MOUNTAIN & ROOFTOPS - Peaceful places of Serenity & Seclusion. But what roll exactly do these High Places play in Biblical life?
Occasionally while reading Scripture, we may run across a verse that, well… for lack of better words, just doesn’t seem to fit or make any sense. Now there could be a number of reasons for this. It may be too hard to understand, it may seem to be morally offensive, or, it may just seem out of place.
If we’re a devoted Bible student, committed to determining the truth, we might try to rationalize it, cross-reference it, and even research individual words in order to gain understanding. Yet as we search for answers, there are many obstacles that can stand in our way.
Before we begin, it’s necessary to understand that translators try their best to interpret Scripture. But with that being said, it doesn’t mean they always get it correct. Ancient Hebrew and Greek were written having line after line of letters running together in one continuous stream, with no spaces or punctuation marks. As a result, Scripture is not always easy to transcribe. In fact, even a translator’s best effort can, at times, be a far cry from what God intended. Hence, we must always keep an open mind to the message being expressed.
Secondly, the intent of God’s message is always spiritually and morally correct. Though the Bible’s teachings revolve around moral standards, the Bible itself does not include any disrespectful ethnic comments or morally offensive concepts. If we perceive or interpret it as anything else, we, not God, are in error. And as being given by God—and if properly translated—the Bible should be readable by all age groups, including children.
Third. In order to fully understand God’s thoughts, and as already mentioned, we need to compare and cross-reference Bible verses. Immediately accessible verses found in surrounding Scripture can many times help to reveal the theme being implied. If not there, the testimony and writings of other prophets, found in other Books, can also help lend understanding and serve as a viable second witness.
Lastly, each and every word within God’s Word has a distinct and precise meaning. Not a single breath is wasted. The prophets who transcribed God’s message completely understood this. So too should it be our goal to understand God through them. The problem is, most times we don’t search the depth of these words as we should.
To help prove this point, let’s turn our attention to a concept in the New Testament that may have escaped our notice. In Matthew 24:3-44, Jesus gives a message on End Time Prophecy known as the Olivet Discourse, and initially targets a crucial era of great distress which will descend upon the land. But as He continues the message, interjecting a few more thoughts, we may soon get the feeling we’re missing something of major importance. In order to better understand, let’s focus our thoughts on a couple of specific verses, Matthew 24:16-17.
Mat 24:16 Then the ones in Judea, let them flee unto the mountains!
Mat 24:17 The one upon the rooftop, let him not go down to lift anything from out of his house.
As we read this section (and if we’re paying attention), the words included in these passages are nearly as a riddle unto themselves. Why would Jesus inform some of these people to go to the MOUNTAINS, and others not to come down from their HOUSETOPS? Yes. We know this event speaks of a time of chaos and tribulation, but what is the reason for His instruction? Is ascending MOUNTAINS some type of Jewish custom or religious tradition we’ve never heard of before? And what exactly would some of these people be doing on their roofs in the first place? Even with examining the surrounding verses, there seems to be little else mentioned, leaving us empty-handed, and without an explanation.
Now when trying to understand these verses, the point should be made clear that Jesus had no reason to confuse us. Nor was He wasting His breath, or proposing riddles which claimed impossible to solve. The problem then, must be us and our lack of knowledge on the matter.
The solution? In order to fully comprehend and decipher this message, we merely have to understand the definition of each word. Unfortunately, man’s household dictionary of definitions concerning ROOFTOPS & MOUNTAINS are of no relevance. We must search for God’s understanding. And if we fail to do this, we are solely grasping for knowledge in the darkness, as our English equivalents could never suffice. But if we look to Scripture, and search for “God’s Understanding”, we will soon realize that God explains everything and has placed countless definitions at our fingertips.
Our first stop in searching for this wisdom falls in accordance with MOUNTAIN and as found in the story of Exodus, chapters 19-32. Here, it unveils the account of Moses and the place where God hands him the 10 Commandments. Though this story is etched into our mind’s eye as a historical place where Moses meets God face to face, and then Israel sins by making a golden calf, most times it is easily dismissed and not even noticed that God resides on a MOUNTAIN. This may seem unimportant at first, but we will soon see more of the significance. For not only does God reside on a MOUNTAIN, but Moses must ascend this MOUNTAIN to communicate with Him and receive instruction.
As we move further in our search, and if we possess any knowledge of Scripture at all, we’ll remember that MOUNTAINS are spoken of everywhere. In fact, with the number of times they’re mentioned, it should seem obvious that MOUNTAINS were fairly often visited by “people of faith”, and played a major role in biblical life.
But MOUNTAINS aren’t only confined to Old Testament historical accounts, their relevance rings true even today. Heading into the New Testament, Jesus—just as Moses—had several divine interventions with MOUNTAINS in His travels, with the Mount of Olives being one of the most recognizable. And in Luke 9:28 Jesus ascends a MOUNTAIN with His three most trusted disciples, being transfigured and cleansed into perfect white before their eyes.
As we venture through these events, we could say that the occurrence of MOUNTAINS are only by chance, bearing no importance. Yet as we keep searching out the undertakings of Jesus, it begins to become clear that MOUNTAINS are also one of His favorite locations for private prayer (Mat. 14:23; Mark 6:46; Luke 6:12; Luke 9:28). John, the author of Revelation, also reveals further importance by being taken by the Spirit to a high MOUNTAIN in Rev. 21:10.
Even if we’re only the least bit aware, something suddenly jumps out to open our eyes and embrace our attention. A MOUNTAIN, it seems, always represents a place of coming before God. It is a place of God’s Spirit, and a locale of godly searching, cleansing, and devotional servitude. In fact, that once meaningless MOUNTAIN, has just found a significant purpose within faith, and absent of its existence, we might never have a place of coming before God and knowing Him. So in summary, a MOUNTAIN could simply be thought of as a place of prayer.
What about proof? Do we have any scriptural evidence of a MOUNTAIN being directly defined as a place of prayer? Absolutely! In Isaiah 56:7, Isaiah speaks of God’s Holy MOUNTAIN as a “House of Prayer” and a place of (spiritual) sacrifices in coming before God. Then Daniel tells us in Dan. 9:20, it is a place of confessing sin and supplication before the Lord.
Isa. 56:7 Even them will I bring to my Holy Mountain, and make them joyful in my House of Prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an House of Prayer for all people.
Dan. 9:20 And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the Holy Mountain of my God;
The preceding scriptural references aren’t the only examples. Several more references follow down the same path by referring to MOUNTAINS as the “House of God”. Others also mention a place where one can ascend to hear the Word of the Lord and God’s Laws on Mount Zion. Nearly identical verses confirm this… one in Isaiah, and one in Micah.
Isa. 2:3 And [shall go nations many] and shall say, Come, for we should ascend unto the mountain of the LORD, and unto the House of the God of Jacob; and he will announce to us his way; and we shall go in it. For from out of Zion shall come forth Law, and the Word of the LORD from out of Jerusalem.
Mic. 4:2 And [shall go nations many], and shall say, Come, we should ascend unto the Mountain of the LORD, and unto the House of the God of Jacob; and they shall show us his way, and we shall go by his roads. For from out of Zion shall go forth the Law, and the Word of the LORD from out of Jerusalem.
Though MOUNTAINS truly discern a spiritual connection to God, they aren’t the only location of prayer. This same principle applies to ROOFS, HOUSETOPS, and UPPER ROOMS as well. And with resounding accord, these too, mark a spot of godly solitude and devotion.
For example, in Acts 10:9, it informs us how Peter went to the HOUSETOP for prayer and understanding. Daniel also demonstrated this devotion in the chamber of his UPPER ROOM on bended knees, praying before God in Dan. 6:10.
Acts 10:9 And the next day, as they were journeying near an approaching city, Peter ascended upon the roof to pray around the sixth hour.
Dan. 6:10 And when Daniel knew that the decree was arranged, he went into his house, and the windows were open to him in his Upper Rooms before Jerusalem. And three times of the day he was bending upon his knees, and praying, and making acknowledgment before his God, as he was doing before.
Still, we might be justified in asking if this same message actually applies to every inclusion of MOUNTAIN, ROOFTOP, and UPPER ROOM. Can these high places always designate a place of prayer every time we happen across them in Scripture? The simplicity within this concept is, yes… a high place invariably designates a place of God. However, care must be taken. No other person, entity, or life form can rightfully claim this position. If we enter into these locations, we are merely humble residents and should never enter them with vain desires (Isaiah 22:1). And if this place is pridefully inhabited by anyone other than God, it distinguishes an act of placing one’s self above God, designating stature, exaltation, and even following after strange gods (Jer. 19:13; Jer. 32:29). Though we may someday be exalted by God after departing earth, that place of exaltation does not, and cannot, abide within this life. Only through humbleness can we eventually find that eternal dwelling place of heaven.
The final part of understanding those verses found in Matthew 24:16-17 relates to the word “Judea”. Traditionally, Jews are classified and stereotyped as a distinct group of people, located within a specific region of the world. Their family line stems from a cultural background set forth by many generation’s of man’s seed, and are tagged by a name according to man’s earthly guidelines and standards. But if we accept this long established worldly viewpoint, we are merely throwing conjecture to the wind until we consult with God and His Word for clarification. For all knowledge given by God within His Book denotes a spiritual aspect first, and then follows into the worldly realm.
So just how does this spiritual concept of Judah fit in with a spiritual heritage set forth and seen through the eyes of God? As stated within Isaiah 5:7, the Jews and Judah are spoken of as “newly planted ones being loved”. This designates they are firstborn Children of God… and as being the chosen lineage of Christ, this falls inline with what one might expect. But as pointed out within this same verse, these same godly people who sought righteousness, are those same people who would go astray. Claiming the same ancestral lineage and cultural roots of the coming Christ, this seems to depict their fateful destiny which would unfold upon Christ’s arrival, as many would notoriously be branded as those who heard Jesus’ message, yet cared not to walk His path.
But the question raised, should be this. Is it the ancestral name of Judah that causes this “falling away”, or is it the action of disobedience that denotes the name? In other words, does this particular ungodly trait of failing to know Jesus apply only to the Jews? And are they the sole individuals to hear His words yet dismiss His Truths? Or does this same scenario also apply to Christians who claim salvation by the name of Jesus, while recklessly going about their lives never caring to follow God’s instruction (James 2:19)?
Bluntly and to the point… the Jews—as mankind groups them—are not the only ones to turn aside from Jesus’ teaching. This same stereotype could easily be applied to anyone, including ourselves. For if we’ve heard Jesus’ message, but aren’t yet walking beside Him, asking Him questions, or heeding His every word in each and every aspect of life, then we too may fit in with that group of (so-called) non-Christians, ultimately being categorized as descended of Judah.
In conclusion, though there is much more to be said, the Bible is not just about Israel, the Jews, or the Church. Nor does it allude to locations as MOUNTAINS found upon a map having no relevance to us. WE are those people. WE are the ones to pray upon those MOUNTAINS. And WE will witness the return of Jesus.
From beginning to end, The intent of God’s Word, is, has, and always will be, about faith. Absent of that, there would be no purpose for us to seek its folds. Only through a continuance of prayer, can we die to our old habits, allowing Christ to live within (2 Cor. 5:17).
God offers us the path. By humbling ourselves within those solemn inner rooms and private chambers (Mat. 6:6), heaven’s door can be opened (Luke 3:21) as we search out those eternal bounds known only to God’s prophets. For it is only by Gods’ hand that those hidden pearls (Mat. 13:45) and treasures (Mat. 6:19-21) of God’s Kingdom, yet to be discovered, have been given to us. And if not for those precious gifts, and majestic high places like MOUNTAINS and ROOFTOPS, where else could we truly get a glimpse of that everlasting glory and magnificent handiwork of creation, except by Him who has mastered it all?
Blessings to all…
NOTE: For all of those interested in obtaining a copy of this post for reference or further Bible Study, it can be downloaded as an e-Sword Topic Notes Module via this Link.