Climb the mountain but leave the idols alone
I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121: 1-2
Mountain-top experiences. We’ve probably all had them in our faith.
Did you ever think that maybe a mountain is not a great place to be? As a Kentuckian by birth, and growing up in the foothills of the Appalachia, I always found the small mountains surrounding my hometown to be comforting and pleasant to look at. In fact, the command “take to the hills” usually meant a retreat to safety; and if you’ve seen Sound of Music when the Von Trapp family was pursued by Nazis, they took to the Alps with the Mother Superior of the convent saying the comforting Scripture I quoted you from Psalm 121.
However, when that Psalm was written, the God-fearing Hebrews had a totally different view of “the hills.” They were usually perilous and evil – more like “The Misty Mountains” of Lord of the Rings than the Alps of Rodgers and Hammerstein. The hills were often where pagans were worshipping. In Kings and Chronicles we read:
They also set up for themselves high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree.
Most of even the good Kings of Israel were too afraid to go up and destroy the idols on the tops of the mountain. In fact, many times in describing a king, Scripture says:
The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.
In the book, We Become What We Worship by G.K. Beale, Brother Beale says this statement over and over again, “What you revere, you resemble, either for ruin or for restoration.” This powerful statement certainly warns us of the danger of idolatry – even an attempt of a graven image of God – for three very good reasons:
God had not revealed Himself in any form, Deuteronomy 4:12-16, 23-25.
Distinction between the Creator and the created.
Incomparable to pagan gods, Isaiah 40:18-26.
It is so crucial that our worship be purely toward the Lord, and directed fully to him – not to the act of worship itself. Let us guard our hearts from “worshipping worship” instead of seeking the Lord – His teachings, His passion and His wisdom.
How do we know that our worship is a pure offering? Probably the best key to that is in self-examination using Beale’s corollary, “What you revere, you resemble …” – so, do we seem like Jesus. This is the sweet, sweet by-product of a worshipping life.
Regardless of the peril of climbing “The Hill” (which happens to be one of my favorite places in St. Louis – another “hill”), we are promised if we trust in HIM, our “foot will not slip” and “He will not slumber.” As summer is looming large, maybe it’s time to climb the hill and do some damage. What idols remain up there that you ignore like the lukewarm Kings of Israel? Start today by just committing to read God’s Word, to pray, and to ask the Lord to walk the hill with you.
Let’s make the mountains safe again. (John Francis is the worship specialist for the Missouri Baptist Convention and produces MoWorship, a monthly worship podcast available at www.mobaptist.org/worship.)