Nature tells us a story. It’s the handwriting of God all around us. Galaxies and gardens, insects and animals, the rising and setting sun, the wind and waves all sing songs about the faithful and intentional love of an orderly Creator. Landscapes and the living were made to worship Him, to evoke heavenly joy from every breathtaking brushstroke found in God's creation.
Jesus said even the stones would cry out if the praises of His people were silenced, underscoring God's incomparable worthiness (Luke 19:40). God is constantly revealing Himself to us, unseen yet everywhere, in all things that were made by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16).
“For His invisible attributes, that is His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made” (Romans 1:20).
Even in natural disasters - hurricanes and earthquakes, storms and sink holes - we see God's power and feel our finite and infinitesimal nature. His sovereignty is a comfort if you are on His side and a terror if you are not.
Excluding mankind, who is made in the image of our Maker, mountains are perhaps the pinnacle of God’s glory with peaks that scrape the sky. These giant rock formations were raised sharp and rugged to reflect the immovable character of God. The mountains are etched with metaphors about humanity's relationship with the One who deems heaven His throne and the earth His footstool (Isaiah 66:1).
In the mountains are a quarry of lessons longing to be unearthed.
For this Texas girl - born and raised in a flat, concrete city - mountains are a marvel. How I long to escape the heat of the world and crawl into the cool crevice of the rocks to know God's glory and goodness (Exodus 33:22). God designed all of nature to be a resource and refuge to us, so that we would not only enjoy His creation but behold more of Him through it.
Discovering God in life's mountains
Throughout the Bible, mountains were a place to meet with and worship the living God; they represented a place of strength, revelation, and surrender.
One of the first mentions of a mountain in Scripture is when God commanded Abraham, the father to the nations, to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. As if killing a child wasn’t ghastly enough, God was asking Abraham to give up his heir - the very person who would secure his lineage for future generations. Without a son, God’s promise to bless every nation through Abraham and make his offspring as numerous as the stars couldn’t be fulfilled (Genesis 15:5).
More personally, God was asking Abraham to give up the child for which he and his wife, Sarah, had fervently prayed. Shockingly, God asked Abraham to surrender the miracle of his beloved son back to Him.
“‘Take your son,’ He said, ‘your only son Isaac, whom you love (for his other son, Ishmael, birthed by his wife’s servant, had been sent away), go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about’” (Genesis 22:2).
How treacherous this mountain must have seemed to Abraham. How much dread it must have dredged up just thinking about the task that awaited him at the top. Yet, this mountain served as the backdrop for foreshadowing the greatest sacrifice to come some 2,000 years later - God sending His only son to the cross.
Maybe you can relate to Abraham’s “Moriah Moment.” Maybe your current mountain seems grueling, terrifying, even impassable. Perhaps God has given you something precious, prayed for and hard fought – a relationship, a career, a company, a community, a ministry, your health or home or a frequent comfort - yet seems to be asking you to lay it down on the altar as a sacrifice to Him.
God's request may seem abundantly clear, or it may seem confusing and even cruel. Maybe it's all of the above. It must have seemed that way to Abraham at first, too.
Yet, we would be wise to follow Abraham’s example of trusting and obeying God anyway. Because Abraham knew what is still true for us today:
Our circumstances, like shifting rocks ready to avalanche at any time, stand in stark contrast to the firm and secure Rock of our salvation (Deuteronomy 32:4, I Samuel 2:2).
Our faith and the decisions we make must be fixed to the character of God.
Why God tests us
By asking Abraham to sacrifice his only son, God tested him but not in the way we might think. It wasn't a trap. God brought this test to Abraham not to fail him but to bring him through it. God was seeking to reveal Abraham’s character. This test was actually an opportunity for Abraham to prove where his faith and commitment to God stood.
Big tests require big faith, which can only be found by abiding in Jesus.
God brings tests to us for similar reasons: to grow our faith, to humble us, to increase our love for Him and others, to knock down idols and strongholds, and to grab hold of our entire hearts.
How easy it would have been for Abraham to coddle Isaac and become possessive of his heir and only son. His obedience showed both God and himself that his devotion was appropriately exclusive to God and God alone.
Like a strategic warrior, God knows the greater the ask of us, the greater the faith needed in Him and the greater the need to abide in Him.
Taking tests in faith
Before setting out for the stomach-churning ascent where Abraham would sacrifice his son, he told his servant - in bold faith - that the boy and he would worship and both return (Genesis 22:5). Abraham told inquisitive Isaac that God - not he - would make provision for the burnt offering (Genesis 22:8).
Abraham's worship depended solely on God's dependability.
Yet, I can't think of a worse time to worship. The state of affairs was bleak. This sacrifice was God's idea, after all. But Abraham knew that although his flesh may fail him, his faithful God would not. Abraham didn't decide to worship based on the circumstance or his understanding of it. He didn’t know God would provide a ram that day in the place of Isaac. He didn't know the end of the story or the "how" behind God's solution.
Yet, he chose to enter into the unknown with a faithful and worshipful heart. He chose to abide in the One who makes mountains and man rise and fall.
What a wonder worship is when we find ourselves in a situation that incites complaint, protest and fear.
Worship proclaims God’s goodness even when the situation screams otherwise.
Worship surrenders our agendas, expectations and five-year plans for Spirit-saturated living.
Worship speaks the truth that God seeks not to tempt or taunt or torture us but to refine us to become more like Him.
When King David was in distress and needed to be delivered from his enemies, he sang:
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2).
King David, the former shepherd boy who spent years herding in the fields between the mountains of Bethlehem and Ramah, knew and proclaimed that God is more unshakeable and powerful than the direst of circumstances.
God is indeed our Rock.
Despite being pursued by those who wanted to kill him, David could sing to the Lord because of Who He was.
Refinement, revelation and relationship
Whatever figurative mountain you are climbing today, know that God longs to reveal His faithfulness to you on it and through it. Your mountain may seem painful and scary and completely uncertain, but rest assured it isn’t a result of your failure or fickle heart.
God acts on His own faithfulness, not on our mistakes and unfaithfulness.
Your mountain isn’t a punishment or from a lack of God’s love for you. It is actually part of His plan to prosper you (Jeremiah 29:11). For all things work together for the good of those who love God (Romans 8:28). All of our ascents and descents in life, our successes and setbacks, are led by God’s sovereign and righteous hand to bring us closer to His image and likeness.
"Put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption" (Psalm 130:7).
Yet, so often, it can seem the exact opposite, and our limited minds cannot comprehend how any goodness can come from what God plans or allows.
“Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac. In his hand he took the fire and the knife, and the two of them walked on together” (Genesis 22:6).
As Abraham painfully plodded one foot in front of the other, he couldn't have fathomed the significance his faith in God would have on future generations.
This test wasn't only for him.
Just as Abraham laid wood on his son’s back to carry for the sacrifice, God laid the cross on Jesus's back to atone for the sins of the world.
Just as believing the Lord was credited to Abraham as righteousness, belief in Jesus as Lord is credited to us for eternal salvation (Genesis 15:6, Romans 10:9).
Just as father Abraham carried the fire and the knife, God the Father carries our refinement and revelation.
Our God is an all-consuming fire, purifying us to reflect His image, and equipping us with His Word, the Sword of the Spirit, to reveal the boulders of His truth and grace (Hebrews 12:29, Ephesians 6:17).
Can you imagine Abraham as he raised the knife over his rope-bound son? Because even strong faith has doubts and desires that beg God to move mountains.
But your mountain is part of the road to refinement, revelation and deeper relationship with Jesus, if only you abide in Him and follow in faith.
Your test isn't just for you.
We must trust that God will provide on whatever mountain we are facing, even when provision seems implausible.
“Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in the thicket by its horns … and offered it as a burnt offering in the place of his son … and He named that place The Lord Will Provide, so today it is said: It will be provided on the Lord’s mountain” (Genesis 22:13-14).
Just as God provided the ram to take the place of Isaac, God provided his own Son, the Lamb of God, to take our place (John 1:29). He will never stop providing for us once we are eternally bound to Him.
Know that whatever hardship God allows, He will redeem and far outweigh with the blessings birthed from it (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Scripture shows us that surrender to God precedes blessings from God.
"Because you have done this thing and not withheld your son [insert your own area of sacrifice here], I will indeed bless you..." (Genesis 22:16-17).
Big tests require big faith that yields even bigger results: deeper relationship with Jesus, richer refinement of your faith, and greater revelation of His Word.
Trust that whatever you are facing today, that mountain is really the Lord’s. Name your mountain Moriah and trust that God will provide for it and see you through it
Abide in Jesus, be worshipful and be blessed.