I recently ran across this interesting book full of legends about Jerusalem, Israel, and Hebrew history. While with any extra-biblical volume of this nature, one must always sift out the outlandish from the profound. One legend in particular has captured my imagination and just won’t seem to let it go. Here’s a section of it:
“Within old Jerusalem rises Mount Moriah, upon which stood the Holy Temple [. . .]. On the summit lies a big rock, the Foundation Stone–in Hebrew Even ha-Shetiyah–the base of the whole world and its very center. The sages of Isreal commented: ‘And it was called the Foundation Stone, because the world was founded on it. For Isaiah the prophet said: ‘Thus saith the Lord God: Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone . . . a costly cornerstone of sure foundation.’ [. . .] And when the Holy One, blessed be He, shall renew the world, He shall renew it out of Zion (Legends of Jerusalem by Zev Vilnay).’”
The Jewish tradition holds that the center of not just the earth, but of the whole universe is the sacred Mount Moriah. God, who, while He fills the whole of the universe still chose a locale from which to create (Gen. 1:2b). Thus, this locale was and still is–to the Jew–the most sacred location of the Universe.
Wouldn’t it be marvelous to behold God take His place, and begin to speak forth the universe. Can you imagine it? Light, continents, stars, planets, creatures, and oceans spreading out from Him like tendrils of quick growing ivy. Where once there was nothing, suddenly there was everything. Yet, this glorious creation of the world was contrived by God to culminate in a more glorious work of redemption, or we could say, re-creation. However, where God had just given life, man quickly chose death instead: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned (Romans 5:12).”
What I find so interesting, though, is the beauty of the fact that Mt. Moriah (remember that it is also the location of Abraham “sacrificing” Isaac [Gen. 22:2], the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite [1 Chr. 21:15], and thusly the location of the Temple and more specifically, the Holy of holies [2 Chr. 3:1]), is not only the place where the Jews believe God created the world from, but that Christ was crucified on the summit of that very same Mount. The purpose of the old creation was then fulfilled, and God worked a surpassingly more wonderful new creation in the person of Jesus Christ.
Indeed, through His death and resurrection Jesus is given a title: the “firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:14, 18)” and the “firstfruits of them that slept.” Which is what 1 Corinthians 15:20-22 says, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” And again, 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
So, from one point in all the universe God created the heavens and earth and everything in them; but from that same point, through the sacrifice of His Son, He made a new creation which shall far outshine the first order of things! But, for a moment, let me return to the Jewish creation legend and use it to paint an extraordinary picture of how the new creation works: “The Almighty created the world in the same manner as a child is formed in its mother’s womb. Just as a child begins to grow from its naval and then develops into its full form, so the world began from its central point and then developed in all directions (Legends of Jerusalem by Zev Vilnay).”
As soon as a baby in the womb is implanted in its mother’s uterus, the umbilical cord is formed and immediately goes to work forming the all important inward organs; in like manner, when we are born again–by the living and abiding Word of God–we are given a “new heart” (Ez. 11:19). When God is making a new creature, through Christ, He begins by doing exactly what Jeremiah prophesied: “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law (His character and nature) in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people (Jer. 31:33).”
It gets even better though because Solomon reveals to us in Proverbs 3 that trusting in the Lord with all our heart, leaning not on our own understanding, acknowledging Him in all our ways is: “health to thy navel (Pro. 3:8a).” Strange verse, eh? Well the Hebrew word for health here is riph’uwth, which is a noun form of the verb rapha‘, as in Jehovah Rapha, God my Healer. And the word naval (or shor in Hebrew), doesn’t mean just a belly button, but more the actual umbilical chord which is the baby’s life-cord for nourishment. Trusting yourself entirely to the Lord is health and wholeness coursing into the very center of your existence. A belly-button is a scar that shows the world that you were once wholly dependent on your mommy. However, the new birth unites us inextricably to Christ, so that all He is and has flows into us to meet our every need!
An unborn baby has received ALL of his parents’ DNA, and is enjoying all the protective shelter of his mother’s womb, and is receiving all the life-giving nourishment from that vital cord. The nature and nurture of his parents’ permeates the whole of his life. Just like life and creation flowed out from God at the beginning of the world; so to, when God re-creates a man through Jesus, He goes to the very center of a man’s existence and begins to change everything from the inside out. The whole spiritual DNA of a man is changed. The stubborn, old, stony heart is made soft. The stiff neck is made humble. The appetites of hunger, information and sexuality are changed sot that they are no longer used for man’s glory but for God’s. A whole new affection subjugates the man entirely! Affection for Christ reigns throughout the whole of the man. This is the new birth spoken of in John 3. This is the new creation of God!
But, can I ask you, does Christ permeate the whole of your life? Is there a mark of your dependency upon Christ’s life-giving supply right in the middle of your existence that proves that you are born again? Do your words to your wife, children, friends show the gentleness, boldness and truthfulness of Christ’s nature? Do you respond to difficulty with patience, meekness, and hope? Do you battle temptation with our Father’s promises and with fervent faith? If not, would you cast yourself upon the Savior? Would you, as that old hymn says: “Venture on Him, venture wholly, let no other trust intrude.” He has promised to receive all who come. He has promised to give grace to the humble. He has promised to save those who look to Him, and Him alone.
One final thought: at the creation of the universe God created light out of darkness. Whereas at the cross, the Light of the World was shrouded in the darkness of the most evil hour of history. However, the resurrection of Christ from the dead was a glorious fulfillment of that word in Proverbs 4:18, that “the path of the just (Christ) is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Now, indeed, God Almighty has spoken light out of darkness once more. This time, the source of the light is not traced back to some created thing, rather it shines from the saving work of the eternal, begotten, all-glorious Son of God; who will one day be the lamp of the whole earth (Rev. 21:23).