Note: This is the first in a series of blog posts entitled Mountaintop Experiences. These posts are based on a sermon I preached at Camp Beaverfork in February.
A good portion of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, is dedicated to telling the story of Abraham, the father of the Jewish people. Abraham was a God-fearing man who moved his family from his homeland in search of a land that God promised to give to him and his descendants, who God promised would be as numerous as the stars. There was just one problem: Abraham didn’t have any children. His wife, Sarah, was barren, and they were getting too old to be having children.
But Abraham clung to the hope of having a son. He suffered a lot and faced many trials throughout his life, but he knew it was all going to be OK because God was going to bless him and would someday fulfill His promise of giving him many descendants. And eventually, God did give Abraham a son named Isaac. Abraham loved Isaac and saw him as the fulfillment of God’s promise He had made so long ago. God had finally come through for Abraham.
And then what did God do? He told Abraham to give up the one thing he had wanted his entire life. In Genesis 22, we read the story of God instructing Abraham to take his son up to the top of a mountain and sacrifice him on an altar. Think about it. God finally gave Abraham the son he had been waiting on for so many years, and now God was telling him to take his son and slaughter him like a sacrificial animal. How crazy does that sound? And yet, Abraham obeyed.
The Biblical text does not give us any information about what was going through Abraham’s mind, but one can only imagine the anguish he must have felt. He journeyed to mountain for three days, all the while knowing what he was about to do. He had to hide it from Isaac, who expressed confusion about why they weren’t bringing an animal along with them. How hard it must have been for Abraham to look into his child’s eyes and simply say, “God will provide.”
When they reached the top of the mountain, Abraham built an altar to the God who had asked him to give up the most important thing in the world to him. He prepared for the sacrifice, and then he took his son, his beloved, and he took out the knife to kill the person he cared about most. And then, suddenly, he heard the voice of an angel telling him to stop. He didn’t have to do the thing he dreaded. He had passed God’s test, and God had provided another sacrifice to take his son’s place.
In this story, we see that Abraham had a mountaintop experience. A mountaintop experience is a point in someone’s life where they come face-to-face with God and there is a sudden, drastic change in their lives. Abraham’s mountaintop experience literally took place on a mountaintop, and there are other stories in the Bible of people having life-changing experiences with God on the top of a mountain, and thus they are called mountaintop experiences. However, they can take place anytime and anywhere, and each of us can and should have at least one of these experiences during our lives. There should be a point or points in our lives where we can look back and say, “That was a turning point in my life where my relationship with God went to a new level, and I have never been the same since.”
Our mountaintop experiences probably won’t be as extreme as Abraham’s. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son because He knew that Isaac was the number one thing in Abraham’s life, and God wanted Abraham to show that He meant more to Abraham than even Isaac did. God wants to be number one in our lives, even more important than great things like our families and friends, and He calls us to lay those things down before Him and show Him that He is more important than anything or anyone else.
God wants us to want Him more than we want anything else. More than we want to do well in school. More than we want to be successful. More than we want to someday get married and have a family of our own or whatever our ambition is. More than anything else, God wants us to want Him and to depend on Him for everything. As long as we’re doing that, the relationships and the school and the career and the family will fall into place. As long as God is your number one, you’ll know that you’re on the right track.
Abraham chose God above even his own son. He went up on the mountaintop and had an encounter with God where he laid the most important thing in his life before God and said, “Here, it’s yours. I choose You above all else.” And because Abraham did that, God blessed him and used him to create His chosen people from whom would eventually come Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Because Abraham chose to put God first, the whole world was blessed through his descendants.
Maybe you’ve been putting something before God in your life. If so, He’s calling you to climb the mountain and lay that thing down before Him. I know it may be hard, but if you take the time to get away, to have that mountaintop experience with God, to say, “This thing means the world to me, but I’m choosing to give it to You,” I promise your life will never be the same. God will honor your commitment to Him. He will bless you, and He will use you beyond what you ever could have imagined. Maybe today will be your time to have a mountaintop experience with God.