Mountains of God – Mt. Hermon

Mountains of God – Mt. Hermon

Mountains of God – Mt. Hermon.

“Your saving grace and your righteousness are like the mountains of God.” (Psalm 36:6).

Yes, God lives in heaven. But all through Scripture He appears to have a second home here on the earth, in the mountains. God’s personal involvement on mountains deepen the meaning and significance of what mountains have come to symbolize through the ages… stability; safety; permanence; majesty; beauty; spiritual inspiration. One of God’s names in Scripture is El-Shaddai (Genesis 17:1), and an ancient meaning of that name is “God of the Mountain.” It’s easy to see why. God’s attributes can clearly be seen in mountains, including the fixed foundation of His faithful love. “For even if the mountains move and the hills disappear, even then my mercy for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken, says Yahweh Lord, who has mercy on you.” Isaiah is saying that we all know how next to impossible it would be for a mountain to totter and fall. But it’s more likely for mountains to move away than for God to withdraw His unshakeable love for you.

God is like the mountains: He doesn’t change, He stays the same, He is consistently steadfast and stable. Mountains are referenced over 500 times in Scripture. Not only are mountains the go-to place for momentous events all through the Bible, but God Himself made it clear from the beginning that mountains are His first choice as a site to reveal Himself and His favorite place to meet with people. “I lift my eyes to the mountains; where is my help to come from? My help comes from Yahweh Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2).

Down through history people have assumed that since God is in His heavens, the closer one can get to God on high, the more spiritual enlightenment one can receive. There have been pagan shrines and mountaintop gurus as long as we can remember. People have always climbed to the “high places” for heavenly insight and personal contact with the gods, or with God. Irish Christians consider mountains to be one of those sacred “thin places” where the layer between heaven and earth is so thin that a believer can easily step from one to the other. As one person excitedly told Barbara Brown Taylor, ‘You’re sinners going up, but you’ll be saints going down!” People still refer to a special time with God as a “mountaintop experience.” As we study the Mountains of God in Scripture, we come to appreciate how central mountains are in the Word, how important they are to God himself. Mountains will be seen as a sacred part of nature that consistently has seen powerful events and profound conversations between us mere mortals and the Almighty God. Let us rejoice and applaud the God who is the Rock, who has a glorious history of preferring His own mountaintop experiences with us.

“Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced His blessing, even life everlasting.”  (Psalm 133:3).

Mt. Hermon is an ancient, biblical mountain range in northern Israel. It was mentioned long ago by Moses in Deuteronomy 3:8, and by David in Psalm 133. It has long been a singular landmark in Israel, ever since before the time of Abraham. Mt. Hermon is actually composed of three different high peaks, the tallest being about 9,000 feet in elevation, by far the highest peak in Israel. Centuries before Abraham, the top of Hermon was the “chief high place” of pagan worship. Most of the times when the Bible reader sees “high places” it is referring to one of those peaks of Mt. Hermon. Archeologists have discovered there the remains of an ancient cultic site dedicated to Baal. Pagan worshippers believed that the higher one goes up the mountain, the closer one gets to the gods in the sky. At the very top of Mt. Hermon’s highest peak a “shrine of shrines” was discovered. With planted groves of trees and vegetation, and pagan altars, this particular worship site was the primary Baal sanctuary, known as the Palace of Baal. They even discovered the remains of the sacrifices offered there at that altar. This Baal site was even in operation during the time of Jesus.

Mt. Hermon has been an invaluable aspect of that part of the world from time immemorial. Israel’s life and prosperity has depended on Mt Hermon since its existence, because the snow melt and heavy rains on the mountaintop descends below and provides the water needed to fill the Jordan River. The Jordan River in turn is the primary source for all irrigation and electric power in Israel. Even when during the two seasons of dry weather on Hermon, the water is saved and used below, knowing that Mr. Hermon will dependably provide water as soon as the weather permits it. For some believers in Israel, Mt. Hermon’s intermittent provision of water is another way to depend on God’s provision. Israel’s fruitfulness depends on God and the “dew of Hermon,” as it is poetically put in Ps. 133.

The writer of Psalm 121 also contains a hopeful verse regarding the mountains of Israel. “If I look up to the mountains and hills, does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord Yahweh, our Creator who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to stumble. He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who is the Guardian of Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Ps. 121:1-4). Ps. 121 is one of the “psalms of ascent” over which there is some dispute (Psalms 120-134). Some scholars say that songs of ascent refer to the songs believers would sing as they climbed their way up the hills to worship at the Temple during the three Feasts each year. Others say that these fifteen songs of ascent were sung by the priests as they walked their way up the fifteen steps to the center of the Temple’s courtyard. The priests would sing a different song of ascent as they progressed up the fifteen steps. On each step they would stop and sing the corresponding psalm as they entered into worship. Some scholars claim that songs of ascent refer to ascending musical notes, in which the songs begin in a lower register and steadily ascend to the higher notes. Still others claim that these songs of ascent were sung by returning exiles from Babylon as they went up the hills to Jerusalem their homeland. In fact, one Hebrew manuscript gave these psalms the name, “Songs of the Homeward Marches.” Finally, many scholars maintain that the songs of ascent were meant spiritually, that they were intended to assist believers in elevating God, to lifting Him higher and higher as they ascended in their songs, which begins with a rather despondent tone in Psalm 120 and goes up from there.

Honestly, all these claims of the meaning of songs of ascent could be true. We don’t have to worry about the “true” meaning of this biblical term, since these songs could easily be sung in many contexts. I like to personally think of Ps. 121 as the reflections of a believer looking upon the peaks of Mt. Hermon, and reminding himself as he gazes at the mountains of the solidity, permanence and safety of Lord Yahweh God is even more stable than those ancient mountains, the psalmist is saying. Mt. Hermon was surely a source of inspirations just like that through its history, a way of picturing the sure mercies of the Lord on their pilgrimage of faith.

“My eyes look to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from Yahweh the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2).