Brightness of His Presence

by Mary Okkema

Now when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the house. The priests could not enter into the house of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’S house. All the sons of Israel, seeing the fire come down and the glory of the LORD upon the house, bowed down on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave praise to the LORD, saying, “Truly He is good, truly His lovingkindness is everlasting. – II Chronicles 7:1-3

During our recent trip to Jerusalem we were privileged to visit the Temple Mount. We stood on paving stones which were bright white. The sunny day made it so that it was almost impossible to see without covering our eyes. We discussed the construction materials of the Temple, its courts and the fact that when a pilgrim would surface from the dark tunnels leading up into the Temple courtyard the contrast would be blinding.


Josephus describes the materials used in the Temple construction this way. “Now the temple was built of stones that were white and strong,” (1) And another of his writings says it this way. “But this temple appeared to strangers, when they were at a distance, like a mountain covered with snow; for as those parts of it that were not gilt, they were exceeding white.” (2)

Bright white and glory of the Lord are synonymous in the history of this place. In 1 Timothy 6:16 we read, “who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light,” referencing Psalm 104:1 which says,” Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, You are very great; You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering Yourself with light as with a cloak,”

Even though the Temple no longer stands, we had a brief glimpse as to how it would have looked to pilgrims as they approached this holy place of “exceeding white.” We look forward to the time when in the new Jerusalem there will be “a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes,” (Rev. 7:9) But in that day it will be said: “I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” (Rev 21:22)

We will then experience the brightness of His presence. “the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it”! (Rev 21:23)

(1)  Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, Book 15, Chapter 11
(2)  Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book. 5, Chapter 5, Section 6

The Pool of Siloam

by Pastor Ed Visser

Jesus, to the man born blind: “Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam” John 9:7

A fascinating thing about visiting Israel is that you find yourself in the middle of new and ongoing archaeological discoveries. Since biblical archeology didn’t really get underway until Israel became a nation in 1948, the past 50+ years have been the time of the greatest discovery of biblical places Pool of Siloamsince Jesus walked the earth! What at least one scholar described as the “archaeological discovery of the decade for biblical studies” was found a few weeks before I visited Israel: the first century Pool of Siloam.

For years, another pool from the Byzantine era was thought to be the Siloam pool (both supplied by the Gihon Spring). But a little further down the steep hill of David’s City, archaeologists Eli Shukron and Ronny Reich found steps to a first-century pool as they were checking the site before a sewage pipe was to be installed. What we saw was just the initial stages of uncovering the pool; since then a large section of the pool has been excavated.

When we visited the pool, we had just been at the southern stairs of the Temple. That is surely where Jesus was nearly 2000 years ago when he encountered a man born blind (begging at the Temple entrance). To heal him, Jesus spit in the dirt, made some mud and applied it to the man’s eyes. Then, in words that may have stunned the man, Jesus told him to “go, wash in the Pool of Siloam.” He obeyed, and he came back seeing. It’s a nice story, but visiting the location adds to it’s impact. You see, the Pool is half a mile from the Temple Mount, down a very steep grade to the bottom of where the Kidron & Hinnom valleys meet. Walking down to the Pool (albeit on paved sidewalks), we felt what the man born blind experienced — a scary hike for sighted people!

How does that impact the story? And why didn’t Jesus just heal him there? Jesus was calling the man to real faith — not just belief, but to put his faith into action — by calling him to make a treacherous half-mile hike down a mountain. To take even that first step was an incredible confession that he believed Jesus was the Messiah. As he did often, Jesus linked healing with faith. Sometimes we think faith is about intellectual assent to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. In reality, faith is about taking first steps toward doing God’s will, even when it seems very much impossible. Is that the kind of faith we show? Do we confess Jesus with out feet?