Mountains high and valleys low: From the mountaintops back to the plains

From the mountaintops back to the plains

In the summer of 1995, between college and graduate school, I lived and worked and played in the Sierras near Yosemite National Park at a Christian summer camp. Every day was a new outdoor adventure: cutting fallen timber into winter firewood for the year-round staff, keeping curious bears away from the cabins, cutting fresh trails into the ponderosa forest floor for visitors from the city. It was also an amazing spiritual adventure: discovering God’s promises in Scripture each day was like the old 49ers uncovering a knurl of gold in a dark shaft on Brown’s Flat. Eureka!

Life’s mountaintop experiences come in all shapes and sizes. Summer camp. Your four years in high school or college. That men’s, women’s, or couple’s retreat you attended last year. Dating your spouse. Your wedding day and honeymoon.

Moses had a mountaintop experience when the Lord met him on Mt. Sinai.

Then Moses went up to God and the Lord called to him from the mountain… Exodus 19:3 (NIV)

The Lord called Moses to retreat from the people, from his burden of responsibilities, and meet with Him on the mountaintop. During this time, the Lord spoke to Moses, giving him instructions about how to lead the people.

Charlton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments. God met Moses on the mountaintop.

Charlton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments. God met Moses on the mountaintop.

Eventually, Moses left the mountain, returning to the plains where his day-to-day work was to be found. Notice in Exodus 19 and following that Moses had a clear vision for his life’s work after leaving Mt. Sinai. He descended and immediately shared what he had learned with the people of Israel. What he didn’t realize was that he was visibly changed from having met with God.

When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant of the law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. Exodus 34:29

The same thing happened to Jesus a couple thousand years later when He met with the Father on a mountaintop.

There [on the mountain] he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Matthew 17:2

Moses’ pattern in Exodus is powerful. God called him to the mountaintop and met with him there, speaking words of truth to him. Then the Lord sent Moses back to the plains to share what he had learned with the people. He was no longer the same man that earlier ascended the mountain.

When God calls us to a mountaintop experience, either literal or figurative, it is certainly to refresh and inspire us. But it is also for so much more. We must take away more than a sense of closeness to God. He brings us to the tops of mountains to teach and instruct us, to convict us of sin, and to clarify our vision for our life’s work. But it takes intentionality to return to the plains of everyday life with these messages in sharp focus. We need to share these lessons with others, even write them down on stone tablets of our own. And we will likely even need to be reminded regularly of the lessons we learned and the commitments we made while on the mountaintop.

I am grateful for the inspiration and encouragement I received from the Lord during my first summer in the Sierra. But I am especially grateful for the spiritual lessons the Lord taught me that year and for a wife who can remind me when life here on the plain makes that experience seem like a far off dream.

Take-home point: We must find a way to cling to the lessons the Lord teaches us in life’s mountaintop experiences, even after returning to the plains.

Take-home verse: Exodus 19:3


Questions for thought

When you are out in nature, do you look expectantly for God to reveal Himself to you? What about on life’s mountaintops?

What was the last mountaintop experience you had, either literal or figurative? What did God teach you there?

How can we be sure to remember and apply the lessons we are taught up on the mountain?



Father, Creator, King, we will forever be grateful for the Sierras, the Rockies, and the Appalachians, as well as the figurative mountains high in our lives where you meet with us. You lead us to green pastures and quiet waters where you refresh our souls with encouragement to face the trials of life on the plains. Show us how to bring your message with us from the mountaintops back to the plains where we can live lives full of fire and moxie for you. Amen.


About Dave Cummings

Dave Cummings is a husband, father of three, college professor, biologist, and urban outdoorsman. Most importantly, he is a Christ follower.
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