The Mourne Mountains, Newry-Annalong, Northern Ireland--C.S. Lewis' inspiration for his fictional land of Narnia. (2018)
“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”
Please forgive me for the length of time that I have allowed to lapse since I last posted a devotional reflection to this blog site. Most of you may know that I was offered the position of lead pastor at a church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, called Trier Ridge Community Church. I assumed that responsibility on October 3rd and have been attempting to settle into that role since. It has been a bit overwhelming, but I am starting to adjust. My wife Janet, especially, along with my family, my friends and my new church family have been amazing in their support and have been faithful in praying for me. I continue to teach full-time for the History Department at Purdue University-Fort Wayne. So, my plate is full. But I believe that God has called me to this writing ministry, so I intend to remain faithful to this opportunity to teach and encourage in this way as well. I hope that I will return to the rhythm of writing a new devotional reflection to be posted on this site every week to week and half going forward. We really need your prayers for all avenues of service the Lord has opened to us.
If you live in the Fort Wayne area, come visit the church sometime. It is located in southeast Fort Wayne at the corner of Hessen Cassel and Tillman roads—7501 Hessen Cassel Road. The service time on Sunday morning is 10 a.m. We are a smaller church right now, so you won’t get lost in the crowd. And I’m certain you will be welcomed warmly. I am beginning a series of sermons between now and Christmas called “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus.” The members of the congregation are identifying their favorite stories of Jesus and then I am taking a different one of those stories each week as the text for my sermon. We would love to have you join us for the series!
All of the Old Testament prophets were given different messages to proclaim by the Lord and proclaimed those messages in very different ways. Like all of us, they were shaped by their life experiences; their writing styles and their personalities were clearly influenced by their background, their relational connections, their relationship with the Lord, even their occupational choices. Of all of these prophets, my favorite may just be Isaiah. I think that he is the poet of Old Testament prophets. I suspect that if you asked a random group of Christians who have read the Old Testament faithfully what their favorite passage of Scripture is from those books, they would select a portion of Isaiah’s prophecy seven out of ten times. I know that is true for my wife Janet and for me. So much of his writing is simply beautiful and evokes powerful imagery describing the power and the glory of the Lord. And he included his fair share of references to mountains as well.
Both Isaiah 55:12 (provided above) and Isaiah 44:23 refer to singing mountains. 55:12 depicts the musical accompaniment of nature to a life lived faithfully for the Lord while 44:23 commanded the mountains to rejoice over the Lord’s redemptive love. Perhaps there will be a day in the future when the mountains will literally burst into song, but, in the meantime, it is not hard to hear a melody subtly lilting through the mountain air. How many of us have been rejuvenated by a hike through the hills or rewarded for a long climb by the glimpse of a mountain top vista? The mountains display the grandeur of God’s creative power and the sheer limitless dimensions of His handiwork. We feel small in the mountains—and rightfully so. There is something comforting about knowing that the God who made all of this cares about each one of us in a manner and to a degree that we cannot possibly comprehend. We ought to walk in humility in the shadow of towering mountain canyons that resound with echoes of His majesty!
Another way in which Isaiah talks about the mountains implies that they are obstacles or challenges in the way of God’s people. 41:15 declares that the Lord will “thresh the mountains and crush them.” One chapter later, the Lord, through the prophet, tells His people that He will “lay waste the mountains.” (42:15) In 45:2, the Lord promised to go before us and “level the mountains.” And in 54:10, a compassionate Heavenly Father compared His unfailing love and His enduring covenant of peace to the threatening and tumultuous, but temporary, circumstances that surround us and shake us like imposing, seemingly insurmountable mountains.
Not only will the Lord hold us fast and help us to hang on to Him in the midst of our mountainous troubles, He will guide us through them. I would like to be evacuated out of them altogether, but, as we all know, that’s not the Lord’s way. In Isaiah 49:11, the Lord assured His people that He would “turn all my mountains into roads, and my highways will be raised up.” When we are walking through particular struggles of life, the mountaintop, long-range perspective is hard to gain. But it does seem after the fact that it is the very challenges themselves that ultimately magnified my dependence on the Lord and elevated my faith and trust in Him—even though it didn’t feel that way at the time.
Heavenly Father, help us to hear the mountains, all of nature, sing of your glory and greatness, even if we feel like we are walking through some very flat and boring terrain on the many ordinary days we face. Give us a voice of praise to join in and harmonize. When troubles or struggles rise up like mountains before us, crush them and lead us through, learning all the time Your wisdom and Your love for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.