Whether you are leading the crowd, following the crowd or standing in the midst of the crowd, there is comfort in hanging with the crowd. They are our people – and we feel safe and secure in their midst. It may be the crowd at our workplace, our neighborhood, our church, or wherever we hang out. The crowd is familiar with who we are, and we are familiar with who they are. We have history together – perhaps lifelong. It can be a frightening thing to leave the crowd.
But often, God calls us to do just that. He calls us to go on a journey with Him. He leads us to climb a mountain with Him – to a place or a height that we have never been before. And that climb frequently involves leaving the crowd behind – either temporarily or in some instances, permanently.
Jesus repeatedly called people to leave where they were and follow Him. And invariably He told them to climb a little higher, go a little further and draw a little closer. In the Old Testament, we often see God telling Moses to do so.
On one of those occasions, God told Moses to climb a mountain so he could receive instructions for the people of Israel (Exodus 20-23). Moses had no idea all that God was about to tell him. He was preparing to give Moses specific instruction on how the people were to present sacrifices to Him, how they were to honor Him and remember His acts through the ceremonial feasts, and how they were to treat one another. Moses heard it; the people would only hear about it.
On this particular day, “the people stood in the distance, Moses approached the dark cloud where God was” (Exodus 20:21 NLT).Just before Moses began his climb, the people heard God speaking as “thunder and the loud blast of the ram’s horn, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear” (Exodus 20:18 NLT).
As we look at the picture that day on the mountain, i am struck by the contrast – the people stood in the distance, but Moses climbed higher, entering deeper into God’s presence. The people stood apart as a crowd in the distance; but Moses entered as an intimate into His presence. The people were content to experience the thunder and lightning from a distance; but Moses desired to hear His voice and see His face up close and personal. The people were content to stand in the fear of God; but Moses sought the comfort that could only come by drawing closer to God. The people walked away with greater knowledge that day; but Moses entered into a deeper understanding that day. The people got a glimpse of the big picture at a distance; but Moses entered into the deeper things that can only be learned in God’s presence.
i am also mindful of a day almost 1,500 years later. There was another crowd. They also were children of Israel. They had witnessed God’s power through a dramatic display – “He healed every kind of disease and illness” (Matthew 4:23 NLT). The people didn’t know quite what to make of this Jesus, but they gathered by the multitudes that day at a mountain overlooking the Sea of Galilee. And seeing the multitudes, Jesus went up higher, and His disciples came up to where He was. The disciples knew they couldn’t stay where they were and experience the presence of Jesus. Oh, they might be able to see Him; they might even be able to hear Him from a distance, but they didn’t want to know Jesus from a distance. They wanted to know Jesus close up. They didn’t want to risk missing anything that Jesus had to say. They didn’t want to have to strain to hear Him. They wanted to hear Him clearly, even if He whispered. They didn’t only want to hear the parables He told the crowds. They wanted to hear the explanations He gave to those who were close to Him. So they left the crowd and climbed the mountain. They made whatever adjustment was needed to be right where Jesus was. And that is what Moses did that day at Sinai; he left the crowd and climbed the mountain, entering deeper into God’s presence.
As Moses drew closer to where God was, it became darker. It wasn’t darker for Moses; he was entering closer into the presence of God. And i believe God shone brighter than the noonday sun on his path and all that was around him. The ones for whom it became darker were the people in the crowd. As they stayed where they were and Moses moved further away from them into the presence of God, it became more difficult for them to see Moses – to see where he was, or what he was doing, or what he was experiencing. And later, when he returned to them, no matter how much he might have tried to explain what He saw, what He heard and what He experienced, the people couldn’t understand. They hadn’t been there. They hadn’t experienced it. They couldn’t even see it. Moses was too far removed from them. From where the people were, he was in the dark.
Our Lord is inviting each of us to come up the mountain and enter deeper into His presence. James wrote, “Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you...” (James 4:8 NLT). In order to experience greater intimacy in your relationship with God, you must be prepared to climb higher and enter deeper. There are things that He can only teach you as you climb higher. There is an understanding of Him that you will only have as you make that climb.
There are things you can only see as you climb higher. God set your feet on this journey through the wilderness so that you might experience Him in ways you never have before. But in order to do so, there will be times He will lead you away from your fellow sojourners. What is the adjustment He is calling you to make today to make that climb and enter deeper into His presence? The crowd probably won’t make that adjustment. It’s a climb He is more than likely calling you to make with Him alone. Trust Him! It’s worth it. He’s worth it! Leave the crowd, climb the mountain!
Excerpt from The Journey Begins, Ch. 41