We all long to be on the mountaintop, but most days are spent in the plains, and some, even in the valley. It is very easy to realize the nearness of God’s presence and fellowship with Him (purpose #1) from the summit. Not as easy in the valley. In fact, Our Enemy would have us perceive God’s absence, and despair in the plains and valleys.
In the Old Testament, Syria is Israel’s enemy and continues to assail them, just as Our Enemy does us.
And the servants of the king of Syria said to him, “Their gods are gods of the hills, and so they were stronger than we. But let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they. . .muster an army like the army that you have lost, horse for horse, and chariot for chariot. Then we will fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they.” And he listened to their voice and did so. (I Kings 20:23-28 mouseover reference for whole verse)
The Israelites were people of the high hills. Moses was given the Law on a mountain. Jerusalem lay 4,000′ above sea level. The Psalms consistently celebrate the heights and the mountains. The prophets were called to and from the mountain. As the mountains are around Jerusalem, so God is around His people (Psalm 125:2). It would be easy to conclude that God is mainly God of the heights, those mountaintop experiences we have when all appears to be going well and His nearness to us is easily realized.
That is exactly what King Benhadad of Syria thinks. ‘If I can just get the Israelites down off the mountain, things will change and I’ll have victory.’ Our Enemy seeks to do the same thing, to pull us down into the valley to see if our faith holds, to see if we really believe the Gospel we so easily espouse from the mountaintop. And so when Our Enemy is able to pull us into the plains and valleys, he stands and gloats like Benhadad presuming we are heading to our doom, outnumbered by our own sinful failure and lack of hope.
But there is one thing Our Enemy has forgotten, our God is not just a God of the mountains but a God of the valleys.
And a man of God came near and said to the king of Israel, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The LORD is a god of the hills but he is not a god of the valleys,” therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.’” And they encamped opposite one another seven days. Then on the seventh day the battle was joined. And the people of Israel struck down of the Syrians 100,000 foot soldiers in one day.
(1 Kings 20:28-29 ESV)
The God that marches the heights also lies where the shadows are the deepest. He is God of life’s hilltops, where it is easy to believe. But what of life’s gorges, when circumstances or our own sin has brought us to a dark place bereft of natural light–can we then believe this Gospel? Can we have hope? Yes, he can provide us victory in the valley!
James S. Stewart points out a foundational fact.
The God of our joys is also the God of our sorrows. The God of the radiant times when it is easy for our heart to sing is also just as near when the foundations are shaking and our song seems a million miles away. Yes, He is with us even when we are in the self-created valley of our own sinful behavior. The valley is precisely why Jesus died and didn’t come merely teaching a good ethic–to offer us salvation and not merely morality. How do we know this? Jesus the revealer of God the Father shows us this, for Jesus performed miracles at both weddings and funerals. He is with you on your best day and worst, calling you to realize His nearness and His provision of victory!
So whether on the mountain, plains or in the valley, realize his nearness and don’t stop worshiping and trusting.