As we stand willing to die on our mountains of grace and truth, the story of Israel on her two mountains reminds us that God is not there with us; God is in the valley. And so, too, are His priests.
When Israel reached the Promised Land and took their places on two mountains, the Scriptures tell us that the Levites, the priests, and the Ark of the Covenant stood in the valley between them. Thus, when the group on one mountain spoke the promises of the blessings of God, they spoke through the presence of God to the group on the other mountain. And when the group on the other mountain spoke the promises of the curses of God, they spoke through the presence of God to the group on the other mountain.
And the presence of God itself dwelt in the place where the amens echoed.
That is a powerful testimony, and a convicting one, particularly for a people who are so busy shouting from their mountains that they haven't stopped to consider the presence of God in any of it. Particularly for a people who have not once shouted amen. Particularly to a people who are so convinced that they are truly divided, even when the testimony of Israel is that they must still be one.
The presence of God dwells not in the place where either grace or truth are being proclaimed, but in the place where they both are; in the valley where these promises of God echo.
And we cannot ignore here the presence of the priests and the Levites, either. These are the men who were chosen to serve God at the altar, those who were responsible for His house. Here they are, standing in the place where both law and mercy stand, where the very presence of God dwells between the mountains of blessings and curses, between the camps of grace and truth.
This is the place where many of us, increasingly many of us, find ourselves today. We hear the shouts of truth from the one mountain, and we know that there is something to that. God certainly has said these things; He certainly requires them. These truths are nestled in the very heart of God, and we cannot ignore them. But we know this is not the whole story. This is not the whole testimony of God.
We hear the shouts of grace from the other mountain, and we know that there is something to that, too. God has certainly said these things; He certainly provides them. This grace is nestled in the very heart of God, and we cannot ignore it. But neither is this the whole story. This is not the whole testimony of God, either.
So what we find happening is that as the shouts from the mountains increase, more and more of us are finding ourselves down in the valley, called among the faithful, standing in the place where both law and mercy stand, in the very presence of God somewhere between the mountains of blessings and curses, between the camps of grace and truth.
And we're aching for an amen.
We're aching to hear those words that we know will mean that the camps are starting to turn back toward each other, that they are starting to look again into the same valley, that they are starting to see that the presence of God is not on their mountain, but between them. We're longing to hear that affirmation that God is not just grace and not just truth, not just blessings and not just curses, but both. Both because He requires to be both. Both because the Cross requires Him to be both.
Maybe I've overestimating here. Maybe there aren't a lot of us in the valley. Maybe most of us really are willing to die on our mountains. But I have to be honest and say that I'm not one of them. I'm just not. I'm standing in the valley, and I'm aching. My heart is hurting. I'm longing to hear just one faint whisper of an amen, which will set this valley echoing in the affirmation of our God. I keep hoping, maybe foolishly, that one of the mountains will start it. That someone, somewhere, in one of these camps will hear the shouts of the other and say, "Yes. Yes, I know that to be true."
But maybe I'm naive. Maybe I'm waiting and hoping and longing for a thing that's never going to happen. Maybe if it's really what I'm aching for, I've got to get it going. Maybe it will do something, maybe even some good.
So I stand in the valley and draw my breath, and when the courage in my spirit has reached its peak, just before I lose heart altogether, I whisper amen.