Seeking God in High Places
Come near to God and he will come near to you (Jas. 4:8a, NIV).
Currently I am in Cusco, Peru, for a short time of rest, relaxation, and study.
On Sunday, before my classes started, I was able to take a tour bus out of the valley in which the city of Cusco dwells, and into the mountains that surround it to see a few of the ancient sights where the Incas came to worship the Sun God, Inti, whom they saw as the god of abundance, harvest, and fertility, and whom was the most important of their gods.
It seems that almost all of the early religions of humankind sought out “high places” … mountains, hilltops, roof-tops, towers, etc., as places to call upon God. It was there that they came and said their prayers, confessed their sins, made sacrifices, and where they generally sought their god’s blessing in their lives. And while we sometimes think we have become more sophisticated in our religious thought, there is still something in our DNA that causes us to seek out these “high places” for worship.
Think about it … Abraham went to a high place to sacrifice Isaac. Moses went up on Mount Sinai to encounter God and to receive the Ten Commandments. Paul was taken up into the “seventh heaven.” Even Jesus went up onto the mountain to pray and was transfigured before the disciples.
And today, the “gods” of our world are in the top floors of the skyscrapers and towers that we build for ourselves. That is where our “C” suites exist and where certain wealthy individuals have their penthouses and apartments! Perhaps this is just human nature, but then again, perhaps there is some degree of intention in It as it makes them seem “god-like”.
This human idea that God exists on high and that we must go up to draw near to God is primordial. We understand it intuitively and it crosses many if not all cultures.
But the paradox of our Christian faith is that this eternal God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and who both created and also rules over the universe … while He is too high for us to “go up” to … He has deemed us worthy of coming DOWN to us in human form and in dwelling among us.
The ability to draw near to Him does not require human sacrifices on our part but to seek Him out … maybe in high places, but more often in a closet, a quiet place or even at a table in the local Starbucks.
And when we do that, when we simply pray and ask God to come near to us and to bless us, when we seek His face to understand our short-comings and to contritely seek forgiveness and the opportunity to begin again, He lifts us up to His “high place.” And then, we come to know His abundance … His power … His blessing.
I'm so glad that the God whom I serve does not require a pilgrimage to high places in order to encounter Him, even though when we do make those pilgrimages, He often uses them to further our spiritual journey.
I’m glad that we have a God who loves us enough to come down to us. And, I pray that we will take the time to regularly draw near to Him so that He can come close to our hearts and our lives.
O' God, I am tired and weak, and I cannot make a journey up the mountain to encounter you, but I need Your blessing, Your touch, and Your Love to live this life in abundance as You have so desired. O’ God, I seek to draw near to You … please come close to me that I might feel Your warmth, and that I might experience Your love, and be filled with Your Power from upon high. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran
American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains