The Place

A Look at Mount Calvary throughout the Bible

And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave wood tor the burnt-offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.—Genesis 22:2–3

Abraham was a principal figure in God’s plan to redeem mankind, and his story is central to the record in the book of Genesis. One of the most striking and important events of his story is the offering of Isaac, described in chapter 22.

In an account that reminds us of the gospel story, especially as it is given famously in John 3:16, Abraham is commanded to offer his “only son,” whom he loved, as a sacrifice at a place in the mountains of Moriah which would be designated by the Lord: “the place of which God had told him” (verses 2 and 3). We know where “the land of Moriah” is, and after the incident of the great man’s interrupted offering of his dear son (read about it in verses 4 through 14), “Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.” Here was a place in the mountains of Moriah that was called by Abraham “Jehovah-jireh” (The LORD sees) apparently because something important, related to the offering of Isaac, will be seen there.

As Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt centuries later, God promised them a special land to which He was taking them, and where they would live under His watch-care. Within the Promised Land, there was to be a place where God would live among them. In “The Song of the Redeemed,” Moses offers a prayer to the Lord, and mentions the place with these words:

Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O LORD, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established.—Exodus 15:17

This special place is mentioned repeatedly in the later writings of Moses, especially in the book of Deuteronomy.

Thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there…—Deuteronomy 14:23

All the firstling males that come of thy herd and of thy flock thou shalt sanctify unto the LORD thy God: thou shalt do no work with the firstling of thy bullock, nor shear the firstling of thy sheep. Thou shalt eat it before the LORD thy God year by year in the place which the LORD shall choose…—Deuteronomy 15:19–20

Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the Passover unto the LORD thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the LORD shall choose to place his name there…Thou mayest not sacrifice the Passover within any of thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee: but at the place which the LORD thy God shall choose to place his name in…­—Deuteronomy 16:2, 5–6

As the Israelites entered the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua, the new leader also spoke of “the place where he (God) should choose” (Joshua 9:27). There was going to be a special place where God would be honored and worshipped. It would be chosen by the Lord, and His people would be led to it.

Of course, Israel finally settled in what had been the Land of Canaan, and worshipped God at the Tabernacle they had made for Him in the wilderness. The Tabernacle, which was the center of the formal worship of Jehovah, was actually a large tent that was moved from place to place. You can follow the movements of the Tabernacle in the narrative of the Old Testament Scriptures.

At the time that David became king of Israel, the worship center was split up and unusable. The Ark of the Covenant had been taken out of the Tabernacle and used like a good luck charm in the war against the Philistines (read the story in 1 Samuel 4–7). When the battle was lost, the enemy took the sacred Ark away, and then, after the Lord punished the Philistines, it was brought back to the Israelites but remained separated from the Tabernacle for years. It was one of David’s first goals as king to restore the Ark to the Tabernacle and restore the worship of the true God.

He never accomplished this goal in his lifetime, yet toward the end of his reign, King David did something by which he unknowingly paved the way for God’s worship to be revived in a magnificent temple. A time came when God had to judge Israel and David, and He sent a destroying angel to plague the land, and the city of Jerusalem. In response to the contrite pleading of David, the prophet Gad was told by the Lord to direct the king to set up an altar and offer sacrifices.

Then the angel of the LORD commanded Gad to say to David, that David should go up, and set up an altar unto the LORD in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. And David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spake in the name of the LORD…Then David said to Ornan, Grant me the place of this threshingfloor, that I may build an altar therein unto the LORD: thou shalt grant it me for the full price: that the plague may be stayed from the people.—1Chronicles 21:18–19, 22)

So “the place” of Ornan’s threshingfloor was bought by David, and an altar for sacrifice was built upon it. When the sacrifices were offered, the plagues ended.

Later David got into his heart the desire to build the Lord a permanent temple in Jerusalem. (The accounts of this are found in Second Samuel 7 and First Chronicles 17). The Lord’s house would no longer be a tent, but a physical structure constructed as a house of sacrifice, worship, and prayer. However God would not allow David to accomplish this project personally in his lifetime, but promised him that his son Solomon would build the Temple. When it was built, it was built at the place David had bought, and that God had chosen.

Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the LORD appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.—2 Chronicles 3:1

The Temple was built in Jerusalem by King Solomon at the threshingfloor of Ornan, which was located on Mount Moriah. The place was called “the place that David had prepared.”

The site of the Temple was indeed to be the place God had chosen to be identified with His own name and glory. When King Solomon dedicated the Temple, he referred in his prayer to the significance of the place where it stood.

Yet have thou respect unto the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to hearken unto the cry and to the prayer which thy servant prayeth before thee to day: that thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place.—1 Kings 8:28–29; see also 2 Chronicles 6:20, 26)

In response to this request, God said, “Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place” (2 Chronicles 7:15). The Temple stood at a “place” where God would give special attention to prayers offered in or toward it! It was the chosen place they had been looking for.

Even before the coming of Christ, God’s people repeatedly gave respect to this special place. The LORD had said to David, “Since the day that I brought forth my people out of the land of Egypt I chose no city among all the tribes of Israel to build an house in, that my name might be there:…but I have chosen Jerusalem, that my name might be there” (2 Chronicles 6:5–6). Nehemiah referred to the fact that God calls it, “The place that I have chosen to set my name there” (Nehemiah 1:9). David called it “the hill of the LORD” and “his holy place” in Psalm 24, and “the place where thine honour dwelleth” in Psalm 26.

The prophet Daniel “went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, prayed, and gave thanks before his God” with his face toward the place (Daniel 6:10). He prayed, “Cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate” (Daniel 9:17). The Temple had been destroyed by the heathen because of Israel’s sins, but the place where it had stood still had great significance. In Palestine, there was a place to which God attached His name and His honor, and in regard to which He heard and answered prayer. The evidence indicates that this place was the very place in the mountains of Moriah where Abraham offered Isaac.

The ancient city of Jerusalem sits upon two elevations, called Mount Zion and Mount Moriah. Between them is a ravine called the Tyropoeon Valley. What we call Mount Moriah is really an eminence or ridge running diagonally from the north to the east of the walled city. On the east end is what has for three thousand years been designated the “Temple Mount,” where the Temple stood. On the north end, outside the wall, is the rocky ridge which in modern times has been called “Gordon’s Calvary.” Appearances and archeological evidence lead us to believe that this is the place where Jesus died.

And they bring him unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull.—Mark 15:22

The place looked and looks like a skull. It is the place where Jesus died as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.

And they took Jesus, and led him away. And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: where they crucified him…”—John 19:16–18

It was at this place that our salvation happened. The Son of God came to earth on a rescue mission, to save mankind from the consequences of the first man’s sins (read about it all over the New Testament, but especially in the fifth chapter of Romans). It was at a point in time, a date in history, and at a certain place that Jesus accomplished our redemption, by offering Himself as a sacrifice to pay for our sins. The penalty for sin is death, and Jesus died for us. On that day and in that place, He took the blame for our sins so that He could suffer the punishment. When He did so, He bought our way out of Hell and into Heaven.

Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden: and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.—John 19:41

It was in that tomb that the dead body of Jesus was laid after He gave up the ghost on the cross. And it was in this sepulchre, located in the place called Golgotha, that Jesus won the victory for us over death and sin and Hell, by rising from the dead.

Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures…—1 Corinthians 15:3–4

What a wonderful place is this very special spot in the mountains of Moriah where God gave His Son as a sacrifice to save us from sin and death and Hell. Every sinner who turns from the darkness to the Saviour of the world will be saved forever, and will receive eternal life.

If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.—Romans 10:9

Friend, will you not recognize that Jesus Christ is your best friend, and make up your mind to receive Him as your Saviour. Think of what He did for justly-condemned sinners like you and me at the place they call Golgotha and Calvary. We have broken God’s Law, repeatedly and knowingly, and justice would condemn us. But Jesus Christ volunteered to take the condemnation of the Law for us, and satisfy it by giving His life. Thank Him for what He did, and turn to Him for your salvation today!

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