Fifteen years ago my wife and I took a road trip down Interstate 5 through parts of Washington, Oregon, and California. At various times in the past, I’ve driven through Appalachian country from New York State and Pennsylvania, down through West Virginia and down into North Carolina and Tennessee. Even though the Appalachian Mountains are impressive, you can’t even begin to compare them to the mountain ranges in the western United States. As we made our way south through Oregon and northern California, the sheer size of the mountains was stunning.
Coming from the flat lands of Texas, I discovered that your depth perception gets very skewed in mountain country. It’s takes time to adjust. Everything is further away than it seems, which means everything is larger than you realize. Around the time we crossed the border between southern Oregon and northern California, we began to make out the shape of northern California’s Mount Shasta off in the distance. Being the flatlander I am, I figured it was about 15 or 20 miles away. Nearly two hours later we’re still driving toward it and all the while it just kept bigger and bigger! As it turned out, we were closer to 100 miles away when we first saw Mount Shasta. At its closest point, I-5 passes about 10 miles to the west of Mount Shasta’s peak. It was enormous! The closer you get to a mountain, the bigger it becomes and the more you realize how small you are!
David Jeremiah used this as an analogy in a recent sermon. He said: “God is like a mountain: The closer we get to Him, the more we realize how big He is, and how small we are.” But for people who choose to reject God, the imagery of a mountain way off in the distance seems to aptly describe their view of God. Oh sure. They may admit He exists. Many lost people acknowledge that God exists. They just want nothing to do with Him. They’ve chosen to live life apart from God. They are unregenerate. As a result, their perspective of God is like that of a mountain that’s off in the distance. He’s there, but He’s just this distant figure.
But herein lies another mystery of faith. Unlike my experience in northern California where Mount Shasta was further away than it seemed, God is much closer to unrepentant sinners and non believers than they realize. Because of their sin and lifestyle choices, God only seems to be this distant figure, but He’s much closer than they understand. God’s only distant because they keep themselves distant from Him. But He wants none of them to be lost. God said to the prophet Ezekiel: ,‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.’ Those are not the words of a distant, far off God.
As believers, we embarked on a journey when we accepted Christ as our Savior, and it’s a continual journey. Every step we take in our walk brings us closer to God and as we draw closer to him, certain things begin to come into focus. First, we see how close God really was all along. He may have seemed distant, but how many of you can look back on your old lives today and see how the hand of God was there protecting you and guiding you, even when you weren’t living for Him? I know I can. And yes, as David Jeremiah pointed out, we also see how big God really is and small we really are. But even though we begin to recognize how small we are compared to the majesty of God, there’s a point where we realize that being small in comparison to God does not make us insignificant or unimportant in the eyes of God. Jesus said“Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Though He’s bigger than anything we can comprehend, God knows every single little detail about us.
And when – as far as our human capabilities allow – we see just how big our God really is, we also realize that he’s bigger than any obstacle we face. He’s bigger than that problem you’re dealing with at work. He’s bigger than those problems you’re having with your teenagers. He’s bigger than that financial crisis you may be going through. He’s bigger than that argument you had with your wife or husband. He’s bigger than that cancer diagnosis. He’s bigger than any illness or physical handicap. He’s bigger than the sorrow you go through when you lose a loved one. God is bigger than any mountain in your life or my life.
When the glory of God settled over Mount Horeb/Mount Sinai, the Israelites were told not to go near. They couldn’t so much as touch the base of the mountain. If they did, they had to be put to death. It wasn’t because God was trying to push them away. He wasn’t trying to distance Himself from them. He wasn’t trying to terrorize them. No, that wasn’t it at all. It was simply because the ground of Mount Horeb (also referred to as the mountain of God) had been made so holy and so pure just by the very presence of God, it could not bear the stain of the people’s sins or their sinful nature. A holy God cannot be touched by sin, nor can anything that’s been made holy by God. But because of what God did on another mountain, one called Calvary, that stain is gone. It’s been washed away by the blood of Jesus and now, as the writer of Hebrews pointed out, we can approach the throne of grace with confidence! He who knew no sin became sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God. That was not the act of a distant, far off God. That was the act of the one true God who is so close, and yet so big that only He could provide the way of salvation through the atoning death of Jesus Christ!