Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart. (Psalms 24:3-5)
Many years ago, I read a book called Hinds’ Feet on High Places. It's an allegory that recounts the story of a girl called Much Afraid who has been called by the Shepherd (Christ), to travel to a place of maturity. However, in order to do that, there was much cleansing and purifying that had to take place along the way. To help Much Afraid reach the high places she is guided by her two companions Sorrow and Suffering.
The Hebrew word 'aliyah' means ‘ascent' or ‘rise'. In John’s gospel we read of Jesus making the ascent to Jerusalem.
John 2:13 When the Jewish Passover was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
John 5:1 Some time later there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
The city of Jerusalem lies approximately 2,500 feet above sea level on a relatively high mountain ridge so Jesus would literally have been climbing up to Jerusalem. Psalms 120-134 bear the label ‘songs of ascent’. Many scholars believe that these psalms were sung by worshippers walking up the road to Jerusalem for the three great pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Tabernacles and Pentecost, or by the priests as they climbed the 15 steps for their service in the temple, symbolically ascending to God.
God is always beckoning us to come up higher to a cleaner, wider and holier place. He has set His heart on leading us to the high places where we too, like Much Afraid, can leave the lower levels of spiritual life and rise to a place of maturity. We read these beautiful words:
The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places. (Habakkuk 3:19)
Can you feel the draw? Is there a longing in your heart to ascend? Do you wish that you too could have hinds’ feet and walk on high places? If so, then learn a lesson from Much Afraid. In order to ‘clean your hands’ and ‘purify your heart’, you have to accept the companions He gives you to guide you to that place no matter how uncomfortable their presence may seem. Could ‘Loneliness’ in lockdown be one of the companions that has been assigned to you in recent months? Or perhaps it’s ‘ Boredom’ or ‘ Frustration’. At first, Much Afraid shrank away with dreading from her companions but, in time, she learned that the Shepherd had chosen rightly. You can learn that too as you persevere in your journey to the high places.
The song of the high mountains is calling me
And all the sunlit valleys speak my name
Shining rivers call me on
So Lord I come, Lord I come
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