The Mountains of the Lord feature bold and large in the unfolding saga of God’s dealings with humankind.
The first biblical reference to the Mountain of the Lord is in Genesis 22:14, which concludes the dramatic story of Abraham’s sacrifice of his son. At the last moment, God substituted a ram for Isaac and the account ends with the words, ‘And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”‘
Approximately 1900 years later Jesus, God the Son, the Lamb of God, gave up His life as a sacrifice on behalf of all humanity. The place where this took place was Golgotha, one of the seven hills of Jerusalem collectively known as Mount Zion. Moriah, the place of Abraham’s sacrifice is also part of Mount Zion, as is Olivet where Jesus mourned over Jerusalem and later ascended back into Heaven. Another biblically famous mountain was Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments from the hand of God. Mount Carmel was the place where God and the prophet Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal.
However, I want to write about possibly the greatest of all the mountains of the Lord: Mount Hermon.
Hermon is a magnificent, perpetually snow-capped mountain that marked the northern-most border of ancient Israel. It is the highest mountain in the region, but it has a long sloping ridge that descends southwards. Although the waters of the Jordan river come from the melting snow of Mount Hermon, they run underground until they surface at a place on the mountain ridge called Paneas, or Caesarea Philippi. The ancients regarded water sources as gateways to the underworld of the dead and therefore erected temples and shrines nearby to honour their particular gods. As the name suggests, a shrine to the pagan god Pan stood there, as did a memorial to Caesar a self-proclaimed Roman god. The fountainhead of the river Jordan was a low cave appropriated known as ‘the gates of Hades’.
Jesus at Paneas
Matthew 16:13-20 records the trip that Jesus and His disciples took to Paneas. It was there, standing amidst the pagan altars, shrines and temples that Jesus asked, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” This was a theologically loaded term referring to the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, the Representative Man, the new Head of regenerated humanity. Jesus then asked who his disciples thought he was, and Peter, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”.
Jesus on Mount Hermon
In a more subtle and veiled way, this visit to Paneas was as much a confrontation with the powers of Hell as was Elijah’s challenge on Mount Carmel. Hence Jesus’ declaration that He would build his church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). In Paneas He stood as the ultimate prophet, the true Son of Man, but his divinity was yet to be authenticated. This took place further up the mountain ridge on the slopes of Hermon, the Mountain of God. Matthew 17:1-13 records what we know as The Transfiguration.
It is best that you read this account directly from the scriptures, but the highlights are as follow:
- Jesus took Peter, James and John and led them up the mountain where they witnessed something truly remarkable.
- The Lord’s face began to shine like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light.
- Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke with Jesus. Moses was, of course, the first great leader of Israel who had received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. Elijah was the great prophet who defeated the servants of Baal on Mount Carmel. Luke’s Gospel records that they were briefing Jesus on His forthcoming exit from the earth that would take place at Jerusalem.
- Peter was so overcome by witnessing this that he offered to build three shrines, one for each of them. He was probably thinking back to the shrines to the gods he had seen just days before at Paneas.
- However, he was soon corrected when a bright cloud enveloped them and a voice from heaven declared, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him”. Peter and the other two were terrified when they heard this voice and fell face down in worship for they understood that there was but one true God and that they were in his presence. The Voice of God the Father spoke from the cloud. The Holy Spirit transfigured their master gloriously right before their eyes.
God revealed on Mount Hermon
We need to read the full account starting at Panaes and ending at Hermon (Matthew 16:13 – 17:13) to comprehend the importance of what took place on that Mountain of the Lord. Here Jesus of Nazareth was authenticated as both Son of Man and as Son of God – The ultimate representative of the human race, the last Adam, and the full embodiment of the Godhead.
This why Paul wrote ‘For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him’ (Colossians 1:19) and ‘For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form’ (Colossians 2:9). This is why God the Father told the early disciples, and also us, to “listen to him”. This is why Jesus himself said:
“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:25-27).
This is why, when the glory cloud had disappeared from the Mount of Transfiguration, the disciples looked up and ‘saw no one except Jesus’ (Matthew 17:8).
The centrality of Jesus
The message told on the mountains of the Lord, the declarations by God and by men, and the inspired teaching of the Apostle Paul, have all lead me to an unshakable faith in the primacy of the Lord Jesus Christ in all things. He is the supreme and ultimate revelation of the Godhead, the embodiment of all authority in Heaven and on Earth (Matthew 28:18), the prime subject of the Bible and its preeminent interpreter. Jesus is the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form, the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being (Hebrews 1:3).
Why then do many theologians contend that while Jesus of Nazareth was the FULLEST representation of God on earth, he is not the FULL divine representation? In other words, they hold that the Jesus of the Gospels reveals much of the nature and character of the Godhead, but other parts of the Bible reveal additional aspects of God’s nature. I will attempt to address this issue and provide an answer to my question in a later article. For now, let me just say:
- Turn and look to Jesus for your salvation
- Look to Jesus to know the nature and character of God
- Look to Jesus to unlock the meaning of the Bible.
- Just look to Jesus.