The modern Christian rightfully covets the intimacy and gifts that overflow from the often powerful interactions with the living God that occur atop mountains; but the tops of mountains are not where we are called to remain and this is because God’s work is done amongst His people on the ground.
Recently I hiked a section of the Appalachian Trail that encompassed 4 peaks totaling 3,000 feet in elevation changes over the course of 20 miles.
Each time I would slowly trudge up an incline I would need to pause to rest and to shift the weight I was carrying. I’d also pause once atop the peak and ponder staying as long as I could. Each peak was decorated with makeshift camps of clear spaces and makeshift fire circles of collected stones. The peaks of mountains, on the trail, are places to rest, survey, and enjoy community.
Mountains are significant Biblically and Historically both as setting for some of the most important events and interactions man has with God as well as effective allegorical tools in explaining life, God, and the way to a people well versed with the challenges mountains were known to pose.
The Jewish people were historically a nomadic people, often venturing over treacherous mountain passes or retreating to them in times of persecution. Psalms poetically describes mountains both as a source of help and also as a place of refuge.
God reveals His nature to Moses on the peak of a mountain by giving him the ten commandments, demonstrates His power and sovereignty by delivering Elijah victory over the prophets of Baal by bringing down His holy fire on top of a mountain, and also reveals His triplicate form to the disciples on a mountain top during the transfiguration.
It’s worth noting though: the ten commandments would have served no purpose if Moses did not descend from the mountain to deliver them to the people. Although Elijah partook in the victory atop the mountain over the prophets of Baal and won many people to God, he next had to fulfill God’s mission by descending into the valley to do the work of God. During the transfiguration, the disciples wanted to stay on top of the mountain and build monuments to Jesus and other great men of God. They explained this desire by declaring “It is good for us to stay here”.
It takes great work to move from the valley to the peak. We are shown great love through grace by God once we have reached the top. We feel more whole, more free, more secure, and more release from burden and weight than ever. It seems we can breathe more deeply, sing more loudly, see more clearly. But it is not God’s intention we live isolated and unchallenged there.
It is God’s will we continue to move forward, counting with faith each stone and step we must take as each step builds character while revealing our reliance on God. By traversing mountains and continuing down long uneven roads we understand God better and become more like Him.
We also allow God to reveal His will to us by moving forward indifferent of whether we perceive our destination to be ordained or not – consider Paul, interrupted on level ground while embarking on what he believed to be an ordained mission to silence heretical Christians, and confronted with the life changing truth that Jesus is all that is true, and that even Saul was not disqualified from God’s ferocious love. Even he was being called away into greater relationship with God, called by a new name and to the wilderness to dwell amongst mountainous terrain in a time of fellowship, anointing, and preparation for getting back to the road, this time with God’s destination in mind.
Our refuge sits atop a steep mountain at the peak giving us glimpse of what we cannot often see. It is good for us meet God there and see Him clearly. But the call on our life given by God is one that changes our identity by revealing it for what it really is – a people that continue to walk and faithfully pursue God’s glory by bringing word of hope, love, truth, and order down from the mountain. It changes who we are and therefore what we do and why.
We are invited to the peak, but we are called to the valley, and both are done by He who is true by a love that is mighty.