“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” Eccl 5:1,2
One at a time
On a recent trip to Israel, I learned about the Southern steps which lead to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. This broad staircase was used daily, all year long, accommodating hundreds of thousands of people worshiping at the Temple, especially during pilgrimages for Jewish festivals, such as Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) and Sukkot (Feast of the Tabernacles), when Jewish males were required to worship (Deut 16:16). The risers of the steps are low, 7- 10 inches high and each step is 12 to 35 inches deep, forcing the ascending pilgrims to walk slowly and deliberately, in a posture of humility. The careful ascension encouraged spiritual preparation, prayer and the singing of psalms as people approached the temple precincts through the double and triple gates still visible in the Southern Wall.
Jesus, Himself, would have climbed these steps when entering the Temple and most likely stood on them as the crowds gathered to hear Him preach. As the largest and busiest passageway near the Temple in Jerusalem, it was the perfect platform for rabbis to preach to the passing multitudes. Recently discovered were over 50 ritual baths (mikvot), as well as the large Pool of Siloam, where worshipers cleansed themselves before entering the Temple. This is the site where Jesus healed the man born blind (John 9:1-11) and was most likely the place where Peter preached to the 3000 Israelites who were baptized on the day considered the Christian fulfillment of Pentecost and the birth of the Church. (Acts 2:29-42).
I can attest that even today, the Southern Steps are not easy to climb. It’s difficult to ascend them quickly or in rhythm. The ascent is steep. One must pause nearly at each step to carefully assess the next. As I climbed, I had to ask myself:
Do I approach the throne of God in a reverent, reflective manner, or do I leap quickly as if in a race?
Do I guard my steps, pausing to ask God’s will before stepping further?
Do I go near to listen or do I rush to speak of my cares, my desires?
Do I approach Him in a humble posture, in preparation of His cleansing as I confess my sinfulness, or do I proudly boast of my ‘foolish’ sacrifices - those deeds I consider put me in good standing with God?
Do I practice step-by-step living and trust in the only One who can heal my blindness?
May I worship my Lord and Savior, step-by-step.