Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Foot of the Mountain

But if you have faith as small as mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move.' 

It's mountain week, and so far, we've looked at Jesus' promise to move mountains, at how moving mountains requires speaking directly to them, and at how some mountains just aren't meant to move; they require climbing. But there's one more response to mountains we have in God's Word, and it, too, involves mountains that don't move.

Some mountains invite you to stand at the foot of them.

That's right. Some mountains move, some mountains beckon, and some mountains simply demand to be respected. It is perhaps this response that is the most challenging for us.

Think about how Israel responded to this when it first shows up in the Bible. It's back in the story of Moses, in the Exodus story. Israel has come to the foot of the mountain, Sinai, and this is a turning point in their journey. Here, Moses steps into his role as prophet and Aaron steps into the shoes of priest. (See my discussion on prophets and priests from a few weeks ago for more on these ideas.) Moses climbs the mountain and enters into the presence of the Lord, the cloud that covers Sinai. The people...stand at the foot of the mountain...and wait.

That's right. They wait.

They come together at the mountain, but God specifically commands them not to gather on the mountain. They come so, so close...and yet, this is not their mountain to climb. Nor is it a mountain they are going to move. So they do what they're told, gather at the mountain, and...wait. They wait on Moses to come back down. They wait to see what's going to happen next in their story. They wait to see what God is going to do. From the foot of the mountain, they've lost sight of Moses, but they can clearly see the glory of the Lord gathered there with him. They know God is present. They just don't know what's going on.

It's a tough place to be, as Israel demonstrates. Moses is only on the mountain for 40 days. We don't know how long into that 40 days it was before Israel started to get restless in the waiting. I've said before that 40 days is that weird sort of time that's long enough to feel like it's a commitment to something, but not so long that it feels like "forever." At some point in these 40 days, Israel just can't wait any more. They clearly see the glory of the Lord still meeting with Moses on Sinai, but that's not enough to sustain the people at the foot of the mountain. They ask Aaron to make them a golden calf. 

They ask for a god that will be with They ask for a god they can put their hands on. A god whose eyes are looking back at Yes, they can see the glory of the Lord, but they have no assurances any more that the glory of the Lord sees them. Yes, they understand the mountain is blanketed in smoke, but where is the god who wraps his arms around them? Nowhere to be found. That's where. They are feeling naked, exposed at the foot of the mountain, as Sinai towers over them.

Sounds a lot like us, doesn't it? 

Imagine if God called you to stand at the foot of the mountains in your life. (Hint: He sometimes does.) Imagine what it must be like (or maybe you already know) to stand at the foot of some of life's biggest challenges, to see clearly that God's presence is in them, but to still struggle with your own nakedness, your own exposure. How long are you willing to stand there? How long are you willing to wait? How long are you content to look at a mountain covered in the glory of the Lord and trust? Or even believe

For most of us, as for Israel, the answer seems to be "not very long." But that's exactly what God calls us to do. Forty days, forty short days - just long enough to feel like a commitment, but not so long as to feel like forever. And we can't do it. We won't do it. We cannot stand restless for so long. 

Either this mountain has to move or we do. 

And when we start to move, our first motion turns us away from God and toward our own idols, our own ideas. It's how we roll.

Sometimes, I wonder what would have happened has Israel not turned away at that mountain. What if they had been content to wait? What if the glory of the Lord right before their very eyes was enough to keep them standing there? What if they didn't let their own restlessness, their vulnerability, their exposure get the best of them? What might have been if the people understood what God asked of them at Sinai - if they had known to stand...and wait?

What might happen for you and I if we understood what God asks of us at our mountains? Yes, Jesus says we have the power to move them. But not all mountains are meant to be moved. Some are meant to be climbed and some...are meant to be respected. 

What are your mountains? And what does God want you to do with them?

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