Come Down from the Mountain
Two inches of snow covered the ground as we spread our tents that December afternoon at Worth Ranch Scout Ranch. When the tents were up, the fire pit dug and fueled, and the boys organized for their afternoon hike, I took a hike of my own to a site called Point Davis not far from our present camp. Point Davis was situated on a ledge overlooking the Brazos River valley. On this day, the river was icing over and all the juniper and oak below were reaching barren fingers skyward in a mosaic of crystalline beauty. A winter wonderland spread out before me, not a picture in a travel magazine, but the real deal. At this moment, no one there to appreciate it but the Lord and me. Wow! What a scene!
This was a real mountaintop experience--on a real mountaintop. I stood about two feet from the edge about three hundred to four hundred feet above the forest below. Maybe not much of a mountain; but for me, a mountain nevertheless. And in those few moments of wonder over the scene spread out before me, I experienced the Lord Himself in ways my city life back east had never imagined.
Most of us don't have mountaintop experiences on real mountains. Then, where do we have them? And just what makes a mountaintop experience? They usually happen on weekend retreats or at Bible conferences. Or they happen at summer youth camps. What makes it a mountaintop experience is the presence of God. A presence that opens our eyes to the wonder of Who He is and what He has done. Wherever we are, His presence moves us to wonder at His works all around us.
The Lord was there on the Point with me. I felt His presence as an almost physical reality. I saw His handiwork in the scene all around me--on top of the mountain and in the forest and river below. I heard His voice, His Spirit within me, reminding me of the question He once asked Job, "Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?" (Job 38:22, KJV) Regardless of where it occurs, that's what a mountaintop experience is. An encounter with God. An experience with God so vivid and powerful it burns itself into your memory. And you don't want to forget it. You don't even want it to end.
We call it a mountaintop experience because so frequently in the Bible men met God on mountains. And the characteristics of their experiences are often similar to what I have described. I think immediately of Moses. In Exodus 24:12, the Lord "said to Moses, 'Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law....'" (NASB) On the mountain, God gave Moses the covenant that shaped the relationship between God and His people. God gave Moses His Word containing directions for holy living and for holy worship, directions designed to establish their relationship.
A "mountaintop" relationship occurs when God's Spirit through His Word cements our relationship with God. This is important. God only speaks to us today through His Word. (For an excellent study of God's speaking to us today, see Is That You, Lord?: The Voice of the Lord, A Biblical Perspective by Gary Gilley. Available at www.svchapel.org/bookstore). We hear God's voice today as we hear it through His Word. His Word preached in church. His Word read and hidden in our hearts through daily reading and study of the Word. And as the Spirit brings that Word to our minds in the circumstances of each day of our lives. But when we experience one of those mountaintop moments, we often get caught up in the experience and lose the sense of passing time. Or the sense of anything else but the presence of God. And we don't want it to end.
But it must end. People who go to the mountain come away changed. They begin to see with new eyes. The world takes on a different hue. The Word of God they heard "on the mountain" has defined a new path to follow in life's course. At this point, we must come down from the mountain. All that wonderful experience with God, all that adventure into God's Word, has prepared us to face the world better equipped to serve the Lord. But to serve Him, we must come down from the mountain. We must face the world in which we are to serve Him. And we must bring the Word of God with us because at the foot of the mountain there is a task waiting for us to take it up. Like Moses, for instance, we need to take up intercessory prayer for God's people. Further, we need to share the experience we've had with those who didn't go to the mountain, but who desperately need to hear of it. But share it by focusing on the God who met us there, on what He shared with us from His Word, how it affected us and changed our lives. How it can provide strength and courage for the journey through the valley beneath the mountain. How it provides our connection to the God on the mountain.