“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, in the city of our God, His holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion in the far north, the city of the great King.”
~ Psalm 48:1-2
Without question, Jerusalem has a very special place in God’s grand design. As the former capital of the United Monarchy, and as the future capital of Jesus’ millennial kingdom, Jerusalem really is a royal city. Today, it may be challenging to imagine the future glory that awaits this place. Filled with religious, political and racial conflict, Jerusalem hardly resembles what will be the most important (and peaceful) capital city on earth. Yet, it is the very place of God’s choosing.
During the past few weeks, IBEX Spring 2017 has spent several days of field study in the city of Jerusalem. The list of biblical sites seen by our group is seemingly endless. The Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, and Hezekiah’s Tunnel are just a few noteworthy locations. One, in my mind, stands out as being particularly interesting.
In 701 BC, the Assyrian king Sennacherib was poised to take control of the kingdom of Judah and its capital city of Jerusalem. He had already captured several cities in the Shephelah (the foothills between Israel’s Coastal Plain and the Hill Country), and the Scriptures say he boasted that even God could not thwart his conquest (2 Chr. 32:1, 10-19). Approximately 20 years earlier, Assyria had indeed defeated the northern kingdom of Israel and dispersed its inhabitants (2 Kgs. 17:6).
King Hezekiah of Judah must have felt the imminent threat the Assyrians posed. Chronicles states that Hezekiah resolutely prepared his city for war (2 Chr. 32:2-7). It is from this historical situation that one very fascinating defense system was built. While preparing for the impending Assyrian assault, Hezekiah and his men built a subterranean tunnel that transferred water from the Gihon Spring (Jerusalem’s main water supply) to the Pool of Siloam inside of the city (2 Chr. 32:3), as a means of preparation in case that supply was cut off. Remarkably, nearly 3,000 years after this tunnel’s construction, it remains intact. A couple of weeks ago, we walked through this ancient passageway.
Upon reaching its entrance, our group grabbed our flashlights and prepared to wade through water that (at times) ran knee deep. Feeling constricted, some of us spent most of our trek hunched over as we went through the ancient narrow and short space. By the time we reached the Pool of Siloam, we had traveled over 500 meters. What a remarkable achievement Hezekiah and his men were able to accomplish!
Dr. Bill Schlegel told us later that we ended up traversing through this s-shaped tunnel relatively quickly compared to most groups. Looking back, perhaps we should have slowed down and taken more time to, quite literally, “soak in” the experience. Because Hezekiah sought the Lord, his city was delivered from the Assyrian threat (2 Chr. 32:20-22). The tunnel ended up not being crucial to Jerusalem’s survival in this instance, but it still stands as a marker pointing back to one of the many instances when God faithfully delivered His own. May we be as faithful to Him as He is to us.
IBEX (Israel Bible Extension Program) is a three-month study abroad opportunity open to all students at The Master's University. Living outside of Jerusalem, students are immersed in the land of the Bible while studying the Bible. As Dr. William Varner, director of IBEX, would say, "it's not about if you go, but when you go." To have this once-in-a-lifetime experience, go to masters.edu/ibex.