By sunset, Jerusalem’s stone walls are radiant with rosy golden and tawny hues, making it glow like a city of gold. There is a law passed during the time of the British mandate forbidding building using any other stone other than Jerusalem stone in the area, to preserve the heritage of the beautiful city.
But do you know what this famous “Jerusalem stone” is made of geologically? It is limestone and dolomite, which are rocks formed over many years of compressing shells and corals – sea creatures of the past, compacted and compressed into stone and fossils. Jerusalem’s stones are teeming with life, and likewise, we are called to be living stones.
Today, the old city of Jerusalem is still surrounded by walls, mostly from the time of Herod and the Ottoman empire, but it is still possible to see parts of the walls built in the time of Nehemiah, the time of the second temple.
The walls of Jerusalem really matter to God
It’s quite an interesting study to look at all the Biblical references to the walls. Here’s one passage which give us an insight into God’s feelings on the matter:
But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.” (Isaiah 49:14-16)
Another place where we see the importance of Jerusalem’s physical walls is in Ezra and Nehemiah. When Nehemiah hears about the state of Jerusalem, he is devastated:
“And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”
As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 1:3-4)
“I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire.” (Nehemiah 2:13)
We see the enormous spiritual battle that followed after God had miraculously provided all the authority, freedom to return and even finances rebuild the walls (from the Persian King Cyrus), and how important it was to God that all the breaches were repaired. The enemies of Israel were determined to stop the walls being completed.
“But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry”. (Nehemiah 4:7)
They were furious – stirring up trouble and slandering the Israelites, lying to the King that Israel was starting a rebellion. But even though the task seemed too great and difficult at many times, God gave them success. The walls were completed, as Daniel was told would happen, many years in advance.
“Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.” (Daniel 9:25)
The Biblical symbolism for us today
Walls are pretty important and symbolic in the Bible – especially the walls of Jerusalem. Gates are also very significant, but that’s another story. But more than that, walls, stones and breaches have a spriritual meaning for us as well. We can see Nehemiah’s mission to build and to restore the breaches in the walls as symbolic of us as believers, seeking to be built up in unity, with no divisions and breaches between us – building the Kingdom of God, using us, his living stones.
to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:4-6, 9-10)
Once again, the miracle of God’s grace extended out to all the nations is apparent. We are his living stones, chosen and precious. But just like Israel and Jerusalem, we are chosen for a purpose – that we may proclaim the excellencies of God. Perhaps you might like to meditate on this picture of a wall… the building work involved… the danger of gaps and breaches, and the importance of the cornerstone. I find it interesting how upset the enemies became when the breaches were repaired in Nehemiah. Food for thought. Our right relationships with other believers are critical – we must seek peace and healing of divisions among us as a high priority. Let’s work hard with God to repair every breach and division and cause the enemy to despair.
We know too that unforgiveness, bitterness and wrong relationships hinders our prayers (Matthew 6:7-15, 1 Peter 3:7).
No wonder that the enemy becomes angry when things are put right and our prayers rise to God with no delay!
Lastly, there is the image of the “Watchman on the Walls”, which appears in Scripture, as a metaphor for prayer warriors, watching over God’s purposes, praying with power for safety, protection, and victory. Standing “in the gap” for those who need us to pray on their behalf. Would you be willing to pray through Isaiah chapter 62 on Israel’s behalf? Join us in unity praying for the land and her people, for Israel’s salvation and restoration!