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Monday, May 9, 2011

Mowing Down Mountains

In Biblical symbolism, we frequently see mountains portrayed as a meeting place between man and God (see my post God of the Mountains and the Valleys), or as a stronghold and refuge against trouble.  There is another way the ancients viewed them, which is far less grand or encouraging--the mountain as an obstacle or barrier.

There is nothing more forbidding than a mountain that you have to climb over to reach what you want.  I think this is why the Carpathian mountains, the Himalayas,  and other such ranges have served as an ancient barrier between cultures for centuries.  Mountains are too steep to haul many possessions over them, and the effort itself is dangerous to travelers on foot, so most of the time the preferred option is to go around, or not go at all.

There are things in this life that are just like those mountains.  We feel God has set our feet on a path to go somewhere, or do something, and then suddenly a mountain rises up and seems to bar the way.  It might be financial, it might be educational, it might be a health crisis or a relationship problem, but whatever it is, it is enough to cause dismay.  You might be wondering how you are going to get over it or around it, to do what God has charged you to do.  I can confess I woke up feeling just that way this morning.

When I think back through all the times I've read the Bible, I can't think of a single time when God has challenged His people to break a mountain into pieces and move it out of their way, or any passages when God told His followers, "This mountain is too high. Go around."  Rather, it seems that they are always being directed to watch their path, that is, where their feet were currently treading, not the horizon ahead.  Somehow, barriers both natural (like the Jordan river) and unnatural (like the Canaanite tribes) had mostly evaporated when they got there, and what had seemed forbidding on the horizon was nothing under their feet.

Why?  Because God traveled there first, and it was God's power that saved the day.  By the end of it, their faith had moved them forward, trusting in God, but His power had moved the mountain.  As Jesus said, “Have faith in God....Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them," (Mark 11: 22-23 NIV 2011; italics mine).

I believe that God loves us enough that He looks at the terrors that lie ahead of us and clears obstacles out of our paths, so that our feet will not slip and lead us into sin and error (Psalm 66: 8-9). I believe this is one reward for those who follow Him. Today, let us learn to watch our own feet carefully so we stay on the path that God has swept clear for us, and leave the rest to Him.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3: 5,6 NIV 2011)