Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Up on the mountain

Jesus praying - Artist unknown
Jesus praying - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Mark 3:7-19

TO CHEW ON: "And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him." Mark 3:13

Have you ever noticed how many significant Bible events happened on mountains?

  • Noah's ark came to rest on Mount Ararat - Genesis 8:4.
  • Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah - Genesis 22:2.
  • Moses saw the burning bush on Mount Horeb - Exodus 3:1-2.
  • The law was given on Mount Sinai - Exodus 19:11,20.
  • Blessings and curses were spoken from mountains. Numbers 23:14,27; Deuteronomy 11:29; 27:11-13).
  • Moses saw the promised land from the top of Mount Nebo - Deuteronomy 34:1.
  • Elijah and the priests of Baal had it out on Mount Carmel - 1 Kings 18:19.
  • Jesus' last temptation took place "on an exceedingly high mountain" - Matthew 4:8.

In our reading today, Jesus calls the disciples to Him on the mountain. The Luke account of this incident fills in a bit more detail. Luke tells us that Jesus went to the mountain to pray and after praying all night, He called all his disciples to Himself and from that larger group "chose twelve whom he also named apostles" - Luke 6:12,13.

Why so many mountains? What's special about them?

Physically Mount Ararat's height was the first obstacle tall enough to ground Noah's boat after the flood. Perhaps the ancients felt that the height of a mountain brought them closer to the divine—whatever god they worshiped. We find lots of "high places" as worship spots in the Old Testament. It was a natural spot for the competition between Elijah and Baal.

A mountain takes effort to climb. Abraham making the journey, then climbing Mount Moriah demonstrates a real desire to obey God who told him where to make his sacrifice. Reaching its summit is an intentional activity.

Because it takes effort to get to a mountaintop, it is a place of isolation. Few make it to the heights. God told Moses to make sure the Israelites didn't follow him up glory-covered Mount Sinai. Jesus went to the mountain to pray, no doubt partly at least, to get away from the crowds. Later, He was transfigured on Mt. Hermon (Matthew 9:2) in the company of only three disciples.

The mountain is also a place of changed perspective. Balaam and Moses were inspired to bless when looking down over crowds. Moses, could view the promised land of Canaan from the height of Nebo. The devil took advantage of that perspective during his temptation of Jesus when he "showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory" before he made his proposition: "All these I will give You if You will fall down and worship me" - Matthew 4:9. Of course Jesus didn't take the bait.

The mountain top is also a good place for us. We may not be able to climb a literal mountain to pray and spend time with God. But many of the mountain's characteristics are things we enjoy metaphorically when we meet with Him.

  • His presence grabs and grounds the ark of our daily living whatever our physical surroundings. 
  • We make the effort to climb, i.e. make a space in our lives to spend time in His presence. 
  • As we're alone with Him, we converse in prayer and get glimmerings of His glory. 
  • And this mountain time changes our perspective. Concerns of ordinary life drop away as we enjoy His presence. 
  • From this place by faith we look into the future—our promised land of heaven.  

Dear God help me to understand and experience the blessings of spending time on the mountain with You. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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