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A Lesson on Holiness from the Western Wall Tunnel

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Most of Jerusalem’s Western Wall lies underground today, accessible only through the Western Wall Tunnel in which we walked. A spry Jewish woman in her 20s led our group through the tunnel.

Western Wall place closest to Holy of Holies

(Photo: Western Wall place closest to Holy of Holies. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

After moving some distance north along a small hallway, with the Western Wall’s massive, dressed stones to our right, we stopped about halfway down at an alcove with a single light bulb. We huddled in close.

This niche represented, the young guide explained, the closest that we can get to where the Holy of Holies resided on the Temple Mount.

But what she said next caused a few biblical penalty flags to go off in my head.

Tradition, Truth, and Warm Fuzzies

She claimed that we stood a mere 300 feet from the foundation rock beneath which the Holy of Holies had stood, where God had created the world, and where Jacob had laid his head on his journey to Paddan-aram . . .  

Whoa . . . hasn’t she read Genesis? I thought. But I kept my mouth shut. (Many people hold to this view of tradition. See one man’s comment on an earlier post and my response to him.)

She continued. “I bring many people down here, and I try to explain holiness, and it’s hard. Either you feel it or you don’t.” Hmmm. Maybe that’s why it’s hard to explain.

It’s always hard to put in plain words a concept based on feelings. What’s more, if holiness is just a subjective feeling, so are all our ethics. And so are our facts about things like where Jacob laid his head, and how God can forgive sins—or if He even can.

(Look around at Google Street view in the Tunnel.)

God’s Holiness—More than a Feeling

From the perspective of God’s Word, holiness is not a subjective feeling.

  • God’s Holiness is an objective attribute. Unlike the alcove and dim bulb beneath which we stood, God “dwells in unapproachable light”—just as in the days of the Tabernacle and Temple (1 Tim. 6:16). Moreover, “God is Light”—that is, absolute holiness (1 John 1:5).
  • God’s Holiness is an absolute standard for all. Because God is holy, holiness remains the standard that all humanity must meet, yet that all humanity—save One—has failed (Lev. 19:2; John 8:46; Rom. 3:23; Heb. 4:15).

When Jesus walked on the Temple Mount, above the tunnel in which we stood, He issued a statement to illustrate how God’s glory now dwelt with people in a new way.

Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. —John 2:19

The apostle John explained what He meant: “He was speaking of the temple of His body” (John 2:21). In this single statement, Jesus alluded to the fact of how God would atone for sins once and for all—Jesus would die and rise again to pay for our sins.

But they didn’t get it. Many still don’t.

God’s holiness is an objective attribute, and therefore it is an absolute standard for us. Only through Jesus Christ can God see us as holy as Himself.

Tell me what you think: What do you think of when you think of God’s holiness? To leave a comment, just click here.

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This post is adapted from Wayne’s book, Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus: A Journey Through the Lands and Lessons of Christ.

• Enjoy an engaging, inspiring, and humorous travelogue that mingles the life-changing truths of Jesus with a walking tour of the Holy Land.

Experience the Holy Land through the sights, sounds, and tastes of this personal travelogue, and discover how these sacred places influenced the lessons Jesus taught.

You will discover lessons Jesus has for your life.

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