titus.
And in 70 AD, for one hundred thirty-four days, he shut up those pilgrims and shut up all the refugees of the Jewish nation in the walls of Jerusalem. And for one hundred thirty-four days they starved there like rats. And in 70 AD, after one hundred thirty-four days of siege, the Roman legionnaires burst into the city, and they set fire to the temple, and they destroyed the city of Jerusalem and took captive to Rome, to grace the triumph of Titus, the seven-branch lampstand, and the table of showbread, and all the vessels of the temple, and they razed it to the ground.
A few Jews were left, who mostly migrated to Galilee in northern Palestine; and in 130 AD, under Bar-Kochba, who said he was the Messiah, the son of the star, the Jews rebelled again. And the Emperor Hadrian this time sent his Roman legionnaires down to Palestine, and they annihilated the revolt. And this time, he took a plow—the emperor Hadrian took a plow—and he plowed up Jerusalem literally with oxen—back and forth.
What few people remained there became a part of a Roman settlement. In 637 [AD], Caliph Omar the great, mighty, successful general of Muhammad, Caliph Omar in 637 [AD], overran the country. And they took Jerusalem and Mount Moriah and the temple area; and there they built the mosque of the Dome of the Rock, or as you call it, the Mosque of Omar; and it became a Moslem city.
In 1099 AD, the Christian Crusaders came, and for eighty-eight years, they possessed the city. But in 1187 AD, Saladin the Syrian, reconquered it and from that day until this, Jerusalem has remained a Moslem Mecca.
In 1948, in your memory, in your lifetime, a marvelous thing came to pass, and now we’re going to speak for a moment of Jerusalem in the prophecies of our Lord. In the apocalyptic discourse of Jesus in Luke 21—and by the way, may I say here before I begin this part, the closing part of the message: the time clock by which God deals in this world is the Jew. Watch what God does with the Jew, and you’ll see how far along we are in the fulfillment of all of these prophecies of history. God’s time clock in this world is the Jew. Now, He is going to speak about Jerusalem, and He is going to speak about the Jew.
In Luke 21:20, I shall begin reading, “And when you shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.” Then He describes the desolation of Jerusalem which came to pass in 70 AD. “And they shall fall,” verse 24, “and they shall fall by the edge of sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” [Luke 21:24]. In Romans 11:25, you have that same kind of a prophecy. Paul, writing says, “I would not,” Romans 11:25, “I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. When Jerusalem is ever taken back into the hands of the Jew—and it will be someday and soon—when Jerusalem is taken back into the hands of the Jews, that’s God’s time clock. That’s the end; that’s the great denouement and consummation of the age.
In 1948, there broke out this war between the Arabs and the Jews. I was over there just a little while after that war closed. I saw them bury their Jewish dead. I was that near to that war. And while I was there and listening to those people describe that war—they had been in it; they had helped fight it—those men said to me that the youth of the Jewish army, and most of the soldiers in the Jewish army were teenagers; they were boys and girls. The youth of the Jewish army drove out the Arab legions and captured Jerusalem.
The city of the great King: and it says here, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” [Luke 21:24]. And when that comes:
There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them because of the things that are coming upon the earth… And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
And He spake to them a parable; And behold the fig tree (and the fig tree is always a figure and a picture of the Lord Jesus). Behold the fig tree, when it shoots out it’s buds, summer is nigh, so likewise ye, when ye see these things begin to come to pass, know that the kingdom of heaven is nigh. Verily I say unto you, This generation (this genos, this time, this race, this Jew) shall not pass away, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but My words shall not pass away.
And in , those Jewish armies overran and took Jerusalem, which would have been the sign of the end, the consummation of the ages. And for some unknown reason—and nobody knows why; and I couldn’t find out why; and there’s not any reason why—for some unknown reason, the U.N., at that moment, the United Nations at that moment, described the demarcation of Palestine from the north to the south.
And if you’ve ever seen the map of that demarcation; on the west side of which is the Israeli, and on the right side of which is the Arab kingdom of the Jordan—if you will have a look at that map, it starts up here in Galilee, at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee, and turns west and comes down. And then, when it gets to the valley, the maritime Plain of Sharon, it comes clear up to Jerusalem and includes just a little tip of Mount Zion outside the Jerusalem wall. And then it comes way back over here and goes down south and then finally cuts over to the Dead Sea.
And when that demarcation was made, the generals of the armies and the heads of state of the Israelis were commanded to pull back out of Jerusalem! And that city, to this day, is just like that. It’s over there in a pocket; lying in the hands of the Gentiles. The Jews are above it, and the Jews are around it, and the Jews are south of it; but—like you’d hold it in your hand—the city today is under the dominion of the Gentile. For when that city is taken by the Jews, that ends the story of Gentile dominion in the world; and that is the denouement of the age and the consummation of all history.
And when that day comes, it’s going to come in a terror; it’s going to come in a flood; it’s going to come in an Armageddon! There will be livid death out of the sky, and those bombs falling into the sea make the very oceans boil. But that’s our salvation and our victory; that’s when the Lord shall recreate this world. And after those days, then you have the subject of the glorious song that the boy sang about tonight:
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the old first heaven and the old first earth were passed away… And I John I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, adorned as a bride for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven say, (Look) Behold (the dwelling place, the capital, the palace) the tabernacle of God is with men…
And he took me into a high mountain, and I saw the city of God…
It’s walls of jasper; it’s gates of pearls; it’s foundation with precious stones; and inside, the Lamb the light thereof; and the saved of the nations of the world walking in the light of the glory of God
[Revelation 21:1-3, 10-24]
When the Lord hath made by His own great right hand a new heaven and a new earth, and the city shall be called the New Jerusalem [Revelation 21:2].
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof… For they that wasted us required of us mirth. And they that took us captive required of us a song, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I remember thee not, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.
And three times a day Daniel knelt and prayed with his window open toward Jerusalem [Daniel 6:10]. And in every Jewish household in this world, there is a little mezuzah, a little silver container with the promises of God. And wherever the house is built, even in Jerusalem, it is tilted toward the city of the great King and the city of God. Oh, what a prospect, what a hope, what a blessing, sown with tears, bathed in blood, clouded with sorrow and despair and disappointment; but out of it, the glory of God, the faith of Jesus Christ, the beloved city, our eternal hope!
I’ll sing you a song of that beautiful home
The far-away home of the soul
Where no storms ever beat on the glittering strand
While the years of eternity roam.
[“Home of the Soul”; Ellen M.H. Gates, 1865]
This is the city of David; this is the capital of the kingdom of Christ [Revelation 21:10, 24; 22:1]; this is Jerusalem. Oh, I had no idea whether you would be interested in such a thing as this; but it appeals to my heart—and especially following the life of David—reading that he won it for God and made it the capital city of the great king [1 Chronicles 11:4-5].
Now we’re going to sing our song, “We’re Marching to Zion.” That’s a good one. “Come we that love the Lord, we’re marching to Zion.” And while we sing the song, you tonight, somebody you, give your heart to Jesus; come and give the pastor your hand. A family you, coming into the fellowship of the church, would you make it tonight? In the balcony, coming down one of stairways, on this lower floor into the aisle and toward the front, on the first note of this first stanza, while we sing this song, make it tonight, while we stand and while we sing.