Gilland: The mountaintop experience

Several years ago, I had the privilege of taking a trip to Israel, and it was quite an adventure. I had no ability to anticipate all that I would see in this country that was the site and stage for so many of the biblical accounts I held so dear.

There were a couple of things that really stood out. One was the fact that Israel was the rockiest place I had ever seen! Every field was seemingly teeming with rocks. It gave me an entirely different perspective on Luke 19:40, which states: “If we don’t praise Him, even the rocks will cry out.”

In Israel, I realized that more than just a few rocks would be available for that task.

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Another thing that surprised me was the hilly terrain, especially in Jerusalem. Our trip ended in this most important city. In biblical times, it was the home of many mountaintop experiences for the Psalmists, including David. It was the site and destination for the annual conference-type festivals, such as the Feast of the Tabernacle and the Feast of the Passover.

These were special days, set aside for all Jews, as the Israelites would leave their routines, their homes, and their occupations for one purpose: to gather together in celebration of the one true God.

While many aspects of their worship would be different from ours today, there are some similarities. They loved to sing praises to God. They would hear the teaching of the Word of God, and they would enjoy rich fellowship.

But no feast, festival or conference lasts forever. It is true now, and it was true then. It wasn’t long until those who had made the pilgrimage for the feast had to return home. They couldn’t live forever “up on the mountain.”

When I was there, I often thought of King David, who sought the Lord on those hills, while watching over his father’s sheep. Without a doubt, David had many mountaintop experiences with God.

But for David, coming to the mount of God meant more than a particular place or spot. David’s mountaintop was the presence of the LORD! When the only joyful noise filling his ears was the bleating of contented sheep, he was training himself to marvel at the wonder of God.

David became proficient at playing the harp—not in the company of King Saul, or in some band with friends, learning all the latest “harp licks.” No, without a doubt, he perfected this craft in solitude, all alone before God, singing to Him songs of praise and worship.

David sought the Lord, not the mountaintop experience. Even much later, when Nathan the prophet confronted him saying, “You are the man,” David gained solace and comfort in the presence of God.

Psalm 51 is one of the most passion-filled sections of scripture. It is the picture of a broken man, crying out to a merciful God, asking Him not to remove His holy presence from him. His longing was to taste once again the sweetness that is found in true fellowship with the Lord.

Mountaintop experiences are indeed refreshing. But no one ever stays in that place. God calls us back into daily life, and there, waiting for us all, are the valleys of life.

But even in the valley, His presence is near. And His presence beats the mountain view every time.

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