Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Dear Pilgrim, are you keeping in step with the Spirit?

Darfo Boario Terme [source: wikicommons. Photo: Luca Giarelli]

Dear Pilgrim, are you keeping in step with the Spirit? Or are you running ahead up the mountain? Are you ever mindful of your need for Him and dependence upon Him, or have you returned to the folly of trusting in your own strength?

O Pilgrim, it is glorious to be atop the mountain peaks where He reveals Himself to His children. To feast your eyes upon magnificent panoramic views, to feel the breeze on your face, to taste the fresh air in your mouth – there is nothing more exhilarating. But take care, precious Pilgrim, that you ascend in step with Him, in response to His call. It may yet be His desire for you to dwell in the valleys awhile. Do not despise the valleys, O Pilgrim. He goes down to look at the new growth in the valley to see if the vines have budded or the pomegranates are in bloom (Song of Songs 6:11). The valleys are a place of growth!

Pilgrim, heed the warning – do not allow the pride of your heart to deceive you, that you make your home on the heights (Obadiah 1:3). Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Do not yield to the temptation to trust in your own strength, your own flesh. Take heed, Pilgrim, for there is another who makes use of the mountain summits - the enemy of our souls.

It was he who, through Balak, called Balaam to the rocky peaks that the people of Israel might be cursed. Balaam, a sorcerer and diviner, was called up to Bamoth Baal, the heights of Baal, from where he could see part of the people of God (Numbers 22:41). They were camped in the Valley of Shittim below, along the east side of the Jordan across from Jericho in the plains of Moab .  O, what a foolish endeavour this was, to attempt to curse those whom the Lord had blessed! For the Lord would not listen to this sorcerer and practiser of divination who loved the wages of wickedness.  Instead, the Lord caused Balaam to bless the people of Israel.

Balaam was called up the mountain by the enemy of our souls a second time, this time to the field of Zophim on the top of the Pisgah mountain range. A second time the Lord ensured that Balaam blessed the people of Israel. God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind. He had blessed His people, and no mere man could change that.

Balaam responded to a third call up the mountains from the enemy of our souls, to Peor, another Moabite mountain. This time, Balaam did not resort to sorcery but turned his face towards the desert and looked out. When he saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, he saw the tabernacle of the Lord at their centre, the dwelling-place of God amongst His people. Israel, encamped in the Valley of Shittim, had the presence of God with them! As the eyes of Balaam took in this glorious sight, the Spirit of God came upon him and he uttered words of profound depth and revelation – expressing the truth that this people of God encamped in the Valley below were blessed in abundance, as had been true of the first people of God on the mountain in Eden – for the Lord their God was with them.

“How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob,
your dwelling-places, O Israel!

Like valleys they spread out,
Like gardens beside a river,
Like aloes planted by the Lord,
Like cedars beside the waters.
Water will flow from their buckets;
Their seed will have abundant water”
(Numbers 24:5-7)

There are many occasions when the Lord calls His people to dwell in the valleys that His purposes might be fulfilled through them. Those on the mountain were working against the purposes of God, yet in His Sovereignty the Lord caused them to bless His people in abundance. The Lord foils the plans of the nations and thwarts the purposes of the people (Psalm 33:10), because it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21).

It was on this same mountain range not long afterwards that the Lord Himself called His own servant up the mountain. Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, ascended Mount Nebo in response to the call of the Lord, in step with His Spirit (Deuteronomy 34:1). And when Moses was atop the mountain peak, having climbed it in the strength of the Lord alone, the Lord Himself came and showed Moses the whole land of Promise –  a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven (Deuteronomy 11:11). For precious Pilgrim, the truth is that when we dwell in the valleys, having had revelation from the peaks, we can see more clearly that He tabernacles with us – and He fills us with joy in His presence whether we are on the mountains above or in the valleys below. For the valleys drink rain from heaven, just as the mountains do.

So Pilgrim, remember that those who are led by the Spirit are the children of God. Allow Him to lead you – whether it be to the mountains or the valleys, to the deserts or to the fertile fields. For blessed are those who have learned to acclaim Him, who walk in the light of His presence (Psalm 89:15).

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