Up on a mountain

“For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest. . . . But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels” (Hebrews 12:18, 22 NKJV).

What is it about mountains that is so compelling to us? Any list of the greatest tourist attractions on earth will include the Alps, the Andes, and the Himalayas, not to mention Pike’s Peak, Clingman’s Dome, McKinley, Kilimanjaro and many others. Mountains figure prominently in human history (e.g., Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps), and in many of our personal histories.

My wife and I, for example, spent our honeymoon in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. More recently I have been often into and near the Himalayas of Nepal and northern India. It has been some of my greatest experiences to cross high passes in order to preach the gospel of Christ in remote villages. Mountain scenery is spectacular and hugely memorable. Those mountain adventures are very special.

Mountains are also featured often in the Bible. To mention only a few examples:

  • The ark rested after the flood on Mount Ararat (Genesis 8:4).
  • Abraham prepared to offer Isaac as a burnt offering on a mountain of Moriah (Genesis 22:1-14).
  • God revealed the Law of Moses from Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:1ff).
  • Moses viewed the Promised Land from Mount Nebo where he also died and was buried (Deuteronomy 34:1-6).
  • After entering Canaan, Israel renewed the Covenant with God on Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim (Joshua 8:30-35).
  • Jesus taught one of his greatest lessons “on a mountain” (Matthew 5:1ff).
  • Jesus was transfigured “on a high mountain” (Mark 9:2).

Mountains also have obvious spiritual significance in Scripture. The psalmist said, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills” (Psalms 121:1).

The Hebrew writer contrasts literal Mount Sinai with the true spiritual “Mount Zion”/ which is a figure of both the Church and Heaven itself, with all who are in it ā€” God, Christ, angels and departed saints (Hebrews 12:18-24).

Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned from these mentions of mountains is the importance of looking up ā€” not physically but metaphorically. One of our great spiritual songs pleads, “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

The psalmist previously referred to reminds us that it is not the mountains which offer help, but the Lord who often revealed himself in those mountains.

Higher ground is the subject of one of Paul’s most important instructions:

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).

The spiritual realm is the greatest mountain. It is there that we must live if we are to inherit eternal life. Our treasures must be stored there (Matthew 6:19-21) and that is where our true interests must be.

The mountains of this earth hold many attractions to us. Yet they pale by comparison to that mountain in which God dwells, the spiritual mountain of eternal, indestructible Heaven. Let us live so as to spend all eternity with him, in his presence.

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