I know many people whose "happy place" is the beach. Mine is the mountains. The grandeur, immensity, faraway beauty, and winding ascent to the heavens call to me in a special way. To climb one is to see natural beauty step by step. But standing at the summit, beholding the view, speaks to the soul in a way few other natural experiences can.
Mountains have long been symbolic of advancing spiritually in many religions. They are mentioned more than 500 times in the Bible. Is it any wonder that mountains have a special significance in our Faith?
God often gave important messages on mountaintops. Here are 7 important mountains in the Bible where He spoke to His people in profound ways, sometimes literally, and sometimes through extraordinary means, but always to draw their hearts to His:
1. Mount Ararat
Here God brought Noah's ark to its resting place on dry land. After the surging storms and violent floods, God delivered Noah, his family, and the animals by ceasing the storm. Noah remained on the ark for 40 days without emerging, then God made a covenant with him as he stood on Mt. Ararat.
Genesis 9:8-17 speaks of this covenant between God and Noah. The Lord promises never again to destroy the earth by flood and puts His rainbow in the sky as a sign of their covenant.
2. Mount Zion
This important mount is a hill west of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. It is synonymous with Mt. Moriah, where Jacob bound Isaac, prepared to sacrifice his beloved son in obedience to the One True God.
After King David captured and reclaimed Mount Zion from the Jebusites, it became known as the City of David. His son Solomon established the Temple of the Lord on Mt. Zion, to honor God and provide a place for the Ark of the Covenant.
2 Samuel 5:1-12 and 1 Kings 8:1-13 reveal the stories of God's people on Zion. The word "Zion" is also used to represent Jerusalem, the "heavenly city," of God's chosen people, and heaven, as the dwelling place of God.
3. Mount Sinai
Moses first encountered God in the burning bush on this mountain, also known as Mt. Horeb. Here the Lord commanded him to lead His chosen people out of Egypt into the land promised to Abraham.
Moses was obedient to God in order to free God's chosen people from slavery. After their escape, he consecrated the people to God and ascended Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. These laws were written by the finger of God.
Exodus 19-32 reveals the extraordinary story of this covenant between God and His people.
4. Mount Carmel
On this holy mountain, the Prophet Elijah triumphed over the priests of Baal and King Ahab. Calling out to the Lord when the people had forsaken God for pagan deities, Elijah brought down fire to consume an offering before all the people and rain to end a severe famine and drought.
When the fire and rain fell, the people once again believed, turning away from Baal and back to the One True God.
1 Kings 18:20-40 records how God reclaims the faith of His chosen people on Mt. Carmel.
5. Mount Tabor
On the site of this mountain of Galilee stands the Church of the Transfiguration, commemorating the mystical event during which Christ revealed His glory to Peter, James, and John.
Matthew 17:1-13 details the story. Before the eyes of His three Apostles, Jesus was transfigured as He would be after His Resurrection. Appearing in His glorified body, He spoke to Moses and Elijah about His impending death. Here, His three Apostles encountered Christ as the long-awaited Messiah—the true fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.
6. Mount of the Beatitudes
For 2000 years we have attempted to identify the location of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Here, He gave us the Beatitudes. They are foundational to Christianity and one of the most beloved and well-known messages of Christ.
The Church of the Beatitudes stands on a site in the Korazim Plateau, a hill in northern Israel overlooking the Sea of Galilee. It's more a hillside than a mountain, compared to the others on which God spoke to His people, but it's too important not to mention.
Tradition holds that it was somewhere in these picturesque hills, not far from Capernaum, that Christ gave His important sermon. Calling His followers to poverty of spirit, sorrow for sins, meekness, mercy, purity of heart, and more, God the Son taught them the way to true holiness.
In Matthew 5:1-48, the Sermon on the Mount unfolds, revealing the way to perfection as Christians aspire to love God and one another fully.
7. Mount of Olives
Here, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ appealed to the Father in prayer before He was arrested, tortured, and crucified. Bringing along His beloved Apostles, He entered into His Passion on this mount.
His prayers and great sufferings won our salvation. Just as olives were pressed for oil to anoint kings in ancient days, our King was crushed for our sins to bring forth His glory and our own.
In Matthew 26:36-46 we read of Jesus giving Himself over in obedience to the Father on the Mount of Olives.
In this same location following the Resurrection, Jesus ascends to the Father in glory, reclaiming His rightful place as our Everlasting King. After Christ promises to send the Holy Spirit, His disciples see Him swept up in a cloud.
God the Father brought redemption full circle here. Jesus revisited this place, this time in triumph, an angel confirming His ascent into Heaven in Acts 1:6-14.
The Character of the Mountains
Mountains represent stability and unchanging permanence. They are vast and mysterious. Powerful and timeless. Splendid and majestic.
Mountains are also a beautiful place of refuge. In ancient times, a city fortified by hills or mountains was a stronghold protected. In these ways and more, mountains reflect the qualities of our good God.
He created them to appeal to our sense of wonder and awe. They call us to something higher, greater, infinite. They urge us out, into what is beyond us, into what we cannot entirely fathom or understand yet desire because of the God Who dwells within us.
Mountains are an invitation from God, a means for drawing us to Himself. In Scripture, He used mountains to speak to His beloved children, to make them pause, see something anew, receive His instruction, heed His word, feel His power, and receive His protection.
In these ways and more, mountains call us home to the Heart of our Creator.