What’s America’s role in the End Times?

by K.W. Leslie, 16 May

Same as the rest of the world.

The bible, in entirety, was written before the middle east, Europe, Asia, and Africa knew the western hemisphere existed.

True, God knew it was there. But his apostles and prophets had no idea. And God didn’t see any point in informing them. It’s not like the Americas, nor any other yet-to-be-discovered islands in the world, were excluded from the scriptures’ blanket statements about humanity. The LORD is God, and Jesus is King, of the whole earth. Known and unknown lands alike.

So North and South America—the Indian nations then, and the current nations now—aren’t in the bible. At all. Neither suggested nor alluded to in it.

So even if you’re citizen of the United States, loyal and patriotic, or even just a big fan of all things American like so many of our resident aliens, I gotta break it to you: Other than the bits about “all the world,” we don’t figure into End Times predictions whatsoever.

But you’d be surprised how many American prognosticators simply can’t have that.

Blame American exceptionalism, the idea that the United States is special, the greatest country in the world, the greatest country in history, and the related belief that Americans are smarter, more capable, more innovative, more talented, than the folks of any other nation. No offense guys; we just grew up under more freedom. If you had American-style freedom, maybe you’d do as well. But probably not. We’ve been freer longer, and we’re pretty sure that has something to do with it too.

We’ve been taught exceptionalism all our lives. It’s a huge part of American-style civic idolatry. So yeah, this is a lot of the reason why we Americans behave as if we’re special. We’ve always been told we are, and we believe it.

This attitude has trickled into our religion. Our End Times prognosticators figure the United States is special, doggone it, so we oughta fit in the End Times timeline somewhere. They’re not entirely sure where, but they shoehorn us pretty much anywhere they can get away with it.

Prayer techniques that get God over a barrel?

by K.W. Leslie, 15 May

Such things don’t exist. But Christians are nonetheless looking for ’em, and frequently claim they have one.

Years ago one of our prayer team leaders was talking about how she discovered the power of praying the scriptures.

By which she simply meant she quoted a lot of bible as she prayed. This was nothing new to me; I grew up among people who did this all the time. They liked to pray in King James Version English. So, direct quotes from the KJV came in handy. “Lord, we pray thee for our meat this day, for thou hast told us to pray ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ Mt 6.11 and so we do.” Sometimes they’d even include verse addresses, if they really wanted to show off. But that wasn’t common.

Our prayer leader wanted to emphasize praying the scriptures because there was, she insisted, power in praying the scriptures. If we wanna tap that power, we need to pray the scriptures too.

Um… what power’s she talking about?

Well, whenever Christians talk about powerful prayers, we nearly always mean one thing: We get we ask for. Every time. Every request. God always, always answers our prayers with yes.

Yeah, sometimes we also mean powerful-sounding prayers, which is why we’ll use the KJV language and proof-text everything we declare in our prayers. But if all you want is an impressive-sounding prayer, we wonder if there isn’t a little bit of hypocrisy behind that desire. Nah; what we want is a prayer which gets stuff done, son.

So Christians are always sharing techniques which guarantee God’ll never ever tell us no. We want the magic formula to tap God’s power. Quoting his own bible back at him sounds really good to a lot of Christians, which is why we pray the psalms and the Lord’s Prayer. Once we use his own holy word on him, we’ve got God by his divine short hairs and he simply has to grant us our three wishes answer our prayer requests.

When I phrase it that way, Christians balk: “That is not what I mean.”

Yeah it is. Bad enough you’re fooling yourself; don’t try to fool the rest of us.

Not that they don’t try. “I’m fully aware God has free will; he can say no whenever he wants; he can say no to unworthy, self-centered prayer requests. But what I’m doing is righteous…” and then they try to explain why they’re fully justified in reducing the holy scriptures to a magic incantation which bends God to our will.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t quote bible in our prayers. It’s actually a good idea—provided we’re quoting bible in context, and not trying to bend it till it sounds like God might let us have our way. Jm 4.3 If we accurately quote the scriptures, we’re more likely to pray as God wants us to, and pray for stuff God approves of.

But the attitude behind trying to make God do as we want, instead of praying as Jesus did, “Thy will be done,” Mt 6.10 is just greed disguised as piety. Let’s not.

Sending out the Twelve.

by K.W. Leslie, 14 May

It is why he picked ’em.

Mark 6.7-11 • Matthew 10.1-15 • Luke 9.1-5.

I’ve previously written on the Twelve, the guys among Jesus’s students whom he designated apostle, “one who’s been sent out,” whom he actually did send out once or twice before he returned to the Father. Here we reach the point in the gospels where he sent ’em out. Mark puts it right after teaching in Nazareth, Matthew after Jesus commented the workers are few, and Luke after curing Jair’s daughter.

Mark 6.7 KWL
Jesus summoned the Twelve, and began to send them out in twos.
He gave them power over unclean spirits.
Matthew 10.1 KWL
Summoning 12 of his students, Jesus gave them power over unclean spirits,
so they could throw them out, and cure every illness and every disease.
Luke 9.1-2 KWL
1 Calling together the Twelve, Jesus gave them power,
authority over all demons, and ability to cure disease.
2 Jesus sent them to preach God’s kingdom and to treat the sick.

Matthew even goes on to list the particular 12 students:

Matthew 10.2-8 KWL
2 These are the names of the 12 apostles:
First Simon called Peter and Andrew his brother. James bar Zavdi and John his brother.
3 Philip and Bartholemew. Thomas and Matthew the taxman.
James bar Alphaeus and Levvaios surnamed Thaddaeus.
4 Simon the Canaanite and Judas the Kerioti—who also turned Jesus in.
5 These are the Twelve Jesus sent, and he gave orders to them,
saying, “You shouldn’t go down the gentile road, nor enter Samaritan towns.
6 Rather, go to the lost sheep of Isarel’s house.
7 Go preach, saying this: ‘Heaven’s kingdom has come near!’
8 Cure the sick. Raise the dead. Cleanse lepers. Throw out demons.
You took it freely; give it freely!

And off they went to preach the kingdom.

’Cause prior to this point, Jesus had singled out the Twelve as his particular apprentices. They were meant to observe everything he did, learn what he preached, watch how he threw out evil spirits so they could do it themselves, and otherwise follow his example. Mk 3.14-15 Because that is what he expected of them.

And it’s what he expects of all his students. Us included. He didn’t make us Christians so we could bask in his salvation, then do nothing more. We’re to proclaim his kingdom, same as he. We’re to drive out evil spirits and cure the sick, same as he. We’re to do good deeds, same as he. We’re to be Christ to the world—while meanwhile Christ is representing us to the Father, getting us equipped, and preparing for his own invasion.

The Twelve were never meant to be Jesus’s only apostles, you know.

Short-staffed for the big harvest.

by K.W. Leslie, 11 May

Pray for more workers. We’re short.

Matthew 9.35-38 • Luke 10.2.

I’ve ranted quite often, and written regularly, about the fact the majority of Christians aren’t religious. We believe in Jesus and expect him to save us, but following him is another deal altogether: We don’t. We figure we don’t have to; that because we’re not saved by good deeds, there’s no point in doing any. Even though there’s so very much for us to do—so very much God wants to include us in—we sit things out, figuring God can do it himself, or even expects to do it himself. Meanwhile he’s waiting for his people to obey, and getting really annoyed at us that we don’t. And so the stuff doesn’t get done.

’Twas ever thus. Jesus knew from experience. When he ministered to the people of the Galilee, that’s what he found. People who needed to be ministered to, but who never had been, because the Pharisees had the bad habit of only taking care of those they deemed worthy, or only tending to their own. Which which meant they didn’t venture outside their narrow communities to help the truly needy. That’s why Jesus kept running into so many people who were demonized: If the Pharisees had done their job, had been compassionate like their LORD, the locals wouldn’t have been turning to witch-doctors to get cured—and the witch-doctors wouldn’t have been able to put all those critters in ’em.

Fact is, the people didn’t know God cared. They didn’t know God loved them, and wanted to make them his people. They were lost, scared, confused, looking for hope, and didn’t know where to find it. Same as people today.

Jesus went out and found them, and found them everywhere. And even though he’s Jesus, empowered by the unlimited resources of the Holy Spirit, it’s still too big a job for only one man. He said as much to his students.

Matthew 9.35-38 KWL
35 Jesus went round all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues,
proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, curing every disease and illness.
36 Seeing the crowds, Jesus had compassion for them:
They were mistreated and thrown away, like sheep which had no pastor.
37 Jesus told his students, “The harvest is truly great—and so few workers!
38 So beg the Master of the harvest, so he can send workers into his harvest.”

Jesus later repeated this when he sent out his 72 apostles to do some of this work:

Luke 10.2 KWL
Jesus told them, “The harvest is truly great—and so few workers!
So beg the Master of the harvest, so he can send workers into his harvest.”

Because if people aren’t gonna get off their butts on their own and do their part, the Holy Spirit is gonna have to light a fire under us and get us off our butts. So we have to pray: “God, bring us more workers!” We always need more, because there’s no shortage of lost and needy people.

Jesus visits his homeland.

by K.W. Leslie, 10 May

It didn’t go well.

Mark 6.1-6 • Matthew 13.53-58 • Luke 4.16-30.

Luke puts this story right at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, right after he got tempted by Satan and gathered some students. It sounds like the right spot for it—if you’re gonna start teaching, you do it in your hometown, right?—but it’s not really. Because it seems Jesus already had a reputation as a teacher and faith-healer, which he got from somewhere… like the other synagogues and towns where he taught.

Mark has it after Jesus cured Jair’s daughter, and Matthew has it after Jesus shared some parables. It begins with Jesus going to his patrída/“fatherland,” or as Luke nails it down, Nazareth, the town he grew up in. Friday evening after sundown, he taught in synagogue.

Mark 6.1-2 KWL
1 Jesus went out from Kfar Nahum to his homeland. His students followed him.
2A When Sabbath came, Jesus began to teach in synagogue…
 
Matthew 13.53-54 KWL
53 When Jesus finished these parables, this happened:
He left there, 54A went to his homeland, and taught in their synagogue.
Luke 4.16-21 KWL
16 Jesus came to Nazareth, where he was raised.
By his custom, he entered synagogue on the Sabbath day, and arose to read.
17 Jesus was given the book of the prophet Isaiah.
Unrolling the bible, he found the place where it’s written:
18 “The Lord’s Spirit is upon me because he anointed me to evangelize the poor.
He sent me to proclaim forgiveness to captives, and restored sight to the blind.
To send away the shattered in forgiveness,
19 to proclaim a year of the Lord’s acceptance.” Is 61.1-2
20 Closing the bible and returning it to the assistant, Jesus sat to teach.
Every eye in the synagogue was staring at him.
21 He began to tell them this: “This scripture has been fulfilled today, in your ears.”

Luke gives us more of a glimpse of synagogue custom: The men stood round the podium up front. (The women stood in back, sometimes behind a partition, sometimes not, and had to be quiet ’cause synagogue was for men.) The teacher would stand to read the bible, ’cause respect. Then the teacher sat down and interpreted what he’d just read. The men would ask him questions about his interpretation—sometimes to understand him better, sometimes to challenge it.

Well, Jesus just gave ’em something challenging. He claimed Isaiah’s statement about what God had sent him to do, also applied to himself.

Yeah, let’s look at Isaiah. The guys who wrote the New Testament tended to quote only part of a verse, partly ’cause they wanted to save papyrus, partly ’cause they expected their readers to know the rest of it—or to unscroll a bible and read the rest of it. They didn’t quote it out of context; we do that. So it’s unlikely Jesus only read the first two verses of Isaiah 61: He read the whole chapter, and maybe chapter 62 too. I’ll quote a little bit more than Luke did:

Isaiah 61.1-4 KWL
1 My master LORD’s Spirit is upon me because the LORD anointed me to bring news to the needy.
He sent me to bandage the brokenhearted,
call captives to freedom, release to those in chains,
2 to call a year of favor from the LORDand a day of revenge from our God.
To comfort all who mourn, 3 and to set an end to mourning in Zion:
to give them a fine headcovering instead of ash,
oil of joy instead of mourning, clothing of praise instead of a dim spirit.
God wants to call them righteous oaks, God’s planting, his glory.
4 They built ancient ruins, abandoned by the first people.
Now they’re building cities anew—the generations-old abandoned ruins.

And so on. Israel gets restored, the gentiles come to know Israel and their God, blessings and peace and so on forevermore. And it all starts with Jesus. So, y’know, good news!

Except the locals had their doubts: It all starts with this guy?

Curing a bleeder.

by K.W. Leslie, 09 May

Wasn’t actually Jesus who cured her. It was the Holy Spirit.

Mark 5.25-34 • Matthew 9.20-22 • Luke 8.43-48

Smack in the middle of the story of curing Jair’s daughter, where Jesus was on the way to Jair’s house, a woman snuck up behind him, touched him, and the Holy Spirit cured her of an ailment.

I know; you thought Jesus cured her, right? But if you know the story already, you recall Jesus didn’t do a thing. Wasn’t his idea to cure her—and yet she got cured. People naïvely presume this is because Jesus was so charged with special healing power, anyone who touched him would get zapped. But that’s not how miracles work at all. Jesus did things by the power of the Holy Spirit, Ac 10.38 same as everybody. She was cured because somebody chose to cure her—and that’d be the Holy Spirit.

Traditionally the woman’s been known as St. Veronica, even though her name never comes up in the bible. Doesn’t matter. Art and movies tend to depict her as an old woman; after all she had been suffering more than a decade. But Jesus called her thygátir/“daughter,” which means he was older than she. Possibly she’d suffered this illness all her life. Certainly all the life of the 12-year-old girl Jesus was planning to heal. But as a gyní/“woman” in Jesus’s culture, she was at least 13, she hadn’t suffered it all her life anyway.

We also don’t know what Veronica’s ailment was. Here’s the entirety of what the gospels say about it:

Mark 5.25-26 KWL
25 For 12 years, a woman had a bloodflow, 26 and had suffered greatly under many witch-doctors,
spending everything she had, and never improving. Instead she was much worse.
Matthew 9.20 KWL
Look: A woman suffering a 12-year bloodflow,
coming up behind them, grabbed the tassel of Jesus’s robe,
Luke 8.43 KWL
For 12 years, a woman who had a bloodflow, who all her life spent lavishly on witch-doctors,
wasn’t better, with no one to cure her.

Commentators speculate it might’ve been related to her menstrual cycle, though you notice they’ve no basis at all for saying so. But if it did begin at puberty, she would’ve been in her twenties when the Spirit cured her.

In any event her treatments had bled her dry as well. People in the United States are pretty familiar with the idea of healthcare emptying your bank account, so we can kinda relate. (Well, unless we’re rich.)

Other than asking God to cure her, Veronica’s only resort was yatrón, a word the KJV (and many current translations still) translate “physicians.” But remember: Nobody practiced the scientific method back then. These guys didn’t know jack squat about medicine. They practiced folk remedies, some of which were downright silly. Sometimes they assumed evil spirits were the problem (’cause hey, sometimes they were), and tried to take ’em out of you. Sometimes a gentile yatrós might even try to put one of those spirits in you, on the grounds it might cure you—and that was why so many unwell people also needed Jesus to perform an exorcism. But basically these guys were witch doctors, not physicians.

So all these quacks could do was take her money, promise they had a method which provided relief, but she’d get no usable results. Like Luke said, there was no one to cure her. So, same as most people of that day, she had no other recourse but God. And sometimes our doctors can’t treat us, or we don’t like how they treat us, so in desperation we try non-western medicine… which means we’ve resorted to the very same “physicians” Veronica tried out, who took her money but had nothing to show for it. Again, we can relate.

Jesus raises a dead girl. (Or was she only asleep?)

by K.W. Leslie, 08 May

When Jesus rescued the president’s daughter. (No, seriously.)

Mark 5.21-24, 35-43 • Matthew 9.18-19, 23-26 • Luke 8.40-42, 49-56

There’s a story in the middle of this story, about a woman with a bloodflow. I’ll get to it later.

Mark and Luke tell this story after Jesus’s side trip to the Dekapolis, and Matthew puts it after Jesus taught on fasting.

Mark 5.21-43 KWL
21 After crossing back over the lake in the boat,
a great crowd again gathered around Jesus. He was on the shore.
22 One of the synagogue presidents, named Jaïr, saw him, fell at his feet,
23 and urged him to come with him, saying this: “My daughter is at the point of death.
If you come lay your hands on her, you can save her; she can live.”
24 Jesus went with him. The great crowd followed—and was crushing him.
Matthew 9.18-19 KWL
18 While Jesus said these things, look: A ruler came and knelt before him,
saying this: “My daughter died just now, but come lay hands on her and she’ll live.”
19 Getting up, Jesus followed him, as did his students.
Luke 8.40-42 KWL
40 Upon Jesus’s return, the crowd greeted him, for they were all expecting him.
41 Look: A man named Jair came. This man had become president of the synagogue.
He fell at Jesus’s feet and prayed that he come to his house,
42 for he had an only-begotten 12-year-old daughter, and she was dying.
As Jesus was going away with Jair, the crowd was choking him.

Maybe you caught the discrepancy; most Christians totally miss it. In Mark and Luke the girl’s at the point of death. In Matthew she’s already died.

Changes the story a little; there’s no longer any sense of urgency in getting to the house before death takes her. Not that curing illness, or curing death, makes any difference to Jesus. Does to doctors—and to us, because we have a bad habit of projecting our limitations upon God. We gotta not do that. Jesus can cure anything. Death too.

But the girl being dead already is why Matthew doesn’t include this bit in mid-story about people running up to tell them she’s died. Didn’t need to.

Mark 5.35-36 KWL
35 While they were speaking, some came against the synagogue president,
saying this: “Your daughter died. Why keep bothering the teacher?”
36 Jesus refused to listen to their message, and told the synagogue president, “No fear. Just trust me.”
Luke 8.49-50 KWL
49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone from the synagogue president’s house came,
saying this: “Your daughter has died. You needn’t bother the teacher.”
50 Jesus, hearing this, told Jair, “No fear. Just trust me: She’ll be saved.”

So was the girl already dead or not? Obviously most Christians vote not—because it’s a more dramatic story that way. But that’s not enough of a reason to pick one gospel over the other. I lean towards the idea she wasn’t dead yet, mainly because there’s no good reason to make it up. “Don’t be afraid; just trust me” is a common theme in the gospels regardless.

Killing the pigs.

by K.W. Leslie, 07 May

How the destruction of 2,000 pigs wasn’t at all Jesus’s idea—and actually got in his way.

Mark 5.11-20 • Matthew 8.30-34 • Luke 8.32-39.

Picking up where I left off: Jesus and his students traveled to the Dekapolis, a province (well, more like 10 provinces) in northern Israel inhabited by Syrian Greeks, located on the far side of the lake. They encountered a man (Matthew says two of ’em) infested with the sort of evil spirits which pagan Greeks worshiped as minor gods, a.k.a. demons. The spirits were making the poor demoniac’s life hell. They realized Jesus wouldn’t tolerate what they were doing to the man, and would order them out of there. But they had an idea, which maybe they could get Jesus to go along with.

Mark 5.11-13 KWL
11 There was a great herd of pigs grazing near the hill.
12 The demons begged Jesus, saying, “Send us to the pigs, so we can enter them!”
13 Jesus allowed them, and coming out, the unclean spirits entered the pigs.
The herd stampeded to the cliff over the lake—like 2,000!—and drowned in the lake.
Matthew 8.30-32 KWL
30 Far off from them was a herd of many pigs, grazing.
31 The demons begged Jesus, saying, “If you throw us out, send us to the herd of pigs.”
32 Jesus told them, “Get out.” Coming out, they went off into the pigs.
Look, the whole herd rushed off the seacliff and died in the waters.
Luke 8.32-33 KWL
32 There was a great herd of pigs grazing on the hill.
The demons begged Jesus so he’d send them to enter the pigs
Jesus allowed them, 33 and coming out of the person, the demons entered the pigs.
The herd rushed off the cliff into the marsh, and drowned.

You might remember devout Jews don’t eat pork. It’s because the LORD identified any animals which aren’t ruminant, which do have split hooves, as ritually unclean. And God specifically singled out pigs, Lv 11.7 because nearly every other culture raises and eats them, and the Hebrews might get the idea a popular food animal might be an exception.

No, ritual uncleanliness does not mean pigs are sinful, nor that eating them is a sin. The only consequence in the scripture for eating an unclean animal is you couldn’t worship. You’d first have to baptize yourselves and wait till sundown. Realistically, if your only worship consisted of going to temple three times a year, Ex 23.14 technically you could eat pork all year long, abstain during the temple festivals, and you were good. Well, not that good. But good enough for worship, which is why certain Jews eat treyf (unclean things) all year round, and only abstain for the holidays.

But Pharisees strived to stay in a constant state of ritual cleanliness. Their custom dictated that you had to be ritually clean to go to synagogue, and they wanted to be prepared to enter the synagogue at any given time. (Lessons went on all week long, y’know.) So this meant a constant state of ritual cleanliness, which means no pork ever. In fact the idea of a herd of pigs, raised on land that was historically part of Israel’s covenant, would’ve bugged Pharisees greatly.

Anyway some commentators figure this fact puts a new spin on the story: Here are some animals which shouldn’t even have been in Israel anyway. So Jesus likely had no qualms about the demons destroying them, and even permitted them because he wanted the pigs dead. Go ahead demons; purge Israel of its swine.

Okay, now back up a few yards and let’s think about how contrary to Jesus’s character this interpretation is.

Secret Christians.

by K.W. Leslie, 03 May

Most of the time, this particular teaching of Jesus has the effect of getting Christians to quit waffling and publicly declare themselves Christian. ’Cause Jesus doesn’t want secret followers.

Matthew 10.32-33 KWL
32 “So everyone who agrees with me before people: I’ll also agree with them before my heavenly Father.
33 But those who disown me before people: I’ll also disown them before my heavenly Father.”

Though y’might notice there were secret Christians in Jesus’s day. Nicodemus of Jerusalem and Joseph of Arimathea were two rather obvious followers… but give ’em credit; they did out themselves by entombing Jesus. Jn 19.38-42 We don’t have Jesus’s comments about them, but since they rather publicly got involved “before people” when push came to shove, I seriously doubt Jesus is gonna disown either of them at the End.

Thing is, there are a number of people who secretly, privately, personally believe in Jesus. But they don’t have the balls to step forward and publicly say so. Maybe they’ll say so in private… but sometimes not even then. “My religion is none of your business,” is their usual cop-out. “Religion is private.”

True, some religious practices are private, or certainly should be. Like prayer. But identifying with Jesus of Nazareth? Not so much other fellow Christians; we can be awful, so I get that. Still, denying Jesus? You realize Simon Peter still gets crap for doing exactly that. And rightly so; it was a dick move. As it is when anybody pretends they don’t know him when they do.

Which is precisely why Jesus makes this kind of deal about it. If you love him, you’re gonna acknowledge him. You’re gonna defend him to people who don’t think so much of him, or don’t think so much of anyone who puts their trust in him. You’re gonna stand up when it counts. Even when it might mean you’ll suffer consequences. Especially then; it’s hardly a significant gesture when there aren’t any consequences.

And yet we still have such creatures as incognito Christians. Who sometimes show up when we really need ’em, like Joseph and Nicodemus; but who more often cave under pressure, like Peter that one time. And to Peter’s credit, it’s a mistake he never made again.

Facing Jerusalem.

by K.W. Leslie, 01 May

It’s a really old custom which you might not know about.

Before Solomon ben David, the fourth king of Israel, the LORD’s worship site had consisted of a tent in Jerusalem. Solomon personally supervised the construction of a gold-plated cedar temple, and the day he dedicated it to the LORD, here’s some of what he prayed:

1 Kings 8.28-30 KWL
28 “Turn to your slave’s prayer. To show him grace, my LORD God. To hear his shout of joy.
To the prayer which your slave prays to your face today.
29 May your eyes be open towards this house night and day,
to the place of which you said, ‘My name is there.’
To hear the prayer which your slave prays towards this place.
30 You will hear your slave’s petition, your people Israel, who pray towards this place.
As you sit in the heavens, you’ll hear and forgive.”

More than once in his prayer, Solomon mentions the idea of praying in the direction of the new temple. 1Ki 8.35, 38, 42, 44, 48 And towards Jerusalem, towards Israel, towards the homeland God gave the Hebrews.

Thus it wound up becoming Hebrew practice to pray in the direction of the temple, or of Jerusalem. ’Cause we see Daniel doing it in Babylon.

Daniel 6.10 KWL
Daniel, who knew what was recorded in the writing, entered his house.
The windows in his upper room facing Jerusalem were opened for him.
Three times a day, he knelt on his knees and prayed thanksgiving before God,
just like before, which he used to do previous times.

“Okay,” you might argue, as Christians will: “That’s something Jews practice. They pray to Jerusalem. Gentiles like me don’t have to.”

Nah; Solomon had you covered.

1 Kings 8.41-43 KWL
41 Also to a foreigner, who isn’t of your people Israel, who comes from a faraway land:
Due to your name— 42 when they hear of your great name, strong hand, stretched-out arm—
when a foreigner comes and prays towards this house, 43 you hear in the heavenly place you dwell,
and do everything which was requested of you by the foreigner.
Thus every people on earth can know your name and respect you like your people Israel;
thus they know your name can be called via this house which I built.”

After all, Solomon knew the LORD isn’t only Israel’s God, but everyone’s.

As a result, whenever Pharisees built synagogues in Jerusalem, they made sure their buildings faced temple. And whenever they built synagogues in other parts of Palestine and the world, they made sure their buildings faced Jerusalem. ’Cause while Solomon’s prayer isn’t a biblical command or anything, it was a custom which they sorta saw the value in.