Why mountains?

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2 NKJV).

I have been blessed with opportunities to travel to many parts of the earth. I have visited five of the seven continents, and at least thirty different countries. I have visited some of the world’s harshest deserts, beaches on many different oceans, seas and lakes, tiny villages, and huge metropolitan areas. Of all the places and geographic categories that I have experienced, my overwhelming favorite is the mountains. From the moderate heights of the Appalachians in the eastern U.S., to the towering Himalayas, there is just something awesome and wonderful about all of the mountain ranges I have seen.

Part of my preference for mountains is undoubtedly the emphasis placed upon them in the Bible. The mountains of the mid-east, for the most part, are scarcely more than hills when compared to the famous ranges of Europe, other parts of Asia, and the Americas. Yet they are prominent in the inspired story.

The Law of Moses was given on Mount Sinai (Exodus 18ff). Moses died and was buried on Mount Nebo (Deuteronomy 34:1ff). King Solomon built the first temple to God on Mount Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1).

In the New Testament, Jesus preached on the mountain (Matthew 5:1), and was transfigured on a different mountain (Mark 9:2). He went to the mountain to pray privately (Matthew 14:23), and to teach and heal the sick (Matthew 15:29-31). At the end of his time on earth he ascended to heaven from Mount Olivet (Acts 1:12).

In addition to these literal references to mountains, there are also many figurative and spiritual references. The Psalmist lifted his eyes to the hills – likely a reference to the Temple of God above the city of Jerusalem. Jews and Samaritans argued over which mountain was the appropriate place from which to worship God (John 4:20). Paul used Mounts Sinai and Zion as allegories of two covenants (Galatians 4:25).

What is it that makes mountains so special? I cannot speak for others, and especially not for God, but here are features that continually draw my attention to the hills.

First, it is their beauty. Few (if any) sights on earth can compare to a vast range of snow-capped peaks stretching into the distance, or for that matter to one soaring mountain dwarfing all that is around it. When I was limited to film cameras I had to ration my pictures, but now, with a digital and extra batteries and storage discs I can snap to my heart’s content. That means I take pictures as soon as the mountain peaks come into view, and continue until they are no longer visible. I am that overwhelmed by their magnificence.

Second, mountains are special because of their remoteness and the solitude and peace they provide. I love people, but sometimes I need some quiet. Few places afford more privacy than the slope of a mountain. When I am in the Himalayas there are no engine noises, no horns blowing or brakes screeching, and no televisions or radios blaring. What better place to pray, meditate on positive things (Philippians 4:8) or simply to “be still and know . . . God” (Psalm 46:10).

Finally, there is the sense of being somehow closer to the spiritual and eternal. Yes, I understand that heaven is “up” in a metaphorical sense, not literally. God’s throne-room is in a spiritual dimension, not somewhere in a distant galaxy in this created universe. But we instinctively look up when we speak of or to him. Psalm 121:1 may have been referring to this natural inclination and ensuring that it was properly focused. When we look up, it is not a specific physical place or structure to which we are turning, but to him who created all places.

I love mountains partly because I think of myself as being closer to God there. In every sense God is above us. He is greater, more powerful, more glorious, more wise, and more wonderful. Look up, and look to God.

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