…and reaching for high places
“Why do you always feel you have to climb mountains?” my wife Linda asked me with a note of exasperation on our recent visit to see friends in Wales.
I avoided the standard answer, “Because they are there!” since, for me, that isn’t the reason; I am not looking to conquer Everest or anything like that, although I did scale the 10 000ft(3 048m) escarpment of the mighty Drakensberg range in South Africa when I was a teenager.
So, as I scrambled up the steep slopes of Cwmcarn in South Wales, I got thinking.
I concluded that it must be a spiritual quest to draw closer to God. It’s so exhilarating to get away from all the noise and clatter of daily life, breathe fresh clean air into your lungs and commune with the Lord about your concerns.
And I found myself reading with fresh insight about the transfiguration of Jesus – how he took his closest friends up a mountain to share in the mighty revelation of who he was. Yes, those who seek a closer walk with God will share in a greater revelation of his power. You will know, for sure, that he is the Son of God – and that you should listen to him! — Matthew 17.5
A true mountaintop experience
A true mountaintop experience awaits those who witness the grandeur of our mighty Creator and hear his still, small voice — 1 Kings 19.12, just as Elijah did on Mt Horeb and as Moses did on Mt Sinai, where he was instructed to write down the Ten Commandments. And in the Sermon on the Mount (of Beatitudes, above Capernaum), Jesus expanded on this with the most sublime teaching ever known as he showed that he had come, not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. Indeed, had Jesus appeared on the mountain with Moses and Elijah to emphasize this very point: that he had come to fulfill both the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah)?
God’s words are heard most clearly on the mountaintop. That’s why there’s an ongoing battle for the high places, both in the physical and spiritual realm. Thus the Golan Heights are strategically vital for Israel’s security. We also saw how Elijah, through his courage and confidence in God, defeated the false prophets on Mt Carmel. And there is an ongoing battle over Jerusalem – also known as Mt Zion – as evil schemes multiply against the city God calls his own.
Through our prayer and proclamation, we need to recapture the high places for the God of Israel, paving the way, in the spirit of Elijah and John the Baptist, for the return of the Messiah.
A bright light
I’ll never forget an experience some 35 years ago when, on one of my mountain walkabouts, I gazed intently across the valley at a large cross erected on the hilltop as part of an Easter message. It was dusk, the cross was lit up, and I found myself focusing my attention on the symbol, meditating on its meaning, when all of a sudden I was surrounded by a bright light.
I checked to see if it might have been car headlights, but there was no-one about. It was an awesome, yet frightening moment as I felt the presence of God. I guess it was a little taste of what those three disciples felt on the Mount of Transfiguration. Matthew wrote that they were “terrified”. It’s not the sort of experience that is supposed to make us feel important, but to humble us, which is why the Master told them: “Don’t be afraid.”
On another occasion around that time, I was contemplating the launch of an evangelistic newspaper when, as I got to the top of a hill, I was stunned by the view before me. But the Lord dropped the words of Isaiah into my mind: How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news…who say to Zion, Your God reigns! — Isa 52.7. Yes, an evangelist’s feet are more beautiful even than the mountains and valleys of our Creator! (The paper still circulates around the UK, and has won many to the Lord.)
And whereas the giving of the Law on Mt Sinai came amidst a terrifying spectacle of fire and shaking, the prophet Haggai wrote that a time would come when God would once more shake all nations (again preparing for the return of Messiah – see Haggai 2.6f) so that, as explained in Hebrews 12.27 — what cannot be shaken will remain.
Amazing 9/11 survivor testimony
Talking of high places and what cannot be shaken, witness the amazing testimony of Stanley Praimnath, the only known survivor from the impact zone at New York’s World Trade Centre towers on September 11 2001.
As United Airlines 175 was about to strike Tower 2 in front of his very eyes, Stanley cried out to God and dived under his desk as part of the wing sliced through his 81st floor office. Everything was smashed except his desk which, with his Bible on top of it, provided him temporary cover before making his incredible escape. Within an hour, the 110-storey building collapsed, as its twin had done, leaving 3 000 dead and the iconic Manhattan skyline covered in smoke and dust.
Stanley’s riveting tale is chronicled in Plucked from the fire (Rosedog Books) co-authored with William Hennessey.1
“My survival is all about God and his grace, because I’m not a hero,” he says. “The Lord is the hero. If you call on Him with all your heart and soul, he will intervene on your behalf and deliver you.”
For him, 9/11 can also now be seen in a positive light as 91.1 – in other words, Psalm 91, verse 1, which says: Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I am particularly moved by the picture of the Bible on Stanley’s desk. As that massive skyscraper shook and collapsed from a blazing furnace, God’s Word remained – and saved its owner.
Speaking of the end times, Jesus said: Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away — Matthew 24.35.
Why not climb that mountain and seek the Lord? You will surely hear his still, small voice.
1 See Godreports by Mark Ellis, September 10 2016; also reported by ASSIST News Service (ANS)