Going Up for the View

From an early age, I was fascinated with heights. I loved propelling myself up through the branches of the trees behind my childhood home. No doubt I enjoyed the physical challenge, and perhaps even the perceived “danger” of it, but I think mostly I was eager for the view from the top. I could see so far, and all around, way down the street to where my friends lived. From that vantage point, I could see places I’d been, and places I might go. I liked that perspective, something I’d never find on the ground.

As I got older I wanted even better views! Mountain trails and glaciers became my pathways to a grander, broader outlook on the world. Still to this day, mountaineering remains one of my great passions. I enjoy the challenge of the climb, but I especially appreciate the otherwise unseen panoramic vista from the top. There’s nothing else quite like it.

In the Bible, it seems God often sends people up to higher terrain in order to give them a different perspective on things, and not just on the scenery. Moses may be the first that comes to mind. It was on Mount Sinai that God revealed to him his great power, and explained to him the nature of the covenant he was establishing with the Israelites (Exodus chapters 19-24). Years later, after their wilderness wanderings, God took Moses to the top of Mount Nebo, from which he showed him the “whole land” (Deuteronomy 34:1-4) that he had pledged to Abraham. From that strategically located summit, Moses looked west across the Jordan River, and in that moment was able to see all that was, and to envision all that was to be according to God’s promise. Surely, it was a true highlight of his life, imagining his people crossing into that fertile countryside and living there. It was for this that he was called, and for this that he served and led, but as we know, he himself was never to make that journey.

Over the last few years, the Spirit has led me with frequency to consider God’s calling on Moses, and to take lessons from his life and ministry. For this very reason, Pris and I planned our recent sabbatical travel specially to visit the places of Moses and the Israelites. Among the many amazing things that we were blessed to see and experience on this remarkable journey, I was able myself to go to the summits of Mounts Sinai and Nebo and get an idea of what Moses saw, and why it was that he had to go up for the view.

Jesus, not surprisingly, also frequented mountaintops, both to refresh as well as impart his new way of seeing things. We’re familiar with those stories, and we can especially recall the account of the Transfiguration, where Moses joined him! The disciples who accompanied him gained a whole new perspective on Jesus and his mission, just as God had in mind.

In their final “post-Easter” mountaintop experience with Jesus, the disciples found themselves with their resurrected Lord on the Mount of Olives, just outside of Jerusalem. Here, too, their view of things would change, as would their lives. “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” they asked him. “That’s not for you to know,” Jesus explained,

“but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

(Acts 1:6-9 NIV)

Jesus was going up – all the way up to heaven – for an even better view. He saw so much more than what was right in front of his disciples. Indeed, from his throne in heaven today, he sees well beyond Israel, and far into the future. He sees the very “ends of the earth,” all nations and peoples for whom he died and rose again. Even as he ascended, he envisioned all the places his disciples, then and now, would some day go, spreading the message of salvation. Imagine that view! There’s nothing else quite like it. In fact, if you get a good glimpse of it, it will change your life.

So, if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ— that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.

(Colossians 3:1-2 The Message)

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