Traditions, Truth, and Praying with Your Eyes Open

The Western Wall challenges us to ask why we do what we do.

Some people find it hard to identify with the Jews who rock before Jerusalem’s Western Wall. When I first saw them, the prayers seemed odd. Then I thought about my traditions. Are they any less bizarre?

The Western Wall challenges us to ask why we do what we do.

(Photo: Men praying at the Western Wall. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Oddness just comes in different flavors. They’re called “traditions.” For example:

  • Jews pray with their heads covered; we take our hats off.
  • Their prayers are public and often loud; ours are private and quiet.
  • They rock back and forth and pray from a book; we bow our heads, close our eyes, and utter unrehearsed words.

It’s easy in the familiarity of our own traditions to shake our fingers at the oddities of others. Jews pray while rocking, Muslims kneel with their bottoms in the air, and Christians bow our heads and close our eyes.

But blend any tradition—bowing, standing, prostrating, rocking, kneeling, or jumping—with no personal relationship with the true God, and it’s pointless.

How can we make sure we don’t confuse truth with tradition?

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Take a Google Street View of 6 Biblical Sites

Walk around in the Holy Land without leaving home.

Google Maps Street View serves us well with directions, helping us to see what the turns in our journey actually look like. But the Web site also allows a virtual peek at some key biblical sites.

Google Street View of 7 Biblical Sites

There’s nothing like traveling to Israel to see the land of the Bible firsthand. Experiencing the Bible with all your senses is an unforgettable way to learn it. You’ll never be the same.

But until your first (or next) trip, you might enjoy a virtual walk through a few biblical sites via Google Street View.

I have chosen 6 biblical sites that allow you to do a little exploring.

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I always enjoy going to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Western Wall is no exception. In this quick video I share one of major reasons coming to the Wall is so exciting. It reminds me of a hope that also will encourage you.

Check it out!

Tell me what you think: What is your greatest hope? To leave a comment, just click here.

Places of the Passion Week in 360-Degrees

Between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Jesus spent every day in Jerusalem. The places of the Passion Week where He taught, died, and rose again are now traveled by Christian pilgrims.

Places of the Passion Week in 360-Degrees

(Photo: Sunrise over Jerusalem. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Last week I shared some 360-degree images from 11 various sites in Israel. This week I’m including some panoramic images I took from sites in Jerusalem—specifically, those that connect with the Passion Week of Jesus.

Just click on the images and drag right or left to look around!

The Mount of Olives from Dominus Flevit

Jesus began the Passion Week on Palm Sunday, descending the Mount of Olives on the back of a donkey—presenting Himself to Israel as their Messiah (Dan. 9:25; Zech. 9:9, 16; Matt. 21).

The site of the Dominus Flevit Church remembers the point where Jesus paused and wept over Jerusalem, knowing the leaders would reject Him and His offer of the kingdom.

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My Yom Kippur Conversation about the Messiah

The annual holiday Yom Kippur begins always reminds me of a surprising conversation I had in Jerusalem at the Western Wall. A Jewish woman approached me and engaged me in a talk.

She somehow knew my affiliation with a radio ministry and told me we needed to broadcast to the nations God’s way to be saved. I told her that was, in fact, our passion.

She smiled and shook her head no.

Western Wall Plaza

(Photo: Western Wall Plaza. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Then she shared with me a list of things all Gentiles need to do in order for God to accept them. I recognized some of the standards as being from the Ten Commandments, and I told her so. Again, she smiled and shook her head.

Those commandments are for the Jews,” she said.

“Do you keep them?” I asked.

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The Western Wall Tunnel—An Underground Journey to Century-One Jerusalem

Question: What major site in Jerusalem can a visitor see after the sun goes down that still requires men to wear a hat? (Okay, so you could wear a yarmulke instead of a hat. Most men remove the hat anyway.)

Answer: The Western Wall Tunnel.

Men's prayer area under Wilson's Arch

(Photo: Inside the Western Wall Tunnel. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

When you say the words “The Western Wall,” most folks think of the Western Wall plaza:

  • It’s the place where bar- and bat-mitzvahs regularly occur and where soldiers are inducted.
  • It’s the spot where ultra- and orthodox Jews come to pray—as well as many tourists—and the place of national prayer gatherings.
  • It’s Judaism’s most sacred site.

But like the tip of an iceberg, the Western Wall plaza represents only a small part of the whole. There’s much more of the wall to see.

Most of the Western Wall lies buried beneath the rubble of time and hasn’t seen the light of day for centuries.

But a tunnel lets you see the entire length of the wall today.

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