By almost any standard, ancient Jerusalem was a city of little significance. It was small. The political center for King David was little more than a jumble of houses and buildings strewn over 20 acres of uneven ground.
It was plain. Travelers marveled at the architectural wonders and beautiful cities in Egypt and Mesopotamia. But Jerusalem was not what one would call a “post card” destination. It was in the middle of nowhere, miles from the nearest harbor or navigable river. It was militarily vulnerable. The original “City of David” was built on a rocky ridge. To this day, visitors are surprised to discover that the surrounding ridges are conspicuously higher. Jerusalem, simply put, was no big deal.
But that’s not what the ancient Hebrews thought. “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, His holy mountain.” (Psalm 48:1) Mountain? Some of us have experienced higher sledding hills. “It is beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth.”
How could the author of this psalm seriously applaud Jerusalem’s beauty and “loftiness”?
The answer is that the urban center of Israel’s life was a wondrous and exalted place not because of its natural endowments but because of its Chief Resident. “God is in her citadels; He has shown Himself to be her fortress.” (v. 3) Jerusalem wasn’t special because of its water supply or its architectural innovations. It was special because God chose to indwell the two temples that used to stand there. Naturally, the city was ordinary. Supernaturally, it was anything but.
The same is true for you and me. Most of us aren’t going to become fashion models. We won’t be the last contestant standing on American Gladiator. Few of us are serious contenders to win a Nobel Prize, or even a local bake-off. Among Earth’s seven billion citizens, we are living out our lives in relative obscurity.
But if God is within us – just as God dwelt in ancient Jerusalem – everything changes. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit lives within you?” the apostle Paul asked his readers (I Corinthians 3:16). We may appear to be people of little significance, but if God’s Spirit lives within, that makes our hearts the most important place on earth.
-Rev Dr William Lewis